Yes, There are Stoopid Questions and Comments. Ask a Female Creator.
Picture this: you’re at a comic book convention, and you head down to Artists Alley to meet some of your favourite artists, maybe get a signed print or two, or even just ask them to sign a copy of a comic they drew that you absolutely love. When you finally stop at a table, you’re able to ask the artist sitting there a question, and the first words out of your mouth are “did you draw that?”
Well no shit, Sherlock, you’re in Artists Alley, not a retail store – although the artists are there to sell their sketches, the very point is that they’re selling their sketches – what did you expect the answer to that question to be? “No, I’m just keeping the seat warm.”
Want to put the rest of your leg in your mouth? Why not ask where the artists significant other is? Would you ask John Romita Jr. where his wife is? You wouldn’t, would you? So why do some people think it’s okay to ask those questions to female artists?
Because they’re women.
I came across a picture that s.leady (@fawksylibrarian) tweeted from the South Carolina Comicon. The tweet was a photo, which you can find below, of a sign that was on the phenomenally talented Meghan Hetrick‘s table (Hetrick is currently working on the ongoing title Red Thorn for Vertigo).
Take a moment now, to read the sign.
When I looked at the photo three things happened almost at the same time (but because I have to write them down, I have to use some form of order); I immediately shook my head, as I realized that the sign actually made me somewhat angry, and a little disappointed. Then I had a little chuckle, because that sign is flippin’ awesome, and I’m happy that Meghan Hetrick placed it at her table.
Now what made me shake my head wasn’t the sign itself, but rather that there’s a need for it at all. Women in comics is nothing new; something that Madison Butler’s fantastic Comics Herstory project has done a fantastic job highlighting, and yet for some reason female creators are thought of as an anomaly (you really should look into Comics Herstory when you have time; you’ll learn a lot that you probably had no idea about when it comes to the history of women in comics – click the link back there you’ll see all thirty plus entries in reverse order on Graphic Policy) – because for some inexplicable reason their contributions to sequential art are frequently overlooked.
Female comic book writers and artists may not make up the majority of creators, but that doesn’t make them a near mythological being that you may only rarely see in the wild. Why some people feel the need to ask any of the above questions above that they wouldn’t say to a male artist is beyond me. A great artist is a great artist, and it shouldn’t matter said artist’s gender.
And Meghan Hetrick is a great artist.
That there was a need for this sign to be placed at her SCCC table is somewhat disappointing; because it shows that in this day and age our treatment of female creators is till unequal to their male counterparts, and if Hetrick gets enough questions and comments such as those featured on the sign to even have the idea for the Stoopid Questions sign, then she’s likely not the only female artist or writer to get these comments.
And that is something that needs to change.
If you were one of the people who would ask, or say something a female creator that you would never dream of saying to a male one, maybe upon seeing the sign you realized that you about to come off as an ignorant jackass and you stopped. Maybe you realized that your formally innocuous comment, regardless of if it was meant as a compliment, would make you look like a misogynistic pillock.
Whatever the reason you didn’t ask the question, I hope it stays with you.
I reached out to Meghan to ask her a couple questions about the sign, and her experiences at conventions in general, and she gave me a little bit of her time.
Graphic Policy: Was that the first time you’ve had the jar at your table?
Meghan Hetrick: Yes, that was the first time I’ve had the jar on my table. I’ve had a couple experiences at the last few conventions I’ve been at that basically spurred me into setting this thing up, never mind the Internet at Large.
GP: I almost hate to ask, but I assume those questions and comments must only be the tip of an iceberg, eh?
MH: As for the comments and questions themselves, yeah, those were just a small spattering of some of the better ones (space limitations, heh). More than anything, the jar acts almost as a deterrent, and a very effective one at that. Even still, though, some folks are just jackasses enough to ask some extremely lewd and lascivious things. I’m sure almost every single female artist out there that has even a modicum of “fame” has been asked some of these ridiculous things.
GP: I agree with you completely, and I’m pretty confident that I can say the same for Graphic Policy’s entire staff, too. It shouldn’t matter a persons gender; you’re an artist and shouldn’t be treated any differently because of your gender. Unfortunately I don’t doubt that every female artist has had to deal with jackasses, and it genuinely disappoints me that people still entertain the notion that those types of things are okay to say.
How has the reaction been, online and off, to the sign? Do you think you’ll put back up next time you’re at a con?
MH: I think the nature of what and how I draw tends to bring out a bit more… I dunno. People just think it’s okay to be explicit with me at times, because I draw beautiful and/or sexy women (and men! But the women get more focus).
I will definitely be setting it up at another con. It did very well to act as a deterrent, and opened up a point of conversation for some people (though there was one who viewed it as a challenge, I think). It’s a bit of dark humor at my table :)
GP: Also, entirely for my own curiosity, which cons can we expect to see you at this year? And will your boyfriend be there ;)?
MH: Next con I’m at is Comicpalooza, which Might be my last for the year, if Baltimore doesn’t pan out. Hope to see you at one!
And Joe will be at one or both ;)
GP: Haha! That’s brilliant, thank you very much. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today.
Next time you’re at a con and you’re about to ask a female creator a question, ask yourself if you’d ask Greg Capullo, John Romita Jr. or Juan Jose Ryp the same question. Because if you wouldn’t ask them what you’re about to ask the female creator in front of you (unless, of course, the question is specific to Capullo, Romita Jr. or Ryp‘s art), then you should probably rethink what you’re about to say before you end up needing to extricate your foot from your mouth.
And by “probably” I mean you should definitely rethink it.