FanX SLC on Gender Double Standards in Comics

This weekend I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours traversing the geekily decked out halls of the Salt Palace for FanX. There is nothing quite as wonderful as getting on the trax and seeing Princess Peach a mere few seats away. And it’s even better when a kid who seemed positively enchanted by this princess character ends up in conversation with Princess Peach.

Overall, my experience at FanX was absolutely fantastic. I’m still fairly new to the full embrace of nerd culture that pervades at FanX and Comic Con, and the last few times I’ve wandered the halls, it’s been with a sense of overwhelming anxiety at how many people are there and how many things and I can’t even process everything at once.

But this time I was actually able to breathe, deal with the crowds, and I even got to check out a few panels: a new achievement in my geekdom!

The panel I was most excited about (to the surprise of no one, I hope): Gender in Comics: Is There a Double Standard?

I am relatively new to the comic book world. The increasing internet conversations about Wonder Woman and Black Widow have had me wanting to get into a medium previously untapped by me, and let me tell you: the spiral has started. From web comic turned book The Adventures of Superhero Girl to Toe Tag Riot to Secret Six….I can’t stop. The conversations about comics and the representation of women in comics have been around me even before I really dove into the books, and now that I’m starting to read and immerse myself in the culture of comics, the gender disparity is obvious.

In seeing that this panel would happen, I built up my expectations. What I was hoping for was a conversation with data, with historical context, with thought as well as passion, and maybe a little advice on continuing the trend toward change in the industry.

What I actually got was unfocused conversation, with a dude who was overly happy to play devil’s advocate, with audience members who came prepared with their thoughts ready to throw at the panel right as the actual discussion started, throwing the panel completely off guard.

Okay. Let me back up. So to catch you up: The panelists included professional SLC Geeks Rebecca Frost and  Danielle  Über Alles–both can be found discussing pop culture and comics on the Hello, Sweetie! Podcast. The panel also included JM Bell, host of SLC’s The Left Show, which covers science, politics, culture, and much more. The moderator of the group was Rich Bonaduce, the VP of the Utah Film Critics Association.

As soon as Frost and  Über Alles introduced themselves and the moderator tried to get things started (he decided the first thing to do was show a slide with the definition of double standard and read it to the audience. Because cliches work?) two ladies in the audience tried throwing their own questions at the panel. They’d come in early and immediately went straight for the front row. Their questions, while interesting for an open circle conversation, derailed both Frost and  Über Alles, and initially they did their best to respond, and finally–after Bell’s late arrival–were able to open the conversation to other questions.

Unfortunately, the tone was set. The panel itself had interesting points, but seemed to focus only on the art for most of the time given. Which while worth noting, only hints at part of the problem when we’re talking about double standards. It’s not JUST how s/he’s drawn, it’s how they are represented overall. Especially when comics are just one of the facets of the double standard of representation of women across media. And the moderator seemed to want to hammer into the audience the idea of “LOOK! Dudes are drawn unrealistically too!” Throughout the panel he kept changing the images on the slide show to fit the unrealistic drawings, which while interesting at first, eventually became distracting.

The good things that came out of the panel: This issue isn’t done being fought. More and more people are getting into comics and more people have the option of buying the stories that they love. So buy the comics by artists/writers you enjoy. Buy the comics with artists/writers/teams who are well known to show women and trans* characters realistically. Don’t waste your money on teams that have been known to draw/write sexist/racist story lines.

Even if you don’t read the comics by writers/artists you’re supporting and they end up living on your shelves collecting dust: at least you’re supporting these stories. And in an industry driven by profit, like any other, that MATTERS. If you can’t afford new comic books (because buying serial comics adds up. I am beginning to see that myself. eep), that’s not the end of the story. Borrow them from friends. Talk ’em up to your fellow nerds. Encourage people to buy more copies. And use your social media to talk about what you’re loving. More and more we have the ability to call out artists/writers and creative teams in comics when they do something wrong. Twitter allows us to get closer than ever to the source of publication. (Always try to be respectful when possible. RAGE for rage’s sake will accomplish little unless backed up by a lot of other similar rage-fueled consumers. Respect may not win over a publisher, but you could easily win supporters in your line of thinking who’ll continue to call out the publisher and build up that momentum.) The industry has the potential to change partially because we have the ability to help direct it in that way.

Additionally, the panel has convinced me that a thought I’d been considering for a while is something I want to make happen. Officially. Comics are awesome. And this conversation is incredibly important. So, Salt Lake City and surrounding neighborhoods. The time is now. Let’s create a feminist comic book group, where our monthly meetings will include conversations about current comics, as well as focused discussions on a monthly comic choice! This way we can keep the comic love and feminist discourse going so we’ll be prepped in September when Comic Con SLC rolls back around.

Questions? Wanna get involved? Find me on twitter or email me at rebelgrrrl.theblog @gmail.com

Final note: Check out Hello, Sweetie podcast and the Left Show, because they are worth supporting. And as unfocused as the conversation was this time around, they each had good reason to be there and are doing great things for the geek community in Salt Lake and beyond.

Final, Final Note (I promise!) Definitely look forward to more comic book related posts here. I’m enjoying them far too much for me not to start writing about them!

This is What a Feminist Looks Like

A little while ago, a horrible anti-feminist/fat-shaming meme started going around the Internet. If you’ve been online since it started circulating, you’ve probably seen it. The photo–if there had been no text added to it–is a great picture. It’s inspirational. It’s a plus-sized woman facing the camera and proudly holding a  paper that says “This is what a feminist looks like”.

I have similar pictures, of me proudly wearing my This is What a Feminist Looks Like t-shirt. For example: this one, taken when I hosted an amazing event that featured the strong community of women poets and musicians within the Salt Lake community.

Photo by Shauna Brock
Photo by Shauna Brock

Back to the meme.

What on its own is a wonderful picture that speaks volumes of feminist pride and exudes confidence was stolen and the message of power was taken away by a malicious caption:  “That’s pretty much what I expected.”

When I discovered the picture, I found myself unexpectedly crushed by the implication that somehow I, as a plus-sized woman and a feminist myself, was somehow less human. Suddenly I was just as easily worth ridicule and disgust. And it wasn’t just the person (or people) who found the image and added the horrific captioning who shocked me–it was the too-many-to-count commenters who were agreeing with the idea, and carrying on the anti-feminist/fat-shaming/anti-human campaign.

I claim to have little faith in humanity among my group of friends. They hear me day after day complaining about the stupidity of people, it’s a thing that I have been doing for a long time, and it’s second nature really. But honestly, under all the bark, I don’t believe it. I generally feel that people are good, that people are capable of amazing, wonderful things. But then something like this happens. And suddenly, my faith in humanity is actually shaken to its very core. The kind of people who insulted this woman are loathsome, vile creatures. And I find it hard to believe that someone could be so very hurtful, and damaging. But it happened.

Then today, I found something wonderful.

Turns out that the stolen picture is actually of a wonderfully badass feminist activist named Kelly Martin Broderick. And she wrote an amazing post about how horrified she was to discover the picture had been stolen and used as it was. But she didn’t stop at horrified. She fought it as best as she could, trying to get the picture removed from facebook since it had been stolen, but to no avail. But that did not stop her from speaking up and speaking out.

Kelly Martin Broderick: You are absolutely my hero.

I can’t tell you how much your voice made a difference to me today. It takes extreme courage to stand up when people are attacking in droves, powered by the fuel of the internet.

I am inspired by your strength, and grateful that you were able to rise above the awfulness of the Internet-gone-bad and make your statement. Despite the awful behavior of the people behind this meme, something great came out of this. Broderick proved that strength is possible in circumstances beyond one’s own control. That even when things are not working towards our favor, we can turn the tide and remind people that our greatest strength is in fact the power of our voice, and our ability to stand strong—and not take other people’s bullshit. If the people behind the meme can use the powers of the internet for harmful purposes, we can use the internet for good. To remind those that found the meme and grew as disheartened as I did upon first seeing it that the world is not all chaos and awful.

I am so fucking grateful for Broderick’s strength, because it’s reminded me that I too am powerful. And we feminists are everywhere. And taking this kind of bullshit is simply unacceptable. Hatred, mean-spiritedness, and spite will get you nowhere. If you want to be happy, if you want to make a difference in the world, you move past those things. You remember that everyone is human, that everyone has feelings and that EVERYONE REGARDLESS OF DIFFERENCE deserves a chance to be happy and live their lives.

If you haven’t already read Broderick’s piece on xojane, you should definitely go do that. Also, contribute to the tumblr page she set up, We Are What Feminists Look Like. As she explains in the piece on xojane:

The biggest miss the creator of my meme made was not realizing the point of the This is What a Feminist Looks Like campaigns; the point is to draw attention to the fact that feminists are not all the same. We are all different.  

So in response, I am starting a tumblr, We Are What Feminists Look Like. A few friends have already submitted pictures and I hope many more of you folks will submit pictures or thoughts. This experience has taught me that while one cruel person can ruin my morning, I have an entire community of friends, family, and feminists to back me up.  

She’s BADASS: A Small Collection of Women That Rock

One of the benefits of writing Monday’s post about how women in rock tend to be invisible, especially in mainstream media, was that I remembered why I initially started this blog in the first place. This blog was intended to be a resource where bands under the radar from all different genres–from quirky alt/pop to metal to acoustic–could be highlighted. It was intended to be part of the conversation about how women’s presence in music is a hell of a lot more than a cute sidekick. And I’m happy to say that I’m back. In the past few weeks I’ve been listening to a lot of music and I’m so excited to bring you more awesome bands/musicians that you may or might not know! I’m also looking forward to bringing you some of SLC’s best bands. It took a while, but suddenly the SLC music scene is huge and exciting and standing right in front of me. And I am so proud to be part of this kickass community. Just wait. If you don’t know what the SLC scene holds in store for you…you’re in for a surprise.

I also created another 8tracks mix for your listening pleasure. I will add the disclaimer that it’s pretty heavy on the metal/rock side. If you’re not interested in the heavier genres, this might not be your favorite mix ever. But if you’re a fan of metal/hard rock, then do feel free to check this out. It’s by no means comprehensive. It doesn’t even scratch the surface. I may actually have to make this a series.

SHE’S BADASS: Playlist on 8tracks

(Artists included on this mix include My Ruin, Otep, Melissa Auf Der Maur, Kittie, 7 Year Bitch and a few others. Check it out!)

I apologize for not embedding the mix onto this page–I actually haven’t been able to figure out how to make it work (tragic, right?!?). I personally love women in hard rock/heavy metal. I think metal is one of those genres that boys still try to hold onto pretty tightly. Arguments like “boys will be boys” and “far too aggressive for women” are thrown all over the place, but the fact is, women are just as there as the guys. The beauty of metal is found in the direct hard-hitting power, and the idea of only men being powerful is not only ludicrous, it is wrong.

Happy Weekend.

 

All Hail the Rock Revolution

This weekend was so full of live music that I feel like I could crash right now and wake up next week. It was intense.

Friday night I went to see BugGiRL and Adrian and the Sickness rock the fuck out like there was no tomorrow and it was everything I could have asked for. I love the energy and the feel of rock and metal. There is just nothing like the sound of blazing guitars and the heavy drums. It’s like an aural shot of adrenaline. And both bands delivered everything I’d hoped for and more. Amber, of BugGiRL is a pure shot of rock-n-roll energy. Her influences are definitely classic rock, from AC/DC to Mötley Crüe and beyond. She wields her guitar like the cock-rock instrument it’s been immortalized as, full of that incredible dirty, sexual energy that makes rock-n-roll the genre that it’s supposed to be. Her energy is frantic and fun to witness and be a part of.

And Adrian, of Adrian and the Sickness? oh my. You have not lived until you’ve seen a guitar goddess in action. Her fingers flew over the fretboard of her wireless guitar and she was in fact a woman possessed by the spirit of the music. It’s no wonder that she’s named her band Adrian and the Sickness. Anyone with a connection to music knows that it is powerful, and a force that can be all consuming–in other words: a sickness. A disease that grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. Adrian proved that. Her technique and her energy was impossible to resist. Part of me wonders how many guys she has made feel incompetent (or at least uncomfortable) due to her incredible mastery.

Between BugGiRL and Adrian & the Sickness, it was hard not to be inspired. Why fear the guitar when you’ve got women onstage proving that the instrument itself is not gendered. Anyone can make it their own. And if you know a woman who wants to get into learning the guitar (or are one yourself!) I suggest you look into both of these bands. They’ll get ya on the right track.

Saturday I went to an all day concert put on by a local rock radio station, 97.5 The Blaze. Saturday was wonderful. It was an outdoor concert in the heart of Salt Lake City (known as Gallivan Plaza) and I’m sun burnt. The music was great, especially the local bands. Believe it or not, SLC has a damn good rock scene. While a few of the names are well known to the local music community (the most notable being Royal Bliss, who really owned the stage–their reputation is well earned), I was familiar with none of them. Which on one hand is exciting, because you’re in the best place to discover new bands and musicians. The day was well spent, I enjoyed the music, the bands, the crowd, and the station’s effort throwing this incredible bash, but after spending the night before with talented/bad ass women musicians I couldn’t for the life of me shake this nagging feeling that….well…

….there was something missing.

97.5 has a good relationship with women. They’ve brought in acts like Halestorm into Utah, so it’s not like their ignoring the women who’re paving their way into the rock/metal scenes. The lineup for 2011’s Viva Salt Lake, well…it’s just what it is, right? It’s who they could get. Chill out, it’s not a big deal…Can we move on now?

But see, this right here, this very attitude, is exactly why women–especially in the rock/metal scene–aren’t getting the same respect the boys are getting. This attitude has been in place since June Millington picked up a guitar and started the band Fanny with her sister and some friends in the 70s. This is the same attitude that saw laughing record executives look at Joan Jett post-Runaways and say “Ohhh no, we’re not signing you.” Joan Jett had to go it alone and release her music independently. Today she’s still going as a musician and she’s still running her label Blackheart Records, where she’s making sure she’s signing acts like Girl in a Coma (3 piece alt/rock) and the Dollyrots (awesome pop/rock). It’s unquestionably a women-forward label.

Women have been a significant part of every music scene, from the blues, to jazz, to alternative, to rock to punk….WE’VE BEEN THERE. Yet women musicians are constantly left out of the rock picture despite the fact that more and more women are taking up instruments with the help of Rock’n’Roll Camps for Girls and other supportive parents and friends. The 90s saw a grrrl revolution in punk. With the leadership of musicians like Kathleen Hanna, Allison Wolfe, Carrie Brownstein and so many others, women finally found themselves represented in boy dominated scenes in a real way. Suddenly women could kick ass. Suddenly women could go to the local punk rock venue and actually HAVE a space to scream out their frustrations.

And yet, despite the progress, despite the work of musicians such as Courtney Love, Kat Bjelland, Otep, Kittie, Tairrie B., and so many others, women are still marginalized in a system that is happy stuck in the status quo. Women fronted bands are still regulated mainly to the rock magazine “hottest women in rock” issues instead of being a real and balanced part of the rockpages. This is NOT OKAY. This cannot continue to be the case. We’ve been fighting this war in different stages since the 60s and 70s, and it’s bizarre to think that as much accomplishment that we’ve had, you can still listen to a local rock radio station for more than an hour and not hear women represented. It’s bizarre to look at the rock charts and see no women-fronted acts represented. A quick glance at the Billboard rock charts reveals that the only act on the top 10 for the past couple weeks with a woman is Sick Puppies, which has Emma Anzai on bass. Thank goodness we have some representation. It’s better than none. But one woman among a male dominated field is not enough.

It’s hard to find faith in a system that is clearly broken. At the same time, the fact that the system is as broken as it is gives me a chance to do what I do, and bring amazing women artists to public attention. I’m happy to keep that gig. That said, I would like to see a balance in the mainstream rock world. I would like to see more women recognized without the feminist journalists/critics reminding people why it’s important that the musician is recognized for MORE than her looks. I’d like to see artists profiled in Bust/Bitch profiled equally in Rolling Stone/Spin. This disconnect is not okay.

I’m going to end this blog with a challenge. It’s a challenge to myself and it’s a challenge directed at anyone who reads this and who feels similarly.

It’s simple in essence. The challenge is to speak up. To pay attention. To request, request, request music on radio stations you listen to. Send music suggestions to music magazines/radio stations and if their coverage of women musicians is scarce or sexist, call them out on it. Don’t let that magazine/radio station be anything less than the best. You are a consumer of that media and as such, you have some power. Use it. Speak up.

Do you like a band? Join their street team. Support the hell out of them. Get them heard in whatever way you can. Write about them. Talk about them. Go to their gigs and bring friends. Buy their albums.

Don’t. Be. Silent.

Do. Be. Persistent.

The women-in-rock revolution is still ongoing, and the only way to make it real is to be part of it, and to own your role in it. So whether it’s as a musician, a writer, a radio host, OWN IT.

 

OT3P Coming to SALT LAKE CITY

Who: OT3P
When: Monday, 3/22/10, Doors at 6 pm (via In The Venue)
Where: In The Venue (579 West 200 South)
How Much: $15 in advance/$18 at door.

Why you should care:

Since the release of Sevas Tra (2002), Otep has been unique in the metal scene. Not only is she as badass and hardworking as any of her male counterparts, she’s one of the only “out” lesbians in the genre. She’s also a poet.

Metal, musically, is not the friendliest places for women. Even in 2010, despite progress made by women like Otep, Angela Gossow, and–stretching even farther back–Lita Ford and Girlschool–is still male dominated. Men are expected to be angry, loud, and aggressive. Women–not so much. Women musicians certainly match/even outnumber their male counterparts in genres such as pop/folk/singer-songwriter. But, in metal, the gender disparity is HUGE. And most of the well known women in metal are singers for the goth/metal variety (think Nightwish. Lacuna Coil. Etc.) Women bassists/guitarists/drummers are even LESS well known.

Otep Shamaya is a conscious musician. Her lyrics and music are tied deep in emotion, to the point where some songs are almost hard to listen to. The first time I heard the song “Buried Alive” and watched the video, it made me uncomfortable–it sounded and felt like she was breaking down emotionally in front of me, on the screen, through her vocals. It scared me. That kind of passion, that kind of raw ability is hard to find just anywhere. In addition to emotion, she has a deep awareness of social awareness. In her albums you’ll find a knowledge of political issues (“Warhead”), and social issues (“Rise, Rebel, Resist”).

“Rise, Rebel, Resist”-one of Otep’s newest video offerings!-is an outright metal anthem in support of being LGBT and being proud of it. It’s a powerful song, and not just for the LGBT community, but for anyone who has been cast into the social misfit role. The song is on her most recent album, Smash the Control Machine, which is why the band (made up of Otep herself, Evil J (bass), Rob Patterson (guitar), and Mark Bistany (drums).

The point of this whole entry: If you are in Salt Lake this Monday–Do NOT Miss this show. I know what Otep has to offer and it is nothing less than passion, which is one of the most vital ingredients for any show that you’ll remember years after it’s done. And not liking metal is NOT an excuse. So there.

If you are in another state where Otep has yet to leave their mark on your fair city–check their tour schedule. And go.

“Art Saves.Make the pain a weapon you can use.”-Otep Shamaya

Video Love <3:

Dear Salt Lake: I <3 You.

Here’s something a lot of non-Utah people don’t know about Salt Lake City: It’s amazing. In the past few weeks I’ve gotten involved in a numerous amount of activities that have made me love the city all the more. And even more important–Salt Lake City is finally starting to feel like home.

That doesn’t mean I won’t stop dreaming about California, where it’s warm and snow is pretty much non-existent (that’s my least favorite part of Utah. Or anywhere cold), but I have finally found the path that I left so long ago in NC. I can now officially resume conversations on feminism, activism, lgbt equality in a major way through involvement with the group TransAction, which is a phenomenal group–to say the least.

TransAction, for those not in the know, is a youth led group sponsored by the Utah Pride Center that provides a voice for the Transgender community. Its Mission: Promote visibility, unity and safety through advocacy and education. TransAction is dedicated to building bridges between communities. I’ve gone to only two meetings so far (Every Tuesday at the Pride Center), but I like what they are doing. And I’m glad I found them.

For those in SLC, looking for something to do this coming Tuesday night (the 17), we’ll be making our very own zine! And after that, on Saturday the 27th, we’ll have the Zine Debut Party at Marmalade Cafe, which will feature local poets, writers and musicians as well as some super delicious chai, made especially for the party.

For those in Salt Lake City, Don’t Miss this party! It’ll be awesome. And for those of you in other places outside of Utah…too bad for you 😉

In other topics: Sister Spit will be performing in the fair city of Salt at the one and only, Mestizo Coffeehouse! Save the date (Tuesday April 13), because between the likes of Michelle Tea, Annie Danger, Elisha Lim, Silas Howard & crew, you will never, ever forget this fabulous night.

And finally…exciting things are coming to Salt Lake City. I’ve got plans for this city, and I think with the right amount of networking and finding other people who are interested, Salt Lake will turn into a very, very grrrl friendly city. Maybe one day, we’ll even have a ladyfest. Oh Salt Lake, when I’m done with you, you won’t recognize yourself.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today marks the 11th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a day that was created to remember the all too short lives of those who were killed as a result of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The memorial day was started in 1998, after Rita Hester was murdered. The case, like most anti-transgender murder cases, has yet to be solved. In addition to being a day to remember and grieve for trans and gender non-conforming people who’ve been killed, the day also acts as a time to raise awareness about the violence that happens against trans people.

In an interview with Glaad blog, Ethan St. Pierre was asked his opinion on what TDOR meant to him. St. Pierre is an FtM transsexual gender activist who has been lobbying Congress since ’91 on behalf of hate crime victims and survivors, and works with the Remembering Our Dead Project as a coordinator of TDOR.

“It means a lot of things. Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day when we come together to remember those that we’ve lost, but it also reminds us of how unsafe we are and how we are targets of violence – and that nobody is really safe from it.  If you’re a trans person, especially if you’re an unemployed trans person out on the street, there’s a really good chance you’re going to lose your life.

It reminds me how unsafe we are.  And it reminds me how much work we have to do to educate people so that it doesn’t keep happening.”

Every day is a perfect opportunity to learn something new, so if you are unfamiliar with the problems that face the transgender community, the constant threat of violence always knocking at their door, become aware. Become an ally and help make a difference in people’s lives, talk to people and hear their stories, and share your own.

For more information please visit:

Transgender Day of Remembrance Information:

TDOR-Official Page
Feministing on TDOR
Pam’s House Blend on TDOR
Questioning Transphobia-The Drowned and the Saved
Glaad Blog with Sassafras Lowrey

Information on Trans Issues

Pam’s House Blend
Glaad Blog
Questioning Transphobia
Feministing

For Your Entertainment:

In addition to remembering those we’ve lost, it’s not a bad idea to celebrate the achievements of the transgendered/transsexual persons who have made it into our lives through a variety of media. This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are plenty more transgender and transsexual artists/musicians/writers and people out there–please support them in their efforts!

Music:
The Cliks
Antony and the Johnsons
Tribe 8
Lynn Breedlove
Wendy Carlos
Chastity Bono

Television/Film
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (film)
Kinky Boots (film)
Transamerica(film)
Velvet Goldmine(film)
Eddie Izzard (Comedien)

Literature
Kate Bornstein
Julia Serano
Rachel Pollack