I am a feminist, but…
In art we trust. To help us tell what we want to tell. To help people understand what we want to tell.
I Am a Feminist, but…
Feminism is an contentious and emotive term that many people — men a women — don’t want to be associated with. That’s just because this idea and its understanding has been limited by stereotypes. The definition of feminism is simple and straightforward. From Merriam-Webster, feminism is, “The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Simple. Easy. In simpler way it aims at achieving equality between all humans with no regard for their genitals. Feminism is about freedom of choice and possibility to express yourself freely.
So why every time a girl who is calling herself a feminist is associated with vicious man-hater? Why hearing the sentence: “You know, you’re a feminist.” is not a compliment but rather an insult? Why feminism is synonymous with pedantry, misandry and overreaction?
Why every statement “ I am feminists” have to finish with “BUT”?
In comics we trust!
Art has for long been used as a weapon of human intelligence against oppression and inequality. A special place is occupied by cartoonists who give a voice to people who are unable to tell their complex stories through conventional news media. Comics and their younger siblings webcomics are incredibly powerful educational tools that allow for greater imagination, especially among younger audiences. The intimacy and empathy that well-developed comic characters induce in readers is truly inimitable. We are able to take the audiences into spaces where documentary filmmakers and photographers often do not have access.
Webcomics are also unfettered by the rules of syndication and censorship. While some do adhere to certain levels of restriction and censorship, most are profane and frequently reference or depict controversial themes by controversial means in terms of art, language, and style. With these often profane or simply non-normalized comics, webcomics appeal to a small demographic and use the web as a distribution method to access their decentralized readers.
Webcomics on feminism
Witty, sarcastic and not afraid to call a spade by its name, young comics designer stand up against inequality, ignorance and injustice. Even as the foundations of free expression are shaky today, and bans and sedition charges are looming over us, artists don’t hold back. Here are some examples:
“Project Crocodiles” by Thomas Mathieu
“You must be dressed like that because you want me to fuck you.” The young girl who that comment is aimed at walks away, with beads of sweat glistening on her forehead. The jibe comes from a sneering crocodile. Welcome to “Project Crocodiles”, or the world of everyday sexism drawn by Thomas Mathieu.
“Project Crocodiles” tackles a huge range of subjects. Beyond the problem of women being harassed in the street, it looks at workplace harassment, communication problems between men and women, ways of dealing with provocation, slut-shaming and male privilege.
Thomas studied the art of graphic novels in Brussels. Before launching “Project Crocodiles”, he had already addressed the subject of relationships between men and women in his graphic novel “Drague-Misère”, a collection of stories about him and his friends’ love lives and attempts to flirt with women. Through his blog, Thomas appealed to his female readers to send him their own, personal experiences, which he then illustrated and published.
In his stories, Thomas depicts all men as crocodiles. “It works well, visually. Above all, I wanted it to tie in with the image of a predator that’s found in the world of picking up women or even assault. As you can see, I draw them in a childish way so that they’re not too frightening. But I didn’t want it to be too one-dimensional or just a caricature of a mean crocodile, because that would be too simplistic.”
Women’s reactions to the project have been overwhelmingly positive, while men’s have been more mixed. Even though many men support the project, others have accused him of being a traitor to all men.
“Culottées” by Pénélope Bagieu
“We always tell girls to believe in themselves, to dream big, and to boldly do what they want with their lives, and yet, there were so few brave female role-models in the books and movies I had when I was young. You can’t be something you never see. And there are so many amazing women, throughout history, in different cultures, who simply didn’t make it to the history books. “
As an answer for this demand, Pénélope Bagieu created more profound, in-depth comics chronicling the lives of famous real-life women, as in her series “Culottées”. It is an ongoing series of mini bios of notable women, such as astronaut Mae Jemison, philanthropist Peggy Guggenheim, activist Naziq al-Abid and many more. French cartoonist charted the battles and achievements of these women who have gone mostly unnoticed even though they deserve to be hailed as heroes and role models. Her main aim was to create mini-stories which will be playful, funny, moving and engaging enough to interest multiple demos.
Pénélope Bagieu came to prominence with her wonderful autobiographical cartoons “Ma vie est tout à fait fascinante“ and “Joséphine“. Both are very funny portraits of highly flawed — and relatable — young women.
For Katarzyna Babis, an art student living in Lublin, Poland, feminism is about women being free to make their own choices, without societal judgments.
She creates webcomics to show some of the criticisms and double standards that women face in their daily lives about the way they dress or the life choices that they make.
Frustrated by the misconceptions about feminism and feminists that she often hears, Katarzyna hopes the comic will initiate a larger conversation about the way women are perceived, and the expectations they are so often saddled with.
“I would like to take away the bad rep of the word ‘feminism,’ broaden the awareness of the actual agenda of this movement, and of the need for discussion about the way in which women are treated in our society.”
Article by our amazing Kika (Nomadways team), who studies Gender Studies — Intersectionality and Change at Linkoping University, Sweden.
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