Thursday, April 21, 2011
I encourage you to listen to the full comics journalism panel from the National Conference on Media Reform, even though it is an hour and a half long. I wrote a bit about it over at Graphic Journos, so please go read that because I don’t like the idea of cross-posting.
I’m working on a few stories right now, including some preparation and investigation for a project in which I will be going under cover in a few months, something I haven’t done before. This year is shaping up to be far and away my best ever as a freelancer, and I have to think this is in part because I’ve gotten a lot gutsier. This was on my mind as I was writing up some new pitches this morning, and then I read this first part of Susannah Breslin’s “How Your Journalism Sausage Gets Made” (from Forbes.com, who loves my CC-licensed art!).
I have to imagine there are young female journalists out there who are missing out on stories, jobs, and opportunities because they aren’t being aggressive enough, because they hesitate rather than go barreling after a story, because when push comes to shove, it is easier to not get in a shoving match.
If you are one of those girls, I hope you will go out and do good stories, the hard stories, the weird stories. Not because they need to be told, even though they do, but because they are fun, because they are the places in which you will find yourself, because they are the times that will crystallize your understanding of who you really are. That’s the thing about journalism I always forget until I’m back in it, until days like today. That packing up your gear and heading into the unknown of a story unfolding is really what journalism is all about, not jobs, not your peers, not the words. It’s just you and the story and whatever is about to happen.
So yeah. I liked that.
Monday, February 14, 2011
My father told me about Rachel Gold a few months ago. I don’t remember exactly how it came up; I was probably talking about how women in comics are still an anomaly, and treated as such, and how I’d been patient with this for a while but that it was starting to grate on me. He told me about Rachel Gold, how this Austrian cartoonist had created her because he thought she’d have an easier time getting work and escaping criticism, and how he’d turned out to be right.
“When discouraged political cartoonists sit behind a beer and complain, sometimes the talk turns to the idea of pretending to draw as a woman, to take advantage of affirmative action minded editors who might prefer cartoons by a woman, and affirmative action minded award juries who might be more inclined to give awards to a female cartoonist.”
My father and I have never really seen eye to eye on this. When I was working on my journalism school thesis about women in comics he encouraged me to reach out to outspoken, disgruntled male cartoonists who’d been passed over for the fairer (ha) sex for jobs and awards. I know their complaints well, because I grew up around those same tables, eavesdropping on the embittered shop talk (and no one does embittered shop talk quite like cartoonists). I remember a long-running joke that someone should pretend to be an Asian woman to get a comic strip syndication deal. But it wasn’t a joke, really; more like a suggestion, a dare. And here I was contemplating my male pen name and looking around and wondering: if it would be so easy for that Asian woman, why isn’t she here already?
My father chastises me for drawing myself big-nosed and hipless. He thinks that being a woman is a help to my career, while I see it as a detail at best; at worst, a real hindrance. When editors want a woman, they want her because she is other: they want the “female perspective,” the feely relationship stories and autobiographical travails. They don’t want her opinions on world affairs. I think it’s true that women who choose to write these personal narratives often do find the success that drives those guys so crazy — though simply as a sideshow to the main attractions. But while the literary, indie comics world and even mainstream, superhero comics have seen their female ranks grow in recent years, it’s still a very sorry state of affairs on the editorial page.
I am one of three women out of 80+ artists currently working with Cartoon Movement. There is one woman with a full-time staff position at a newspaper, out of 75 such jobs in the country. Where are these affirmative-action minded editors in all this? The disgruntled male cartoonists would argue: they’re in the Pulitzer decision room. While there are a dozen, maybe, female cartoonists who deign to take on the editorial work that has traditionally been a male game, three of them have been awarded that top prize — a small consolation, I think. Because remember, two of them don’t have jobs.
This righteous gendered indignation is not true only of male editorial cartoonists. I have heard plenty of indies whining about who drew themselves naked in the shower this week, who’s got the newest book deal, and the relation between the two. When I’ve pointed out gender inequality in awards and organizing in this tiny world, I’ve been bullied and name-called by those same dudes — who would bristle at any “sexist” suggestion. What’s wrong with me? I must be jealous. Why don’t I want to live in their world? Why would I expect anything to change?
Well, why would I? And that I don’t really know. But I remain stubbornly optimistic here — because what else is there to do? It’s not like we can all quit and become poets.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Doree Shafrir wrote an interesting take on discrepancies between male and female wages over at Jezebel. She takes into consideration a lot of the outside factors often ignored in the 77-cents-on-the-dollar figure that’s normally thrown around in this debate, normalizing for different career choices and the like — though it turns out “there’s still a five percent wage gap for male and female college graduates, even after controlling for things like age, race and ethnicity, region, marital status, children, occupation, industry, and hours worked, according to testimony given in April to the United States Joint Economic Committee.”
Doree concludes that this is because women are less likely than men to negotiate their salaries, and I think she’s right to a certain degree. I know I was really freaked out by the prospect at first, and I’ve always been more willing and perhaps able to negotiate in jobs that I didn’t want as much as the ones I did.
But the thing is, I think Doree is ignoring the sociology behind negotiations. This argument presumes that women would be able to win those arguments were they even to bring it up; given she led with Peggy Olsen from Mad Men being snubbed when asking for a raise, this seems pretty funny to me. Women are not rewarded for being aggressive or going after what they want, and I’ve certainly gotten a toned-down Don Drapering myself sometimes when asking to be paid a fair wage for my work. I think it’s important to encourage women to negotiate, but it’s unfair to put all the blame on them for not asking when there’s still the matter of someone — usually a man — with the real power.
Then again, more men have hired me than women, so fuck if I know what’s going on here, but it probably has something to do with my breasts.