Friday, May 30, 2014

Sketched Comic: The Big Feminist But

Get out your cats and tinfoil men, we're lookin' at The Big Feminist But!

This is an anthology talking about feminism, why it's needed, and those times we say, "I'm not a feminist but," or "I'm a feminist but," with stories from a myriad of artists and writers such as Lauren Weinstein, Gabrielle Belle, Vanessa Davis, Jen Wang, and more!

This is makes me feel uncomfortable to review because I am a straight white male talking about a book on feminism and reviewing that makes me feel like I'm judging feminism itself, or that I as a white male am giving my authority to deem this worthy of your money and attention when it doesn't need my authority at all. I mean, it is a good book! There's lots of great stories in it done by great artists (one of which is a former teacher of mine), and it's also a great value at $5 for over 200 pages. And especially in light of recent events, I don't see a reason why you SHOULDN'T go buy it. So instead of a review, all I'm going to do here is talk about it and some of the stories I liked.

If it has any downfalls, it's that it's a bit hard to get into at first, with a semi-long (for comics) introduction and a comic that starts off with a block of text. Blocks of text are never great to see in a visual medium like comics. Also, it's weird that it starts off asking IF we need feminism (when I think the answer to that should be an unequivocal YES) when the real question is WHY we need feminism. But once you get past that, there's a ton of great, very personal stories.

The first story that really intrigues me is "Asking For It" from Shannon O' Leary and Ric Carrasquillo, about the dangers women have to face when it comes to men and sex. There's a nice twist at the end that I don't want to give away, but it highlights the physical dangers women have to deal with. It's illustrated in a style that's very loose and wild, adding an urgency and darkness to the story.

"Manifestation" is a great little autobiographical story by Gabrielle Bell about how she had to do a comic version of a famous feminist book, The Scum Manifesto. It's a really interesting story about her trying to read it and find something to adapt while also going into her complicated relationship with her mother and what they both think of feminism as an idea. Great stuff.

It's probably telling that the story I identify most is about a boy and written/created by a male artist, but I really liked "How to Make a Man Out of Tinfoil" by Barry Deutsch. Not just because I also used to make men out of tinfoil (although that's a BIG part) but also because it's an important story about how the patriarchy and the myth of masculinity hurts men just as much as women. MRAs have this backwards notion that feminists are destroying men and turning the world into pansies, when in reality it's the patriarchy that has set up this unrealistic expectation for all men to be manly, and any who don't adhere strictly to that are deemed "weird" or "weak" or "gay,” etc. And this story about a child at camp who doesn't want to do sports but just wants to play with his action figures (I am SO the target audience for this) does a great job of  illustrating that. It's also really well drawn with great uses of blacks and well-boarded panels.

"Am I a Spinster Yet?" by Corinne Mucha and "What if I don't want to have a baby?" by Abby Denson both deal with the responsibilities thrust on women to get married and have babies, and how society chooses not to value those who don't go for that normal nuclear family dream. Not that those who DO pursue marriage and family are all that valued, either. It's an important message, especially these days when a lot of people (both individuals and couples) don't really have the money to start families, and/or simply can't physically have them. And we're not in a time that we as a society really need to make families, unlike, say after WWII when starting families was imperative to restart the economy. I also like both comics' simple cartoony styles.

If you're worried this anthology is only about ladies, "Marriage is Super" by Justin Hall deals with the importance of Gay Marriage and tells a pretty fun story about a guy marrying a gay couple while he's dressed as Green Lantern. It's quite silly and entertaining while giving an important message on homosexuality. It also talks about gay marriage legislation and Prop 8 while providing a personal story. And hey, Green Lantern is technically in this! That means this is technically a superhero comic! Now you really have to buy this!

Jen Wang tells a story about a book she wants to write in "Prostitutes: For Teens". It's an idea she has for a young adult book about teenage prostitutes looking out for each other, and, man, I hope she does actually make it because it sounds SUPER intriguing. But the comic also does a good job of highlighting how we treat sex workers, the taboo we have of not letting teens explore their sexuality in teen stories, and most importantly, how to write such tough characters.
And then there's "Adam & Lilith" by Ron Rege, which is almost psychedelic in nature. It has an artistic style that nearly acts like a puzzle: beautiful to look at, but hard to read. It's about this strange take on the creation myth and how the patriarchy took hold. It deals a lot with spirituality and science and it feels like you're reading a grand story through ancient hieroglyphics.

I adore the cartoony style of "Pixie" by Charlie Jane Anders and Britt Wilson, which tells the story of a girl who wants to shrink in size because she hates being tall. It's a weird one.

The last one I want to talk about is "Boy's Life" by Andi Zeisler, which talks about gender roles we place on men and women even before they are born. It's a great comic that deals with girls liking boy things, men being treated like dopes as a cliché, what we teach our children, and how that shapes their growth and ultimately their views in adulthood. Lots of great studies and points are brought up.

There are tons of other great stories I didn't even get to. Lots of varying viewpoints on why feminism is important and how harmful the patriarchy is to society as a whole. If you have 5 bucks and want to learn more about feminism, or hell, just get a whole mess of great comics for a ridiculously low price, Go out and buy it now!

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