On Oppression, Intersectionality, and Solidarity
I wanted to share this comic that I saw thanks to my friend Chelsea.
Word! I love that this was this person’s final project, the comic highlights a common misogyny in nerd culture and it is so bravely personal. Total respect for the feminism here, this person showing their own struggle and being vulnerable, while recognizing another perspective for women in nerd culture who is also struggling even though they might conform to narrow guidelines of beauty-based-on-size.
If you relate to being left out by the rampant sexism in comics and nerd culture, if you relate to being belittled, objectified, harassed, etc. based on your gender despite thinking that nerd space should be a safe space… Well, you might also want to check out this amazing article by super intelligent nerd, Rachel Ediden. http://feminspire.com/idiot-nerd-girl-has-a-posse-taking-back-the-meme/
Speaking of super intelligent nerds, I went to the really awesome panel “Looking Past the Target Audience” at SCF this past weekend, but missed it at ECCC. It was really great to listen to the conversation with Rachel Edidin, Andy Khouri, Faith Erin Hicks, Scotty Iseri, Sfé M., and David Walker sitting on the panel. There was a lot on intersectionality, which was crucial! Intersectionality is a concept often used to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are INTERCONNECTED and cannot be examined separately from one another. Third Wave Feminism, especially, thrived on the concept of intersectionality in order to redefine Feminism as inclusive. The concept of intersectionality first came from legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989 and is largely used in critical theories, especially Feminist theory, when discussing systematic oppression.
For me, one of the most moving moments of the panel was when Sfé was talking about how an aspect of their process for creating Kyle & Atticus was to write a gender queer character with positive support and acceptance in their life. I think it really hit home for me because a lot of the stuff Matt, Marco, and I have been dealing with Matt’s parents understanding what our polyamorous relationship means and learning that I am a queer atheist. Essentially, he’s been coming out to them and it’s been really hard. That in addition to struggles I have always had with people being unsupportive toward me. This struggle, having parents, acquaintances, lovers, and even a long-time best-friend have acted as if they are shamed by me or have been demeaning or hateful toward me for any of the various reasons people have antagonistic or problematic relationships with me. That I am a woman, that I am queer, that I am polyamorous, that I am or do all these things that they can’t relate to, that I fall under any of the labels in their mind that they view as “bad” and then I go on to dare to have opinions, ideas, boundaries, and confidence to be myself. I am motivated to work with kids exactly because I want to try to be that influence in their life, to be the person who says, “You have a voice and it’s important.” Or, “I accept who you are and I will treat you as a person with their own autonomy and agency.” To be a supportive adult. To be an educator that empowers kids to think for themselves and to be themselves. I write about my experiences in the hopes that I can grow and that I might provide support to peers who can see themselves in me because I realize the positive impact that people have had in my life by being themselves and being open about it, as I have written about a few times on this blog. I really respected that Sfé talked about writing supportive roles in the comics on purpose, because I agree with her that creating those characters in stories feeds into the mothers and friends and parents and whoever seeing themselves in the life of a gender queer person or other underrepresented, marginalized people in our society. We really need those role models.
I also want to give huge props to the panel “The Big Picture,” where a bit of gender and intersectionality issues were discussed kind of inadvertently, with Alison Baker, Kelly Sue DeConick, Jen Vaughn, Shannon Watters, and Emi Lenox. As well as the focus of the panel, discussing how the internet has changed comics, especially independent publishing as, to my knowledge, most of the panelists had roots in indie comics and zines.
Personally, I believe that one of the biggest steps in activism is showing up, being visible.
If you have the ability and patience just to be there, that is a huge step.
Do what you can, REALIZE WHAT YOU CAN DO.
Do say hello to the creators and organizations you do want to support. Do buy zines and comics or whatever from the creators you think deserve it for whatever reason you value them. Do go to the panels that talk about issues you care about. Do say thank you (in person or online) to the panelists, we can’t hear it enough. Do blog/tweet/whatever about it. Do talk to your friends about the creations and panels you do enjoy or support. Do volunteer for an organization you think serves a valuable role in your community. Do go to an event that highlights creators and issues that you feel are important or meaningful. Do start your own event, especially if it’s an event you wish existed but doesn’t. Do make your own stories and creative work that reflects your experience, your passion, your values, your ideas. Do listen to or support the people who have different experiences than yourself.
I long lost the patience to volunteer for SCF, but I try to keep showing up to support the people who I do see promoting real conversations and ethical work I commend those who love comics and other cismale/white dominated communities. I have been able to devote myself to working on the Portland Zine Symposium as an organizer for so many years because it strives and works hard to be a safe space, an inclusive community with anti-oppressive ethics.
Also, I want to take this opportunity to promote the Women of Color Zine Symposium at PSU happening this summer, on June 8th. This is such an important event to support to me. It was started by Tonya Jones, a long-time Portland Zine Symposium attendee, powerful writer, and zine educator. The WOC Zine group that she started has self-published three issues of “Women of Color: How to Live in the City of Roses and Avoid the Pricks.” All three issues are available for $3 from the group, Powell’s Bookstore, and In Other Words. The zines can also be checked out from the Multnomah County Library!
And, speaking of the “Women of Color: How to Live in the City of Roses and Avoid the Pricks” zine, they have a submissions call up right now for their fifth issue! The fifth issue is themed for interviews and it’s an opportunity to interview a fantastic woman of color/person of color that you know doing great work in Portland and contribute to a great project. You can read more on their website, http://wocpdxzines.wordpress.com/woc-zine-collective-submissions.
If there is a theme to this post, it is that, whatever your battle in coping with oppression, you are not alone.
Keep showing up and we’ll find each other at all the nerd cons and wherever.