Part of the Problem

I remember being about 10, and playing the X-Men arcade game that was basically a ripoff of Street Fighter, only you could be Dazzler instead of Cammy. Over my shoulder, I heard a kid behind me say, “A GIRL?”

Back then, it didn’t bother me. I wore it with a badge of pride. Yes, I am a girl who likes comic books and video games. 20 years later, nothing’s changed, except that now I draw comic books of my own. I’m not on the Kubert level of success by any measure, but I am happy as hell that I am where I am right now. I’m very lucky to have a great writer who’s easy to work with and flexible on ideas.

I’m just wondering though, why in the hell I still have to hear “A GIRL?” from grown men in this industry and elsewhere.

The year 2000 and beyond held a lot of hopes for me. Maybe we’d have flying cars, or some sort of other incredible advancement. We have, in many ways, come a long way. But in terms of ending sexism, we’re still in a roadside ditch.

This applies to my fellow ladies too. Yes, there is a little something called “internalized misogyny”. When you “compete” with the rest of us, look down on us for whatever reason (it’s usually a bad one), bully us, or police us, you are part of the problem. Especially if you count yourself as “one of the boys” because the rest of us are “too catty”. Speak for yourself.  You do no one any favors by othering us and erasing our experiences. We need each other.

This needs to end. It starts with you. No one else will do it for us. We need to create our own safe spaces within the comics community. Spaces which will help create an atmosphere in the larger community within which future female creators can flourish.

I’ve been doing freelance art for various indie and small press comics, both web and print, for about 5 years now. Over the years, I’ve been harangued, harassed, stalked, shunned, othered, and treated like an unwelcome guest amongst my supposed peers. I have also met amazing people with whom I’ve created strong bonds.

However, the bad stuff needs to be addressed. I should not have to feel like I’m imposing. Like I’m sneaking into the Honeycomb Hideout of He-Man Woman Haters in order to plug my wares. People tell me, “Take a chance! What’s the worst they can say, ‘No’?”. There’s a lot worse than no, that can and has been said to, and about me.

The level of casual bigotry and hostility (despite claims to the contrary) I’ve encountered for merely showing my work is astounding. I’ve seen male artists get some flak, but not to that same degree. They’re treated with kid gloves.

Maybe you’re a dude and you’re reading this and thinking about whether you’ve done that to someone. Or maybe you’re getting your word program ready to flame away. Hold up. People often forget, especially in the Internet Age, that words have power. And no, it’s not because we give them power. These words, these actions, have been built into the foundations of our society for centuries, and in order for us to finally unlearn them, we have to look within and analyze our words, actions, and thinking. Trust me, it works. It’s good for the blood. Try it sometime.

I’m tired of hearing “A GIRL?” Because really. It’s 2012. We’re still saying this? We have computers the size and weight of clipboards and we still have to put up with sexism (among other things)?

Back in 2007, I said to myself, “I don’t think we’ll see a black president in my lifetime. Maybe someday down the line, but not now.” I’m glad to have been proven wrong. (That said, racial bigotry is another problem in the comics community that needs to be addressed and eradicated). I would like to see this become a trend: Please, I beg of you. Prove me wrong.

As always, if you’d like to contribute to Women Write About Comics, or have a question about our upcoming carnival, you can reach the editor at

Stephanie O'Donnell

Stephanie O'Donnell

Stephanie O’Donnell is a freelance illustrator and comic artist. She collaborates with Greg Carter on the webcomic Perfect Agent. And while you’re clicking things, you can find her portfolio <a href="">here</a>.

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