It was 13 years ago that an “amateur” comics journalist named Gail Simone ran a survey about the phenomenon of “Women in Refrigerators” in comics. That site—currently housed here—used the moment of Kyle Rayner came home and found his girlfriend stuffed in the refrigerator as a lens for the entire phenomenon of female comics characters getting beaten, crippled, stabbed, mutilated, assaulted, and devalued.
Luckily, since then, everything has been fixed!
Anyway, the women write about comics site hosted a blog carousel asking writers to update their feelings on WiR. There are quite a few essays linked to and they will take a long time to read. Rather than my summarizing anything there, I will merely say a prayer to Stephanie Brown and Sue Dibny and move on.
Unrelated, but relevant, Sue at DC Women Kicking Ass interviews Janelle Asselin former DC, now Disney editor about her college thesis on marketing to women in comics, and the conclusions she reached from a survey she ran. The whole thing is worth reading, but here’s perhaps the nut graph:
The primary conclusions I made from my research are that there are four different ways the comics industry can adjust to increase sales to an often excluded demographic that just happens – oh yeah – to make up over 50% of America. Those four ways are better marketing towards women, more inclusive content, more effective distribution, and changing the cultural preconceptions of comics. Not every company would need to do every thing on that list, obviously. There are great indie companies that produce content that is already woman-friendly – but people just don’t know about them yet. They would need to market to women better or find new ways to distribute. And better marketing to women would, over time, change the cultural preconceptions of comics.
The thing that surprised me the most was that the answers, as I saw them anyway, were not insane, drastic measures that companies would need to take. These are all within the grasp of comics publishers and retailers. Obviously the cultural preconceptions are difficult to change, but with the other three being adjusted, that would come eventually. It just takes actually considering women of any age a viable market for comics.
We wanted to end this on an upbeat note however. Although we linked to it before, the new This! Moments for women in comics has arisen specifically out of this discussion as a place for triumphant and heroic moments—definitely something worth tumblring about.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.