Women in Comics Con 2017
I was happy to have the opportunity to attend the third annual Women in Comics Con event at the Bronx Library Center on March 25, 2017. There was a positive buzz and energy about the place as I entered. I circulated around the tables that were inhabited by publishers and saw some great art, some of which was anime. They were selling books, and a few tables had freebies. I only had time to attend one of the panels, but it included scintillating conversation about women and femininity in comics.
Seven women of color conversed about gender roles as they are portrayed in comics. The moderator, a professor at Rockland Community College, had great questions and she was able to engage the panelists well. The speakers came from a variety of vocational backgrounds, and they were very talented. On the panel sat a digital painter, a filmmaker who currently works at Teen Vogue, a cos artist who engages in cos play, an indie publisher and writers of graphic novels. One panelist had her work displayed in the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in Manhattan.
One panelist stated that she likes characters that she can relate to, and people want to hear the opinions of women.
Someone else said that feminism is not simply the antithesis of masculine. Masculine is considered the default in this society.
Another pointed out that she enjoyed monster movies as a child. She felt ostracized by other girls at school who could not understand why she did not ascribe to a stereotypical feminine role in society.
Another said that since she grew up with two moms, femininity was ingrained in her from an early age. Men, women, and non-gender conforming people all need to challenge gender roles; people need to express themselves in a way that they feel comfortable. All of her stories are filled with only female characters. She would like to tackle the challenge of constructing male characters at some point.
The moderator opined that femininity is traditionally denoted as indicating weakness. Female characters have typically been portrayed as always crying and in need of rescue.
A panelists indicated that musculature on women is considered unattractive in comics.
The moderator responded that people have criticized Michelle Obama for the same reason. Race has to be considered as a factor in this commentary. I personally think that the former first lady is gorgeous.
The panelist was looking for women of color to relate to in comics. She found a brown girl in a sea of white who was bullied by her peers. She was thought of as weak and submissive. As an Asian American, she could relate to the character, since she is subjected to the same stereotypes.
A Latina panelist stated that she did not identify with girls in comics at first because she was a tomboy, and she wanted to identify with boys. However, she then discovered Gargoyles, which has a female character that she likes.
Someone mentioned that couples in comics are generally portrayed with a larger, stronger male, and the female is smaller and weaker. It is okay for women to be tomboys one day and express themselves in a more feminine manner the next. She is glad that girls today are able to see more brown girls in comics; she wished that she had had that experience while growing up.
One panelist stated that she had seen the traditional beauty and the beast concept flipped. The beast was the woman, who was accompanied by a beautiful man. Someone had mentioned that men are visual creatures who can be superficial.
Another woman mentioned that women can be visual, as well. Historically, women may have had to look past a man's physical features in order to obtain financial security. As women move closer towards men in achieving pay parity. perhaps this will change.
The Latina panelists informed us that it is considered to be the women's responsibility in Latino culture to civilize their male counterparts.
The moderator commented that this is how patriarchy functions.
The cos artist mentioned that she could see this playing out in The Little Mermaid. She loved Ursula, the witch, who told Ariel what the real world was like.
The moderator asked how female creators make more complex female characters. Many women have internalized patriarchy; they enable it and perpetuate it. As far as she knows, for example, Wonder Woman has never menstruated. She asked the cos artist to discuss cos play. Dressing up is seen as a girl thing.
The cos artist said that it becomes a lifestyle. She loved dressing up on Halloween, but it was only for a day. People who engage in cos play pay close attention to how artists clothe their characters. Outfits are not about accuracy; they are artistic expressions of the character. She designs clothes for her body. The beauty standards of the Renaissance Age were not realistic for women's bodies. She likes ergonomic design. Also, women of color should not be afraid to wear color.
Someone mentioned that when male characters are translated to their female counterparts, people think it is necessary to show more skin. This should not be an assumption in today's world. Comics should not be written only for men, but for the entire spectrum of people.
Women also need access to the same financial resources that men have in order to support the creation of comic books that are for all genders.