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No more worthless philosophy!

Sexy Chix has been released, and I have not read it (I don't even have the money for the Belle and Sebastian thing at the moment, woe is my broke ass), but that will not stop me from talking about something about it that disturbs me. Other people (who have actually read it) have posted reviews here and here and here; you can get their more informed opinions if you are so inclined.

First off, that cover really annoys me. Whoever was in charge of designing it should have a finger vigorously wagged in their direction. The photos of the women involved have absolutely no theme and are (in several instances) pretty unflattering because of lighting or depth of shot, but you could work around that (say it's proving the awesome diversity of women or summat) if you actually bothered to group them in ways that made sense. Put the black and white photos on one line, the closeups of redheads on another, the hyper-colorful (OK, mostly purple) photos on another, or pair them up due to similarity of angle or pose, or SOMETHING...I mean, you could at least TRY, y'know? Am I the only one who watches HGTV or something? There are ways to do it!

*hem* OK then. Moving right along, the non-photographic elements of the cover remind me a lot of something my sister's arty friends would do to ironically call into question the whole notion of women's comics or something. "Sexy Chix" with a little '70s douche-package birdie on it? Not as classic as the tampon in a teacup, but it'll do in a pinch.

But it's not actually ironic, is it? This is the editor's intro, cribbed from one of the reviews:

These particular women are all creative, interesting human beings with some very real, and some very well expressed, female concerns--and that's what's really sexy. Not what goes on between the sheets, but between the ears.

And from an interview:

But the people who see something 'demeaning' in the title have already bought into a boys' club paradigm of the word 'sexy' -- the smut-mag definition, in other words. The 'Chix' of the title, the cartoonists, are all really amazing, creative women, and that's what's really 'sexy' -- at least, to most men I know."

So they really mean it, then. Perfik.

What I take issue with is the importance of "sexiness" at all. One of the contributors to SC is 8; why does an 8-year-old girl need to be "sexy"? Is a woman's value as a writer or an artist predicated on how much people want to fuck her--whether for her body or for her mind? If it is, why does it only apply to women? If it's not, then why bother calling them hot pieces of literary ass in the first place? I don't understand; if it's some sort of marketing ploy, OK, but as a method of taking back the night or something I confess I am mystified.

From what I understand, most people who find this monstrosity (the blog, not the SEXY BEST SEXIES) seem to think I'm a guy unless I hint very strongly that I'm a girl. When I'm linked to, I don't get tagged as a new female blogger or hailed for my estrogen-bathed insights (not that I have many insights in the first place, fond as I am of driveby-comedy-style blogging); I get descriptions of the "Not quite right in the head" variety, which is more than fair. Do any of you genuinely think that the bitchy webcomics make me sexy? Do you like my work less because you don't know what I look like--Hell, that you don't know my name? I suspect if I were to play up my gender, I might get more attention, but that goes against one of the few deep-seated moral precepts that I have: I will earn what I get. I don't want people to give me a pass or pay attention to me because I'm a girl in a man's world. It's dishonest. If people are going to like me, it should be because I've done something worth liking. I know that some avenues are shut to me because of my gender, but I can't control that at this point; all I can do is refuse to take the few gender-based opportunities offered as compensation, and hope that whatever talent I've got is enough to get me where I want to be. If I fail, at least I can feel that I really earned it--better that than railing against a universe that's been set up to crush me. Because if I'm not good at this one thing, that's OK; it sucks, but there are other things I'm good at, and there'll always be someone out there who's better than you. Every day in every way we get better and better. But if that's not the case--if your efforts are futile because the deck is stacked against you, and your only hope for advancement is the mercy of your superiors--then why bother soldiering on?

I don't want to demean or belittle the people who are in Sexy Chix (or women's anthologies in general); I think I understand why people would want to be in this sort of thing, and their reasons are plenty valid if I have them right. Even if I'm wrong, they can do what they want--of all the things going on in the world, "Women participating in sexy all-woman comics anthology" ranks somewhere around "Brita pitcher filter is a month expired" on the Threatdown. Comics have way worse woman troubles than that. But it's not for me.


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 10th, 2006 03:44 am (UTC)
I think people who are good at wha they do are sexy, generally. SO YES YOU ARE SEXY. YOU AND YOUR LITTLE SEXY PIXELS.

Other than that? DAYUM. That is one yucky cover.
Feb. 10th, 2006 03:48 am (UTC)
You're gonna have to try harder than that to get into my pants, lady.

(tee hee i am sexy now)
Feb. 10th, 2006 04:34 am (UTC)
"Women participating in sexy all-woman comics anthology" translates in my male mind to "Lesbian Spank Inferno."

Your wonderful little pixel comics here on LJ though are totally hot - in a completely non-sexual awesome way.

I agree with what you seem to be saying though on taking issue with the "buy this comic because it's by women." I guess it's just a marketing ploy, but I've tended to realize who has written something after I've read it. In fact, a few times I've found that the author was not the gender I had expected (has happened to me for both male and female authors).
Feb. 10th, 2006 04:58 am (UTC)
I didn't need to be a girl to be offended by the rampant misogony in Identity Crisis. You didn't need to be a guy to be offended at the outrageous crap Countdown dumped onto 2 great guys, Ted & Max. There are somethings anyone of any gender can be united in opposing.

I've been a fan of DC Comics for a long time. I haven't bought anything DCU related since the end of I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League. To me, Countdown ruined close to everything that I loved the most about DC. In place of comics, I come to your website everyday, eager to see what you've come up with next. It's not because you're a girl or even a girl who comments on comics. It's because you express so much better than I can, the outrage at what DC has done to their own franchise. You're not bitchy, you're brilliant.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 10th, 2006 03:58 pm (UTC)
He is motherfucking Space Cabby! Women want him, men want him too.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 11th, 2006 08:46 am (UTC)
Are you dense? Are you retarded or something?

He's the goddamn Space Cabby.
Feb. 10th, 2006 07:11 am (UTC)
I think it's sexy that everyone thinks you're a guy.
Am I a bad person for buying the Marvel Romance trade instead?

Now there's a chronicle of fucked-up gender relations (but in a good, "nerd girl acts like a supervixen to snag the hunky professor who turns out to love her for her geekiness" way and not the bad "I'm Charlie Manson in spandex and I must stuff you in my fridge" way)...

You know, I think Diana Schultz was being ironic, or at least playful. The whole look and feel of that cover is just too 1975 for it not to be at least a little tongue-in-cheek. But I think she had to over-emphasize her serious intent in light of the criticism the cover got when it was solicited. It's too bad she couldn't just say, "look, you guys are taking this cover way too seriously" without apparently losing her feminist cred in the process.

That said, as a marketing gimmick it's not a very good one. "Hey boys! Women making comix are Sexay!" It's an equivalent of "Zap! Pow! Comics aren't just for kids!" It's an observation that's obvious, cliched, and more than a few years too late. And I'm not quite sure who her target audience is: the New York Times artcomix crowd? Female manga readers? The direct market fanboys?

I'm going to have to get it for that Colleen Coover story, though. And isn't that 8-year-old the one who does the religious comics? She creeps me out.

Feb. 10th, 2006 07:36 am (UTC)
wordy mcwordister from wordonia, yo. everything women do has to be sexy. regardless of sexy's actual merits or lack thereof, it is a requirement for anyone to notice or value *anything we do.* pardon me for not finding that empowering and retro and fun.
Feb. 10th, 2006 11:26 am (UTC)
Heck, I thought Jen Van Meter was a Dutchman for the longest time, and it in no way impeded my liking for the Dutch Master's JSA arc.

Which I really liked.

And I don't think a big thing was made of gender there.
Feb. 10th, 2006 04:02 pm (UTC)
Dude, don't hate on the Dutch! They've inadvertently started WWIII, and they need our support.

Oh, wait, that's the Danes. Nevermind.
Feb. 10th, 2006 04:17 pm (UTC)
1. That cover blows on every level. It looks like a vanity-press anthology of Erotica By Wommyn. I enjoy anthologies of comics by women (both of them), and looking at this thing, I'd never know what the hell it was. I'm betting that a lot of bookstore copies will get shelved in Women's Studies, Health, or Self-Help.

2. You are smart and funny. This makes you dripping with teh sex. Not literally. I hope.
Feb. 10th, 2006 06:50 pm (UTC)
I remember this cover starting off an interesting conversation on Fanboy Rampage about this book (at least it started out interesting--it kinda got bogged down in some guy and Kurt Busiek arguing about the semantics of "stereotype"...but I digress).

Looking the conversation up again, I did find this post, which features a letter from the Sexy Chix editor. Best quote:

“If you want to know why I have entitled the book Sexy Chix…well, you’ll just have to buy a copy to find out! I’ve intended all along to explain that in my introduction to the anthology. And to those of you who don’t begin to get it, I politely submit that you have already bought into the boys’ club paradigm.”
Feb. 10th, 2006 07:58 pm (UTC)
That's me, buying into that boys' club paradigm all right. Look at me go! Woo! I wish I had balls so I could scratch 'em!
Feb. 10th, 2006 07:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting; I'm thinking exactly this, as a guerilla zine-style comic artist who hopes to live off it one day. I've actually entertained the notion of signing as the honest but gender-neutral Sam, rather than my full name, so people don't get the idea I'm going to include any "female concerns", which I probably wouldn't have even if I knew what that meant.
Feb. 10th, 2006 07:58 pm (UTC)
My name is gender-neutral too; my parents decided my real name was too long to use except in case of emergency, so ever since I was a toddler they've used the masculine shortcut. I blame them, or something.
Feb. 12th, 2006 03:19 pm (UTC)
Ugh. A bunch of women did a jam album, had a great time, and produced some really entertaining stories (in my opinion, of course). So what?

What a fucking goofy thing to cry about. What a perfect comics industry tempest. For the record, most of the women I've spoken to about being in the book have ALREADY "earned it," whatever the 'it' might be that this book could possibly give them. We did it
because we liked the idea of the book, not for some mysterious benefit we could only achieve by lowering ourselves to appear in a book with other creators whose work we respect and enjoy. Hoovery horrors!

'I think I can understand why people would want to be in this sort of thing,' yipes. Is it really that complex that it has to be imagined like the mating rituals of the naked mole rat? We liked the roster, we liked the editor, and we liked the idea of the project.

The cover's not my favorite, either, though. Some pixel comics would've been especially welcome in that regard.

Feb. 12th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
As if I'm important enough to start a tempest!
So what indeed--as I said, "expired Brita filter" levels of danger here, but it still bothered me, mostly for the thought of the sexy 8-year-old. Probably wouldn't have given it a second thought if I hadn't noticed that. And I'm not crying; pointy dogs don't cry.

It's not that your motivations are so complex as to be inscrutable, either--it's just that mine are very different. I've been around long enough to figure out that one of the worst things I can do is assume that people think like me. I was trying to open my own mind, y'see. Really, this is meant to be more an explanation of my own position than a criticism of Sexy Chix--which I have not read, and thus cannot criticize fairly. I do think the marketing is a bit suspect, and I keep coming back to the sexy 8-year-old (I realize her parents must have been OK with this), but I don't mean to suggest that everyone should condemn the book and burn all future female-centric anthologies that come down the pike. Nor do I suggest that women should feel bad or are misguided (OMG STOP HURTING COMICS/FEMINISM) for getting involved in them. Plus, it's not every day you get a chance to share pages with Joyce Carol Oates.

I AM saying, though, that if I were to participate in a similar thing, I might feel bad about it, because it would make me a hypocrite and goes against the way I think. My mom didn't raise me to do well (for a girl)--she raised me to do the best I could, and then do better. If I emphasize (or take advantage of) my gender, then I fear I'm in danger of getting pegged good, for a girl. Or worse, even; look at all the crap Devin Grayson gets just because some people don't like her version of Nightwing. I'd be willing to participate in an all-female anthology, probably--but one that had a hook that had nothing to do with the participants' gender. (An all-girl zombie anthology? That'd work :D) That's where I'm coming from. It's not a knee-jerk stance, or even a particularly feminist stance; it's a personal stance, one that I've given a lot of thought to, and one that doesn't apply to anyone who's not me. (Though, perhaps, not a totally unique stance.)

I have no idea how to make pixel regular people (superheroes are doable because their uniforms read surprisingly well in miniature), but they would have been uniform in color and design. This I feel is important.
Feb. 13th, 2006 10:50 pm (UTC)
Re: As if I'm important enough to start a tempest!
But none of us (the contributors) are thinking the hypothetical way you're decrying. Do you honestly think most of the names in this book think they're doing nice work, considering they have uteruseseses? I can't see Carla Speed McNeil feeling for a moment she does nice work for a girl.

I'm a relative newbie, but some of these women have been putting out stellar work for a couple decades now. It's just ridiculous and a little bit insulting to sit on a pillar of pixels and ignore that they've been doing exactly what it is you're talking about (being judged on the merits of their work) for many years.

The eight year old thing, I don't know. I'm torn between the fact that it's obviously true that that's a bit weird, and the fact that it's the fallback position of some of the people who gave this same, tired, hypersensitive argument well before the complete contributor list was given out.

Ah, whatever. It's not genuinely that big a deal, I'm used to silly kerfuffles on the internet (and have started a bunch myself). But it does seem like the default position of the sisterhood of comics is often 'attack,' rather than 'support,' and I find the argument that 'I'm more feminist than you' to be pretty ill-informed (and ill-advised) in most cases. Not saying that's what you said, but I've read that from a few folks recently.

No big deal, it's an honest disagreement with no malice, in any case. I certainly don't mean to impugn you. I just think a lot of the uproar is internet nonsense, and in most other media, this sort of thing is common and celebrated as the fun experiment it is. It's comics where it becomes a tragedy heretofore unexperienced. I don't remember this many tears and brickbats at the Lillith Faire, although a couple male rock columnists managed to handily embarrass themselves in that regard.

Hey, is the Atom just one pixel when you do him?



PS. Incoming mail on unrelated matters...

Feb. 14th, 2006 04:43 pm (UTC)
Re: As if I'm important enough to start a tempest!
I'm not sure what impresses me more, Gail's oversensitivity to anyone questioning anything a comics creator or publisher does, or her ability to pop up wherever her stuff is being discussed...
Feb. 14th, 2006 05:35 pm (UTC)
Re: As if I'm important enough to start a tempest!
I'll thank you not to start a fight here, fella.
Feb. 14th, 2006 05:34 pm (UTC)
"Sit on a pillar of pixels?"
Get back in your refridgerator. The design and title of this book is embarrassing and awful, no matter the talent of the contributors.
Feb. 14th, 2006 05:39 pm (UTC)
Re: "Sit on a pillar of pixels?"
You too, guy. Or girl. Whatever.

Also, refrigerator doesn't have a d in it.
Feb. 14th, 2006 07:50 pm (UTC)
Re: "Sit on a pillar of pixels?"
I respect our difference in opinions here. I do think that the fact you "haven't read it" is the biggest point of discussion. This often happens in libraries, when people want to remove a title because of cover art, or one paragraph, but haven't read the full work.

The cover photos for Sexy Chix may not be all studio professionally airbrushed. I think 'uniform in color and design' photos on the cover could end up looking even more stale than the contrasts currently. True, the lighting on some is awful-- but the art, intention, stories are much, much more important. A few stories had me shaking my head in recognition of my own experience-- that's what its all about.

I have worked hard to be comfortable in my own skin, and recognizing my girly parts, but not trying to exploit them, is part of that.

Give a go and read it yourself.

Redhead Fangirl
Feb. 14th, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC)
Re: "Sit on a pillar of pixels?"
I automatically think anyone with red hair is a genius, but also, I enjoy your blog. Thank you also for being sane and all. ;)

Feb. 14th, 2006 09:20 pm (UTC)
Re: "Sit on a pillar of pixels?"
I love when people try to make fights out of civil discussions. :)

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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