by Tahneer Oksman

Women Moving in from the Comic Sidelines

“What does it mean to be a feminist today?” asks Shannon O’Leary in her introduction to The Big Feminist But: Comics about Women, Men and the IFs, ANDs & BUTs of Feminism. Edited by O’Leary and Joan Reilly, the book consists of almost three dozen black-and-white contributions: fiction and non-fiction, single-page cartoons and multiple-page stories. As O’Leary explains, comics have frequently been a marginalized medium, relegated to the realm of the lowbrow. And women have often been sidelined within this now increasingly respected art form, which makes the premise of the anthology both provocative and astute. Appropriately fashioned for conversations about what feminism entails, comics offer the potential for the expression of gaps, contradictions, and competing subjectivities. With their visually constructed and formally open-ended format, graphic narratives can help us reexamine what we take for granted, the ways we picture ourselves in the world. This is also what makes the medium so attractive to those interested in examining other categorizations of identity — from the religious and ethnic to the political and regional — and why so many Jewish women in particular have appropriated the form in an attempt to make sense of contemporary Jewish identity.

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