Yesterday, Allison Bechdel posted a new strip for her comic Dykes to Watch Out For (DTWOF) for the first time in over eight years. Like Chris Baldwin’s Bruno, DTWOF was remarkable partly because it covered a fascinating span of political eras, but delivered a queer perspective on the happenings of the world. It was also funny, poignant, and engagingly dramatic; characters broke up with their partners, got married, got divorced, cheated, and did all the fun, wild things that draw viewers to soap operas. However, unlike most soap operas, DTWOF took place in feminist bookstores, organic co-ops, and during protest marches. Bechdel was never afraid to poke fun at a much beloved queer subculture that, for many, was also the source of family, home, and safety.
I am a bit too young and came out a bit too late to have enjoyed Dykes to Watch Out For as the characters’ stories unfolded, but I did get my hands on the delightfully chunky omnibus during a summer spent almost entirely in the Iowa City Public Library. While I wouldn’t come out for another year or so, Bechdel’s comic offered a look into a world that I craved: queer, diverse, and radical. Many of the women of Dykes to Watch Out For devoted their lives to activism, in one form or another. Clarice is an environmental lawyer, Toni a freedom to marry advocate, Lois a drag king invested in trans rights and fucking up the gender binary, and Sparrow the director of a domestic violence shelter. Until her brilliantly named feminist bookstore succumbed to rise of Barnes and Noble, minor character Jezanna owned Madwimmin Books, and employed various other characters.
This new strip hints that these women have continued to fight; about three seconds after entering Sparrow’s home, Clarice finalizes a vigil, asks for more charter buses most likely for a protest march, and calls Paul Ryan to object to Steven Bannon’s appointment. However, in the strip’s accompanying blog post, Bechdel offers neither call to action nor comfort. Instead, she simply explains that “last week they [the DWTOF characters] started flooding back.” It’s the faux magazine cover, not the strip, that reveals why.
On the cover, each characters’ face is starkly familiar: Mo is fiercely determined, Sydney looks cautious, Ginger seems grim, Lois – who, at this point, may have a black, trans daughter-in-law to protect – holds back fear, Sparrow is exhausted, Clarice shares that exhaustion along with Mo’s determination, and Toni looks a bit uneasy. While these are emotions many of us have been cycling through in the election, it feels as if Bechdel is telling us each character’s reaction is also her reaction; an amalgam of doubt, anger, resolve and fright. Perhaps we are all too nauseous to swallow free-range turkey, but after a bit of wine, we’ll choke it down and move on to the tear-salted cranberry sauce.
This comic spoke to me, and it said: We are here. We are queer. We are family. We will gather to celebrate, to hold each other up, and to stand up, and fight back. As today is Thanksgiving, the perverted American holiday that celebrates indigenous people’s selflessness being rewarded with white, colonial genocide, please consider supporting the NoDAPL movement in the following ways:
Donate to the Oceti Sakowin Camp to help them winterize.
If you cannot donate, call the police departments and officials in charge of the dangerous, militarized law enforcement and ask them to demilitarize and stop torturing and threatening peaceful protestors. Phone numbers can be found here and here.
If you have other links and suggestions for ways that people can provide support, please provide them in the comments below!