Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Alexa Tomaszewski: Well look what I found here at my local BMV at Yonge and Eglinton, in Toronto, Ontario. Vintage Dave Sim Cerebus trade paperbacks circa 1987, black and white and such a delight.

The introduction states:

These are the first adventures of Cerebus the Ardvark which I began in the pages of his comic book in December of 1977. Although crude, I hope the dedication of a rookie taking his first tentative steps unburdened by editorial interference still shows through. It was a wonderful time. And my hair was  much longer.
Dave Sim
Kitchener, Ontario
July 29, 1987

I totally hit the jackpot today, didn't I Dave?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

'Female Chauvinist Pigs'

Alexa Tomaszewski: Have you seen Sex and the City and what are your thoughts on how the woman are portrayed in this show? Ariel Levy has an interesting take on this. In FemaleChauvinist Pigs she states the show romanticized accumulation – “there was as much focus on Manolo Blahniks and Birkin bag as there was on blow jobs.”

For me the show opened my eyes to the fact that you didn’t have to get married and have kids when you grew up. You didn’t have to be Cinderella and be rescued by a prince (which we still ingrain in our children today). You didn’t have to be Buffy or an X-Woman to be strong enough to save yourself. All you needed was a career, an apartment, and a closet full of designer wares.

Dave Sim: No, I read all the reviews of it in the National Post and I got the idea. In the same sense that I watched about ten seconds of a Lady Gaga video and I got the idea. Same response in both cases: not interested. Lady Gaga is costume design being used to sell skankiness and Sex and the City is high fashion being used to sell skankiness.

On my flight to Halifax for The Last Signing, my seatmates were these three girls who were barely pubescent, two of whom were watching the last (hopefully the last!!!) Sex and the City movie. A society that allows barely pubescent girls to watch material like that in a public setting has no cause for complain when it ends up the way it is going to end up.

Alexa Tomaszewski: Well, to say the least, it’s not like fans of George Lucas changed the world either.

Levy talks about acting like a man, something I was touching on above. She says that if a woman is going to act like a man there must be an inherent manliness to aspire too. Can a woman act like a man?

Dave Sim: Woman can – and do – TRY to act like men, but it isn’t healthy and it does them no good in any of the areas that they’re genuinely interested in. Through a man’s eyes it can either be endearing – in the same way that it is endearing to watch a child trying to act like a grown up “Isn’t that CUTE!” – or it can excite a certain level of pity. Like watching a guy in a batter’s cage who thinks he’s major league material and who just doesn’t have the chops. You don’t know what to say to him. You’re just embarrassed on his behalf.

If three guys are talking and a woman walks up to join the conversation, the conversation automatically changes because a woman has walked up. Which, as you know, is the case when three women are having a conversation and a man walks up. Men know that and accept it. Women know that but don’t accept it. Women are just weird that way. They want mandatory interchangeability – they want to MAKE men see them as being the same as men. You can MAKE men pay lip service to it and we’ve spent the last 40 years doing exactly that but all we’ve really done is to create a huge swath of the population who are squishy men – or rather, “men” – who are willing to pretend to believe that men and women are the same. “Men” that women aren’t interested in.

I  know a lot about fashion but I don’t talk about it in casual conversation. To do so would be just weird in that same way: as if I was trying to convince women that I was the same as them. They would just go to default setting: this guy is either gay or this is some weird scam he’s using because he thinks it’s going to get him laid.

The same thing happens when a girl is trying to act like a guy. The default setting is ‘maybe I can get her drunk and get into her pants or get her to do something that involved bending over so I can see her tits.’ 

Alexa Tomaszewski: I think this all depends on how much or well you know a person. I think we’re getting all hung up on sex here and what it means. I think we also need to ask how the sexes are delineated in society – that’s to say – why do women feel they need to act like men? And why does the conversation change between three men when a woman does not?

Do you think raunchy culture like Britney Spears or Girls Gone Wild means feminism has been achieved or is it just the opposite?

Dave Sim:  It’s a SPECIES of feminism, but it’s really infantile. Used to be immature, then became adolescent but now it’s really just infantile. Willful in the way that a two-year-old is willful. A woman’s right to choose is really just a lunatic phrase of Free Will. A woman has the right to choose to go to a gun store and buy a guy and some ammo and then go out and shoot someone. What she can’t do is a) do so with impunity or b) avoid bad repercussions from doing so.

Choosing to be a skank or trying to be a man is really no different. It just puts you in the Whack Job category. Nutty as a fruitcake. The opposite end of the spectrum from a wife and mother or legitimate girlfriend. Men know they’re not allowed to say that, but they know a skank when they see one. How many women can legitimately wear white on their wedding days? 1%? I’d say that’s optimistic. Margaret Liss, Cerebus FanGirl described the League of Extraordinary Hosebags issue as “crass”. No, I don’t think so. It would be crass if Hosebag wasn’t the “new normal”. The characters on Sex and the City were hosebags and I assume so are the actresses who portrayed them – so are the vast majority of their audience. A very unwise and unhappy choice, with completely unhappy consequences, but fully protected.

Alexa Tomaszewski: Nutty as a fruitcake, that’s not in the urban dictionary’s definition of hosebag, but I’d agree. Skanky is very much the “new normal” these days. Heck, I would even say it is expected. I cannot see how acting skanky would put you on equal standing with the guys? If equality is what these women seek. This is the part of the equation that boggles my mind. 

In the past decade there has been a noticeable shift towards glamorizing sex trade work. Christina and Britney starting wearing smaller outfits and at some point started dancing on poles in their videos, at the same time, elementary school children started wearing make- up and singing “I kissed a girl and I liked it”. Today Saturday nights are a free-for-all drink until you can’t stand any longer tradition. It’s a dangerous world to have a daughter in.­­­­­­­­

Dave Sim: I was interested in the quote from Ariel Levy that starts “Even if you are a woman who achieves the ultimate and becomes like a man . . .” Do you see it that way? That becoming like a man is in some sense an “ultimate achievement”? Personally that seems really unhealthy to me – that it’s far better to aspire to be the best you can be. That is, as a woman. As expressed it seems to me to be like a me trying to achieve the ultimate as a cartoonist and become a professional hockey player. A cartoonist is one thing and a professional hockey player is another.

Alexa Tomaszewski: See, the thing is you could aspire to be a hockey player or a male cartoonist. I don’t think it can be fairly said that woman have been given a fair shot in either industry. DC Comics, Marvel Comics and all the other major league publishers are male dominated. Women’s hockey is not nearly as superior as the NHL. Most men I know here in Toronto don’t have any women on their hockey pools. It’s not that women aspire to be like men because it’s the ultimate achievement, I think it’s because they’ve been convinced of the American dream. Now, I know we’re Canadian, but at no point can you deny that we are heavily influenced over here by the United States. That being said, the American dream is a male driven one, where the woman stays home or works a non-threatening job. Even in this day and age, if I said I wanted to be the best nurse I could be, no one would blink an eye. Because nursing is a predominately female driven work force, and it’s interesting to consider the stigma men who choose nursing as a profession sometimes endure. One might only look to social norms to clearly identify how to act “male” or act “female. Ideology about how to act one way or the other is all over the place – on television, in magazines, on the radio, in the streets, all over the internet and it can be very confusing for someone who is gay or transgendered let alone male or female. I haven’t said “acting like a man” is the “ultimate achievement” but in some ways society has.

Dave Sim: I’ve spent a lot of time – probably too much time – thinking about all this stuff and it seems to me that women find men astonishing and that that’s what women are talking about when they aspire to being like men or want to be seen as being the same as men. They want to astonish men the way men astonish them. But it seems to me that a lot of what women experience of men is, well, repugnant. So, women come to see overcoming their own repugnance as a means of increasing their stature in the eyes of men – that being repelled by something makes them “weak” or “girly”. Can you see what I’m saying? Is there anything in that?

Alexa Tomaszewski: Some men are astonishing, sure. So are some women. It takes all kinds of course. But, men have been socialized to astonish – give them a bat, a calculator or a business suit – society ingrains certain things in men. It also ingrains certain things in women – sit down and watch Cinderella, take home-economics or buy your daughter an easy bake oven or Barbie. These things seem arcane but they are simply not. If you watch Treehouse, a popular kids channel, Barbie is just as sexualized in commercials and the toys in general are polarized between girls and boys.  Women are put on this earth to be mothers, nurturers, and to do all the jobs the men don’t want to get their hands sticky doing.There, I said it.

I don’t think women find men repugnant. In fact I think it’s something else, I think women envy the way men can act out. It is a classic case of double standards. I don’t think these double standards are changing either, I think they are becoming worse in some ways. Because now when I woman puts on a suit and holds a business meeting she’s not a business woman, to some degree she’s acting like a man to claim that position. And baby, it’s a man’s world. Women still are not paid equal wages.

I don’t see women as a void to be filled with baby. What’s that saying man giveth and woman taketh away? I bet that was thought up by a man. I think there’s a lot more grey area than we could ever imagine in this discourse. There are offshoots as thick and as high as a tree.

Dave Sim: Following up on my previous question, it seems to me that women get into that same competition with each other: who can shock other women the most. Tina Fey grafting her head onto a man’s body on the cover of her recent autobiography, Bossypants and Ariel Levy using a title on her book like Female Chauvinist Pigs. Who can be the most repugnant to other women? Who can be the most shocking? Given that I don’t really see that trait in men, is it fair to say that being intentionally repugnant as a means of attracting attention is a female trait?

Alexa Tomaszewski: Honestly Dave, I’ve seen about fifty commercials for that movie where Adam Sandler dresses up like a woman and portrays his sister, Jack and Jill. Just forget about the polarization between man and woman for a second. Everyone wants to be shocked.  That’s the key to the entertainment industry.

Certain types of men and women will act intentionally repugnant as a means of attracting attention. Furthermore I don’t really believe in specific male/female traits. Hormonally women and men may differ vastly, but I think any deep seeded traits are ultimately human ones, not to be defined by sexuality. I think we all want to see something inherently shocking in a day and age of complete over exposure.

Dave Sim: Having read all of Glamourpuss, do you consider me shocking? It’s something I’ve wondered about and – having been pretty much ejected from the comic-book field – it’s very hard for me to judge. Personally, I find it very difficult to parody fashion magazine. Every time I read a fashion magazine there are things I swear they must have made up because I can’t stop laughing. The impression that I have is that people are shocked by what I choose to highlight, a case of shooting the messenger. It’s right here on page such and such of this magazine. I didn’t make it up. I don’t know if they did, but I didn’t. ­­­

Alexa Tomaszewski: I don’t know if I would say shocking. I’ve established I grew up watching Britney, Baywatch and MAD TV. My generation has experienced the fastest pace of social evolution than any other before it. With the internet, video games, television, Facebook, Youtube, WikiLeaks and the immergence of citizen journalists all over the world, what’s really shocking anymore? I mean I saw Gaddahfi’s body used as a puppet and then photos of his bloody carcass being thrown around. It was shocking to me. The flooding of Japan was caught on camera from every angle and remains the most shocking thing I have seen to date.
Glamourpuss is the most fun thing I’ve ever seen. It’s a social commentary, a contribution to society. It’s so important. I have an anthropology background and I ultimately believe that works of art and culture like comic books, art, novels, newspaper clippings – all these things, they are a statement of where we are at and of who we are today as a society.

Glamourpuss is a statement. Maybe it’s specifically a statement but about women, or fashion or women in fashion, and how ridiculous that culture is, but it’s something. And it’s funny. Sometimes it's shocking, but like I said, that's what sells.

There’s also an educational element to your work that I particularly enjoy. I have a passion for history (which is my traditional educational background, anthropology came later) and you spin a history. You tell a tale. Some people may find this boring. Ok, Dave, I’m sorry, some reviews have called this boring. But I think it adds depth to an otherwise satirical comic-book. You don’t want this to be mad magazine do you?

Finally, what drew me to your work? Well, it was the clothes, the beautiful way that you take the clothes from the glossy pages from the magazine and transfer them to comic book form. The women's hair, their accessories, they all look magnificent transferred onto the comic book panel. My favorite game to play when reading is spot that designer. I read so many magazines I can often pick out your original inspiration.

This is a big, big deal as a female comic book reader. Do you know how many costumes I see and just cringe at? I mean if Storm is a goddess and Queen why the heck does she always have to look so skanky? Can we upgrade from full body leather suits yet? I must say the one creative thing comic book artists have nailed is the bathing suit – always creative. I’m never ceased to be amazed by how many different strips of fabric can be used to cover the body and then paired with only knee boots and a gun,? Come on! Any self-respecting super heroine knows the outfit comes first. Even Buffy. Especially Buffy.

So Dave, finally, tell me a bit about the clothes. Who is your favorite designer and why?

Dave Sim: It’s not so much the designer for me as it is the individual pieces in combination with the quality of the photography. When I was developing Glamourpuss in 2007, I went to L’Oreal Fashion week in Toronto for a day. It was interesting but it wasn’t what I was doing what is still images that I can convert to illustrations and using the fashion “intonation” to write humorous copy. You don’t get either of those with fashion “live”. There are designers that recur. Vintage Chanel makes itself apparent and is still a cut above everything else that’s out there. I prefer Ashley to Mary-Kate (classic versus costume). Nine West I think is a better value for the money – more bang for your buck – than Christian Louboutin. Stella McCartney had a couple of great seasons and then just seemed to fade for me. Greta Constantine seemed to come out of nowhere and can’t put a fashion foot wrong the last year or two. Michael Kors has probably had the most sustained momentum over the last three years I’ve been doing the book. I do my first run through the magazines very quickly looking for the absolute best designs and best photography. That isn’t always Michael Kors but it is more often than random chance would allow for. Kensie for a while where they had those amazing wispy blondes in wispy photographs. Burberry Prorsum was skyer-no-higher when I started and now just seems to have random “hits” here or there.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Alexa and Dave: Men, Women And Comic Books

Dave Sim:  Okay, now I'll ask you one:  the comic book field has, for years, been trying to develop a larger female reader base. While there's been a measure of success, it's nothing compared to the 1940s, 50s and 60s when there was not only more female readers but whole genres like Romance Comics that were tailored directly to female tastes.  Why is it that female readers like your self are still such a small minority?  Do you have an awareness of you being so extremely different from other women in some way that makes you a natural comic book reader and makes them not natural comics readers?  Or, put another way, what was it that brought you to comics? And why doesn't it work on other women?
Alexa Tomaszewski: I covered Fan Expo and I’d like to say – I don’t dress up in costume. And I never have. I’m exclusively into the comics themselves. I have that little coiled notebook filled with all the issues I don’t have. My dad brought me into comics. Marvel comics X-Men had a certain something about it – a multitude of women on the roster as well as a cartoon show. So, I mean, you love what you learn, especially if it was a positive experience and Chris Claremont gave me very real women. And my dad always encouraged it, I think mostly because he got to read them too.  It was a man who brought me back into comics after a long absence. Cancer’s a bitch and it doesn’t care how old you are. Thyroid cancer (of which I am for all intents and purposes cured) sort of isolated me from the world for a while. During this time I read and read and read fashion magazines and later on my boyfriend brought me to the comic book store, Cyber City, and brought me back in. That was the year Buffy The Vampire Slayer (my super heroine since 16) came out with season 8. Enter all comic book seeking skills, and bam! I was back in it. Marvel launched a series shortly there after – featuring a female messiah baby, Hope. I followed this character because she, like Buffy, was a fantastic warrior and she played with the boys.

In short, it’s all about experience. Depends on what you grow up with right? A good writer and artist can touch just about anyone who responds to that experience.

Dave Sim: I’m constantly astonished about how “needy” women seem to be about this “she played with the boys” and “female characters who kick a—“stuff. I did one of the earliest parodies of Chris Claremont in Cerebus. See, for me, and for most of the professionals that I knew Chris was kind of a joke. Not a cruel joke – Chris is a very nice guy and a very intelligent writer in most areas – but “Is there any reason this character can’t be a woman?” As John Byrne said back then, “Well, no Chris – apart from the fact that the character has been a man for forty years I can’t think of a single reason why this character can’t be a woman.” To all of us, Chris was just being transparently ingratiating as his scam for getting laid. Look at how major a feminist I am! Yes, Chris, we get it.

To me, the cruel joke is that this continues to be perpetrated – and that’s the only way I can see is as a thing being perpetrated – against women for the sake of profits. It’s a fundamental lie. Men are men and women are women, but we’ll invent this mondo bizarro world where men and women are interchangeable and have the same fighting skills. As long as they’re pretty and have big boobs and nice a—es and are wearing skin-tight costumes, the boys are happy and as long as they can beat the crap out of a roomful of guys, the girls are happy. Personally, I don’t see a lot – or, in fact, ANY happiness – coming out of that. It’s disordered thinking.

We’ve completely lost the original idea of what Buffy was – like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it was a self-parody from the title on in. That disordered thinking that takes an inherent lie – that anyone named Buffy could be a vampire slayer – and adds a whole new layer of disordered thinking to it. So that very name Buffy – chosen because it sounds like a prep school cheerleader – instead becomes synonymous with an otherworldly “ideal”: girls who are actually men and are, in fact, more powerful than men.

Alexa Tomaszewski: Joss Whedon very carefully constructed Buffy’s world. The men are very particularly depicted as evil, brutish and animalistic and out to endanger the women in the show. The women are all powerful, and yes, Dave, they start off as girls and very naturally progress into women, which is what we see in the comic book. Season 9 is, by all means a perversion. Whedon himself has admitted too letting the story get to large. But overall he is very adept at writing an honest female character, and I think he deserves credit for that, even if his fan base is mostly women and gays.

But there are a large majority of women out there who have more power than men, and who are more powerful than men. It’s just not socially acceptable for a man to come forward and claim he’s been a victim of spousal abuse at the hands of his wife. What would happen to him, then, when he went back to the neighborhood and had to face his gang of buddies – ‘what a pussy, you got beat by a woman.’

Have you ever heard of the wrestler Chyna? She was a body builder and had breast implants. After she stopped taking the steroids I thought she looked quite literally like a superwoman, and for sure she could take on a gang of men with her size. She was ridiculed for looking like a man – but with her breast implants and lack of penis was clearly a woman. Men may be men, and woman may be woman. But is it not true that social norms, as well as physical norms delineate these roles in complex ways and ultimately shade the way we think and discuss?

Dave Sim: No, in my view, they delineate them in very simple, straight-forward ways that women and gays try to MAKE complex. Like taking an anecdotal exception like Chyna and trying to make he/she into something more than an anecdotal exception. Nothing in this world is 100%, including femininity, masculinity, and heterosexuality. But homosexuality, bisexuality, trans-genderedness, etc. etc. really amount – at between 3% and 5% of the population – to a statistical rounding error. In an intelligent discussion, you take it as a given that the 97% is what merits discussion and citation. 3% of the population is extremely allergic to penicillin – I am, myself – but it would be foolish to class penicillin as a toxic chemical for that reason.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Alexa and Dave on -- Christie Blatchford: Toronto, City of Sissies

By: Christie Blatchford
Dec 10, 2011 – 2:00 AM ET | Last Updated: Dec 10, 2011 3:59 AM ET
Source: The National Post
Mark Blinch / Reuters files

Where have all this city's manly men gone? It was in Toronto recently, while temporarily resuming my semi-charmed kind of life there and briefly ditching the other semi-charmed half in Kingston, that I realized how much in need the modern male of the species is of some toughening up.

The bull terrier and I were on a long forced march on the toney part of Yonge Street, in Rosedale.
There were a couple of boys, maybe 10 years old, maybe 12, walking ahead of me. Coming towards them was another small knot of boys about the same age.

The two groups met, and immediately began hugging each another, one at a time. The trustees and ding-dongs at the Toronto District School Board would have been ecstatic; I was mortified and appalled.

This was about the time that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was all over the airwaves, with his anti-bullying crackdown, and poor old Doug Ford, a Toronto councillor whose brother Rob just happens to be the city mayor, was caught out (by the Toronto Star, of course, the newspaper in such a permanent state of nervous Nellie-dom about the Fords, forever crying in front-page headlines “The world is ending! Again!”, that it renders the boy who cried wolf a reticent little beggar by comparison) shilling for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, which of course was made legal in the province only this year by, wait for it, the government of Premier McGuinty.

Mr. Ford’s sin, through an assistant, had been to ask the TSDB to consider circulating a little brochure about WFC community involvement. “A terrible idea,” one trustee immediately said, noting that “schools are all about peacemaking now.”

That’s quite true: In Toronto, actual education routinely takes a back seat to anti-bullying messages, gay-positive education, recognition assemblies and social justice.

In any case, it already has been a bad month for Doug Ford.

Just days later, while attending a meeting about possible cuts to school nutritional programs, he offered to kick in $1,000 to help a particular program. So shocked were his fellows and Toronto taxpayers at the sight of a local politician offering to reach into his own pocket to pay for anything, they rose up as one to protest that this too must be dead-wrong.

(It reminded me of the time, years ago, when his brother was just a councillor and also got in trouble for not spending enough on his expenses. The nerve of those Ford bastards, not sucking the municipal tit for every last drop! That’s just wrong! But I digress.)

‘I have no particular fondness for gratuitous roughness in games, no time for bullies at all, and as a downtowner, I live surrounded by gay men, who, like most women, I adore as a group’
I think that part of the reason it’s a bad time to be Doug or Rob Ford or anyone like them is that they are too big, too pink, too football-y, and therefore too potentially violent and too-old school manly for a lot of city folk.

Toronto likes its men delicate, slender and arch, not sportif unless le sport in question is maybe badminton, and if those little boys I saw on Yonge Street are any indication, Toronto is even now about to achieve perfection in this coming generation.

Do not mistake this as a plea for head-banging in sport, a defence of bullies, or a veiled anti-gay message. I have no particular fondness for gratuitous roughness in games, no time for bullies at all, and as a downtowner, I live surrounded by gay men, who, like most women, I adore as a group.

But holy smokes, I am wearying of the male as delicate creature. I am wearying of men who are so frequently in touch with their feminine side they, not to mention me, have lost sight of the masculine one. I’m just plain sick of hugs, giving and getting, from just about anyone, but particularly man-to-man hugs.

And the novelty of being the toughest guy in the room – and by this I mean me – is getting really old.

In aid of all that, let me offer a few reminders of the way it was once upon a time and really always should be.
I remain convinced that the best way to stop a bully is not to go mewling to the teacher, who will only call the victim’s mummy, or to your own mummy, who will only call the teacher. The best way is to take the bully out for a short pounding after school – and may I make it plain, please, that I don’t mean the victims should do this, but rather others. The onus for stopping bullies lies not with the people being bullied, but with those who see it happen.

This has been true for centuries, and it is still true, and it works equally well in the locker room, the office, a bar, and on the factory floor or street.

It is possible to be a gentle and kind man without speaking in a soft, sibilant voice that makes all sentences sound to my ear as though they were composed entirely of Ss.

Glasses should be worn only by people who can’t see, not as props.

Gay, as I’ve mentioned, is entirely fine. Fey is a pain in the arse.

I know men have feelings too. I just don’t need to know much more than that. On any list of The 25 Things Every Man And Boy Should Know How To Do, hugging is not one of them. Killing bugs is. Whacking bullies is. Kissing is. Farting on cue is. Making the sound of a train in a tunnel is. Shooting a puck is. Hugging is not.

Feel free to give this to your male children. You’re entirely welcome.


Alexa Tomaszewski: 

Blatchford is taking an un-journalistic and very editorial stand here. She is very much setting herself apart and alienating groups of people. This reminded me our conversation, Dave. Are these men acting like women? Are Rob Ford and Doug Ford good examples of manliness or malehood? I shudder to think what society would look like if it were full of Ford brothers. Wouldn’t leave much for us women to look at, would it?

That being said, I think the editorial piece, although very much based in and colored by Blatchford’s personal opinion and experience, raises interesting questions.

First of all, Blatchford seems to perceive her experience in journalism as being quintessentially divided at the sexes. – “And the novelty of being the toughest guy in the room – and by this I mean me – is getting really old.”

As soon as I read this line I thought to myself – is this an instance of a woman acting like a man in the field of journalism?

And Is she bitter about this experience because now these men are acting “like women”? Or are they actually womanly?

I think it's nonsense. York University is a school full of students at difference age points, of different races, and of different genders and sexual identifications. The men at my old university have been dressing ‘pretty’ ever since I can remember.

Does that make them less manly?

Not in my opinion. Why? Because they still acted tough, had exclusive boy clubs, swigged beers, farted and burped like any other man. They just had better clothes. This I attribute more to consumer culture than sexual identity.

Women for the longest time have been the leading consumers – for the home, baby and for themselves. They often shop as well for their husbands and extended families. They buy the appliances. But, it’s 2012 and more men want to and do get into the latest trend.

Do you think Glamourpuss would be around if it weren’t for the fashion magazine?

And fashion magazines have become a thing for men as well. And the androgynous look, well, that’s right in style right now. Fashion houses, magazine newsrooms and television spots are all hot to get the latest model Andrej Pejic because stylists can dress him male or female. It’s almost like anything goes these days.

Can you tell the difference? It’s a crazy, crazy world we live in.

What do you think Dave?

Dave Sim: 

I'm a big admirer of Christie Blatchford's writing. She has certainly been head and shoulders above all other Canadian journalists in deploring the suspension of the rule of law by the McGuinty government in the native occupation in Caledonia, both in her original journalism on the subject and in her book which her journalism lead too, AND in going out and promoting that book even when leftist extremists - as happened at the University of Waterloo - actively impede her ability to speak freely. In those situations, I'm sure that in metrosexual Toronto she is the "toughest guy in the room" -- in the sense of exhibiting uncommon bravery (uncommon in our age, anyway) in doing what's right and standing behind it, four-square and unflinching.

That being said, I would never mistake her for a man. Synchronistically this morning she's writing about her dog as "the most kissed dog in the country" and how she will "catch his big concrete head between my knees, nibble on his lips and looking into them, praise his beady dark eyes." One of the reasons I'm exiled from polite society is for pointing out the female inclination to view animals as people (see "Tangent"). Dogs spend the better part of their canine lives licking feces off their anuses. Every dog ower knows this and yet a vast majority (I would guess mostly women) choose to ignore this and allow their dogs to French-kiss them. I don't know what I can add to that.

On the subject of Andrej Pejic: we're really talking about two models of reality. For men, men and women are opposites in the same way that west and east are opposites. Men like Andrej Pejic are -- like gays and transgendered -- weird quirky exceptions. Nothing is 100% and that includes masculinity. To women, men and women are just  nuanced expressions of the same thing spread across a continuum and consequently view Andrej Pejic as someone of great significance. Men and women are the same basically because Andrej Pejic exists. Structurally, it's an unsound model for reality because what you're doing is making weird, quirky exceptions into centerpieces. We live in a democracy, thank God, so it is possible to build a society on that model if enough women can persuade enough men that men and women are the same, mostly the same or the same in all ways in which society most fruitfully directs itself. So far, so good. I'm the one exiled from polite society with my completely discredited view that men are men and women are women. The ones hewing to the continuum model are the ones running society. We are hurtling in that direction and have been for decades. But I do think the wheels are starting to come off for that absolutist feminist model.

Of course only 331 people don't believe that I'm a misogynist so there's no good reason to even accept the possibility that I might be right and the absolutest feminist model is wrong. I think the wheels are starting to actually fall off the undercarriage of the car and needs to hit the blacktop in a shower of sparks before feminists, generally, are going to start to consider revisiting any of their prejudices and presuppositions.

Okay, now, I'll ask you one. Blatchfod doesn't seem to be talking about metrosexual clothes so much as metrosexual behaviour -- straight men "mincing" their words and acting fey. It's certainly something I've noticed. As I said to you on the phone, I think it's just protective colouration. Guys who want to get laid or find a girlfriend see that women prefer gay men to straight men -- as Christie Blatchford says, like most women she adores gay men as a group. Don't you see this as patronizing and condescending? I had to smile when I read a Letter to the Editor on her article from a gay man saying, speaking personally, the feeling wasn't at all mutual. That is, gay men are gay men, not collective widgets to be set in place where feminists believe they belong -- on the feminist male-female-interchangeable continuum. What do YOU think?

Alexa Tomaszewski:

I think you're more or less right. The hegemonic powers-that-be are the guiding force in terms of where society is headed in the next few decades. For those hegemonic hierarchies to you need to have your weird, quirky exceptions to remind everyone else what "normal" is.  In some ways Andrej Pejic is a good example of that rule. He reminds us that we are part of the bigger picture, on that involves layers of power. The people at the top with the most power need Andrej Pejic because this exception to the rule gives off the illusion that we've become more accepting, when just the opposite is happening.

Christie Blatchford is a great writer. But in this case she categorizes and separates groups of people and then labels one as better or more tolerable than the other. In anthropology this type of categorization was used to separate cultures, people and religions. After decades of classification by anthropologists all over the world, modern (post-19th century) anthropology has to look at this system of classification and break it down because everything today is fluid. The continuum is pulling us all forward and is engaging each person in global communication -- globalization means society is more nomadic and cosmopolitan than ever before, notions of east and west as separate are breaking down. Could this be the same for notions of gender? Especially as the subject experiences a more fluid, undefined identity?

So yes, Blatchford is being condescending and patronizing, but more so, she's being narrow-minded. To be man or woman is scientific fact, to act like a man or woman is gender identification. We all identify in different ways, especially as the notion of "normal" becomes more and more muddied. As individuals in society we create our identity from the barrage of images we receive daily and how we act is an extension of that consumption.

Dave Sim: Hi Alexa. Let's see if this works.
    On Blatchford's main point -- where have all the manly men gone? -- I think a good illustration is when my relationship with Susan was coming to an end (she's the one you were asking about, with her forthcoming book, DAVE SIM'S LAST GIRLFRIEND) and I said to her on the phone, "What you need is a squishy feminist you can push around."  And she YELLS over the phone, "NO!"  Well, you know, at that point it's beyond comedic.  You don't yell at a real man "NO!" you yell "NO!" at a squishy feminist.  So, it's beyond comedic and it is, self-evidently, structural.  This is how the-society-formerly-known-as-Christendom has chosen to be.  As a result, if you're a man in a relationship you have only two choices: capitulate (the squishy feminist option) or leave (the manly option).  I mean, it's outside of my parameters to hit a woman under any circumstances -- the proverbial bitch slap: "smarten up".  For a dissenting view, Google search Barbara Walters' interview with Sean Connery.  Actually a follow-up where he states the case: "When you've given her the last word and she's had the last word and she goes back to it again..."
     As I say, once I realized that it was a structural problem -- that the way society has chosen to set itself up the only options are capitulate or leave and you are inevitably going to reach that fork in the road. Then it seems completely ridiculous to start down that road in the first place.  It's been fourteen years and I've never had a moment's doubt that that's the case: don't go down that road because it only leads to that same fork.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Let's Talk About Fashion!

Alexa Tomaszewski: So explain a bit to me how someone like you, with your reputation as such, ends up doing fashion. ‘Cause you know fashion, Dave. Don’t think I didn’t  notice those McQueen booties and Chanel bags. You told me about Stan Drake and Alex Raymond. You could have reproduced their panels to tickle your fancy. Why’d you go high fashion? ‘Cause it is high fashion.

Dave Sim:  Fashion magazines, to me, are women at their best and -- maybe more importantly -- at their most open since I take it as a given that 99.9% of the audience is women, so this is women talking to women.  Women talking to women have a far lower "b.s." threshold than women talking to men.  So, for me, it was always a good way to check on what the fairer sex was thinking about and talking about and how that's evolving.  When I broke up with Susan in 1998, that left a big gap in my life. The fashion coverage in the newspaper is far more cautious because the fashion writers know that men read the newspaper as well.  You don't want a "too revealing" paragraph that someone might accidentally read.  Fashion magazines are HARDCORE!

Okay, now I'll ask you one:  it's not unusual to have to put all discretionary spending on hold while you're going to school to prepare for a career.  How disorienting is that, since you've just come out on the other side having gone from No Spending to Some Spending? What are the things you miss the most when you can't afford to spend money on them?

Alexa Tomaszewski: That’s a tough one. Without giving too much away, suffice it to say I can never have too many bags. Hand bags, slouchy bags, clutches and everything in between. You mentioned your love for Michael Kors. Hello! That’s what I’m talking about. I can’t wait for the day I can afford Louis Vuitton. And, I mean, when I turn 30, there’s no way I’m not gifting myself with a pair of Louboutins. My feet can’t handle them.  I’m praying the man knows how to make a woman’s foot feel good while wearing them for however many hundreds or thousands of dollars. I can’t afford expensive make-up. I miss that.  Dior, YSL and Anna Sui make stuff to-die-for. We talked perfume bottles, so you know my affinity for pretty things.

You must have noticed that I have an affinity for high fashion. I think it’s classy. It’s a good reflection on women whereas many of the women on television I think are a sad, sad reflection on feminism - gone crazy.       

Dave Sim:  We got into the "how skanky are women today" discussion just a bit at the end of the interview for CEREBUS TV.  That's one of those things that you really notice when you're verging on retirement age as I am.  I referred to the video "Do It Like A Dude" as an example of a direction I don't think girls really want to go, although it clearly has great appeal for a lot of them.  What used to be called a tomboy, a phase girls went into and came out of, is now seen as "not wimping out like a girl".  You can get yourself into a lot of trouble thinking like that.  Guys tend to encourage it because it means more access to cheap and easy sex.  Back in my womanizer days I really relied on that quality.  Girls tend to see having absolute control over their romantic lives as absolute freedom, but they do tend to make bad choices, far worse choices than back in the day when their fathers had to approve of their boyfriends, so the freedom really tends to amount to the freedom to mess themselves up.  To put it bluntly, if the girls are making the call, as a guy you'll get laid a lot more often.  Most of the time they just need to be ovulating and sex sounds like a great idea. Fathers are far, far more difficult to fool.  Impossible to fool, in fact.  If all you want to do is get his daughter's pants a few times he'll smell it on you like panther sweat no matter how much you try to sound like a future son-in-law. He's the only one who really has your best interests at heart while really having no stake in your life apart from your best interests. He wants you to be deliriously happy, but he wants you to be deliriously happy Long Term, not deliriously happy for the next year or two.  Who else can you really say that about?

Okay, now I'll ask you one: In that same discussion you brought up Ariel Levy's book and her thesis  about how women are basically modelling themselves to one degree or another on the Lady Gagas and the Katy Perrys who are really modelling themselves on strippers and hookers and that strippers and hookers are, 9 times out of 10, severely traumatized and abused women who are making their decisions as a result of trauma and abuse.  I'd say there's a persuasive case to be made there.  But, what can be done about it, do you think?  How do you persuade young girls that Lady Gaga and Katy Perry aren't good role models?

Alexa Tomaszewski: Well, as a grown woman fed from the tit of Britney Spears videos I can honestly say I think GaGa and Mizz Perry are a fantastic and delightful change of pace from Christina grinding in those godawful chaps. It was bad before, and GaGa is as entertaining as a live-show.

I’ll admit it, I saw Britney Spears live, with my mom (never-retirement age, you’re a jokster), and wow, just wow – word’s can not describe. Well they can, the next day The Toronto Star called Spears as enthusiastic as a dead eye’d stripper. Brutal, and it was.

You persuade young girls to become excited by other things, anything but the television. That’s where most of the poison is. You need to make women enthusiastic about themselves, we need to focus on cutting bullying out of the school system.  It’s an over-populated planet, we best be nice to each other – man or woman. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ok, Now I'll Ask You One

Dave Sim:  Okay, I'll start off our "Okay, Now I'll Ask You One" discussion.  I haven't really read any of the new mainstream Marvel and DC comic books since I started Glamourpuss, but it seems to me there's a strong undercurrent of misogyny in them just from what I've been hearing: rape of the heroine as a plot device, super-heroines manipulating super-heroes with their sexuality, all things that were completely unheard of back in my day.  Are things really bad or are there some bright spots when it comes to "women characters in comics"?

Alexa Tomaszewski: There are bright spots. During out interview you talked about Buffy-loving, t-shirt clad women reading comic books and you’re not that far off in a sense. Joss Whedon is a humanist. Are we surprised women like his work? I’m hoping he can pull off a decent super-heroine in the upcoming Avengers movie because yeah there are a lot of skimpy outfits and boobs in mainstream comics. Marvel and DC wouldn’t dare have one of their heroines raped, are you kidding?  Of course you are. 

So, you are known on the web as a misogynist. We’ve talked a lot about Glamourpuss, comic books, and fashion. Not a lot about women in general.  Are you a misogynist?

Dave Sim: I'm not a feminist, but I don't think that makes me a misogynist.  I just don't think things are working very well when you have a divorce rate up above 60% and I think feminism has to shoulder its fair share of the blame.  We need career women AND stay-at-home wives and mothers and I think you have to decide very young which you want to be and work at becoming that.  If you postpone your career until your forties you're starting too late. If you postpone marriage and having kids until your forties you're also starting too late. Both require single-minded devotion to do properly, I think. Both make lousy hobbies. 
Okay, now I'll ask you one:  how difficult is the Internet making it to actually build a career?  Since everything's free on the Internet people tend not to pay people to do things on the Internet.  Again, way back in my day, that problem didn't exist. I may only have gotten $10 or $15 for a drawing that was published in a fanzine but I got paid.  I wouldn't do free work.  But now isn't it a situation where you have to start doing free work and hope someday someone will pay you?

Alexa Tomaszewski: As a writer it’s not easy. I wonder how my career would have turned out in broadcast – but that’s a society based on looks and surface veneer. That’s not how I want to compete. I think writing is the most meaningful way to explore the undercurrents of things like revolutionary events, culture and also as a human in existence with other humans experiencing a complex and diverse world. This is not a pursuit that pays the big bucks. Education is valued, but you need to work very hard to make a dollar in a society that would rather watch Teen Mom or Dancing with the Stars than read an article I worked six months on. Which by the way you’re missing out on Dave, Teen Mom, haven’t you heard? ADD is totally in. 

Going back to your earlier thought, shopping high fashion does require single-minded devotion.You can't have four babies and be running to Holt's to pick out that perfect designer piece for Friday night's dinner can you? Choosing couture is like choosing wall paint, you have to live with it. Many women would argue the following fact, but I think you have to sacrifice beautiful things for diapers.