March 10, 2017

Can you find yourself in our stories?

When I was at the Railway City Arts Crawl, I met a lot of fantastic people.

It was a really fun and enlightening weekend.

I accidentally swore in X Gallery’s Facebook live video. (oops)

I painted 7 paintings in 9 hours while still talking to crowds of people.

But one thing that hit home really hard for me was when women were going through my business cards and looking for my portraits of women.

Now, when I started on my pop culture journey, I was painting main characters. Painting people from shows I was watching. And painting whatever came to mind.

They were all men.

I hadn’t noticed. Why should I? My entire life has been full of shows and movies and characters that are male dominated. This is my normal.

Sure there were exceptions. Wonder Woman. Ripley. Princess Leia.

But for every exception, there were hundreds of roles that simply weren’t for women.

Now I’m not anti-men by any means. I love men. Men are among my favourite people. But what we need here is dialogue.

This is 2017 and we haven’t really made any forward movement. But what’s worse, without dialogue about things like the roles of women in pop culture, there’s no awareness and no way to change.

You can’t change what you don’t see.

For me, my awareness began when my friend asked me to paint Black Widow. She told me outright that I have no female portraits and I needed to be aware of that.

My youngest spawn, who’s got a strong personality, also actively looks for women to look up to. Her first choice for every show, movie or story is one that represents her.

She needs to see herself and her gender in the common stories we share.

I remember when the Battlestar Galactica reboot was announced and Starbuck was suddenly going to be female. Boy did the shit hit the fan. Including protests from the original actor who played Starbuck.

A woman could never pull off that role. Women aren’t strong. They lack the motivation for the character. On and on.

Or how about the furor when the Ghostbusters reboot was announced with an all female cast? IMO it was one of the best reboots I’ve seen. Respectful yet original.

And then there’s the Doctor. We’re getting a new one. Guess what the stink is about? Gender.

Look, I’m all for strong male characters as much as the next person. And I love stories of all kinds. And yes, men need to see themselves in our stories too. Absolutely.

But I think we’re at the point where we need to make sure that the stories we tell and the stories we support are inclusive.

And inclusive in a way that isn’t diminishing to the characters. None of this, my kid/husband died and I’m out for revenge crap. Female characters can have the same motivations as the male ones. And sometimes people are just evil. No reason necessary.

So what can I do here on the ground? How can I, a single person, have any kind of effect on what’s going on?

I can affect change by choosing where I spend my money both in movies and in memorabilia.

I can affect change by talking about the stories that are incredible and inclusive. By having any kind of dialogue, like this email, about it.

I can affect change by being even more vocal on social media to writers, studios, producers etc. But respectfully vocal.

And I can affect change by making sure I paint across the board. The Michonnes and Uhuras and Rowenas and Heimdalls that are in these stories.

I’ve said it before, and now I’ve seen it in action: representation matters.