I love books and I love meeting the amazing authors who write those books, almost as much as reading them. Some people push food or working out on other people; I push books. Two of the authors I have been pushing, are Kelly Sue DeConnick and Chelsea Cain. Hopefully I will be pushing Lidia Yuknavitch soon. Anyways, I learned that all three were doing a book signing and talk at Powell’s in Portland, Oregon. When a couple of my feminist icons do a talk somewhere, I try to show up. My friend Hannah, who is also a fan of Chelsea Cain, was excited to come with me, so we made an afternoon of it. We took note of a couple questions and responses asked of the authors and added our take.
The three authors enter the room and take their seats. They set the mood by making us laugh, Chelsea Cain shows her notebook full of questions and a Non Compliant doodle, and then we’re off.
Shit gets real… What’s your feminist agenda?
Kelly Sue’s answer was to be a better part of her community. To grow and be more authentically herself. With Bitch Planet- to express rage, it’s considered monstress when coming from women.
Courtney: Hannah and I have talked about how women aren’t allowed to feel rage, but men are. When women express rage, it usually comes across as passive aggressive because we are taught that we are not allowed to feel anger.
Hannah: I read a report a while back that many women did not recognize the feeling anger within themselves. They often interpret the feelings as sadness or annoyance. There are times I’m not sure if I’m angry, but a sure fire way to make me angry is to tell me to calm me down when I’m expressing my annoyance.
Courtney: It feels like there is no socially acceptable way for women to express rage or anger. We get frustrated with other women for not telling us directly how they feel when they are angry with us, when we are taught that we need to be friends with everyone, and that we need to not hurt anyone else’s feelings.
Hannah: It’s kind of crazy to me that being authentically yourself could be considered a feminist agenda. Shouldn’t that be something that everybody strives for? But it is. If you aren’t allowed to express your negative emotions without being told to calm down or being considered crazy, how can you be 100% yourself?
Courtney: Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. We are not saying that we are better than men, just that we want to be treated equally. I’ve never been able to understand why some people find that concept so threatening. If men are allowed to show their outrage and anger, why aren’t we?
What is your relationship to work now that Trump is in office?
Lidia responded that she has felt an increased sense of urgency since the elections. That those who participate in a society where we’re not considered real people have to work together or get picked off one by one.
Hannah: This stuck with me because it is a sentiment that I have had for a while. Also, I don’t like the feeling of paranoia this thought gives me. Shortly after the election, when V.P. Pence was booed at a showing of Hamilton by the audience, someone wrote about how they thought that the whole thing was a way to get Pence into the presidency. Reading that thought, made a lot of sense to me but it also made me feel like wearing a tin foil hat…
Kelly remembered a tweet she wrote that basically said Trump’s election made her a better citizen and a better feminist. Because it meant that there is no wriggle room. We no longer have the privilege of democracy working without us being engaged. We have to be active in the political process.
Courtney: We live in terrifying times. Rights that we have fought for are on the verge of being overturned. We do have to show up and support each other more than ever now. The news is scary right now, but we have to face it and stay informed and active within our communities. We can’t just assume that someone else will take the action of calling our governors and senators, we have to take all the action we can.
Hannah: I hope more and more people can say that Trump made them a better feminist. We’re in the nitty gritty part of the fight for equality and complacency should not be encouraged.
We segued into a Wonder Woman discussion.
Kelly hadn’t seen it yet, but she remembers being in tears at the Ghost Buster’s reboot because it showed a broad variety of women all working together towards a goal. It reminded her of the rarity of seeing your life experiences represented in a story.
Lidia remembered feeling that way the first time she saw Ripley and then waiting twenty years to see it again.
Courtney: I knew seeing Wonder Woman was going to be emotional for me. But I did kind of think I was a weirdo because of how emotional I got during certain battle scenes. But then I was reading online about how other women were also crying during those scenes and I stopped being hard on myself for it. Movies like Wonder Woman mean so much because they are rare, so they have rebounding implications regardless of how well they do and that fucking sucks.
Hannah: Movies like Wonder Woman, Ghost Busters, and the upcoming Black Panther tell stories of people who are not white males. It’s amazingly refreshing to see these stories on the big screen. We’ll know we have equality when a female directed super heroine movie flops in theatres and we give it a sequel. Until then I’ll use my power as a consumer to make more and more of those movies happen.
Courtney: One movie, one story is not representation. We need to hear and see more stories and movies from other people’s perspectives.
Hannah: Don’t forget that movie representation is not just on the screen, but behind it. We not only need more non-white non-male actors being the main characters in movies, but we need more non-white, non-male writers, directors, and producers putting these stories out there.
Do you let your kids read your work? It was the general consensus of the table that male authors don’t really get this question asked. Mom authors get it asked all the time. The implication being that the kids reading their mother’s work will start an awkward conversation…
Kelly mentioned that her nine year old son asks the most about Bitch Planet because it is a title that he is allowed to say, “So Mom, did you get a lot done on Bitch Planet today?”
Lidia talked about how there is an assumption that women’s work with artistic production is tethered to their motherhood. She said that she stopped answering the question and started answering the question that she wished they had asked.
Chelsea responded that her child has read her comics, but not her thrillers. But that she’s proud of her work in comics and books.
The following were other examples given of questions the panel of women have been asked that male writers are not asked. How do you write something like that as a mom? Bad question. What’s it like to be a woman in comics? How is your work life balance?
Courtney: Women are people, regardless of whether or not they have children. I don’t understand society’s constant need to police mothers, it’s another situation where I feel there is no winning, we literally can’t do anything right as mothers. I was a little surprised at hearing that some of the questions came from normal well meaning people. .
Hannah: Hearing these questions kind of annoyed me. I can’t really imagine what it must be like to have your identity hijacked like that. You are no longer an individual, but a mother, so therefore everything you do must be about motherhood. Why don’t male artists get asked these questions? Why are their identities not tied up in their fatherhood?
Kelly Sue said to Freak the fuck out! Good fiction comes from that place, be uncomfortable. As an artist your duty is to go where you are unsafe.
Courtney: I felt inspired by this group of women to take a more active role. Kelly Sue reminded us of the quote, “courage is not the absence of fear, but acting in spite of it”. With all the uncertainty and scariness that is happening right now, it’s easy to want to stay silent, to not act. These women reminded me that it’s okay to feel afraid, that you can still do the right thing, and standing up for people is always the right thing. Now is the time we fight and show our rage through our non compliance.
Hannah: My personal mantra is “Embrace your awkward.” Seeing these authors and hearing their words made me realize that my mantra is far more hardcore than I thought. It also reminded me that we are all in this together, so I should go out and do my part. Protest, use my power as a consumer wisely, and keep the powers that be in check.
Courtney: We overheard Kelly Sue talking to another female reader about the prevalence of non compliance tattoos that women have been getting. Kelly Sue said she heard another author say that she thought women were getting them not just because they liked and appreciated the comic, but that they found something within the comic that resonated within themselves. Which I think is completely true. Being a woman is an act of noncompliance, for me it would represent a promise to always be myself, even when it’s hard. Now I just have to get over my fear of needles.
Hannah: I got the first volume of Bitch Planet signed by Kelly Sue. When she handed it back to me, I told her that I hoped it filled me with feminist rage. She promised that it would. If it does, I may be getting a tattoo…
*post updated to correct author Lidia Yuknavitch’s proper name spelling, sorry 🙂