The Lack of Visible Women and the Need for Support

Someone I don’t know looks at the lack of visible female creators at indy publishers. While discussing possible reasons for this discrepancy, someone in the comments points out a very real fact:

making a comic is much more *labor-intensive* than writing a story. And indie-comics aren’t going to make you rich. So it becomes a (second, or third) job. Even writing a comic is more work-intensive than writing a story, because you have to put in a lot of time communicating with your artist in order to make it roll. Unfortunately, most women in our society already have a second or third job that men don’t: taking care of the house, the kids, the men, etc. They don’t have *time* for making comics: they’re busy doing the work that doesn’t get credited on the cover. Or, to put it another way: Behind almost every male indie-comics creator that I know much about, there’s a woman (or, sometimes, a boyfriend/heterosexual life partner) who gets thanked in interviews for giving them the chance to work. Behind almost every female indie-comics creator that I know much about, there’s a man (except a few lucky ones with girlfriends) – an amazing, wonderful man who also does indie comics, and understands, and is willing to share the other work equally. Women in general just don’t seem as likely as men to find a mate who’ll do the housework and pay the mortgage just so that their girl has time to draw.

I am still coming to terms with never being able to do what I love (reviewing comics and writing this blog) on anything approaching a full-time basis, and I’m lucky enough to have a husband who does a lot of housework. But there’s still the full-time job and the family expectations (although I love spending time with them).

Not to mention connections. Fellow male fans I’ve known for years and who recognize my interest in and knowledge of comics still can’t see me as “one of the guys”. And those guys are who they turn to when they need a favor or have a job or want a co-worker.

9 Responses to “The Lack of Visible Women and the Need for Support”

  1. Scott Hassler Says:

    hmmmm, if only i could get my cat to pull his weight around the house here i might be able to get more work done!

  2. Jane Irwin Says:

    Neither Paul nor I gets the opportunity to do what we love full time, and yet we still labor on. Comics is enough of a passion that we’d both still make the art even if we didn’t get paid (lord knows there was a long enough dry spell before the books each broke even…).

    Currently we’re both working more-or-less full time at outside jobs, and it’s my goal to get the house paid off in the next 10 years or so. When that happens, or as we get closer, we can look at possibly letting one or the other of us quit outside work. Till then, we don’t have that luxury… and even with a low overhead, it’s a tricky situation. These days, it really pays to have somebody employed with health insurance.

    Still, the important thing is that the comics get made. So back to the drawing board I go.

    Oh, and for the record — I think you’re “one of the guys”. You rock. :)

  3. John Says:

    These issues still surprise me, but then again, I’m a Stay At Home Dad (SAHD) who also Cartoons for a living, so I don’t get out much.

    As Jane points out above, if you really want to do this stuff, you’re going to do it, regardless of whether or not you are making money, or if anyone is reading your work.

    I suppose this could be made a gender issue, for the reasons stated, but honestly, life is hard for many of us. I had to work ten years in this business before making a dime. Yes, my Wife was there to support me at times, but in all fairness, I also helped her go through her Master’s program, and right now I stay at home with the kids.

    The difference between me and a Housewife? I’m expected to work at the same time I raise the kids. Trust me… a Man who stays home with the kids? If I didn’t make money freelancing, I’d be ‘nothing but a bum’. Believe me, I’ve been called worse, and treated worse.

    Gender aside, I guess we’re all lucky if we have somebody to share this crazy life with, and to support us in any way.

    As for connections, again, I wouldn’t know. Nobody has opened any doors for me. From an outsider’s point of view, I’ve always considered that an age issue, rather than gender. Young people without kids have the opportunities to go to conventions. Me, I’ll probably be at Chucky Cheese’s while you’re all enjoying yourselves in San Diego. :0)

  4. James Schee Says:

    It is too bad that so many indy creators, and independant comic commentators, can’t support themselves through their passion. At least for creators there was the avenue of going to do a side job with one of the bigger companies. Though that avenue has shrunk a lot over recent years with so many books done by an ever shrinking number of creators.

    I think over time I’ve come to think of you more as “one of the guys” so to speak. Though since 85 % of my friends are female anyway that might mean something different.

    Oddly some of my female friends easily take me in as “one of the girls”, discussing things like underwear, makeup and stuff. Before going “oops James, hope we didn’t make you uncomfortable.”

  5. David Oakes Says:

    “Women are too busy being Moms” might explain why there are no female CEOs. And to the extent it does, it will explain why there are no “successful” female comics creators. (Define “successful” in a field where even the most well known figures still have a “day job”…) The problem is that it fails to explain why there are any women in comics, or any other job. Obviously there are no female teachers, quality assurance engineers, or strippers because they are all too busy cleaning up after guys.

    There are female Assistant Editors, at almost parity with the males. There are female Colorists, not as many as there could be, but certainly more than Writers. And writing is much more “Mom freindly”. For that matter, there are female Writers for books (easily equal to males, all told), and female Artists for the Fine Arts (perhaps even more than males), not to mention female Actors and female Musicians. All of which are creative endevors that require a great deal of extra work, and are most often accomplished with the help of someone willing to support you until you become famous. So where is the Ashlee Simpson of Comics? (And would they admit it…) This isn’t about support, this is about women wanting to enter comics in the first place.

    For that matter, isn’t the stereotype that all men in comics are socially maladroit losers who couldn’t get a date if they kept her in the fridge? Doesn’t the lack of female creators simply prove that women are happier, well-adjusted, and capable of sustaining a relationship?

    (On a serious note, I think that John is right, comics are an age thing. Most of the creators I know are single, or without kids. Of those I know with kids, there seem to be a lot more “house husbands” in comics than in any other field I am familiar with. It’s not like the “kept” women of the 1950’s were using their copious free time to create comics either.)

  6. Johanna Says:

    Jane, thank you very much for the inspiration. I should focus more on the wonderful things I get to do instead of bemoaning my lack when I’m not really missing very much. You’re also very right about health insurance and fiscal responsibility.

    John, good reminders, thank you. And yes, yay for partners, in whatever relationship works for a couple.

  7. Nat Gertler Says:

    I think some of the differential being measured here is misleading; when measuring female interest in indy comics, looking at writers-looking-for-artists miss something that seems apparent to me: young female comics creators are more interested in doing the whole package than working as collaborators. There are various things I see driving this – it’s more a who-their-inspirations-are thing than a women-don’t-play-well-with-others thing. So you won’t see them to the same proportions on the writers-seeking-artists or similar lists.

    (I also think that anyone looking to equate fanfic writers with indy comics writers is missing one basic truth: conceptually, writing fanfic – stories focusing on characters you did not create – is more like writing for Marvel and DC than the basic model of “indy” writing.)

    –Nat, stay-at-home dad, writer, and publisher of many female comics creators

  8. Jane Irwin Says:

    Carla once told me: “It’s like eating a whale. You just gotta keep chewing.”

    Truer words. Honestly, I think self-publishing, or any freelancing, for that matter, is less an occupation and more like an accrual of sound business judgements. Starting out, it’s impossible to make a living, but a few years of smart decisions, cut corners and sacrifices, and you’ll be heading in the direction of profitability.

    Good luck!

  9. Nat Gertler Says:

    I think self-publishing and freelancing has to be an accrual of sound business judgments as Jane said – because if you have sound business judgment going in, you wouldn’t have gone in in the first place!

    (Let me apologize a bit for my response; I was reading a bunch of links, and realize now that some of what I was responding to was in similar threads elsewhere rather than here.)




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