I don’t feel like working on comics right now, so I thought I’d do a blog post. I have been reading the Collected Wimmin’s Comix (published by Fantagraphics). I’ve had it since August, but am only now getting around to reading it (shout out to all the people out there that have stacks of books they need to read while still buying more books ALL THE TIME).
Anyway, I started reading Wimmin’s Comix and I’ve been blown away. Here are my thoughts:
I would say the vast majority of these comics don’t hold up, as with most underground comics from the 1960s-1980s (there are a few exceptions to this, for example Bitchy Bitch or Dykes to Watch Out For by Allison Bechdel. Allison Bechdel actually talks about how in one of her collections that her earliest work is pretty rough, but gay publications were so desperate for comics they would publish practically anything. The editors interviewed at the beginning of Complete Wimmin’s Comix say the same thing, especially for early issues). The overall quality of the comics definitely improve over time. While the early issues are rough but by the late 1980s issues there is some genuinely entertaining comics included in the issues.
I can’t believe how much sexist bullshit women put up with in the past. I don’t know how they handled it! While it’s true that sexism hasn’t gone away, you can see how it’s evolved and become more subtle through this collection. I have always cognitively known this, but seeing it written in the authors’ first person perspectives has made me internalize it in a way I never have before. I am really thankful for the hard fought battle that women from previous generations have fought on my behalf.
The way these authors want to fall in love and find husbands while at the same time being part of a movement that calls out their oppression at men’s hands is interesting to see. Dating back in the 1960s must have been horrendous. The authors’ views on sex are crude and raw in a similar way to their male underground cartoonist counterparts.
I will say there is a lot of racism in this collection. There is a letter mentioned in the beginning of the anthology by one of the editors that was sent to them accusing the collective of not really being women, as women would never publish such racist and sexist material. The sexist material isn’t really apparent to me (minus small things, primarily that occasionally the authors tear other women down instead of lifting us all up.)
However, the racism really is present. The editor interviewed in the introduction was flippant about this letter as though the accusations were ridiculous. There is a lot of fetishizing native american and east asian cultures, and many of the black people portrayed in the comics have a racist phonetic accent (you literally have a comic celebrating Harriet Tubman saying things like, “no sir, masta”). To be fair, phonetic accents are much more common back in early comics than today (primarily because they are irritating as fuck to read), so these accents may not be seen as quite as egregious.
The comics from the 1960s and 1970s genuinely have characters saying, “groovy,” and I found that funny.
There are some LGBTQ comics in these issues as early as the 1970s, when being gay was still a crime. Seeing accounts of that lesbians dealing with that level of homophobia is both heart breaking and really compelling.
That’s all I can think of at the moment! I have a number of blog posts I want to write, but I need to focus on making more comics and am about to start another temp job next week, so that probably won’t happen in the foreseeable future.
Anyway, bye until next time!