BLOG Feminism, Tokenism and Positive Discrimination at Kapow!

Despite the internet controversy, Stacey Whittle isn’t in favour of positive discrimination at the Kapow! con

Girl-Wonder.org is a collection of sites dedicated to female characters and creators in mainstream comics.

The comic convention Kapow! released its guest list last week, unleashing a storm upon the geeky Twitterverse. Though the guest list remains incomplete, as it currently stands there are few woman guests announced so far. Mark Millar states on Twitter that Kapow! is a superhero convention and the reason there are few female comic creators on their guest list is that there are no UK female superhero/mainstream creators to invite.

Do you know what I think about that? I think okay. I think, well that’s not my cup of tea anyway. As much as I adore comics, superhero comics are not for me. I have a list of female UK creators I adore, and I can see them at Thoughtbubble, a comic convention aimed squarely at me, which welcomes me with open arms. I can see them at Cardiff Expo. I can see them at MCM Expo and Hi-Ex. All of these fabulous conventions are aimed right at me as a big fat indie fan. And when the majority of UK comic conventions are much more aimed at the Indie crowd these days, why are we fussing so much that the mainstreamers get one?

Rich Johnston on Bleeding Cool states it could be a problem: “Does it matter? It does a bit. Kapow is presenting itself as the face of Comic Con, to the exclusion of other shows, but when it does that it can set the agenda, the way people believe the comics industry is, and as a result, can be self-fulfilling.”

I refute this absolutely! Kapow! will never be the face of Comic Con to me and as an all-round geeky convention along the lines of San Diego it seems to me that the winner hands down in that category is the SFX Weekender with something for literally everyone in the geeky world. What I think is a problem however is that some UK female creators may be shoved into this guest list for the wrong reasons, not for the amazing or outstanding work she has done; not for her talent, her creativity or her impact on the rest of the comic world but because she is female and no other reason. I tell you, I would not want to be that female and have my confidence in myself or my product lessened in that way.

The very lovely and talented Paul Cornell has come to a decision on a way to deal with these gender issues, he says, “If I’m on, at any convention this year, a panel that doesn’t have a 50/50 gender split (I’ll settle for two out of five), I’ll hop off that panel, and find a woman to take my place.”

I like Paul Cornell a whole lot, but if he tried to offer me that seat I would say no, thank you kindly. I would want to earn my seat on that panel. And I have. I have sat on several panels over the last few years, one on podcasting, several on small and independent press and I shall be co-hosting a massive 2000AD panel in Cardiff next week. These are subjects that I have some knowledge and a lot of passion about and I know that those are the reasons that I was asked to be part of those panels and not because I happen to have ovaries. I’m very proud that I was asked to do them and they have absolutely nothing to do with my gender.

I feel that I should point out most ardently that I am a feminist and very proud to be so. I can’t bear to see women being knocked down for being women and not being represented in a way that they should be represented. For example, a wonderful woman I know co organises a rather spiffy convention with her partner and in a recent interview about that her name was left out and only his mentioned. That is horrendous; that is what we should be up in arms about. Actual inequality, actual sexism. Let’s band together and not stand for that nonsense.

Laura Sneddon in her big twitter interview with Mark Millar says on her website that tokenism is not offensive. I actually agree with Mark Millar on this. I do find tokenism offensive – very much so!  Speaking personally I do not want parity regardless of circumstances. I want the things I’ve achieved – like being able to write a blog for SFX Magazine, that I auditioned and was interviewed for, like my podcasting, like editing and publishing my own comic anthology, that I’ve worked hard for – I want these things to be judged on  merit, on the work and on nothing else.  The way the men are judged.  That is feminism to me and that is equality to me.  This is my own opinion, it may not tally with yours and I respect your right to your opinion absolutely and utterly – but please remember, you don’t speak for me as a woman, I do.