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transmovieogrificationLOThis is a comic from Metro a few months back. Next issue I’ve got two pages of comics in it, which is very exciting. I was even commissioned to draw Lorde and Eleanor Catton – you’ll have to let me know if I got their likenesses!

I got back from talking at the Women’s Cartoon Colloquium on Friday night. It was such an intense and interesting day. I got to meet some other awesome cartoonists, including Robyn Kennealy, Hayley Heartbreak, Jem Yoshioka and Sharon Murdoch, New Zealand’s only female political cartoonist. Although I personally think that NZ has lots of political cartoonists – it’s just that not so many get paid to draw a frame for a newspaper.

Jem Yoshioka wrote up the event very eloquently, but here’s my brief take: we all agreed that there are lots of women making comics out there, it’s just that a lot have been forgotten or else they’re doing the menial jobs in the comics industry – for instance they are the colourists at Marvel and DC. The dominating paradigm for newspaper cartoons is the grotesque and the masculine, so it’s refreshing to have someone like Sharon Murdoch, whose comics are cutting and visually appealing. I blathered my way through my speech – I think my impulse to entertain overcame my impulse to sound intelligent and there were some formidable intellects tackling the subject. I talked about exploring the domestic as a political statement and observed that a lot of young female illustrators and cartoonists were producing hyper-sexualised, nude, come-and-get-it imagery of women. Here I betrayed my fusty, came-of-age-in-the-nineties attitudes. I am so confused about this. I can see the argument that it’s empowering to take imagery traditionally produced by men and claim ownership, just like the LGBT community claimed words like ‘queer’, but then I also think is it really empowering? The women still look so idealised, so coquettish, so arranged – to me they’re not expressing their sexuality, rather their desire to be desired.

Anyway, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Am I right? Am I wrong? Can both truths exist simultaneously? I was always struck by Linda Clark’s reasons for quitting radio and going into law – that she came to journalism seeing things in black and white, and then found that she could no longer see things so clearly – that both sides of arguments were compelling. I feel like that quite a lot.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. 18/11/2013 1:32 pm

    My take is that in the 90s there was a widespread feminist belief that reclaiming ownership of female sexuality was empowering (sorry, 90s buzzword!). However over the last 10 years I’ve read some perspectives on this that make me uncomfortable with this point of view.

    This is largely because even if it is women drawing the sexualized images, it still reflects the male gaze that is prevalent in our society, and does little to subvert it. In addition capitalism has become even more extreme in its commodification of the female body since the 90s – and that perhaps in drawing these kind of images, what an artist is doing is perpetuating a system which only ever seems to consider women as sexual objects.

    That’s not to say I don’t see the perspective of women reclaiming ownership of their sexuality through their art; just that I think it’s perhaps more complex that JUST that. And that if an artist chooses that path, then hopefully they’re also considering the wider context that their art is being viewed in; the way others perceive their imagery and whether it really is broadening the way women are being perceived, or in fact limiting it?

    As a male artist, I used to enjoy drawing tough but sexy women. Now however I prefer to hide my character’s “sexy” aspects and focus on other aspects of her character – who she is, and what she does. I think this is because I’m too chicken to deal with how complex this issue has become!

    Interestingly – I think what I’ve seen of Rachel Royale’s imagery of women is extremely successful in avoiding the problems stated above; so I know it can be done!

    Like you Sarah, I find both sides of the argument compelling; and I’m certainly not wed to these points of view, and curious about other people’s ideas on this.

    • Sarah Laing permalink
      19/11/2013 9:42 am

      Thanks, Damon, for your insightful thoughts! And btw I love your comic in Faction – it’s very cool.

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