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Eric: Also, don't pat them on the head and say 'aren't you clever?' They *hate* that.

One thing that always amazes me is the kind of questions Weds and I get -- especially when we both get asked things in the same e-mail or letter or communique.

I get a lot of questions about blogging. About webcomics. About payment systems. About content management. About the role of the editor in the process. About editorial freedom. About critical discourse. About stuff.

Weds, on the other hand, generally gets "what is it like to be a woman in webcomics," and "what issues do you think women face in webcomics," and "how do we get more women in webcomics."

We get these from both men and women. It's happened many times, now. I have an opinion. Wednesday has a vagina.

Let me pause, and put forth a few names for your consideration.

Aeire, Donna Barr, Jennie Breeden, Vera Brosgol, Maritza Campos, Kelly J. Cooper, Danielle Corsetto, Leigh Dragoon, Barb Fischer, Kaja Foglio, K. Sandra Fuhr, Lisa R. Jonté, Dorothy Gambrell, Shaenon Garrity, Anne Gibson, Meredith Gran, Amber "Glych" Greenlee, Emily Halifax, Rachel Hartman, Lea Hernandez, Starline Hodge, Mel Hynes, Gisele Lagace, Jenn Manley Lee, Meaghan Quinn, Nitrozac, Veronica Pare, Tiffany Ross, Ryuko, Indigo Skynet, Ping Teo, Ursula Vernon, Wednesday White, Jin Wicked

Please note, this is not a comprehensive list. Nor is it a researched list. These are the women I could think up off the top of my head who do webcomics, webcomics commentary, or both. If I've forgotten you, it's because I have a small brain and besides, I didn't devote much time to it. I just typed.

Look at that list. Thirty odd names worth. Including some of the best webcomics on the web. Including some of the most successful creators in comics.

I'm not posting those names so we can say "gosh, look at those plucky chicks go." I'm posting those names because the idea that webcomics has the same kind of glass ceiling that society is struggling with on every level is laughable. Think about the last block of comics Keenspot took. Jennie Breeden, Starline Hodge, Mel Hynes. New Keenspot strips only trickle in, bear in mind. Look at Shaenon Garrity. Shaenon writes for fucking Marvel. Fucking Marvel. Nitrozac was contemporary with User Friendly's Illiad, made a living solely from her art before Penny Arcade or PvP did, and got guest of honor credits at Linux expos back in the 90's.

There are people up in that list above who are relatively new, building an audience. There are people in that who have a solid audience. There are people in that list who have absolutely rabid fucking fans. (Trust me. I've gotten e-mail from Aeire's fanbase before, when they haven't been happy with me.) They have absolutely the same capacity to build a webcomic, create a readership, develop an audience and influence and make a living as anyone else. It's the web. It doesn't fucking matter what kind of genitals they have. We can't see them.

And yet... if you read interviews with them, or questions posed to them, they continually come back to "so, you have breasts. How is it you draw webcomics? How can we get more people with breasts to draw webcomics? Would you mind showing us your breasts?"

Or it's about sex. Because if they're women, they must all be about the sex. Hell, Fleen just added a female columnist. Fine and dandy. Only, her column is This Week in Webcomics Boning, and it's done pseduo-Wonkette style.

Guys? One of the reasons I got into writing about webcomics is because I was reading some really exciting stuff on the web. Both comic strips and commentary. One of the people who most excited me, commentary wise, was Wednesday White. She predated me in this field. She knows at least as much as I do about it. And I fact check and reality check with her constantly.

But, see, she has a vagina. Therefore, her field of expertise must be women's issues.

It especially frustrates her because she can't actually write about women's issues when they do come up. Not comfortably, at least. When she does, it becomes "them womens complaining about them womens things." Or it becomes invisible. Or it becomes what she's known for. As an example -- Weds wrote two of the first, most comprehensive primers on RSS feeds for webcomics (here and here), as an example. These are issues people are still wrestling with with their webcomics today. (Didn't Keen just get RSS functionality?) But when people talk about Weds's pre-Websnark writing, they talk about her essay on Geek Women in webcomics. When they ask her about webcomics or popular culture, they ask her about women's issues, not Jack Chick or religion in comics or any of the myriad of subjects she's written about for Websnark.

And at the same time, no one ever asks me about women or men in webcomics. Now, I should be an expert in men and men's issues in webcomics because I have a penis. But for some reason, I get general questions or critical questions or questions about the field, that seem to have absolutely nothing to do with what sex I was born.

Which is weird, because I actually have an answer to the question.

How do we encourage women to draw and participate and read webcomics?

Let them.

Seriously. Women find out about webcomics the same way men do -- through word of mouth or occasionally through advertising on sites they read. When they find out about webcomics and like them, they read them. Sometimes just one, sometimes a bunch. If they're artistic in temperament, they might get a yen to give this a try. Absolutely nothing stops them.

Nothing, that is, except a prevailing attitude. An implicit sexism, that comes not from what they can or can't achieve, but instead comes from the assumptions that get laid upon them.

In other words, if you really want to encourage women to be involved in webcomics? Stop defining them as women in webcomics. Talk about their art, talk about their stories. Talk about their criticism or their commentary. Talk about what's being done.

And if you recognize them as being significant enough to interview in the first place, put their vaginas out of your head and ask them about the webcomics field itself.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at March 17, 2006 1:29 PM

Comments

Comment from: nedlum [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 1:39 PM

Ha ha. He said "penis".

Comment from: Stan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 1:41 PM

It is an odd and dumb phenomenon.

I wonder if it ever goes the other way for fields that people think of as feminine. "So, what's it like to be a male figure skater?"

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 1:47 PM

To be fair, Wednesday's essay on geek women in webcomics was one hell of an essay.

That said... yes.

Comment from: chalcara [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 1:59 PM

I fully agree here.

I've run into this before, both as webcomic artist AND as IT specialist.

"So, uh, you're female. How are you doing that?"

Sounds always like there's an undercurrent of "You're a girl, you shouldn't be as good as a man" and that's pissing me off. Sad thing is, most people don't even THINK about what those question imply.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 2:01 PM

Wow, never expected to see Eric say Tiffany Ross's name ever again. Particularly on Websnark.

I wonder... are such questions towards Weds (and probably towards women in webcomics in general; it wouldn't surprise me if all of them get the same kind of questions/comments) partly fueled by the same obsession with the female reproductive system that drives classic sexism?

Can't we all just go back to joking about the various technological innovations in our penises? Ah, but I suppose such carefree, innocent days can never truly last.

Comment from: Starline [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 2:15 PM

Yeah when I get asked about being a women in webcomics, I don't really know what to say. I immediately think, "That matters?", and then I feel all awkward because I think I'm supposed to have some grand message about woman's rights in webcomics or something.

Comment from: Starline [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 2:17 PM

And there's no S and after Hodge, Eric. :D

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 2:19 PM

That's okay -- I had to correct Aeire's name. For the thousandth time. I keep wanting to make her into an aviary.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 2:21 PM

I think she might object to that.

Comment from: Pseudowolf [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 2:44 PM

But then we could ask her what it's like to be a female aviary.

Comment from: Shaenon [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 2:46 PM

I actually don't get the "How come you're a girl?" questions all that much. It surprises me a little, because I know there are other female webcartoonists who get asked about it a lot, and women working in print comics get it CONSTANTLY.

Webcomics are a lot more egalitarian than print comics, though. I don't know if I agree with Eric's assertion that there's no glass ceiling at all, but the playing field is a lot more level, for several reasons.

And, yes, I now live the life of nonstop adventure and glamor that is the lot of an occasional Marvel Comics freelancer. Eric, email me sometime and ask me about my current Marvel assignment. The excitement will blow you away.

Comment from: Wednesday White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 2:50 PM

To be fair, Wednesday's essay on geek women in webcomics was one hell of an essay.

This has never made sense to me. It's the one thing of mine I wish I could put in a box and never see again, because it fell so short of the mark after three months of getting to grips with it. The GPF review was a much tighter piece.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 2:52 PM

If it helps, I was thinking just last night how cool it is to have a net friend who knows more about the Muppets than I do.

(Actually, even if it doesn't help, I was.)

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:01 PM

This has never made sense to me. It's the one thing of mine I wish I could put in a box and never see again, because it fell so short of the mark after three months of getting to grips with it.

Well I can understand that sentiment. I have comics that I'm embarrassed I wrote... that people tell me are their favorites. In my mind, the comics fall very short of the joke I was trying to tell -- to the reader, that comparison doesn't exist... they can't see the goal, only the result, and the result works for them.

By the same token your original essay, however much it pales in comparison to its Platonic Form, said something that needed saying and that no-one -- no-one that I had read, at any rate -- had said.

So it was a hell of an essay.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:05 PM

"To be fair, Wednesday's essay on geek women in webcomics was one hell of an essay."

"This has never made sense to me. It's the one thing of mine I wish I could put in a box and never see again, because it fell so short of the mark after three months of getting to grips with it. The GPF review was a much tighter piece."

I've dealt with the same thing, and I've come to the conclusion that the piece you're most dissatisfied with ends up being one of your most popular.

In fact, I've found several factors that make a piece inexplicably popular.

1) When you have almost no work to do on a piece - you have all the facts in front of you and your only task is to organize them in a roughly organized fashion.

2) When you're absolutely frustrated that you can't get the piece where you want to go. So you just throw it out there and would rather never acknowledge it again.

3) When you sit on it for months because you don't want it to see the light of day, but finally cave one day.

4) When you're ready to pour your heart and soul into a piece, either the piece before or the piece after become instant classics in many people's mind (and the heart and soul piece, no matter how well it turns out, gets nowhere near the same attention).

5) When you include as many synonyms for female reproductive organs as possible.

Combine multiples of these factors, and you increase your readership exponentially.

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:07 PM

So, Eric. What's it like being a man in webcomics?

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:09 PM

My penis has no complaints.

Comment from: Tangent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:11 PM

Shaennon, it's easy to blow Eric away. He's lost over an entire person in weight after all. I mean, pretty soon a stiff breeze will threaten to send him tumbling along like a tumbleweed. ;)

Teasing ya, Eric. :) Considering how much trouble I've had getting down to 180 lbs. (ie, it's not happened), I'm a bit envious even though I know part of your weight loss was because of the stomach stapling (still, you stayed on your diet after that; not everyone manages to do that).

The first person's webcomic I started reading regularly was Jamie Robertson's "Clan of the Cats" and I initially thought Jamie was a girl. (He's not, by the way. In case some people still aren't sure. *grin*) The second was Maritza Campos. I never thought of webcomics as a male-dominated genre.

I'm not exactly sure why people would.

Rob H.

Comment from: chalcara [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:17 PM

Rob, it seems that most people seem to automatically assume it's a male oriented field unless it contains child rearing or social work. XD

Comment from: Natural Slave [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:27 PM

To be fair, of course, the top comics by audience are a phallocentric lot, at least according to the comixpedia article on most read webcomics, with only CRFH!!! appearing on the list. But this reflects the limits of the general appeal of webcomics (mostly to gamers/computer geeks/whatever) beyond what might be called the 'webcomics crowd.' And though the very number of exceptions is vast, the average gaming/animeing/whatevering internet individual is probably male, as are the creators of all the big strips that appeal to said crowd. But I doubt patronizing women that are involved in webcomics or the associated subcultures is particuarly useful/warranted/tasteful.
-Wilhelm

Comment from: Stan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:38 PM

"the average gaming/animeing/whatevering internet individual is probably male"

That's just it. They're not For example, as I recall, at least 40% of console gamers are female.

There seems to be a subgroup of comics/gaming/geekery with a misogynist streak who wants to keep these fields male dominated. They form their informal boys clubs, laughing at mildy misogynist jokes and keep male oriented comics popular. These are probably the same individuals who can't really understand a girl in their sandbox so ask questions like "Um, so you're a girl. What's that like?"

These individuals are a large enough block with a consistent voice that people assume that their viewpoint reflects reality in some way.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:49 PM

Okay, since console gaming is the subject in which I'm most comfortable saying I'm an expert, I'd say that you shouldn't wantonly toss around statistics about what percentage of console gamers are male or female.

First off, I've found that those questionnaires that determine such statistics determine it based on whether or not a given person has played a console video game in a given time frame for any length of time. Which, to be honest, is not a very good way of determining whether or not they are gamers.

A much better metric would be to get numbers on how many of each gender play console video games for a set number of hours on average per week (10-15 is probably the lower bound). Though there may be something to the idea of measuring how many people are self-identified console gamers.

Although it seems a little goofy to segregate video gamers for these purposes based on console/PC/portable gamers. There's alot of overlap, and I don't think any gamer comic caters to just one group.

Comment from: boxjam [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:53 PM

I think the answer is pretty simple. Ultimately men would rather talk about sex than webcomics.

See, men think about sex a lot.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:54 PM

Box once again proves he is wise.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 3:54 PM

Doing a bit more research, apparently, the Entertainment Software Association says that 43% of video gamers are female, and specifically 35% of console gamers are female. However, that's just as an overall percentage of people who play video games at all, and don't take into account the more dedicated gamer (personally, I probably play video games about 40 hours per week - and I get the very strong sense that when talking about my comparative gaming load, it's overwhelmingly male).

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 4:00 PM

43% of video gamers are female, and specifically 35% of console gamers are female

...and the other 22% read webcomics.

*ducks, runs*

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 4:01 PM

Oh wait. I read that as "43% of video gamers are male, and 35% are female." It's considerably less amusing when you read it the right way. Sigh.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 4:14 PM

"Comparative gaming load?" 32, are you one of those gamers that sells pre-leveled World of Warcraft characters?

Eric, what about ethnic webcomic artists? I mean we're talking mythical "How long have you been a black quarterback?" kinds of irking questions. I'm sure it's less of a question amongst webcomics than the "how can we get more women into webcomics" kind of question.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 4:26 PM

Believe it or not, I actually don't touch MMOs at all (if nothing else, look at my relative absence from the comment threads where Eric talks about City of Heroes). Quite simply, my computer is way too underpowered to play any game from the last five years (it's seriously a Celeron 300 MHz processor, with only a base of 64 Mb of RAM, although I did beef that up with an additional 128 Mb).

No, I split my video gaming roughly evenly between console video games (mostly rhythm games and console RPGs) and portable titles (with a fairly even mix there).

I know it seems odd to some that I could devote 40 hours per week on video gaming and somehow not be involved in an MMO... but it's been a part of my life for over 20 years now. It's second nature to me.

Comment from: chalcara [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 4:37 PM

I'm currently baffled by the fact that an individuum is actually ABLE to find 40 hours in a week to play video games.

After substracting sleep, university, work and standard maintainance I might have 30 hours me-time at all. o.O

How are you doing that?

Comment from: Maritza Campos [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 4:47 PM

Strangely enough, I have got this one asked a lot, but usually it's a female asking it. I'm not sure if they're trying to find out if it would be easy for them, or they're trying to fish for experiences related to sexism, ie. reasons to get angry at men. There are women like that... they think men are pigs, and feel delighted when they find further proof. Even I sometimes do that.

What I get from males is usually: "I thought you were a guy!" They are sincerelly baffled by my style of writing. Apparently I should be making romance-oriented comics that focus heavily on shoe-shopping, or whatever.

Am I offended? Not really. Although there is a lot of sexism in the world, a lot of it is unintended. There are no mean intentions behind it, as it happens a lot with anything we don't experience personally. It's just that people tend to classify things (and other people) into easy categories. When someone or something breaks that preconceived classification, they are genuinely surprised.

Women making comics are a rarity for a lot of people, not because they are perceived as being not-so-good as men at it. It's just that people thinks there should be no reason for women to be *interested* in comics, as readers or even less as creators.

But this is just another of the many wrong things people assume about comics.

Comment from: Tangent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 5:03 PM

Well, you're also not offended, Maritza, because you've the patience of a saint. In fact, when you eventually die, we're going to have you canonized as the Patron Saint of Webcomics due to your overwhelming good nature and patience. Heck, you even put up with me. *grin*

As for venues... I never really thought of it. I mean, Shaenon Garrity writes a science fiction comic. Maritza does a supernatural thriller. Aeire and Jennie do slice-of-life comics. Mary Mevis does a relationship comic (kinda).

Since when has any type of comic been specifically female-oriented or dominated? For that matter... I'm sure there are gaming comics by women. I doubt there are many fields that are male-dominated... even the heavy-R strips undoubtedly have women drawing them.

I don't know if it's sad... or a good thing really... but I never really thought about this before. I mean... I don't think of comics as male or female dominated. I just see them as comics. I see the creators as intelligent, creative people. Isn't that all that really matters?

Rob H.

Comment from: MagnoliaPearl [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 5:22 PM

This has little to do with anything (and isn't really very interesting at all) but re:ethnicity in webcomics, I always thought Chris Onstad was black. Don't ask me why, its nothing to do with how he writes or draws or anything, I just for some reason always pictured him black. And then I saw the picture of his baby and was like, "Oh."

Also, I am surprised that Spike is not mentioned in the girl-list. She is so awesome.


Comment from: Liz Walsh [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 5:27 PM

You know, I've had at least one reader, when they first started reading, believe I'm a guy. Never mind that my name's posted on every single comic I do.

I can't remember ever being asked about being female and in webcomics. I'm pretty sure I must have, but I honestly don't remember it. You can tell how much that impacts my daily life.

Comment from: Dragonmuncher [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 5:27 PM

Whoa. Whoa. WHOA.

Wednesday's a girl?

::ducks::

Seriously, though, I've never really consciously thought about it. I can see why that kind of thinking might exist, though. I just took a look at the "Comics" folder in my links (about 48- a number I used to be proud of until I saw the number Eric put up in some recent post... what was it, like 180 or something?)

Here are the strips created/written/drawn/whatever by a female-
Queen of Wands, the Wotch, Gods and Undergrounds,The Green Avenger, Narbonic, Smithson, Synchronism

There are definitely others involved in some way, Jeph Jaques mentions Kristi as taking care of QC's business side, and I know Sluggy has what's-her-name that does business stuff, too. As those were just off the top of my head, there are undoubtedly many more hidden partners in plenty of webcomics.

So... I don't really know what to say. This topic never even really occurred to me until I read the post. I'm not really shocked or incredulous when I see a female webcomicer (I don't care if webcomicer isn't a word, it's just too much fun to say!)- Heck, Maritza Campos's CRFH!!! was the strip that got me into webcomics, and if I ever see Shaenon Garrity I will feel the need to buy her a gerbil (or a beer, her choice).

I think if there IS any subtle misogyny in webcomics, its influence is limited to annoying questions for female webcomicers. When I first read a strip, I don't really pay any attention to the extraneous stuff- forums, "extras," newsposts and the like- until I've decided if I like the strip.

If I like it, then I'm already hooked, and there's no way I could go "Oh, a laaaaaaaaaady is writing this. It's probably only a matter of time before she starts talking about shoes. I'm out of here."

And if I don't like the strip, I'm already gone before I can find out that the author is a Bostonian patent lawyer who gave up her job so she could pursue her dreams of webcomicry.

So, to sum up:
Any misogyny in webcomics (which I haven't really seen, but then I'm neither female nor a webcomicer) is limited to annoying questions.

There's no "Glass Ceiling" for webcomics, as anyone who likes the strip is likely to be a fan of the strip before finding out details like who writes it.

I owe Shaenon Garrity a gerbil.

Wednesday is indeed, All Woman.

Cheers, and happy St. Patrick's Day!

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 5:30 PM

[The high popular opinion of the Geek Girls essay] has never made sense to me.

It can be a touchstone for writers who wish to be enlightened but have no idea what their enculturated preconceptions may be. For instance, trying to look at my own webcomic through your eyes, I say to myself, "Well, my girls are stereotypically hot ... but my guys are all stereotypically hot too, and that's because all these characters came to me like that from the sourceworks."

When I mean all my main characters to be full characters (or at least all as full as each other), having that glimpse into your perspective - even if it's not as precise a glimpse as you meant to offer, which I didn't know till now - gives me hope that I'm not unconsciously, reflexively short-shrifting half of them.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 5:32 PM

Spike is indeed teh rocking.

As is Aleph.

That neither are in the list is entirely thanks to my not thinking of them when I made the list up. As said, I didn't do any research. I just put down the names that came to mind.

Comment from: Prodigal [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 5:37 PM

I have an opinion. Wednesday has a vagina.
It may mark me as a bad person, but I loved this line so very much.

And Shaenon, I would never ask you "How come you're a girl?" I'm far more interested in asking "Why must you torture Dave so?"

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 5:39 PM

I mean, Shaenon Garrity writes a science fiction comic. Maritza does a supernatural thriller.

That's where you're wrong, Robert. ;) Or you could be right, if the supernatural part is that she somehow manages to channel the ghost of Eugene Ionesco. If ever there was a successor to _The Bald Soprano_ and _Rhinoscerous_ it's CRFH!!!

That's just my opinion, though. The only reason I mention it is because I feel Maritza should be compared to Ionesco more often...

(CRFH has been my favorite webcomic since forever. And I will sheepishly admit: the first time I ever saw it I thought she was a guy. The fact that she was calling herself "Rubberoom" at the time is not really an excuse.)

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 6:02 PM

"Sounds always like there's an undercurrent of "You're a girl, you shouldn't be as good as a man" and that's pissing me off. Sad thing is, most people don't even THINK about what those question imply."

I doubt very much that that is what is being said. I'm guessing most people's subtext is closer to, "so, you're a girl, but you're involved in this field that the mainstream society implies is dominated by nerdy virginal pasty white male teenagers. How'd that happen?"

"There seems to be a subgroup of comics/gaming/geekery with a misogynist streak who wants to keep these fields male dominated."

I'm not sure it's so much wants to keep them male dominated as are hard to convince that they aren't going to be male dominated.

"Rob, it seems that most people seem to automatically assume it's a male oriented field unless it contains child rearing or social work. XD"

Okay. I don't think that's fare. Webcomics are a derivation of two things: the online community, and comics/comic books. Both of these are things long considered to be male endeavors. No matter how many women (or senior citizens, or non-whites, or non-nerds) go online, the stereotype persists. As for comic books, if it's not male dominated, why are the women still drawn that way? I believe it is quite possible for a non misogynistic person to discover the field of webcomics, and make the naive but understandable assumption that it is a field one is unlikely to find many women in. When they discover that this isn't the case, they are likely to comment on it.

"What I get from males is usually: "I thought you were a guy!" They are sincerelly baffled by my style of writing. Apparently I should be making romance-oriented comics that focus heavily on shoe-shopping, or whatever."

No, but the comic you've had up during your recovery ends with the line, "Do the world a favor and use your HAND, Dave." This is a bit more blunt about male masturbation than most people expect from a woman writer.

"Although there is a lot of sexism in the world, a lot of it is unintended. There are no mean intentions behind it, as it happens a lot with anything we don't experience personally. It's just that people tend to classify things (and other people) into easy categories. When someone or something breaks that preconceived classification, they are genuinely surprised."

Wow. Thank you. That's exactly the point I was trying to make earlier.

Last point. Eric: Was there really a burning need to portray this as a 'people with vaginas and not penises' context? Doesn't reducing genders to their genitalia distinctions prop up the same sexism you're complaining about?

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 6:21 PM

Last point. Eric: Was there really a burning need to portray this as a 'people with vaginas and not penises' context? Doesn't reducing genders to their genitalia distinctions prop up the same sexism you're complaining about?

Yes.

Because it's exactly what we're discussing, only it's not prettifying it up.

"Now, Miz White... it says here you have a vagina. How do you think we can get other women into the webcomics community?"

Our respective genitalia -- or secondary sexual characteristics, for that matter -- have nothing to do with our critical facilities. And, as with all sexism -- whether it's intentional sexism or not -- it comes down to "you have characteristics that men don't. How do you respond to that?" The primary sexual characteristic that differentiates the sexes is whether or not the pelvis has flesh that's convex or concave.

If we set aside whether or not a person has a penis or a vagina, and focus instead on their perspective about webcomics, then we're getting somewhere. If, on the other hand, we focus on gender as defining that perspective, it always does come back to "you have a vagina, ergo you must primarily be interested in womens' issues."

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 6:23 PM

Oh, and for the record?

No, but the comic you've had up during your recovery ends with the line, "Do the world a favor and use your HAND, Dave." This is a bit more blunt about male masturbation than most people expect from a woman writer.

You... realize that April wants Dave to hold his bag with his hand, instead of using his rock hard penis to hold it up off the ground, right? It's not actually about masturbation at all. Just Dave's well documented difficulties with sexual thoughts.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 6:27 PM

Take a circle, caress it...

Comment from: UrsulaV [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 6:27 PM

I'm sure somebody has asked me before about being a woman in webcomics--I can almost remember it--and I think my reply was a kind of floundering "I dunno, the issue doesn't really come up..." Obviously the whole question was so un-memorable that it hasn't stuck with me.

Now, I can practically recite every single time a rabid evangelist has tried to save me via e-mail, or has become mortally offended at my portrayal of dragons in art or something, because those are the FUN ones.

Now, it DOES amuse me that probably a third of my readers still don't know what gender Digger the wombat is (she's a girl) but that probably just goes to show that it really doesn't come up.

Comment from: Maritza Campos [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 6:32 PM

"No, but the comic you've had up during your recovery ends with the line, "Do the world a favor and use your HAND, Dave." This is a bit more blunt about male masturbation than most people expect from a woman writer."

My point exactly.

Comment from: Maritza Campos [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 6:35 PM

Well, Dave's line IS about masturbation. It's a two-level joke thingie there.

Comment from: The [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 7:22 PM

"Well, Dave's line IS about masturbation. It's a two-level joke thingie there."

Multi-level jokes? From a GIRL? I say...

Comment from: Nentuaby [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 8:30 PM

Ursula:

... Digger's a girl?

Weird. I got a distinct, active impression of maleness.

I guess that's what happens when you try to sex things outside your genus.

Comment from: kirabug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 8:40 PM

First - OMG I'M LISTED WITH ALL THOSE REALLY GOOD WEBCOMIC AUTHORS SQUEEE!!!!! - okay I'm done now.

I don't get the "what? you're a girl?" question very often. I usually get the "what's a webcomic?" question in its place. You guys (and heck, most of you are like family I've been posting here so long) are the only webcomic geeks I know.

(I do have a supervisor at work who swears that - since I'm into gaming, programming, and tech support, I know sports better than he does, I'm into Star Wars and other sci-fi, oh, and I can still cook and knit, I officially don't exist.)

Paul wrote:

For instance, trying to look at my own webcomic through your eyes, I say to myself, "Well, my girls are stereotypically hot ... but my guys are all stereotypically hot too, and that's because all these characters came to me like that from the sourceworks."

I never thought of webcomickers (i like that word too :) as being guys or girls but I'm noticing that most of my readers are guys -- because they complain that the girls aren't hot enough.

I told them there were plenty of ugly girls in the real world that were worth talking to and they should suck it up.

Well, Dave's line IS about masturbation. It's a two-level joke thingie there.

And I've gotta ask - why didn't Dave just put the cat in the bag?

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 9:15 PM

Well, first the tangental question - how I fit in 40 hours of video gaming time per week.

Well, for my day job, I end up playing a portable game to and from work, so that's two hours each day (to and from work). I also play during many lunch breaks, so that's another 90 minutes through the week. So we're already dealing with 11 and a half hours right there.

Coming home, I generally fit in about three hours of gaming per weeknight, although that spikes should there be something really neat that just came out. This doesn't interfere with my personal life all that much because my weeknights are dull and a decent chunk of that happens after my wife goes to sleep. So we've accounted for about another 15 hours per week right there.

If you look at it that way, it only leaves about 13.5 hours for the weekend to round that out, or almost 7 hours for each weekend day. Heck, on a weekend day, I usually have that done before dinnertime.

Now, there are some fluctuations. I spike on days devoted to exercise (because for me, exercise is various rhythm games), but dip on my writing days. Also, don't forget that I write about video games professionally; I'm expected to devote a lot of my life to them.

Keep in mind, this is an average figure - some weeks, I squeak in 20. Other weeks, I'll go past 80. It's just how I go about things.

Now, for the actual topic at hand...

Well, I didn't know Maritza was a woman at first, but that's just because I didn't know it was a female name in Spanish-speaking countries. But once I did find that out, my only reaction was to name an NPC associated with one of my table-top characters after her. Seemed like a reasonable reaction to me.

Actually, I found that taking a very gender-neutral screen name is quite enlightening, because I get mistaken for a female much more often than I ever anticipated. It's weird seeing people and their assumptions about you based purely on your name - and I compound it deliberately by refusing to give out much information on certain locales.

There are certainly certain turns of phrase I don't use after seeing guys try them on me online. Particularly anything involving using the word "stick" as a verb beyond very obvious negative connotations.

Though the one time someone claiming to be female was trying to lure me into a lesbian chat was entertaining to the extreme. I avoided it, among other reasons because the theory of two men pretending to be women having lesbian cybersex is much more entertaining a concept when you're not one of the guys in question. And though I didn't know for sure if the other person was male or female, the threat was enough to worry me.

Comment from: Thomas Blight [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 9:51 PM

This is very random, but for some reason I can't help but giggle when I read the name "Indigo Skynet".

I think there's something wrong with me.

Comment from: Maritza Campos [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 9:53 PM

Because that's Mike's bag, and it smells like Mike.

Comment from: kirabug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 10:12 PM

Ah! I'd forgotten that little detail. Thanks! :)

Comment from: William_G [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 10:23 PM

put their vaginas out of your head

Isnt this statement backwards?

Wakka wakka~!

Comment from: Barb [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 17, 2006 11:04 PM

Much like kirabug, my first reaction to this one was "Holy crap -- that's my name!"

Then I started thinking about it... I've only gotten that question of "what's it like to be a woman in webcomics?" once. My response was that it wasn't too different than any other place to be a woman. The only awkward part is when I'm hanging out with the guys and a pretty woman walks by. They start talking about how "hawt" she is and I feel like I should add something to the conversation like, "Yeah, that was an impressive rack", but it can be a real conversation killer.

Comment from: reva [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 12:07 AM

"Women find out about webcomics the same way men do -- through word of mouth or occasionally through advertising on sites they read."

You mean... all these other chicks didn't find out about webcomics while waiting in a checkoutline with a copy of Soap Opera Digest and a pint of Ben & Jerry's? Damn.

Joking and horrid stereotypes aside, the worst I've ever had to deal with as a result of being in webcomics has been the occasional surprised reaction in an IRC room when I've corrected people referring to me as "him." I think it's rather funny, though.

Comment from: chalcara [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 1:28 AM

32_footsteps: I want your job! *envy*


Well, yeah - maybe I am oversensitive towards all those gender-discrimination issues; but on the otherhand *I* was the only programmer in traineeship (of six!) who got taken off her project and set onto secretary duties and coffe making duty "because it's nicer if a girl does it." My male collegues could happily continue doing their work, and I guess I am a tad bitter since then.

Comment from: Plaid Phantom [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 3:08 AM

Chalcara: Granted, I don't know the whole situation there, but if it was me, that might be grounds for quitting on the spot. But then, it's not like I've ever had to deal with anything like that, so I don't know.

whether or not the pelvis has flesh that's convex or concave.

Best euphemism ever.

Comment from: John Lynch [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 3:12 AM

The person who made the comment of m
ale figure skaters getting the question is a good point. It isn't just women who get the question, it's people who are of the minority gender in a field.

Having said that, it is odd to have that in webcomics, as I'd say it is probably fairly close to 40-60 male-female ratio, which shouldn't really be that noticable, ESPECIALLY when I think it's safe to say that is the same ratio for people on the internet (that is, male-(to females, not men pretending to be females)).

Oh, and I think Shaenon gets out of the question cause Shaenon is a gender neutral name, while Weds or Kelly are real female names.

Having said that, I don't really care which gender the artist of a webcomic is, although I do prefer the artist to be the same gender as the protagonist (guys typically have a difficult time portraying women accurately. The good creators have surpassed this problem though, so them I don't mind so much).

Now as for Weds, I don't care if she's male/female/hemaphrodite. I also don't really want to see "women issues" articles from her. Now an article on GPF, that'd be an interesting read ;) An article on the difficulties of moving a mouse with a vagine to draw your webcomic, I'm not so interested in.

Comment from: Frisco [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 4:39 AM

I’d, dangerously, like to speak up for some of those people who’ve asked the “what’s it like being a woman in …” question here. If it’s an honest question then I’d think it’s an important and interesting question (Yes it’s stupid if it’s some kind of put down, any kind of being “in webcomics” is already cool)
I am interested in what it’s like to be a “woman in webcomics”. I’m also interested in what it’s like to be a woman who reviews webcomics. I’m also interested in what it’s like doing comics when your from Mexico, or when you grew up rich, or if you’re gay or if you’re a transsexual or a lot of other things. You see I don’t have a vagina and there for I really don’t what it’s like being a woman who does anything, and therefore I find that interesting.

Please correct me if I’m wrong but it seamed to me that your thesis is:

“It doesn't fucking matter what kind of genitals they have. We can't see them.”

And in this I have to disagree with you. It may not matter but it’s still interesting. I’m interested in viewpoints that are different then my own. And I feel to disparage any man for asking what it’s like to be a woman doing webcomics is subtly disparage women in the first place. It seams to me that when you say genitals don’t matter, your implying that men are women just with floppy bits, or that women are just men without penises and I’d disagree with that.

I don’t think it’s sexist to say that women have a different perspective then men, or that it’s homophobic to say that gay men have a different perspective then straight men. And I’m interested in those viewpoints. So really what’s so wrong about asking what it’s like being a woman doing anything?

Comment from: Meagen Image [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 5:46 AM

There are no women on the Internet.

At all.

Comment from: Abby L. [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 5:55 AM

Ooo. Namedropped. :) I feel special.

I have encountered some mild 'you're a girl and that INNNNTERESTING' behavior. What I've more been disconcerted to encounter is the attitude that my comic is feminist, due to the fact that it has a strong female main character and the whole role-reversal thing between the male and female main character. For a while there it was just driving me nuts because while I have nothing against feminism as a concept or in most cases as a practice, that's just not what I'm going for at all. But I guess it's a reader's market as far as interpretive criticism goes.

Comment from: Abby L. [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 5:56 AM

Although on the other hand if I were a man, they'd just assume that I was attracted to strong women. So maybe it is a "YER A GERRRL" thing.

Comment from: Doug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 6:01 AM

Frisco: I think you're missing the point being made by most here. It's not the curiosity aroused by the sudden discovery that the author of interest has a bad case of Unexpected Gender, but the reaction and effect upon the discussion brought about by that discovery.

Suddenly, it's no longer a discussion about their work and instead becomes a discussion about how they feel being a green chimpanzee in the troop of baboons, so to speak. (There's also that wonderful sense of accomplishment brought about by the adoring fan's well-intentioned blurting out, "I never would have known! Your work is just as good as any [other gender]'s!" in some cases, but that's a side issue here).

One of the greatest things about life on the net is that things like age, gender, race and how attractive looking a person is can very often be completely unknown and have no impact upon how their work is viewed, unless that person makes those tidbits a factor. It enables a leveling of the playing field, doing away with predjudical coloring and social expectations on the viewer's part, allowing the author to have their work judged on its own merits.

I'm not saying that discussing the effect that the author's gender has on their viewpoint, what influence it has on their work, their life, liberty or their pursuit of greater web site unique hit count has no place here. It most certainly does. There are times that the author makes a point of those factors, usually as part of what they're attempting to say. What I am saying is that, from what I've read here, most people think that when you're discussing someone's work you talk about the work, possibly bringing in the factor of their gender's influence on it if it's warranted and part of that work, and not about whether or not they can write their name legibly in the snow when peeing and how they feel about that.

Comment from: chalcara [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 6:08 AM

Plaid Phantom:

I was contractually bound for six months and this happened in month 5. I didn't show my face there anymore AFTER the contract ran out, you can believe me. :)

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 11:39 AM

Contractually bound, my ass. That's ground for good cause for leaving a job (namely, changing a person's duties unilaterally). When people are really jerking your chain, you don't have to put up with it.

As for my job... Well, it's honestly my night job. As awesome as it is to play video games and write about them, it don't exactly pay the rent yet. I work a day job to support myself until the day comes that it does pay the rent.

I think the pitfall in asking about gender isn't so much that it does or doesn't matter. It's just that some people treat it as the only thing that matters. Plus, there's a default expectation that women will encounter some variety of sexism in any field in which they get involved, so people want to know about that.

So here's my observation - Weds, you're one of the few people I know in webcomics with curly hair. How does it feel to have curly hair in webcomics?

Comment from: Wednesday White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 11:40 AM

Frisco: Above and beyond the points raised by Doug, one of the issues is that I only very rarely get asked about anything else.

Comment from: Axonite [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 11:55 AM

John: Actually, Kelly's a gender-neutral name too. For example, Kelly Price, the (male) ComicGen admin who draws Stalag '99.

And babynames.com also claims Wednesday is a gender-neutral name, though I can't think of any male examples at the moment. :)

Comment from: Tangent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 12:18 PM

Perhaps we're looking at this backward. Let's ask this question: Who is it that asks questions like "what's it like being a woman in webcomics" and other female-centric questions?

I'll hold off on thoughts until we get some answers on this. *chuckle* (Yes, Rob is actually keeping his mouth shut until he gets more information. In the words of his soul-sis... "he can be taught!")

Comment from: kirabug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 12:57 PM

Contractually bound, my ass. That's ground for good cause for leaving a job (namely, changing a person's duties unilaterally). When people are really jerking your chain, you don't have to put up with it.

It also makes a great lawsuit. And if the situation were as open and shut as presented here it would probably have been an easy win.

On a slightly different but related note, my husband asked me the other day whether I could really express an opinion on the "glass ceiling" in the IT workplace for women when there isn't one where I work. (I get as much respect and probably more money than most of the guys in my position).

Comics to me are the same thing. I haven't experienced any bias as far as i know. Sure, my style is different, but there's no guarantee that's because of my gender. So how could I say what it's like to be different from others when I'm not aware of the differences?

I agree with Wednesday - when ALL anyone wants to know is how it feels to be gender-different from the others in your field, and they never want your opinion on anything else, there's something wrong with that person's line of thinking. College was GREAT for that.

Comment from: Ghastly [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 1:25 PM

Feh! You think it's bad having a vagina, you should see the e-mails I get.

Comment from: Maritza Campos [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 1:49 PM

I think I'd simply take revenge by making those secretarial duties as wrongful as possible and some coffee that would make you drop dead.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 2:15 PM

But if I'm reading the post correctly, they were computer programmers. About the only way you could screw with the coffee that they wouldn't like is if you didn't actually make coffee; you just poured brown food coloring into hot water.

Comment from: chalcara [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 2:56 PM

Yeah. You'd be surprised what programmers define as "coffe."

Anyway, it was only two months left, I learned alot (despite the coffe incident) AND I needed them to sign a certain piece of paper to continue with my studium - the traineeship is required in order to get my master's deegree, you know? There was simply no way to get back to them legally WITHOUT putting the rest of my carreer at risk. Besides, imagine how future employers react to me if I have "trouble maker" stamped right across my portfolio.

Pick your fights and all that.


But that's not really what the point of Eric's essay is, me thinks. ;)

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 4:25 PM

And that highlights the real core issue at hand.

It's easy for us to say how strong Chalcara's case would be. For harassment. For discrimination. For all the rest.

But it's not that simple. Chalcara needed a good report. She needed a good reference. She had to think about how long she would be there, and what happened afterward.

She had to decide if the short term battle was worth what it would mean to her long term career.

In a way, it is what we discussed. One of the issues is becoming known for "Womens' issues." Chalcara said she had to be concerned about being seen as a troublemaker.

This is the problem. When sexism occurs in day to day life, it's always a question of whether the battle would help or hurt. It's about what makes for a better tomorrow. Swallowing the anger and annoyance and finishing what you're doing quickly, or taking a stand that might define you for years, to your detriment.

Pick your fights indeed.

Comment from: quiller [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 6:47 PM

Hmm, that reminds me of a different issue that a girlfriend of mine once brought up. She had a theory that some male comic artists who write a strong female character seem to be almost in love with that character. More specifically it was her point that men who write a female lead in their comic often seem to make her nearly perfect with few real failings. Perhaps a variation of the Virgin/Whore complex which is also something that seems to happen in role-playing games, ie when men play female characters it is very rare that they can handle the sexuality of their character without resorting to either making them completely chaste or a complete slut.

But yes, I think people are so used to dealing with some level of sexism in most professions, that the fact that it really makes no difference in webcomics just doesn't occur to them. What's it like being a woman in IT, or what's it like being a woman in law are questions that most women in those industries can probably answer. I think the fact that webcomics 1) is normally self-employment, 2) tends to present its product in such a way that the consumer is exposed to it before being exposed to the gender of the creator and 3) involves the fields of writing and art where women have a higher degree of equality than many others tends to rob it of much of that sexual dichotomy. I suppose there are differences, Aeire gets guys thinking she is like Kestrel and wanting to date her while Pete Abrams writes on girls' belly buttons, but it doesn't have a huge effect on the success or failure of one's comic.

Comment from: Violet [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 7:13 PM

Let's ask this question: Who is it that asks questions like "what's it like being a woman in webcomics" and other female-centric questions?

Does it much matter? Are you looking for names to dismiss?

Would it not be beyond improper of Wednesday and Eric to post identifying information about their e-mail correspondents?

Comment from: Thomas Blight [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 7:52 PM

Violet, I believe 32 meant less of "is this John Henry doing this?" and more of, "What is this John Henry like? What makes him ask this?"

In our case, is it the ladies who are interested in webcomics but believe they will face discrimination? Is it people just looking for more fuel for their feminist fires? Is it guys who want to know if women and men are really as different as the pop culture stereotypists seem to think? (Not that women could answer that question. Or men, either. You'd have to have been one and now be the other.)

The only awkward part is when I'm hanging out with the guys and a pretty woman walks by. They start talking about how "hawt" she is and I feel like I should add something to the conversation like, "Yeah, that was an impressive rack", but it can be a real conversation killer.

You know, in my experience, this is pretty awkward no matter who's saying it. One time I was having a conversation with a girl and she just stopped in the middle to ogle some guy, saying, "Mmm, that guy's really hawt." I replied that I wouldn't know. I've also been with male friends who comment about what they'd like to do to that dame, to which I usually reply, "meh, she's nothing special," or something dismissive. It's creepy no matter what.

Comment from: Indigo [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 8:44 PM

This is very random, but for some reason I can't help but giggle when I read the name "Indigo Skynet".

I think there's something wrong with me.

Dropping the cloak of lurkability to say two things:

1) Indigoskynet is just my LJ handle. I do have a regular people last name, honest.

2) As has already been said a couple times:

o.O ...that's ...that's my name up there. Wow.

Comment from: Kris@WLP [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 9:12 PM

(1) I wonder how I'd be treated online if I used my full first name for everything. "Peter is the Wolf," written by Kristan Overstreet...

(2) I personally think people ask, "What's it like being a woman in comics/webcomics?" because it is impolite to ask, "How do all those arrested-development misogynistic dickheads with spandex fetishes... you know, MALE comics pros... treat you?" It's the sort of question a person might ask, trying to be polite, of a piece of chum in the water which has inexplicably remained undevoured by the sharks.

In other words, ladies, it's not that you're female; it's that so many of the rest of us are really bad examples for the male half of the species.

Comment from: Tangent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 9:46 PM

Violet, I don't "dismiss" people because of their opinions or beliefs. I might if they behave in a fashion that causes them to lose my respect, but even then I tend to forget and forgive (ie, I forget what it was that resulted in my losing respect for them and then decide it must not have been worth worrying about so I treat them with respect until the next such incident).

This is not what i was talking about, however. Let me rephrase it slightly:

What is the situation in which a person is asking such a question? Are they reporters asking? Are they people asking for advice as they try to go into the field themselves? Is it people who mean well but just have a tendency to phrase something in a way that happens to risk offending?

I'm not asking for names. I'm asking for... types, I guess. Situations. Understanding that better, I can get into that mindset, try to understand where the question is coming from, and maybe even figure out what they really are looking for.

Rob H., who doesn't intend to go into these discussions looking like an asshole. Guess it's just a "gift"...

Comment from: Eric the .5b [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 11:15 PM

"Does it much matter? Are you looking for names to dismiss?"

It would be nice to get some context for Eric and Wednesday's trouble with this issue when every female webcartoonist who's replied to this thread seems a bit bewildered, as they've either very rarely or never had this come up.

Comment from: Thomas Blight [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 18, 2006 11:28 PM

I totally just called Tangent 32_footsteps.

Oi. Not doing so well in the competence department today.

Comment from: kirabug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 1:00 AM

Oi. Not doing so well in the competence department today.

Meh, it was almost midnight. We'll spot you one ;)

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 1:51 AM

Phew... for a minute there, I thought you were answering something that I wrote that I didn't remember writing. While I might be gong crazy, that's at least one symptom I don't have to worry about for the time being.

That, and I generally don't ask much about what John Henry is like. The kid's still not even ten yet.

Comment from: gwalla [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 3:26 AM

Shaenon: BTW, your F4 xmas story was a hit with the folks on scans_daily.

Tangent: CRFH and Narbonic really both fall into the "tabloid weird" type of setting, with more or less equal amounts of superscience and supernatual goings-on. Narbonic is centered around a mad scientist's lab, but includes a character who was a demon from Hell. One of CRFH's main storylines is about fighting Satan, but the guys are radioactive mutants and they've fought an evil cybord scientist. Fans and Sluggy are also tabloid weird.

John Lynch: Funny, I always think of Shaenon (and other variants on "Shannon") as a female name. I know there are guys named Shannon, but it just seems default-female to me.

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 3:42 AM

"The only awkward part is when I'm hanging out with the guys and a pretty woman walks by. They start talking about how "hawt" she is and I feel like I should add something to the conversation like, "Yeah, that was an impressive rack", but it can be a real conversation killer."

I am in an otherwise all female study group, and have the exact reciprocal issue. What I've found works is to add something that acknowledges the 'hawtness', but doesn't frame it in terms of approval or disapproval, but merely commentary. For instance, if they say something like, "oh, he's cute.", I might say, "Yeah. He can pull off the turtle neck and blue jeans look better than I ever will." or "Who would have guessed that earth tones would be back so soon?" If you are really just looking to fill a role in a conversation, drivel is fine.

"Well, yeah - maybe I am oversensitive towards all those gender-discrimination issues; but on the otherhand *I* was the only programmer in traineeship (of six!) who got taken off her project and set onto secretary duties and coffe making duty "because it's nicer if a girl does it." My male collegues could happily continue doing their work, and I guess I am a tad bitter since then."

As you should be. However, recognize that it colors your views. My (in no way objective) view is that you probably see a lot of, "I assumed there were no women in webcomics, and now I'm curious," comments as, "I assumed there were no women in webcomics and I think women are too dumb to do webcomics." Both are forms of sexism, but one is more indefensible than the other, and it is good to be able to distinguish the two (mostly because the first can be treated with education, while the later only with blunt objects).

"Hmm, that reminds me of a different issue that a girlfriend of mine once brought up. She had a theory that some male comic artists who write a strong female character seem to be almost in love with that character. More specifically it was her point that men who write a female lead in their comic often seem to make her nearly perfect with few real failings. Perhaps a variation of the Virgin/Whore complex which is also something that seems to happen in role-playing games, ie when men play female characters it is very rare that they can handle the sexuality of their character without resorting to either making them completely chaste or a complete slut."

I've often wondered this. My 11th grade english teacher had a theory that, "you can't really write from the perspective of anyone but yourself." So, for instance, if I write about a female character, I'm really writing myself, AS a female. Nearly everything I read backs this up for me. When I look at webcomics, it almost always works. The webcomic author's gender almost always dictates which gender is correctly portrayed. Maritza deserves special kudos in my mind because her strip has a realistic male protagonist (I know, technically ensemble cast, Dave just feels like the protagonist), that seems like a male, and experiences his relationships as a male would. I guess that means that there are exceptions. Still, whenever I see a strip like Angels2200 with a male author but female centric (in that example female exclusive) cast, I just go in saying, "okay. Let's not expect the relationships to be realistic or the viewpoint to be genuine. But hey, it's Top Gun in space!".

"Frisco: Above and beyond the points raised by Doug, one of the issues is that I only very rarely get asked about anything else."

Weds, I'm going to make a point that is rude, blunt, and frankly quite offensive. I hope you can forgive me because I'm doing so only because I think there is a perspective you might be missing. I (and presumably a lot of other people) first came to know you as you became part of this weblog. Thus, you became a tangential addendum to Eric. The next thing I learned about you (aside from some very interesting but easily subjegated facts about interest in Jack Chic and Canadian radio) was that you were unafraid to talk about boobs, whether a woman was hawt, or famous lesbian literary movements. If I were a superficial websnark viewer (say, one who checked once a week as opposed to twice daily), it would have been very easy to pigeonhole you as 'Eric's potentially polyamorous and feminist girlfriend/shadow that also happens to have something to say about webcomics but we're really looking at our idol's girlfriend and pretending we have something to say'.(Let me remind all that I'm not excusing, merely explaining.) It may well be that the deluge of female centric questions you are asked has less to do with the image women have in the webcomic community as a whole so much as the way non-superfans are exposed to you personally.

Hmm. That was certainly tap dancing through a minefield, and I thoroughly doubt that I expressed what I was trying to say, but it is 2am and I want to sleep, so I'll write a correction/expanation/apology later.

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 3:47 AM

okay. Now is where we wish there was a "delete" or "delete, come back when fully competant/sober" button existed on this site.

Comment from: Frisco [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 6:19 AM

Wednesday said:
Above and beyond the points raised by Doug, one of the issues is that I only very rarely get asked about anything else.

Yeah I could see how that would get pretty annoying pretty quickly, but I'd like to give people the benefit of the doubt and believe that they're just trying to learn something and not some kind of pig. I could be wrong but at least I have the pleasure of being an optimist. (Hey it’s a pretty colour of sky here in my world so don't laugh at me)

P.S. Personally I’m more interested in Wednesday p.o.v. as an ex-patriot more then anything else, but hey I can understand other interests.

Comment from: Barb [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 11:35 AM

Wow. I'm beginning to realize that I should have put a " :D " after my first post. Really, I'm not looking to fill in conversation or be "creepy" about it. It's more the fact that gender's so unimportant among the webcomic folks that I know that sometimes they just forget I'm not one of the guys. That too isn't such a bad thing. :)

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 11:49 AM

While we're on the subject of webcomics, women, and the art of sexual politics, there's a question I'd always have been wondering about since I turned 21.

What's the deal with "Ladies Night" at bars (and pubs)? I don't know when they do such promotions at your local neighborhood pub, but around here, they're usually scheduled for Wednesday nights, no matter the bar or pub.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 12:18 PM

Ladies Night at a bar (which have been common no matter where I've gone)? That's easy.

See, it all has to do with economics. Without any promotions in place, Wednesday is the slowest day for a place that specializes in alcohol. So they need some sort of promotion.

The logic behind this particular one is simple. People go to bars partly to get booze, and partly to hook up (or possibly get into relationships, but I always got the impression that good relationships seldom start at bars). Now, the logic goes that guys will show up anywhere they have a good chance to meet women. So by making things much more affordable for women, the bar will attract one half of the potential clientele, and wait for the other half to follow. I presume it works, given the prevalence of the promotion.

Also, there's other reasons. One, women are supposedly less prone to drinking heavily than men, so bars don't have to sell as many reduced-price drinks. Moreover, men are supposedly much more likely to buy a woman a drink than vice versa, and that gets charged full price because it's the guy buying.

All in all, it's a relatively affordable way for a drinking establishment to increase business on what would otherwise be a slow day.

Comment from: Wednesday White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 3:17 PM

Eric's potentially polyamorous and feminist girlfriend/shadow

Meanwhile, Eric's made several post about enjoying porn, liking boobs, whatever, and I've never heard "potentially poly" applied to him. The description you're looking for is "boring, monogamous queer."

Comment from: Thomas Blight [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 3:31 PM

By Kirabug:

Meh, it was almost midnight. We'll spot you one ;)

But when I made the post in which I did it it was nearing 8:00 pm. That is the sad part. I realised this when I read Tangent's reply to Violet... at almost midnight. Don't ask, I have odd browsing habits.

By Weds:

...about enjoying porn, liking boobs, whatever, and I've never heard "potentially poly" applied to him...

I think it's the Shortpacked! cameo that did it. Now we need Weds to pay Eric to kiss a guy in a cameo...

Think we could get Milholland to do that?

Comment from: megs [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 4:52 PM

Ignoring the comments, I half agree with Eric. Actually, I agree, but while there are no barriers to women starting up webcomics and finding an audience that don't equally apply to men, we shouldn't discount women's issues. Webcomics is a pretty shining example of the ideal that gender doesn't matter nearly as much as 100 other things. But the rest of the world still has issues and it likes to bring them into everything. So maybe not quit asking women the women's questions, but don't ask them just because they're women! *I* have something to say about feminism, but I can't imagine that most of the women I know have anything to say other than equality is awesome, go team! Y'all can ask me how it feels to be a woman in webcomics, what it was like meeting a bunch of guys I knew from webcomics at a convention, and why I didn't want to go unless a girl friend from college was going too. I talk about that kind of stuff already.
In the meantime, I'd ask Starline about how closely Candy's experience with hoity toity art profs mirrors her own. Or Paul Taylor why his comic's evolved to an almost exclusively female cast and begun focusing on a lot of "women's issues" in his comic while in a collective entirely made up of men. Or a roundtable of writers who write main characters of the opposite gender to get a lot of different takes on what that entails.

Don't be sexist often translates to Be interesting.

It's webcomics, for goodness sakes.

And Websnark? Interesting. Definitely. Because of the to people writing in it and the things they're interested in and the writing skills to persuade us that it's all interesting too.

Comment from: gwalla [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 4:58 PM

Frisco: the word you want is "expatriate". An ex-patriot is someone who used to be nationalistic but is no longer. An expatriate is someone who no longer lives in the country they grew up in.

Comment from: KennyCelican [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 5:11 PM

People think 32 Footsteps is a gender neutral name? I've always taken it to be a fairly male handle. On the weirdness side of things, I would find said 'two men masquerading as lesbian women' situation WAY too funny to pass up.

In my work environment, I work with two people named 'Shannon' daily. One is a older woman I've never met. The other is a rather imposing guy. The scary part is that when conversing with either of them via pure-text medium, the first Shannon I knew for any length of time (a pretty strawberry blond from the high school bowling team) is imposed in that 'appearance of the person I'm talking to' slot.

As for 'potentially poly', I think it's more wishful hopes and dreams than any actual evidence. I've observed people assuming that which they desire to be true and have no overwhelming evidence against to be true so often that I've actually begun to assume that is the basis of reality for most people.

On the core topic of discussion, the 'women in webcomics' discussion, I can't really say I understand the 'innocent' mindset behind the question. I can understand the mindset behind a feminist (male or female) digging for fuel. I can understand the mindset behind a misogynist (again, male or female) genuinely thinking women are inferior and asking how an individual managed to succeed, a 'what tricks did you use' kind of question. Note that I agree with neither, but I understand the mindsets. I just can't seem to wrap my skull around someone who is neither misogynist nor looking for misogynists having a need to ask the question.

Bah. Anyone else here occasionally get labelled as a 'misogynist' because you are unashamed that you find women attractive? Annoys me in my old age, I tell you.

As for the whole 'you're sitting at a table of the opposite gender and they all comment on a same gender person walking by' thing. If you see something attractive about the person, comment on it. If not, then don't. If you feel an unquenchable need to comment when everyone else at the table has, get some help with that peer pressure problem, or just say 'I like {insert name of opposite gender here}'. I'm often put in positions where I'm the 'odd guy out' in conversations. The best policy is either to shut up or note that you're not qualified to comment, but in a way that notes that you're not upset that the conversation's going on.

And if you're upset that men/women talk about women/men they find attractive, see my comment on conflating 'heterosexual / unashamed' with 'misogynist / misandronist'.

One last note, I'd volunteer for the 'kissing the bearded guy' role. Both because I've got experience from many a drunken new year's revel and because it would amuse my inner child to no end.

Comment from: KennyCelican [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 5:24 PM

Oh, on a different thread of this conversation, when dealing with artists creating characters of opposite genders who are supposed to be fully fleshed out characters, what, in particular, stands out as bad when it comes to both males and females?

I suppose I've seen the 'chaste/slut' dichotomy from men writing women. I've also seen a parallel in women writing men, although the dichotomy isn't quite 'chaste/slut'. I've actually seen two repeated - one is a very close parallel, 'hero/villan', another is somewhat skewed, 'idiot/villan'.

I'd ask for 'what stands out as good', but in a way, if it stands out, it's not really all that good. Note that I agree with just about everyone here that Maritza's done an incredible job of it with CRFH, to the point where I was wondering at one point whether the feminine sounding 'Maritza' was actually a male name in some culture I was unaware of.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 5:42 PM

ex-patriot...'poly'? And I just watched a "Best of" Monty Python's Flying Circus, too.

Oh, well. Time for the chicken cannon.

Comment from: prosfilaes [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 5:59 PM

I think there is something in that Eric has never written about men in webcomics, and I don't think I've ever seen an article of the form "men in foo". Wenesday wrote an article on Women in Webcomics. When I had a subscription to Pyramid, there was a weekly article on Women in Gaming. The college newspaper felt it important to write an article on how few women there were in the engineering college, with a graph that showed the colleges and their percentages of genders. Human environmental sciences was the most biased, but nobody writes articles on colleges that are 80% female.

Basically, people ask the question because it's the question that our society asks over and over. It's the standard question.

Comment from: Tangent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 6:48 PM

People don't talk about "men in webcomics" because, let's face it, men are boring. ;)

(please note that comment is made tongue-in-cheek, and should not be taken seriously.)

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 7:23 PM

Actually, to be fair, I've been asked multiple times about what it's like to be male in an overwhelmingly female major in college. I generally just joke it gives me a wide pool of potential dates. ;)

But in all seriousness, I was the only male to graduate with my particular degree the year I left college. I understand that I was the first in 3 or 4 years to do so, in fact. Oddly enough, it makes you learn to ignore gender really quick.

As for the apparent gender of my nom de net... first, a few things to keep in mind.

One, if you know the They Might Be Giants song "32 Footsteps," it is a fairly obviously male handle (as a band then-consisting of two men were singing from the viewpoint of a third man... about a woman, of course). However, TMBG fans aren't everywhere, and I compound it by taking one of the lesser-known tracks of their first album as a screen name (so there are quite a few that I've met who say they like TMBG that don't see where the name comes from). So while people familiar with the band and song can deduce from name alone that I'm more likely to be male, that's not a very large number of people.

But beyond that, it's compounded by the fact that I don't use 32_Footsteps everywhere. Most notably, it's not my AOL Instant Messenger name - that's TheSpoony1 (related to an old joke from my days on Usenet - the same days that resulted in the group alt.drunken-bastards.richard-healey... oh, the memories). Now, if you know video gaming and video game culture (and know that I'm deeply involved in that), or familiarity with Final Fantasy IV, you also would get that it's most likely a male handle. But that also is fairly subtle (moreso because it's not a direct reference).

Also, to be fair, I've been in a relationship for over 10 years, and I was at the time where I could have potentially had said "lesbian" cybersex. I'm not saying how anyone else should be, but it would have felt like cheating to me, so I didn't do it.

Comment from: gwalla [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 10:44 PM

Webcest is two men having lesbian cybersex.

Comment from: Maritza Campos [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 19, 2006 11:37 PM

It's not supposed to be really hard to write for the other gender. Writing a human or humanized character is just a bit of taking the basic animal traits (which we share with every complex animal out there): ie. survival instinct, sexual instinct, the seek for comfort, the seek for security. Then you add the human traits (which are permanent, independently of gender, race, or sexual preference) like the gregarious instinct, the need for love and human contact, the need to fit in a society, civilization, empathy, fantasy, occupacional role etc etc). Then you can add more or less traits that are imposed on by culture, social status, social behaviour, hormones, upbringing etc. These traits are more or less the ones that allow us to distinguish between male and female characters.

But notice we don't necessarily have to experience something to talk or write about it. There are plenty of themes in fiction where the subject is completely imaginary. We just extrapolate our personal experience into something else that is completely different. This is what allows us to write for characters that are aliens, animals, angels, vampires/monsters, thinking objects such as robots, serial killers, dragon slayers, and the list goes on. Compared to these, which don't even exist and have never existed, or from which we know next to nothing to their experience, writing for the opposite gender is easy.

Maritza
CRFH.net

Comment from: Frisco [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 12:16 AM

Thank you Maritza, That one paragraph makes this whole thread. It sums up something that's been on the tip of my frontal lobe and I couldn't figure out how to say. (P.S. Your ability to get in your character headspace is stunning)

And Gwalla no fair :) I get busted for my mangling of the English language and you get to make up words? Love the definition of Webcest!

Comment from: gwalla [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 1:04 AM

Frisco: actually, you can blame Jeffrey Rowland for that one.

Comment from: gwalla [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 1:05 AM

Not that particular definition, I mean, but the word.

Comment from: KennyCelican [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 1:13 AM

Definitely reiterating Frisco's point about that being a remarkably succinct description of how to write for the opposite gender, and a solid argument why it's not only not impossible, but relatively easy for a speculative fiction writer. As a minor counterpoint, I would posit that when one writes a alien, animal, angel, monster, or thinking object, one is unlikely to receive feedback from an alien, animal, angel, monster, or thinking object saying "I am an {insert type here}, and your portrayal of {insert type here} is wholly wrongheaded and offends me". Well, ok, that particular missive would probably arrive, but it's far less likely to be from an actual {insert type here} than, say, a complaint from an actual female human being that the female protagonist I wrote was unrealistic and offensive.

I suppose one reason I'm trying to get as much information on this as possible is that the two creative projects that are currently taking up way too much of my brain are both dominated by female characters. Both are fairly dark stories, and while I'm not going to write a different story or fundamentally change the characters in order to avoid offending anyone, I don't want to accidentally offend someone by writing something that's nonsensical from the perspective of a female person.

To phrase it as a question, when writing fiction with characters with different perspectives than your own, have you ever gone to someone of the social perspective you were trying to portray and asked them 'does this ring true?'

And if you have, did it help?

Comment from: Maritza Campos [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 1:38 AM

Well, that's the thing, see... if you were to portray a female as X, and you get an email from a female complaining that your portrayal is unaccurate, THAT is boneheaded.

Why? Because (naturally) females are not assembled in a boob fabric somewhere. We're all different. I'm sure you can portray a female as whatever, and there will be lots of females in the world that are like that.

This is also why I get highly annoyed at the concept of "representation" in media. To assume your view on one character is your view on the whole race/gender/sexual preference/religion this person belongs to is to classify them as "all alike."

What I take issue with, tho, is when ALL the females in a comic are the same. I'm not exactly offended, but it's incompetent (and boring). Same goes for the males.

Maritza
CRFH.net

Comment from: Maritza Campos [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 1:40 AM

Addendum: In order to not offend, usually all-male casts add a "token female" character. This character is almost invariably smart, full of common sense, witty, beautiful, and sarcastic.

BORING.

Comment from: KennyCelican [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 2:18 AM

You know, I like asking you questions. More to the point, I like the way you answer them. You bounce them back at me and make me refine what my puzzlement was, and remove quite a lot of it in the process.

I suppose my concerns are generally more along the lines of practical physical considerations, things that any writer, male or female, would have to either research or ask someone who is living in the situation they're positing.

An example (one of the characters I'm working on) would be clothes shopping for a tall, non-androgynous female. I can guess that it would be difficult, but exactly how difficult are we talking? Everything custom made difficult or shopping takes longer with fewer satisfying results difficult? See, that difference makes a marked difference in how the character is going to view clothing. In the first case, every item is going to be carefully thought out, since each one is a custom job, and therefore exactly what the character wanted. In the second, the character's attitude toward clothing is going to be very different, as they will almost never have exactly what they wanted, since they're often taking whatever they can find that fits.

On a more generic note, I really don't know what level of support is comfy and what level of support is restrictive when it comes to the portions of the female anatomy that differ from male anatomy. I know that every woman is going to want a different level of support, but there is going to be some common ground between women of a particular build and size.

I understand that there are going to be oddballs who don't fit the norm, and the character I'm writing may be one of them, or the person complaining may be one of them. I suppose at this point I'm not really caring at all who I offend, I just want to know if the character I'm writing is one who will seem 'mainstream' in her opinions on certain things, or an 'oddball'. Again, it's a question of minor things affecting the way a character will view themselves and the world around them.

I hear you on the 'token competent female' thing. It annoys me to no end, because they just don't seem real. What's kind of funny is that in one of the two stories I'm working on, the female lead is pretty much the only well fleshed out female character. Then again, part of that is because the female lead doesn't like women, in the 'would rather not talk to any of them if she can avoid it' sense. What I find amusing is that I just realized that while typing this post, because I was thinking about whether she was a 'token competent female'.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 9:58 AM

Hey, as coincidence would have it, I'm married to a tall, non-androgynous woman. I can tell you all about her adventures in clothes shopping.

To be perfectly blunt, it drives her up the wall. It's not that it's impossible for her to find clothes - it's just difficult to find affordable ones.

For casual clothes, more often than not she actually just wears men's clothing. She doesn't even bother with denim jeans cut for women - there are very few for her size, and she feels it just isn't worth it. Mrs. Footsteps simply prefers to buy men's jeans (she also likes the fact that men's sizes are measurements instead of arbitrary numbers). And she has the same love for interesting t-shirts that most geeks do, and those are usually unisex.

Her problem lies when she needs to buy clothes for work or anything nicer than "relax around the house" clothing. She's invariably stuck at the end of the rack, searching for something that will cover her stomach without being loose. Even then, my wife tends to end up in clothing that's just a wee bit too small in various places. Apparently, one problem that clothes manufacturers have is they don't expect taller women to have much breast tissue. Never mind the fact that being taller, my wife's frame is better suited towards large breasts than a shorter woman.

Shopping for a nice dress actually is the easiest part. She just needs to make sure it fits her curves, which aren't that unusual amongst women at large. She just has to make sure the dress is long enough, which actually isn't too much of a problem - she just picks a dress for a woman with her hips/waist/bust measurement that's meant to be a bit long on a shorter woman.

She actually has more problem with dress shoes, because it seems like nobody wants to sell dressy flats anymore. And she hates heels, partly because she has poor balance, and partly because she's neurotic about her height as is without needing to add an extra inch or two. She actually wore Converse sneakers to our wedding.

Outside of dress shoes, though, she just sticks with men's sneakers, and is quite happy with that. It helps that she really likes the color blue, and there are plenty of men's sneakers in that color.

Finally, underwear actually isn't much of a problem - most reputable manufacturers of women's underwear make it nice and easy for most women to fit in their basic wares. There is a relative shortage of fit for the more... exotic pieces, so my wife generally keeps it basic.

To get to the elephant in the room, shops for tall women, there's a love-hate relationship there. My wife loves the fact that she doesn't have a hard time finding clothes that fit her. She absolutely detests the obscene price markup at those places. She's also not fond of the fact that their bags are always emblazoned with the name of the store, because she feels self-conscious about her height. That last point probably doesn't matter for tall women who are quite proud of their height, but some taller women are a bit sensitive about the "amazon" stereotype that follows any woman above 5'9".

If there is anything that annoys her, it's watching me shop for clothes. Mostly because the most difficulty I have is the five minutes I take locating my precise pants size. Given the precision Levi's has in making pants, I don't even need to try them on. I just buy them and leave.

Comment from: Maritza Campos [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 10:39 AM

Tall shopping, huh? Mmmh.
I don't think there's an accurate answer to that... basically, I think you can do whatever rocks your yacht. Shopping for an unusual body-type is almost always not easy, but it depends on a lot of factors. For example, shopping in a big city (if you know the stores) is easier to find special clothes than in a small town. You can also find more variety and more affordable clothes. I think probably tailoring them is a lot easier but some people hate that. But shopping is a talent for people, you know... some of them know exactly where to look for stuff, and they look at things and try them on and go home, because they can instinctively tell they're gonna fit, and there are some people on the other hand who try on a million things and go home empty-handed. And even for an unusual body type, shopping can be a fun experience, either because they like challenges or because they like shopping/trying on stuff. Averagely speaking I'd say it would be probably frustrating, but it doesn't necessarily have to be.

Comment from: kirabug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 2:16 PM

To be perfectly blunt, it drives her up the wall.

Heh, and it's no picnic for the rest of us either ;) One brand's size 14 is another brand's size 16. And what the hell does "16" mean, anyway? It's not a measurement. Add to it that nobody's ever got your size in stock, but the size that's too small and the size that's too big are both plentiful.

And even for an unusual body type, shopping can be a fun experience, either because they like challenges or because they like shopping/trying on stuff.

Actually, I think a lot of it depends on self-esteem and mood at the time. Self-esteem is an issue for a lot of women (myself included) and when esteem's running low and you feel like a fat cow, finding out that you're now wearing an 18 short in Big Cool Brand Everyone Loves (and they're still too damn long) when usually you wear a 14 medium in Crap That You Can Afford But You Hate does nothing to make you feel good.

On the other hand, shopping for an event you're looking forward to with friends who make you feel good about yourself can make it a lot of fun.

Paul Taylor's Wapsi Square is the closest I've come to finding anyone (male or female) who nails the whole experience.

(And to wrap around to the original topic, this is a great example of why the question shouldn't be "What's it like to be a woman in webcomics" as much as "What specific issues can women address from experience which men might overlook?")

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 4:27 PM

"Heh, and it's no picnic for the rest of us either ;) One brand's size 14 is another brand's size 16. And what the hell does "16" mean, anyway? It's not a measurement. Add to it that nobody's ever got your size in stock, but the size that's too small and the size that's too big are both plentiful."

Oh, I know some of those complaints are just general ones that everyone encounters while shopping for clothes (I swear, every man in Boston wears the same pants size I do). But there are some specific to her height.

One in particular is the difference between that last point and what she goes through. You get frustrated because they have that nice-looking article of clothing in this store one size below you and one size above you, but are sold out of your size. For my wife, they just don't make her size. Or, if they do, half the time they only sell it in specialty stores for a huge markup.

Nice tops are really where it hits her the most - she's perfectly fine with wearing men's pants, and she eschews wearing skirts and dresses unless she absolutely can't avoid it. However, she's also been known to have particular trouble with buying coats, too.

And babydoll tees? Forget it. They look like the world's least effective but most uncomfortable sports bra on her.

The self-esteem issue is huge, though. I had to help her with that for years. She actually tried to deduct from her height when asked about it, kind of a mirror of when shorter people try to fight for every quarter inch when they say theirs (I have one friend who insists she's 5 feet and a quarter inch... maybe with her hair up, she is).

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 7:51 PM

Who ever developed the bra wasn't a woman, or so I've been told.

Comment from: kirabug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 8:48 PM

I've always found a bodice more comfortable, myself. But it's hard to work in today's professional world wearing a bodice.

Comment from: kirabug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 20, 2006 8:54 PM

But there are some specific to her height.

Hi 32... I wasn't trying to take away from your wife's position. She's definitely got it harder than me. After all, I can always hem pants up, but they're awfully hard to lengthen if they're short. I'm sorry if that's how my post read :(

Comment from: KennyCelican [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2006 10:13 AM

Thanks for all the useful info, guys! 32's comments especially have helped the characters gel just a little more for me.

Wapsi Square was what actually got me thinking about the clothes issues for the characters I'm writing, and how appearance affects self-image affects personality.

You know, that actually ties into Maritza's point about character being more important than gender, and also sheds light on where the dividing line between writing a realistic person and writing a stereotype lies. If you're using a stereotype, which despite all the problems with it may be useful on occasion, you stand the cardboard cutout up in the desired position. If you're working a character, on the other hand, you want to think about all the aspects of personality. Gender can enter into that, especially in societies that have very strictly defined gender roles, but it's rarely enough to define a person.

I say rarely only because I've met some very shallow real world people who define themselves by their genitalia and secondary characteristics.

Which, in an odd way, brings us back to a possible reason for the cause for Eric and Wed's problem. There are people out there who are so shallow that their entire worldview is defined by a set of externally generated belief systems, in this case, it sounds like a prevalent one is a particularly dimwitted variety of feminism. To them, any successful female must, perforce, have struggled long and hard overcoming male obstructionism to her success. Which makes the question a very annoying compliment, in a way, since it means they consider Weds a success.

Around and around and around the conversation goes, where it will stop, nobody knows!

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 21, 2006 11:27 AM

No worries, Kira. I was just worried I hadn't been specific enough, so I was just trying to clarify.

One thing I can say, related to my wife, is that her gender (combined with her height) isn't so much important as how society treats her. There are so many more interesting things about my wife beyond the fact that the line about her height on her driver's license starts with a 6, or the letter F is there for her gender. But people don't know that at first, and just see a woman who isn't wearing heels or platforms towering over everyone. And that sometimes affects how people treat her.

If you want to know more, feel free to email (found in my TypeKey account). I've been with her since I was 16, so I've gotten to see alot of her travails with her height.

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