March 4, 2010

Comics, Cleavage, and You (or…well, me)

Posted in Art, Body Image, culture, diversions, Patriarchy, sexuality, Society tagged , , , at 2:06 pm by Eostre

I will state right up front that this is a topic that most people who will read this will only care about in the context of Bigger Things, as a small sign of more widespread cultural attitudes and whatnot. This is perhaps as it should be for those of us in school who spend most of out time thinking about Bigger Things.

But for me, this is something that is close to my nerdy little heart. You see, I love comics. I love reading them, I love monthly issues, I love origin stories and dark reinventions. That’s right, I am coming out of the comic-nerd closet. I don’t just love the Intellectual ones, either. Sure, I am completely up for Persepolis, but I have a gooshy, happy place in my heart for Sandman, The Justice League, and all of their sundry friends. I love the feel of the glossy pages and the bold typeface. 

Being a female comics reader can often be problematic, however. For, although things have vastly improved in the last 20 years or so, women in comics are often, frankly, ridiculous. To start, they are usually drawn with absurd measurements, and their body stats tend to be listed as something like ” 5’10” 102 lbs” (they don’t mention the Double-D boobs and lady-wrestler like muscles, all of which would make her something closer to at least 180, and that’s being generous), and then there are the outfits. This is well-known territory, so I will be brief. Spandex on a man, while still clingy, is nothing like spandex on one of these barbie-zons, with every curve lovingly drawn and accentuated. Yes, comics were for a long time drawn mostly by men for men, and many assume that is still the case. And titillation has long been a staple of comics fare, both within the superhero genre and outside of it.

So the graphic genre has well-earned its reputation for what can at best be called objectification, at worst misogyny (for example, one of the best known female superheroes, Wonder Woman, originated as little more than a thinly veiled BDSM fantasy), and it doesn’t help that many (if not most) women in the genre are attached to some other, stronger, male character (i.e. Batgirl, Hawkgirl, Supergirl, She-Hulk, etc), which, frankly, is one of my main complaints. If I have to look at overly voluptuous women in spandex, they could at least be more autonomous.

Of course, there are exceptions, and they normally come as part of a group (X-Men, for example, have a lovely cast of

She Hulk beating Iron Man at arm-wrestling, the cover for one of the upcoming Girl Comics Issues

 strong female and male characters). And even those who have been attached to other, male superheroes as part of an entourage are getting their own stories and features (I am particularly excited about the upcoming Girl Comics from Marvel).

So, after that not-very-brief-even-though-it-was-meant-to-be introduction, my point. I am willing to put up with some cleavage and porn-face in my comics, because if I weren’t my options for reading them would be nearly non-existent. And hey, feminism is all about making space within patriarchal structures for female voices, using and twisting those structures to make small pockets for women, but in a genre that is becoming more diversified as to who is writing/drawing the stories, the progress is far far too slow. Yes, there are better stories being told about female super-heroes than there were 40 years ago (and a few better heroes joining the canon), but the objectification is still so widespread and pervasive as to be the norm, rather than the exception.

I love the genre (and believe me when I say that super-hero comics are a genre, not a medium) I am too much of a feminist to not cringe at least once an issue, and I wish that weren’t so.

Since this is a topic I am super passionate about, there will be one more post next week addressing the good side of women in super-hero comics, including the ways that existing characters and norms have been used to create space for feminist readings, and the genre/medium distinction. So, as always, STAY TUNED…

Advertisements

February 4, 2010

Turning My Black Thumb Green

Posted in Art, diversions, Soul, waiting tagged , , , , at 5:19 am by Eostre

Flowers in water color pencils, done on a rainy day in winter

 My friend Becky once told me about this idea she had, where she thought of her life as a compass with the needle constantly spinning. She said that in her life her interests periodically shift. Sometimes she is intensely interested in poetry, sometimes art or fiction or music. Without knowing why, her internal compass will shift, sometimes pointing at one, sometimes at another.

This analogy has stuck with me, because I feel the same way. I have periods of intensely prolific artistic output, but what I am doing, and what I am interested in, is constantly shifting. The usual suspects are painting, writing, making jewelry, knitting, sewing, and crocheting. Over the past 10 years or so I have shifted between these things, spending a month or so painting canvas after canvas, or crocheting a whole menagerie of stuffed animals for my niece. Then just as quickly as I started I stop and pick up something else, and I am writing short stories or building up inventory for a craft fair. I

one of my necklaces

have no control over the shifts, they are subject to some higher authority, and they don’t consult me (this is the case in other aspects of my life as well). I think perhaps it is a combination of restless energy and boredom, most of the time.

I have been sewing a lot lately, but now that has shifted, and I have taken up gardening. This is a new thing for me, because every plant I have ever owned has died a sad, lingering death. I get them verdant and perky, and all too soon they droop and wither, and I never know why. But this time is going to be different, I tell you! I have the right soil and I am planting the seeds, I water carefully and according to the directions on the seed packet, I am determined to make something grow. I want to watch creation that I help along, but don’t control, unlike all of my other cycles. I think this is a step forward.

At least until I shift again.

The first growth in my new garden

September 21, 2009

Spirituality in Images and Art

Posted in Art, SoCal, Soul, Spirituality at 4:46 pm by LadySophie

When I was in 8th grade, I took at art class and felt I was destined to be an artist. I loved to paint, work with charcoals, and sketch. It’s funny to me now because I am such a verbal person – everything I do in life right now revolves around words. But what I found in art, was a way to express myself even beyond words.

100_0466

I led retreats off and on in my last ministry – and I learned about art cards at a conference. They are sets of postcards you can buy that have fine art printed on them in small form. I used them as an introduction exercise. I.e. “everyone choose a card that represents who you are and share it with the group.” It was a way to take us deeper as a group more quickly. You would be amazed at the depth of meaning people found in art.

Since I have been in SoCal, one of my fav places to visit is the Getty. My profile pic is actually the floating labyrinth in the garden there. I’ll attach a few more pics here for you to see. The Getty is such a fulfilling experience. One room is my favorite. It is a room of women. One scene is a wedding in Greece with women dancers. Another frame has a portrait of a regally dressed woman by the beach. Another is a haunting portrait of what looks like a sad wife. I am always stirred in that room.

Not only do I find meaning in images others have created, but I find images inside as well. If I stop and listen, images come to mind of what I am feeling or desiring. In my journaling, I could imagine the place where my soul could rest, could be myself, could be restored. It is a beach house (of course). Huge windows that face the ocean. Crisp white couches – the comfortable kind that you can nap on. A beautiful kitchen. Rooms for different things I enjoy. Only peace lives there. I can walk around without my shoes on. No one else can go there unless they are invited. That image has stayed with me this year in a powerful way.

Even if you are not an art person or a journaling person – try both one time. Go to a local art museum. Sit down for 10 minutes and be still. See what images come to mind. What a gift – that we have this ability to connect our soul to the world around us. Art and images help me see what is inside my own heart spiritually  – and express it in a way words never could.

100_1245