The latest exhibition at the House of Illustration entitled ‘Comic Creatrix: 100 women making comics’ is an ode to female comic artists and a celebration of their work throughout history. As debates about feminism and gender inequality are in full swing, the question of female representation in the creative industry is an important one to address. Sexism in the world of comics was recently put into light when earlier this year not a single woman was shortlisted for the Angoulême Grand Prix, the third largest comic festival in the world.
Although the festival director Franck Bondoux tried to justify this by saying that very few women have played a role in the history of comics, anyone who takes the time to review female contribution to the comic industry in the last 100 years will see that this is in fact a complete myth. The names of June Tarpé Mills, Claire Bretecher, Posy Simmonds, Marjane Satrapi and Tove Jansson are just a few that spring to mind when thinking of the hundreds of women cartoonists that have helped shape the history of comics. In truth where Mr Bondoux is mistaken, is women authors have indeed been much less celebrated than men authors, but only as a result of sexism overlooking and obscuring women’s work rather than a lack of female comic artists to begin with.
It was refreshing to walk through the House of Illustration and see the works of all of these women being recognised and talked about. The way the exhibition was set up was also quite engaging, as most of the comic excerpts that were being displayed had the full comic available for visitors to look at on a shelf below. Some of the artists being exhibited had a lot to say about their experiences as women in today’s world in regards to everyday sexism, sexual harassment, street harassment, discrimination in the work place and so on. Society is usually quick to silence women’s voices because it doesn’t want to acknowledge the problematic way in which women have and continue to be treated everyday all around the world, but luckily as this is changing people are becoming more and more aware of this vast issue. One of the works I came across in this exhibition and that has stayed with me is ‘Take It As A Compliment’ by Maria Stoian, which acts as a collection of stories as told by rape and sexual harassment victims, both male and female. The way in which the stories are illustrated strongly conveys the mood of each experience, reflecting on the emotions of the victims as they deal with trauma.
I consider this exhibition a great step forward for women in the creative industry and hope to see many more events that celebrate female voices and acknowledge the importance of female contribution in the world of Art and Design.