#WomenOnPanels, One Year Later

Read! Cite! Invite! image by Carol Tilley

Editors Note: Comics Academe is back for 2020! In 2019 we published 15 articles, the majority of which were essays and reviews from scholars from different disciplines, some which are traditionally excluded from comics studies annotated bibliographies, such as Spanish Language Instruction, and Archaeology. But nearly one-third of which were interviews with people who would generally be considered “outside” the boundaries of mainstream comics studies: Comics educators like Jill Gerber, comics librarians at the Toronto Open Comics Library, archivists at the Queer Zine Archive Project, and museum exhibit curators at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum.

In 2020, we would like to meet if not exceed this publishing goal. Comics Academe will always be a space for public-facing scholarship, but it will also continue to highlight the projects, and people, who are doing work that some would consider tangential to comics studies.

In this spirit, the first Comics Academe post of 2020 is an interview with Adrienne Resha. You may know her as the scholar who conceptualized the revolutionary idea of the Blue Age of comics, but she is also the Vice President of the Graduate Student Caucus at the Comics Studies Society (CSS), and co-creator of the #WomenOnPanels hashtag and online database. She is also a regular contributor to WWAC, and all-around awesome person.

#WomenOnPanels will celebrate its one-year anniversary in February. How did this hashtag and database project came about, and what the connection is between the hashtag and the database?

It all happened because of social media. On February 21st of last year, I tweeted, “Comics studies has a misogyny problem and male scholars absolutely need to recognize it. It’s clear on Twitter, on our listserv, and at our conferences. It’s not just (inter)personal, it’s systemic.” The next morning, I put together a thread of women in and around the field who I am privileged to know. That afternoon, I suggested the hashtag. A few days later, Leah Misemer and I tweeted about our own research and asked others to do the same.

The hashtag was inspired by Kelly Sue DeConnick’s #VisibleWomen, and the directory, which came later, was inspired by MariNaomi’s creator databases: Cartoonists of Color, Queer Cartoonists, and Disabled Cartoonists. Our hashtag is a great way to connect folks on Twitter, but not everyone is on Twitter. Making a website for the directory was a way of reaching more people and a way to make their information readily available to others who might want to reach out and collaborate with them.

What are some stats you want to throw at me about how many people can be found in this database? Is there a way to know how many are graduate students, what field or academic discipline the person is in, or where they might be located?

There are 60 entries in the directory! It’s entirely submission based, and we don’t ask for professional titles or positions, so there’s no way of telling who’s a graduate student. We ask for affiliation, but it’s not a requirement for submission. Based on affiliation, most folks are in the United States, although a good number are not. There’s more than one independent scholar listed, two librarians, and one journalist. The scope of subjects covered within comics studies is incredible.

What has the reception been like from the comics studies community?

Positive! I was surprised by how many entries we got and how quickly, most of them in the first week of the website going public. It’s one thing to see some of these folks once or twice a year at conferences, and another thing entirely to see our names listed together in a way that they won’t be in conference programs or tables of content. The Comics Studies Society has been especially receptive. The Executive Board created a travel fund for women and scholars of marginalized gender identities that went into effect at last year’s conference. When those awards were given, my initial tweet was read. You can support the travel award for future conferences by buying t-shirts and/or mugs with “Read! Cite! Invite!” designs by Carol Tilley from CSS’s online store.

What’s next for this project? Is this something that you hope will be self-sustaining or will you have to turn over the reins to someone else?

Leah and I have used hashtag to offer different prompts throughout the year, but it isn’t just ours. I’ve seen it used in a bunch of different ways by different people. My hope is that the field continues to grow so that I can keep adding names to the directory.

Let’s finish up with some logistical questions. How can people submit to the database, and how can people looking for women to be on panels access it? Are there any requirements for being added to the directory?

Submissions have to include a name, email, and research interests. Social media and website links are optional. The directory is open to women and people of marginalized gender identities who work in or around comics studies and want to be in it. The homepage is here, the directory is here, and the submissions page is here.

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Kate Tanski

Kate Tanski

Recovering academic. Fangirl. Geek knitter.