We look to our northern neighbors for examples of how to be better today.
- If you weren’t reading Twitter at the right time last night, you may not have noticed that Kate Beaton has released a new autobio comic chronicling her time in the tar sands of Fort McMurray. We last got a glimpse of Beaton’s time in a very strange, very male place in Ducks, a five-part comic telling the story of one big event (and the much more relevant smaller everyday events) from 2008. I’ve said before that Beaton’s ability to tell stories from her own life are second to none, and each time she’s revisited that mining site has been breathtaking in its honesty, particularly with respect to her experiences there as a woman¹.
I’m not the only one that feels this way:
So last year, I made some comics about working in Fort McMurray. And I said I planned to make more.
The question I get asked the most by far when I talk about the place is what was it like to be there, as a woman, specifically.
it is, as ever, only my own experience.
Is What It Is is many things at once — deeply personal, but also very likely damn near universal; I can see many women having experienced things like Beaton did, in places far less … let’s say phallocentric. It’s a painful read, see the shit that Beaton put up with for the sole reason that the men around her see her as some kind of object they have a collective right to. It makes me proud to see her tell them it’s not that she’s Miss high and mighty, it’s just that they’re dicks and she opts out of their worldview. It kills me a little inside to see her interacting with the biggest dick of them all, the one piling needless shit on her, and realizing that the only thing she can do is act like it’s not a thing.
Nobody will read Is What It Is without coming away with a strong opinion; I’ll say that it will definitely provoke one of two reactions. If you read it and say to yourself What’s she complaining about? then the door’s over there and you can see yourself out. Everybody else — anybody with a sense of empathy — is going to feel hurt; hurt that people are capable of treating each other this way, hurt because too many of you have been on the receiving end of similar situations, hurt because Beaton is so good at conveying these kinds of moments and making you feel what she did.
The very tall story is subtitled Part One, and Beaton’s left open her options for how she continues this tale; personally, I’m hoping for the possibility of a book. Beaton is one of the finest memoirists working in English today, and I long for the day that the reading public can let her stories of things experienced wash over them in great big chunks.
- Ryan Sohmer, as I believe I have mentioned on this page previously, is a man of contradictions. His comics aren’t for me, but I like him personally a great deal. He’s cheerfully mercenary, got a plan to dominate all aspects of the comics-making business, and will never fall prey to the poisonous thought that being involved in the arts means being poor.
He’s also willing to put his money where his mouth is, whether it’s setting up scholarships for up-and-coming comics students. And with the news from Oxfam earlier this week that half of all global wealth is held by 1% of living humans, he’s been thinking about income inequality.
Sohmer’s not a benevolent tyrant-king to the world (not yet, anyway), so he’s setting his sights a little lower than eradicating worldwide income inequality. He’s also deeply cognizant that Comics is an industry that’s made some pretty substantial fortunes by screwing people over, and determined that simply won’t do:
I can’t change what McDonald’s or Home Depot does, but I can be an example and hope that others follow suit.
Blind Ferret has 32 full time employees and 12 part timers. I make the following statements and will hold to them:
- Minimum Wage for hourly/part time employees at Blind Ferret is $12.00 per hour.
- Starting salary for a salaried employee will be no less than $32,000 per year.
- Blind Ferret will not employ unpaid interns. Interns receive minimum wage, and should the school that placed them not allow that, we will no longer work with that school.
We should be paying our employees what we can, not what we can get away with.
I call on every company in the comic industry to join me in providing a living wage for our employees. Our success is built on their backs, and it’s time we remember that.
Bear in mind that minimum wage in Quebec, where Blind Ferret is located, is presently CAN$10.35/hour² so Sohmer is committing to starting people at nearly 14% above that required level. Median household income in Canada (for 2011, the most recent year I could find) is CAN$28,404, so he’s putting starting salaries 11% above.
And by my reading, the no unpaid interns portion is potentially the most important rule there, and even if other comics companies don’t follow Sohmer’s lead on pay rates, they can pay their damn interns. Comics industry, you’ve got Blind Ferret and Iron Circus showing you how it’s done. Get on that.
- Via the twitterfeed of The Toronto Man-Mountain:
There’s gonna be a game version of To Be or Not To Be! And it’s gonna go… a little something… a’like this: http://bit.ly/ToBeGame
Interactive TBONTB, everybody!
For those of you grumping that this last item definitely meets the Canadian content requirement for today’s theme but is light on the equality portion, may I remind you that TBONTB‘s version of Ophelia is the smartest, most capable protagonist choice in the book, and the text/game will actively punish you for trying to play her as weak, passive, and uninteresting? Choose her and she’s the star of her own story, same as Hamlet or Hamlet, Sr.
Spam of the day:
tasted it before putting it in my taco because it really ruined it. Ick.
Now that’s what I’m talking about. Good job stepping up, spammers!
¹ Which, because she’s a woman on the internet, means she’s probably spending a good chunk of today deleting shitty emails and blocking morons on social media, because every time she brings up the topic they crawl out from under their rocks to tell her she’s wrong and stupid and ugly and what about men and shut up already. Her bravery in putting her stories out there is many-layered.
² According to today’s interbank rate, that would be US$8.35. By way of comparison, the US Federal minimum wage is US$7.25, and you need to consider that Canada’s public funding provides the best healthcare system in the world.