I was thinking about all the conversations regarding women working in comics at DC this past week, post-SDCC. Specifically, due to these conversations at DCWKA and Comic Alliance (don’t read the comments at the Comic Alliance post. Really. Don’t. But it will give you an interesting insight into how obtuse some male fans can be).
First, of all, I find that whenever this argument about hiring more women or minorities comes up in any business, they often run to the concern over “quotas.” There’s these ideas that a) the men will lose out on jobs if you give more jobs to women or b) those who are hired to fill so-called quota aren’t actually good enough to do the job.
But the fact is that positive discrimination is in place in hiring practices because women are overlooked for a job despite having the same or slightly BETTER qualifications than the men because of the stereotype that they will get married and then get pregnant (because all women are poppin’ out babies, amirite?), thus meaning they’re off for a year (in Canada) per pregnancy (therefore employers have to train the people who take over that maternity leave); or because the people who are hiring are men and they want someone who *looks like them*; or because of discriminatory ideas about minorities they are hiring.
And before anyone says, “Oh, things are different now, they wouldn’t fire someone because she’s a woman and she’s gone on maternity leave,” my professors working in the employment law field in Canada told us that human rights cases regarding maternity leave are a BIG issue.
But getting back to the issue of so-called “quotas”, in the end, women/minorities have to be more than just good, they have to exceed expectations, because otherwise they’re just considered a “quota fill.” White men don’t have to exceed expectations: they will NEVER be considered a “quota fill.”
So, let’s say DC finds one woman who exceeds expectations and hires her. (I’m setting my expectations low, let’s hope DC exceeds my own expectations) What’s the likelihood she’s going to be on a top tier male character book? I’m talking Batman, Detective Comics, Action Comics, Superman, or Green Lantern.
In the past 10 years, how many women have written Batman and Detective?
- Batman 564 (1999) - Devin Grayson
- Batman 570 (1999) - Brownyn Carlton
- Batman 574 (2000) - Devin Grayson
- Detective 731 (1999) - Devin Grayson
- Detective 737 (1999) - Brownyn Carlton
- Detective 741 (2000) - Devin Grayson
That’s not even in the past 10 years. Now, these were two I could remember off the top of my head. But I challenge anyone to come up with a list over the past 70 years how many women have written either Batman, Detective, Action Comics or Superman.
And, sure, not all women comic writers want to write Batman or Superman, but that’s not my point. What’s my point? Here’s my point: even if women break through and exceed expectations so that they are not considered the quota fill at DC, how many of those women will be able to break the glass ceiling that is considered the top tier* level of books? Oh, and don’t forget: more than likely they have to pay their dues by writing about a female character before writing about a male character:
(Devin Grayson) points out that one problem she has encountered is that she has never been offered the chance to work with a male character at a major company before being offered female characters. “I had to do Black Widow before I could do Ghost Rider. I had to do Catwoman before I could do Batman,” she explained. “And I think this is simply because there aren’t a lot of women writers, so it’s motivated out of excitement about my presence. But that is gender bias.”
That’s not about proving her chops on a lower tier book, which is what other writers have had to do, like say Tony Daniel, who wrote a Teen Titans Hunt story before writing more top tier level stories.
So, I’m pointing this all out to say that women comic writers wanting to write for DC are going to face struggles their male counterparts won’t ever have to face, and that’s not even taking into account the co-publisher’s recent dismissal and belittlement of women (and some men) asking about whether the company is committed to hiring more women, which tells me the company is not a welcoming environment to women and minority writers without even considering all of the other factors I’ve brought up.
*Wonder Woman should be considered Top Tier as well, but I would argue she’s not even considered Top Tier by the company that publishes her