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Awards Time: Ain't I a woman?


Apparently they are rioting in Canada over the fact that a man was nominated for the Kim Yale award.

If by rioting, you mean writing some articles for the internet. Von Allan , the man in question nominated for the previously all-female Kim Yale Award for Most Talented Newcomer (one of the Lulu Award categories) was interviewed by the CBC and this gave rise to a couple of pieces, noting what a groundbreaker he was being nominated for an award traditionally given to women cartoonists:

Allan is delighted to see his book getting attention, but he said the question of whether he should be eligible is a “challenging debate.” “It’s tough. The problem is, most writers, most artists in the comic industry are men, and it’s traditionally been that way. It’s not right and I wish it was way more 50/50, but you could also argue the same thing about genres,” Allan said. Some commenters in the graphic novel world have suggested juried panels, instead of fans, submit nominations for the Lulu Awards to ensure more women are on the ballot.

Outgoing FoL president, Valerie D’Orazio delivered her “Farewell to Lulu” speech and told the CBC:

Valerie d’Orazio, president of the Friends of Lulu, the group that created the awards, has gone to bat for Allan’s nomination, saying there do not appear to be any rules that would disqualify him.

“The official rules, as far as I knew, didn’t specify a female-only award recipient, and even if it did that might be illegal because non-profits can’t discriminate according to gender,” she said in an email to CBC.

“And further … I had no big personal preference whether Von was on the ballot or not. He did a comic about strong female characters” and that should qualify him, she added.

There was some twitro-versy over all this, and it stirred some memories. If you’re going by Founder’s intent, I know for a fact that the Kim Yale Award was meant to be given to a woman. But had this ever been spelled out? I thought for sure it had to have been at least mentioned. Was I going crazy?

I sifted though the evidence. On the most recent Friends of Lulu blog post regarding the awards, it reads that the awards were established:

to bring attention to the best, most women-friendly and reader- friendly work in comics and to recognize the work of women comics creators of the past, Lulu members vote each summer for new inductees for the Women Cartoonists Hall of Fame, “Lulu of the Year,” and the year’s most promising new female talent. The New Talent award is named for comics writer Kim Yale, a founding member who passed away in 1997.

“Most promising new female talent.” Pretty unambiguous.

After some more Googling, it seems that in 2006 and 2007, at least, the award was actually called the Kim Yale Award for Best New Female Talent.

On the Comic Book Awards Almanac, (sadly, no longer updated) the award is listed as:

Kimberly A. Yale Award for Best New Talent: Awarded to a woman who has worked in the comic book & comic strip industry for less than two years. The category is named for a comic book writer & Friends of Lulu founding member who died in 1997.

So there you go. Some precedent for the supposition that the award was meant to be given to a female creator. Over the last few years, the name of the award was changed, and this year, the eligibility was also changed. But at least I’m not crazy.

A few weeks ago, I wrote:

Also, I remain committed to keeping the Friends of Lulu Awards going in some capacity. If we can have The Glyph Comics Awards and GLAAD Awards, we can have some kind of awards for Women in Comics — although they are certainly winning the co-ed awards in increasing numbers.

I still like the idea of an award for women in comics. Apparently I am alone in that opinion. However, I was researching the nominees this year (some of whom I’d never heard of) and found this on the blog ofCarolyn Belefski, of Curls Studio, (art above) who was also nominated for the Kim Yale Award:

I looked up Kim Yale on the internet and found out this information about her: Kim Yale was an American writer and editor of comic books for multiple comic book companies, including Marvel Comics, DC Comics, First Comics and Warp Graphics. She was heavily involved with the Friends of Lulu, working as a member of the board, an organization promoting women in comics. The award for the Best New Female Comics Creator has been named in her honor. Yale died of breast cancer in 1997, aged 43. (via Wikipedia)

So there you go, a talented young artist learns about Kim Yale, keeping her name and spirit alive a little. Some good has come of all this after all.

  1. I’m so relieved to hear you hadn’t heard of some of the Lulu nominees, either. I was feeling particularly ignorant, but I guess it wasn’t JUST me…

  2. Being nominated for an award isn’t the same as winning it, of course, but I see nothing wrong, even in principle, for having a set of awards limited to female creators. The main reason is the dominance of superhero content, which is generally hostile to female creators and readers. Whoever nominated Von Allan for the award could have had nothing but complimenting him in mind, or they might have been making sociopolitical statements, but they all acted wrongly.


  3. This year’s Lulu Awards has had many difficulties, and the nominees may not have been vetted as closely as in previous years. (There are other males on the ballot.) Of course, having such an open nomination and voting process does allow for chicanery.

    The next Lulu Awards committee needs to define the categories and eligibility. There should be categories open to everyone, otherwise one can split hairs over gender identity, which creates more controversy.

    GLAAD gives awards to heterosexual creators who further the goals of GLAAD. Lulu should do the same, while also celebrating women who make comics.

  4. The Orange Prize is an award for best novel by a woman. I’ve never liked this idea, that an award should be “reserved” for a certain set of creators. It always made me want to start my own award for Writers Over Five Foot Seven. I feel it ghettoizes the group that receives it. But whatever. I’ve not heard of most of the nominees either …

  5. I don’t know Patrick. It’s the LULU awards. It’s already a (forgive me for putting it this way) niche award.

    The Lulu awards along with other demographically-niche awards exist BECAUSE the “mainstream” awards don’t have a history of acknowledging the hard work of the members of their respective constituents. That’s the entire point.

  6. This whole thing is incredibly disheartening. As I understand it, it’s illegal for FoL, as a non-profit, to designate an award for women. There’s no getting around that. Allan is eligible for the Kim Yale, but I don’t like it. It’s disappointing that Allan, who clearly cares about making women-friendly comics, should feel the need to insert himself into the running for an award which is traditionally given to women.

    Is the only way to legally set up a Kim Yale-type award *for women* to have it be unaffiliated with a non-profit? Does anyone know?

  7. Continuing the custom of giving the Kim Yale Award to a woman would probably not have jeopardized nonprofit status any more than the tax problems and so on.

  8. I found a copy of the 2004 Lulu Awards nomination list as it was printed on the postcard invite:


    Kim Yale Award for Best New Female Talent

    (For the woman whose work first appeared professionally (in a well distributed publication) within the previous two years. Or an artist whose work primarily self-published, whether in print or on the web).

    I don’t think anyone realized they were breaking any laws at the time!

  9. “it’s illegal for FoL, as a non-profit, to designate an award for women. There’s no getting around that.”

    If that’s the case, how has the National Organisation for Women being doing just that for almost a decade?

  10. Looking into this I can find multiple non-profits in various areas that do just that, for example the American Astronomical Society awards the ‘Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy’ which is given ‘to a North American female astronomer within five years of receiving her PhD in the year designated for the award. The Cannon Prize is for outstanding research and promise for future research by a postdoctoral woman researcher.’

    Effectively a newcomer award of the sort that Friends of Lulu gives out.

    I can’t find any evidence that any of this is illegal – can someone point us towards such evidence?

  11. Sorry but my OCD has kicked in now – The Alliance for Women in Media (Formally The American Women in Radio and Television) also has a number of women only awards.

    I’ll stop now…

  12. Seeing that promoting women in comics is part of their mission statement, I don’t think having woman-only categories falls into the category of “illegal.”

    And no knock against Von Allan, but I don’t see him as the first great woman-friendly male cartoonist to enter the industry in the past 14 years, to the extent that he’s a natural choice to be the first man nominated for the Kim Yale Award for Best New Female Talent. The fact that he and his wife scored nominations in every category but the Hall of Fame either means that they produced a truly exceptional comic this year or that they were really effective in getting their friends and fans to nominate them for every single award, and people can read Von Allan’s comic online and make their own judgment on that.

  13. Seeing as how two of the other Lulu categories are for women only (“Women of Distinction,” “Women Cartoonists Hall of Fame”), I don’t see why the Kim Yale Award can’t be female-only, which was the original intent.

  14. At the risk of being contrary, I look forward to the day when we won’t have to have separate awards for men and women in any field, much less comics. To me, it smacks of ghettoization, a pat on the head, a consolation prize. “You’re not good enough to compete with REAL creators so we’ll give you this trophy and you can be happy with that.” I mentioned the Orange Prize before – past winners have included Carol Shields, Ann Patchett, Zadie Smith, Ann Michaels, Rose Tremain. Great writers all, and award-winners to boot. And I know the prize sells books. But it always seemed like a consolation prize for not winning the Booker Prize, at least to me.

  15. “Also, I remain committed to keeping the Friends of Lulu Awards going in some capacity”

    Does that mean you will not be on the red list of doom?

    Not one of these damn people publicly lamenting over FoL’s apparent demise has offered as much as a fingernail to keep it going. You can be sure that before I take the steps to close FoL, I will post every single one of their names and say that they didn’t do squat to help me save it. I’ll post their Tweets and blog posts and comments regarding what a horrible human being I am for finally letting FoL go, and next to each I will write in red letters: “Did not do anything to save Friends of Lulu.”


  16. I have no problem if the Lulus want to be an all for-women awards.

    I’ll just play devil’s advocate and say it’s a pretty good thing, generally, to promote men writing strong female characters in comics. Maybe you could have one separate, minor award specifically dedicated to men writing women…

    just a thought.

  17. I believe non-profit organizations must follow equality guidelines, but can set a narrow focus for a specific cause.

    Start with: Roberts v. United States Jaycees and go from there. (The Jaycees does have an age limit (18-41) and distributes awards for “outstanding young americans”.) Add Due Process to the mix (as seen when Alabama tried to intimidate the NAACP) and it gets interesting.

    Mr. Allen was not on the tie-breaker nominee ballot I received on 09.09.2010 . While I respect the anonymity of the nomination process, I wonder who nominated him for the award? Where there shenanigans?

  18. Charles: well I did offer to help on the awards, and participated in the nominations and the tie-breakers that others have alluded to. So I doubt I’m on the red-band list.

  19. One example of a genre in which women writers are on a par with men is the mystery genre. That’s presumably because women can craft entertaining and puzzling mysteries just as well as men can, and do just as well with the leads. Women mystery novelists have been well represented in the list of Edgar Award winners during the past 20 years.

    Conversely, an article on EW.com found gender bias in the responses to Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom. Calling similar material written by women “chick lit” isn’t complimentary to women.


  20. Yes, “Bad Wolf,” not liking that a comic got nominated for an award (in one category out of 28) is the same thing as being sad that an organization she helped found and worked on for many years with other dedicated people has come to this sorry situation.

  21. clearly there wasn’t enough award worthy comics about women by women. So they nominate a guy for doing a better job of it. Seems fair. Of course you have to actually care about Comics to think so. Guess the women folk care less about comics and more about themselves. A shame.

  22. Well, John, the award is (or at least was) for best female newcomer, so if you’re not female, you don’t qualify. That’s not disrespecting comics, that’s reading comprehension.

    It’s not like there’s any shortage of guys winning comic book awards.

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