Female Comics and Females in Comics
I’ve got my feet in both comics culture and the culture of stand-up comedy, and I’m seeing two similar conversations happening. Female comedians and female comic readers both face similar issues being that stand-up and comic books are largely male dominated.
First off, I am not a woman. I do not claim to be an expert in feminism or femininity. Just check my dating track record with women. (Hint: it’s non-existent.) But my audience is surprisingly mostly women. I’ve received more responses, comments, and e-mails from women than men. Most of the people who have approached me after a stand-up show are women. And the people who most get excited about seeing my work at conventions and end up buying my comic books and prints are women.
- Graphic Novelist Hope Larson took a survey to gauge the thoughts of women who read comics.
- There have been a ton of follow-up thoughts sprouting up in response to her results, and some of them can be read here, and one from Kiel Phegley.
- Hope Larson even responds in an interview here with Kelly Thompson.
- Jessie Geller writes how she feels as a female comic.
- Here’s the article by Kate Hendricks linked to at the bottom of previous source, here. Also, here is the Vanity Fair article, “Who says Women Aren’t Funny?” from 2008.
- A new web documentary series called Welcome to the Stage recently just popped up. It’s about stand-up comedy in San Francisco, and though it hasn’t really brought up the issue of “female comedy”, it follows 4 female stand-up comedians exclusively.
Most of these articles I’ve brought up tend to be written by women. Where are the guys who have an opinion about this subject? These are the recurring topics I found in both camps.
1. Female comedians feel outnumbered and mistreated when going to an open mic. Female comic book readers feel outnumbered and mistreated at a comic book store.
2. Comedy club bookers/owners tend to be male. Comic book store owners tend to be male.
3. Men generalize female comedians to only talk about boys, dating, and relationships. Men generalize female readers to like reading about boys, dating, and relationships. (and ponies and sparkly stuff)
Both parties think that stand-up comedy and comic books are a boy’s club. Women tend to think of themselves in relation to men. But I’ve noticed that men tend to ONLY think of themselves.
Also, I should bring up that a common issue in stand-up is that people assume “women are not funny”. But in comic books, there is no equivalent. Women are just as good as men at creating compelling stories and illustrating moving artwork. Women in comic books are completely competent, and are not met with the hostility that female comedians receive.
AUDIENCE AND NERDS
The comparison is a little disconnected, because female comic book bloggers talk more about readers and audiences than female comedians talk about their audience. Hope Larson mentions that her books appeal to young adult female readers. Do female creators write to appeal specifically to men without making assumptions as to ‘what men like’? I also want to know who the female stand-up comedians are targeting, without having to say “Am I right, ladies?” at the end of a joke. To be fair, I don’t even know if male comics target a gender-specific audience, so generally speaking, comedians may be gender-blind in developing an act. There are comic books that appeal strongly to women, but is there a specific kind of comedy that appeals to women?
When female comic creators get together for a panel or a singing, female readers flock to them. But when female comedians go on tour together, do females flock to their shows in droves? I might be able to relate because I watch a lot of Asian comedians, and I follow the work of Asian comic book creators. But do women really geek out about female comedy?
This may also be in part due to “nerd-dom” levels in either field. In comic books, female nerds are definitely growing in size with the help of manga’s influence in comic book culture. Zine and Mini-comics culture is very closely half-and-half. Nerd-dom in stand-up comedy is relatively new, and not quite as passionate as comic book nerddery. Comedy nerds may be few, and most of the times if there are any, it is largely male. But even that is changing with women attaching themselves to the likes of Tina Fey, Maria Bamford, Natasha Leggero, Garfunkel and Oates, etc. Even Patton Oswalt, Eugene Mirman, and Zach Galafianakis have a large fanbase, many of the passionate ones include women. But in my own life, rarely do I find a girl who is in the know of some of the latest stand-up comedy. It’s largely guys who geek out about it.
GET GIRLS INVOLVED
I’m a little disheartened that there aren’t many guys involved in the conversation. I think that Hope Larson calls retailers and publishers to action with her ten points to get girls reading comics, things that I’ve noticed and rooted for for a very long time. And I’m not saying it isn’t happening, because it is. I see a lot more women and girls attending conventions with their girlfriends, and not tagging along with their guy friends. And in comedy, well there’s always been female audience members, but I’m seeing more and more women express interest in performing at open mics. I’m happy to see that the female comic book creators and comedians are inspiring other women to join in, and I hope me being a guy doesn’t exclude me from inspiring them, too.