The impact of inclusive webcomics and safe spaces

Webcomics like “The Disabled Life” and “Oh Hey, it’s Alyssa” that highlight marginalized communities such as the disabled community and lgbtq community are extremely important for the communities that they create and foster. These comics that are on a smaller scale are able to gain attention from people all over the world who are looking for these kinds comics that may be difficult to find hard copies of. I think the online aspect of them is unique due to its universal accessibility and the communication that can take place between both readers and the creators and the readers with other readers. As Nami Kitsune Hatfield said in “TRANSforming Spaces: Transgender Webcomics as a Model for Transgender Empowerment and Representation within Library and Archive Spaces, webcomics are able to take away the barrier and distinction between mediators and users and the audiences input can even shape the direction of the comics, it’s a two-way street. This online space is also a place where marginalized people can feel welcome and safe, which as Hatfield makes clear, is not the case for many public spaces. It’s a place where they needn’t feel as isolated and can identity and support one another. While reading the “Oh Hey, it’s Alyssa” comic titled “Venn Diagram” I noticed both the important subject matter of the comic and the positive response to it. The comic (which is attached to this post) deals with Alyssa being a “disgaybled” person, someone who is both gay and disabled. She talks about the difficulties she has experienced growing up with this identity. It’s brutally honest and was extremely eye opening for me to read. Because of the community importance we’ve talked about regarding webcomics, I decided to read the comments and was overwhelmed with the amount of “thank you’s” directed to Alyssa. Here is one that stood out:

“I am disabled and bisexual, and I can’t honestly thank you enough for this. I’m going through a bit of tough time and you comics are helping me immensely.”

This quote highlights how much comics that represent these groups of people can mean. They are a method of support and inspiration. While reading Hatfield’s piece I was interested in the idea that webcomics, while incredibly helpful and progressive, are not enough. It’s great that marginalized groups have online resources where they can feel safe, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop trying to make public institutions safe places as well. People need to feel welcomed and safe when they’re out of their house, and to do so these public institutions need to progress. Like Hatfield said, these institutions can’t remain apolitical when there are so many existing prejudices in the world, they have to take action and modeling their actions after the webcomics communities is a great way to start.

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3 thoughts on “The impact of inclusive webcomics and safe spaces

  1. langfocr

    I agree with you that the formation of a worldwide and yet intimate community must be really uniquely healing and amazing for a lot of people. The nature of an online community like this is that it attracts anyone who is interested or who can relate, no matter where they are in the world, how old they are, how easy it is for them to travel, etc. Reading Hatfield’s essay about trying to reproduce this powerful phenomenon in the library, I was struck by how different the pool of participants would be in that scenario – it’s no longer anyone who is interested from across the world, but rather a group of concerned locals. Maybe the group would gradually mold to be people of all the same age via social pressure, or something. No matter how you look at it, it’s hard for a real-life community to simulate what an online web comic can do. (That doesn’t mean that it’s worse, I don’t think, but it does mean that we have to think about it differently.)

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  2. waldaumt

    Living through the lenses of ability, gender, and sexuality, Andrews experiences her world. I think the venn diagram continues to be a helpful visual for representing intersectionality. I agree with you that online communities are sometimes just not enough for marginalized identities. To live unapologetically in public is a dream that most are not afforded. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. hallaf

    I think it is really important that you emphasize that these institutions and information spaces can’t remain apolitical, silent and complacent in silencing people’s voices and experiences. Online communities are powerful but not enough, and it is progress for everyone when public institutions step up to the plate and actively combat the lack of representation in media and in information spaces.

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