Monday, June 7, 2010

Here is a list of our demands. Meet them or the goat gets it.

Recently, comic book artist Hope Larson performed an informal survey of 198 comics-reading girls and young women to get a snapshot of their reading practices, and what they believe the comic book industry could do to encourage more female readership, especially among teens and tweens (as this age bracket is most likely to pick up comics). She presented her findings in the form of a list of demands:

1. More and better female characters, especially protagonists. Girls want to see strong, in-control, kick-ass women calling the shots.
2. A welcoming atmosphere in local comic stores is key. Many respondents reported feeling uncomfortable in comic stores. They were stared at, talked down to, and
generally treated without respect.
3. Pink, sparkly cutesy comics about boyfriends, ponies, cupcakes and shopping are widely reviled. Condescend to female readers at your peril, writers and comic publishers.
4. The hypersexualization/objectification of female superheroines makes female readers uncomfortable, and sexual violence as a plot point has got to stop.
5. Girls need good stories in a variety of genres.
6. Most girls don’t even know comics exist, or that they would enjoy them. Publishers need to advertise in mainstream media and comic shops need to reach out to girls.
7. Make comics for boys and girls. Comics with dual male and female protagonists. Comics with large casts that offer something for everyone.
8. Use licensed properties to lure new readers into comics.
9. Availability is a problem. Get more comics into schools. Get more comics into libraries—especially school libraries. Get more comics into bookstores, especially large chains.
10. There need to be more women creating comics and working in the industry as editors and publishers.

Emphasis mine, on the points that I feel are most salient. The first two are content issues, and I think any change in content will be dependent on number 10, and an increase in the number of women actually writing comics. I've been dipping my toes into the world of independent comics, and I've noticed that the further one gets up the foodchain -- from webcomic creators to the larger independent houses to the Majors -- the fewer women one meets.

Which in turn is dependent on number 6, and the lack of female readership. With few girls and women interested in reading comics, it stands to reason that not many would be interested in creating them, either.

Which, of course, is in turn largely dependent on content.

It's a vicious cycle, friends.

If comic book publishing houses want to court the female market, I would strongly suggest that they actively recruit women to work on their writing and editorial staff. There are a few determined souls out here (*raises hand*) who long to wade in and lay about them with the Righteous Club Of Gender Equality, Or At Least Not Fridging Half the Female Characters.

But then again, maybe that's exactly what they DON'T want.

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