Category Archives: Uncategorized

She Makes Comics Response

One thing that really stood out to me about the She Makes Comics Netflix documentary was really how many women were involved in the comics industry. For example, I didn’t know that Vertigo was founded by a woman, especially since so many of the comics that I read and appreciate, and since so many important ones, have come out of that label. Another things that I new a little about but didn’t realize how deeply it affected women’s involvement in comics was the comics code. Hearing the fact that before the comics code, there had been more women readership than men was pretty astounding to me, especially based on the way the comics community can sometimes present itself now. Furthermore, the sort of live action reenactment of being a woman in a comic shop really rang true to me, and that sort of unwelcomeness from men in the community is something that I have definitely experienced. 

Watching this documentary did leave me with some questions, however. It seemed to me that the comics code did more that just regulate things that were deemed ‘inappropriate’ within comics, but also wound up forcing out many comics that were more geared towards women and other groups. Could this be seen as an intentional aspect to the comics code, or just an unfortunate side effect? If intentional, how did it affect underground women comic makers? With the women involved in It Ain’t Me Babe nearly getting arrested for their work, it would seem that these effects were, if not intentional, at least embraced and enforced by law enforcement. Do we see the criminalizing of radical women’s comics reverberating and carrying into today, after the comics code? 

Superman is a White Boy Response

I really enjoyed this article because of the way it worked around an idea to come to a conclusion. When it started with saying that the superhero paradigm is an inherently white male one, I was a little worried about the attitude it would take. However, Lamb’s comments rang true to me, especially that the notion of heroism that superheroes depend on is not a thing that can translate across race and gender because of the fact that it is entrenched so wholly and consciously positioned in white-man-ness. One thing that I think could have been a little more clearly stated, and that I think was one of the writers main points, was that to simply race bend or gender bend, or even to create a non-white non-male superhero, does not do justice to the character or to the people the character is striving to represent because of the paradigm that superheroes adhere to. This becomes difficult, because the goal in creating non-white non-male characters within super hero comics is to do justice to representation. 

While I understand what this writer is saying, and can see the reverberations within media, the notion of an inherently white boy superhero is leaving me with a fair amount of questions. With the success of movies like Black Panther, a superhero which has done incredibly well, how do we classify this type of representation? I feel as though it can only be construed in a positive light, but are there ways in which it fits into the “white-superhero” paradigm? If the superhero paradigm does not do justice to non-male non-white characters, how do we create something with a comparable weight that does justice to these character and unique situations? Perhaps this contributes to the prevalence of nonfiction work, or autobiographical work, by people who do not fit into this box?

TRANSforming Spaces Blog

Nami Kitsune Hatfield’s article brings to light the ways in which trans representation, discussion, and intra-community debate can occur in niche spaces, including internet communities and anime fandom. Hatfield writes,

“Like the interactive virtual space created by the reading communities of these webcomics, libraries, archive, and information institutions have the power to deeply affect the lives and politics of those around them, including the lives of those within the transgender community”

This discussion of interactivity reflects a lot of what we talked about earlier in class, especially a few days ago in our discussion of the serial publication of webcomics. Webcomics like the ones Hatfield describes are unique in that they are shaped and adjusted in response to audience participation; trans readers and trans authors interact via the internet, build friendships, and create a collaborative piece of art together which reflects the previously marginalized experience and desires of consumers. Something I would have been interested to see is a little more critique of webcomic/internet interactivity. For instance, is there a potential to for unhealthy subcultures to grow within isolated internet communities? Are these spaces liberating for all trans people, or are there aspects of interactive fandom that are incompatible with the library-theory Hatfield creates? On that note, how do we feel about the name ‘Kitsune,’ within the nuanced discussion of race, respect, transgender rights, and identity formation? If comics, anime, and manga are to be incorporated into mainstream academics — as Hatfield’s article suggests — then we must also subject these mediums to the same political critique and intellectual rigor that we apply to any other form of art.

Also, here is one of my favorite Alyssa comics. I like the discussion of sex and intimacy as it relates to physical disabilities, and the open and friendly way that Alyssa communicates her life.

Oh, Hey! It’s Alyssa #28: “No Chill”

 

Transforming Spaces

Nami Kitsune Hatfield draws our attention to the importance of the accessibility of the Webcomic medium in that it allows for authentic representation of underrepresented groups in American society such as the transgender community. Hatfield speaks to the personal burden of not being able to see oneself and or your identity represented; “Personally speaking, growing up as a transgender woman I found little support or information within library settings. This lack of representation or information regarding my identity led to major struggles in my life, because for a long time I felt like I was alone in my identity and in the world” (58).

Since media platforms help to structure how a culture views specific identities and in what context, these portrayals in the media must be representative, and non-confining. Many people may relate to characters they see portrayed in the media based on identity. This relation may be comforting in that people feel understood and represented, however these depictions may also portray how one with a specific identity is supposed to perform their identity. This classic dilemma has been explored in other aspects of this class, but I want to focus on the transgender community here.

The fact that Hatfield feels underrepresented in regard to her transgender identity is a huge issue because it signifies the lack of inclusion that has been happening within the media. Meaning, in part, that many people lack the knowledge necessary needed to be fully aware of this identity thus leading to miscommunication about this identity. Hatfield states in regard to libraries and archives, “fail to take into account or equitably represent transgender issues and identities. In fact, the transgender population, which makes up less than one percent of the United States population,1 is still poorly understood.” (57) Inclusion is very important to me personally and I feel as though it isa civic duty to make sure that all identities are represented. The webcomic platform creates space to do so in that individual experiences are able to come to the surface and are paid attention to. Hatfield emphasizes this idea, “Within participatory culture, fans often act as contributors and feel as though their contributions make a difference to the products being produced.” (61) Through sharing experiences, and on the contrary paying attention to these stories, there is more space for “education and humanizing of the transgender community” (60). 

 

https://www.autostraddle.com/oh-hey-its-alyssa-51-swimming-lessons-425883/

Here is a comic I liked by Alyssa! Great commentary on the physicality of bodies and our perception of our own bodies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Erotic in Prison

The scene in Bitch Planet which stood out to me in terms of Lorde’s “erotic” was one of the moments in the showers. Right before Kogo Kamau drags the spying guard out of the wall, we see Penny and Meiko in the background, naked (or nude?), celebrating their victory in the in-world sports game. This stands out to me in relation to our discussions of nudity and the male vs female gaze, but it also seems striking in terms of the sheer joy and humor of the scene. Penny lifts Meiko up from around her waist—the motion is celebratory and excessive, and both women are shouting and praising themselves/each other for their teamwork in the game. I don’t usually see or expect naked women to touch each other in such an unrestrained yet platonic way; even though the women are in prison, and being watched by other women and guards, they seem completely free from external expectations and self-conciousness or shame. I think maybe this is a facet of what Audre Lorde defines as the “erotic”—deep emotions, voice, and physical movement which defies oppressive limitations and the white patriarchal gaze.

The combination of this scene and Lorde’s theory brings me back to movements and concepts that I’ve heard in social justice circles before—specifically the idea of the “carefree black girl.” There are black women and nonblack women of color who say that to exist as a woman of color is radical in itself, since the great powers of the world work constantly towards their oppression and death. Both Audre Lorde and Bitch Planet put forward this idea; that to survive emotionally as a woman of color, to live joyfully, is radical in itself. Within the material confines of the prison, I think the questions of how to express free emotion, and how to decolonize the mind, are key to resisting both mental and emotional oppressive limitations.

color vs culture

With the seemingly overwhelming focus on diversity in terms of visibility, I appreciated Lamb’s pushing back on the idea that simply seeing brown and black bodies in media is in itself meaningful. The idea that simply casting a person of color or using a darker pen to draw a character creates change is not only wrong, it’s saying that the experiences, the culture, the history, the communities of people of color do not matter. If a racebent superhero, one that operates in a white paradigm, who fits in quietly with mainstream white American social morés, is enough, then clearly what matters is catering to simple stats and shallow standards rather than using a media platform to include and normalize and celebrate lives and viewpoints that do not conform to Great American Values. This kind of representation is not really representation– it’s more the kind of diversity that white people who proclaim themselves to be colorblind would understand, because a person of color is not actually defined just by their skin tone but also by their experiences and their culture and their choices (and also a million other things–identity is complicated!). The kind of representation that promotes physical diversity, but desires ideological and cultural conformity, is not only tokenizing, it is a form of cultural erasure. It is the same as the mentality in homogenous countries that people are okay with migrants–so long as they assimilate. Requiring people of color to lose their cultures and identities in order to be present defeats the ideals of diversity and inclusion–while people may choose to assimilate and choose to change their identities, only representing shallow versions of all of that complexity is useless.

Considering all that, I think the reason I appreciate Ms. Marvel is that it’s not tokenizing. Rather than just cast a character as a brown replacement for a white lady, or even create a brown character in order to help white people understand brown people, Ms. Marvel is representation of culture, of non-mainstream ideas and ways of living. Rather than just show a brown character, Ms. Marvel shows a brown character as human. The book challenges and complicates white male cultural hegemony through unapologetic and joyous representation of a Pakistani family, through showing both the struggles of the immigrant experience and the sheer normality of it.

I think Ms. Marvel also challenges another of Lamb’s assertions, that the superhero is a white imperialistic construct that validates the use of violence over others. While I agree that Superman likely supported the narrative of ‘might is right’ and of American ideological supremacy, I see Kamala’s struggle to find her purpose, and the use of the morals her family and religion taught her, not to mention the letter to Kamala Khan, as the addition of another meaning to the superhero- hopefully a more optimistic one.

The erotic as the zone

    I have a tendency to be skeptical about any academic work that claims to define actions based off semantics, but I think Lorde makes some really good points. First, I guess is the separation between her erotic and the erotic most people use. Lorde uses erotic in a way that I feel doesn’t mesh with most people’s definition of the word. While most of us would probably define erotic as sexualized, Lorde picks instead a portion of the erotic feeling. Lorde’s erotic has been called a lot of things by a lot of people, flow state, the zone, genius (by Emmerson) that said none of the other terms are really used in a sexual manner. First I think Lorde calling that state erotic works well, one of the ways to get to that place, and I assume one of the most universally experienced is through the “erotic”, not the physical sensation but the part of being with someone where it clicks, almost a separation from time. I really like how Lorde expands on this definition, because while it can be easiest to understand through action, like sports, or sex, that same feeling of momentum, where all you see is one long movement or a path, that same feeling is the feeling of creativity, and as corny as it sounds belief in yourself. Lorde uses this erotic to challenge the established order, which is great from that movement standpoint, in that state there aren’t so much obstacles as objects, and it helps get around challenges that would otherwise slow us down, and cultural expectations that keep us in the same place (which is also what makes anger so dangerous, at it’s worst it uses the same path.) The hardest part about getting there is often the belief that you can’t (or you know being hungry, tired, overworked, ect) but as Lorde said “Recognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world, rather than merely settling for a shift of characters in the same weary drama.” I have been very lucky in my life to grow up around many people who have created change for the world, for our country, and for themselves and one of the few unifying factors is that when they work on something they care about they go to a similar space. Not necessarily fully into the zone, but they all got to the point where they didn’t think of success or failure, but in movement, a set of actions that could accomplish something, one fluid line from here to there. When you get past expectation to that place a lot is possible, and because you care, a lot gets done. There is a lot of power in living in that place, in part because people like to follow those with confidence, in part from the flexibility that comes with that kind of focus. I would say more about the other portion of her erotic, the standard erotic part that’s also more a piece of empathy, but I’ve run out of space.

Lorde and Woman Authorship

Audre Lorde’s essay speaks to the untapped power of the erotic in women’s lives. She speaks to the ways in which power has been taken from women in their exploitation in the media but also in the ways in which the patriarchy suppresses the erotic in women, thus taking away creative power in many aspects of their lives.

 

This reminded me of the interesting use of nudity in Bitch Planet and DeConnick’s goal to represent women’s bodies but without doing so to create sexual desire. It is an act to humanize women in comics. To make women more than a symbol or a thing to be rescued. Lorde points to the way in which there is power in subverting the male gaze and reclaiming our identity as women, but also power in acknowledging our deepest feelings and desires and in our sexuality.

 

On example of this is in Orange is the New Black which attempts to subvert the male gaze while simultaneously validating and acknowledging female sexuality. By taking the quintessential lesbian sex scene found in women in prison films and reframing it to not cater to the male gaze, the show acknowledges the erotic in women. The women are fully clothed in the prison uniform but sharing an intimate moment of human connection. The moment is passionate and genuine between them but also not glamorized or intended necessarily to evoke sexual desire in the viewer.

 

Similarly, the women in comics we have read reclaim the erotic in ways that is not seen in comics written from the male perspective. Lorde says that pornography which exploits women is the opposite of the erotic. This is counteracted in women taking their sexuality into their own hands for example, Alana in Saga, shows women in empowered positions, acknowledging their erotic side. Similarly, Wimmen’s Comixspoke about all things taboo in mainstream comics: menstruation, lesbianism, feminist issues, etc. and was censored by the press.

This speaks to Lorde’s final point: that “this erotic charge is not easily shared by women who continue to operate under an exclusively European-American male tradition” (91). Thus, Lorde acknowledges the difficulty of overcoming the patriarchal society, systems and structures that exist. They exist inside women as internalized mysoginty and outside women in the suppression of women’s voices, points of view, and ability to represent themselves. The issue Lorde speaks to is profound and has implications for the individual reader—she speaks directly to an audience of women—as well as for the power that female authorship and female representation could have to break down what is suppressed and taken away from women by society. Lorde’s essay is empowering and indicative of one of the many, many reasons that it is important and essential to have women creators creating for women.

 

Erotic Power and Inspiration

I feel this piece on a life level, not so much a literature level. In this piece Lorde speaks directly to a female reader on a personal level, telling the reader to acknowledge and embrace the erotic force that is within them. This piece could also speak to people with other gender identities, but as a queer woman I felt like I was the intended audience. Lorde explains how the erotic is a powerful force that is “deeply female”. Lorde specifically positions herself as a “Black lesbian feminist” and discusses the connections she has made with people. For Lorde, erotic power is a source of inspiration and creativity.

“The Uses of the Erotic” reminds me of French feminists, Helene Cixous’ article, “The Laugh of the Medusa”. In this piece Cixous argues that the female body and bodily sensations are a source of opportunity and inspiration for feminist literature. To Cixous, writing in a bodily sensation akin to masturbation that is powerful in a uniquely feminine way. Lorde and Cixous connect the body to artistic creation and power. Lorde specifically focuses on the erotic as a feeling while Cixous focuses more on sensations. Cixous piece was published just two years before “the Uses of the Erotic” so they are very much in conversation with each other.

Like Cixous, Lorde explains how people are scared to acknowledge erotic power. People, especially women go through their lives ignoring and repressing this section of themselves. Lorde states that “the need for sharing deep feeling is a human need” and that we are missing out and even abusing this feeling. This human need is satiated by “certain proscribed” erotic interactions. This reminds me of American Hookup by Lisa Wade, a book about sex and hookup culture on college campuses that discusses the typical interactions and formulas of straight hookups. According to Wade these interactions are often more connected to power and social capital then actual erotic or sexual desire. I think that hookup culture can (but not always!) minimize the significance of female erotic force, as Lorde defines it. This relates to one part of Lorde’s argument, that pornography is “distortion” and “misnaming” of the erotic. She is not directly stating that pornography is morally wrong or anti-women, as some feminists believed at the time, but instead that it has just been mislabeled because it is not an expression of the erotic.

The erotic can also be a driving force for change. This change can be on a personal level, because you can change your life to prioritize what makes you feel happy and fulfilled. As I sat reading this article in the quiet room of the library at 10:30pm on Saturday it seems especially relevant. I think that there is power to devoting all your time to fulfilling and inspiring activities, but also that maybe this means long term activities. For example, doing homework on weekend nights does not particularly make me happy, but in the long term I feel the the process that is going to college feels right. The erotic can also be a force for outwards political change. The idea that everyone has energy inside of them to make positive political change is especially meaningful with the current political climate.

*I realize that this reader response is kinda all over the place. But what can I say? I was guided by erotic energy? Or maybe just our last twitter assignment made me feel less formal and focused.

Trapped

Upon my first read through Lorde’s piece, The Uses of the Erotic, I struggled to fully understand her argument.  Her prose is fairly elaborate and can be difficult to decipher at times. For that reason, I will preface this response essay with the fact that I may not have fully been able to comprehend her argument. Nevertheless, here we go.

I found Lorde’s essay, The Uses of the Erotic, to be a fascinating read.  In this work, Lorde argues that women have not been able to embrace their erotic nature.  Subjugated by men, women have been taught to look at their erotic side as wrong and distasteful.  Men feared that women who were so empowered would be ‘dangerous’ and subsequently have attempted to combat this possibility. However, Lorde argues, women must learn to break past these concerns and embrace the erotic in order to gain a sense of personal empowerment, freedom, and even bliss. No longer should the erotic be compared to pornography.  Rather, elements of the erotic can exist in many facets of a woman’s life and empower her, by heightening her energy and strengthening her experiences within the world. (How exactly it does this is a question that still remains to me… If I had a critique of this article it would be that I don’t think she goes into the mechanisms by which women become empowered through the erotic enough.)

I think that this sense of empowerment through the erotic maps onto comics like Bitch Planet quite nicely.  For one, empowerment in virtually any sense is not within the gender norms that have been socially constructed as acceptable for women.  Thus, it could be argued that empowerment, and the erotic, are signs of non-compliance within women that could get them kicked off to Bitch Planet in the first place.  We see elements of the erotic as non-compliant in Bitch Planet particularly considering the lesbians who are considered non-compliant, as well as the woman who was a flirt and causing disappointment as being non-compliant.  Clearly, sexuality is a feared thing in this dystopian universe.  Conversely, the few compliant women that can be seen in the comic are very submissive, and must then necessarily be unempowered and not embracing of the erotic.  Such a concept leads me to the question: Is it better to be empowered and punished for it, or submissive but essentially free?  Perhaps not free in a social or cultural sense, but in a very physical sense.  It would seem that this is a catch-22, with both options being harmful or damaging in some way. By this theory, women are trapped with no place to go.  Should we embrace the erotic and risk being publicly humiliated and physically harmed or detained, or should we go about our compliant lifestyles and be socially accepted and free?

This leaves me feeling somewhat hopeless about the positions of women that are being described in Bitch Planet and The Uses of the Erotic.  It would seem to me that, as women, we are quite constrained with very little options or solutions for how to become empowered and surpass norms. Not until a major cultural shift happens could we do these actions in an uninhibited fashion.