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Why Aren’t There More Women in Comics?

DC recently rejiggered their entire line and people noticed that number of female creators involved dropped noticeably. This, as it should have, started a bigger conversation about the general lack of women working in the American comics industry (hereby defined as the mostly monthly releasing stuff). Which is where it got wonky.

I saw a few people get into it and one of the most popular things said was that if more women pitched there would be more women in comics. As if that was the answer. Since they aren’t it must mean they don’t want to be in comics.

This is when I started to smash my head into a wall in frustration. But I stopped that and decided to try explaining why that sentiment makes me want to force myself into unconsciousness, instead.

Let’s try the same sentiment with a different twist.

There aren’t more women in math because they don’t want to be in math.

Really? So it has nothing to do with the systematic indoctrination that math isn’t for women? It has nothing to do with steering women away from the field? Come the hell on!

The American Comics industry, going back to the root here, has spent how long doing comics that feature women in lesser roles, as helpless victims or as abuse recipients only? And even though that is changing now, it is still there and the current crop of people who are of an age to start working in comics were born back when it was still an even bigger problem than it is today.

Why would you think, given that, that women would want to pitch for comics? Yes, there are women in the industry. Yes there were in the 50s and 60s as well. I am not discarding them or marginalizing them. But percentage-wise? It’s sad. And it isn’t because “women don’t want to do comics” or even “women don’t want to do superhero comics.”

It’s because they’ve been chased off, told they shouldn’t want to do them and then often shown that what they would be working on is insulting to them. And yet people are confused.

Let’s be honest. The majority of American Comics (again mainstream stuff etc) is full of women being used and abused, discarded and ignored as actual characters. Imagine you love drawing comics. Now imagine you’re told to draw stuff that marginalizes and tosses under the bus the people in the stories that represent you. How long would you do it?

Suppose you owned a club. Now, every white male who wants in, you check their ID, and you let them in. Every woman who wants into your club you punch in the face and then check their ID and let them in. Once you learn that’s wrong and twisted you downgrade to slapping them, but only when no one is looking. Then you act shocked when women don’t line up to get into your club after a while. You decide, based on the fact that they aren’t in line that day, that women simply don’t want to enter your club, but assure everyone that if they did want to enter they’d be allowed, of course.

Yeah, a lot of this happens less now. How long after you stop even slapping people do you think it would be before women flocked to your club? More than a week? A year? A generation grown up without knowing people smacked or punched? Two? The industry is still paying off its debt from behavior past as well as behavior now.

No, we’ve lost an untold number of voices already. It’s too late. They love comics, many of them make comics, just not over here, or not often. They make webcomics (ever notice how many female webcomic creators there are? But women don’t want to make comics, right Bubba?) where they aren’t made to feel that the very stories they tell will be hateful to themselves.

Maybe we’ve only lost 5 voices. Maybe 500. Maybe 5,000. But comics, like most creative endeavors, lives and breathes on talent. If comics are bread then talent is the yeast. You can sell Spider-Man comics made with little or no talent. It’s flat, boring and tasteless but people who need Spider-Man will buy it. But with the right thing to make that story rise? You can really get somewhere.

And the industry has a history of actively trying to throw out half the population’s worth of potential. And then asking why they aren’t there, punching them in the face, and swearing they would be welcome, if they’d only show up.

Well done, guys.

Published by

Adam P. Knave

Eisner and Harvey award winning editor, writer and tired person. Novelist, comic writer, cat owner, NY'er.

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