When Silence Is Self-Care In Comics Culture

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Carrie Mae Weems: Roaming, 2006

I. Self-Care in Silence

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’ve grown quieter about comics over the last few months. After my speech this past November at UNLV, I felt empty. But even when I regained strength I remained quiet. Was I uninspired? Was I being lazy? Whether I couldn’t really tell, or I wasn’t being honest with myself, it took reading Kim O’Connor’s Don’t Be a Dick: Tips and Tricks for How to Talk About Comics piece on Comics and Cola for the reason to become clear to me:

I’m writing today because I think I know the answer to a question that comics types revisit every so often: Why aren’t there more people writing comics crit?

Some of the reasons are universal. (There’s no money in it. There’s no real audience.) Others are huge, but not universal, like systemic racism and sexism. On top of all that there’s another, more nebulous obstacle that some of us experience, and that’s the fact that comics promotes a culture in which people feel way too comfortable acting like total dicks to complete strangers.

When I read those words from Kim, it felt as if she knew what I’ve been fearing all this time. Like she was speaking directly to me. I know I’m not alone. It hurts to see people get harassed for calling out problematic elements in comics. I love comic books. There’s no doubt about that. But it pains me watch the harassment perpetuate – to use bell hooks’ phrase – an
imperialist
white-supremacist
capitalist
patriarchal ideology.

I haven’t experienced a lot of this bullying myself. But the thought of it happening scares me. It scares me to the point where I’m apprehensive of writing, or even just tweeting, about the many issues that bother me. It’s exhausting to simply exist as a woman of color in a society that suffocates me with sexism and racism every day. Right now my spirit can’t manage even more of it in comics culture.

At this moment, I feel the spirit to speak up. I just don’t I have the energy to fight back. But I’m glad others have that strength. I love them for it. So much. They’re a beacon of hope and an inspiration.

Maybe my energy will continue to come and go in batches, though I always fear that it will run out for good. Maybe one day I’ll find my own everlasting strength. For now, my silence is a form of self-care. And if I can’t fight back myself, I’ll continue to support those who can.

 

II. Celebrations

A dear friend of mine shared a poem with me. I shared it with another friend. I’ll now share it with you.

won’t you celebrate with me
By Lucille Clifton, 1936–2010
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

To me, this poem reflects what marginalized people, specifically women of color, experience not only as members of society, but as fans within comics culture as well. What happens out there, happens in here, too. What I like most about this poem is that it doesn’t offer any false hope. It doesn’t make a promise that things will get better, but it doesn’t forebode that things will get worse either.

The poem, instead, gracefully welcomes us to celebrate in the now, that we had the incredible strength to merely survive. Reading a comic, critiquing a comic, creating a comic, all take strength in a world where you are constantly told your voice, your body
or your life
don’t matter.

So won’t you celebrate with me? Celebrate that you made it through another day. Celebrate that you’re still you despite everything and anyone trying to change that. Celebrate that you still managed to be passionate about comics when its culture makes you feel as if you don’t belong. Let’s celebrate with our middle fingers up in the air. Smiling, perhaps through tears. But smiling just the same.

Self-Care Tips for fans of Geek Culture

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Art by Myles Rowser

I’ve come down with a case of being too woke and it’s starting to take a toll on both my mental and physical health. I’ve seen a lot of articles talk about self-care in relation to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and other oppressed communities and I think it’s important to take some of those self-care tips and apply it to the –isms and –phobias we also experience in geek culture.

Here are a few ways we can survive in a culture that’s sometimes hostile:

Find Your Community

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One of the most important things for you to do is find your community and safe spaces. This can be a group of IRL or Internet friends, troll-free online forums or meetup groups.

There are a lot community specific places online and in person that you can join. Geek Girl Brunch, Black Girl Nerds, Gaymers, Geeks Out and Geek Girl Pen Pals Club are just a few. Do some research and ask around about online and in-person communities that fit your needs.

Having a place where you can just be yourself and not worry about intolerance or hate is vital. Not just for the journey towards a more diverse geek culture, but for life. Finding a place where you feel comfortable may take some time, but never give up.

Do you know any other community specific groups or sites? Please comment and I’ll keep the list above updated!

You Don’t Have to Engage

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The second thing you should do is don’t feel the need to engage. If you’re like me, a lot of your feeds are filled with people sharing and talking about the latest injustice. I know sometimes social media can make you feel guilty if you don’t talk about the latest negative headline or don’t tweet out the newest hashtag. But remember, you don’t have to talk about it, and if you do talk about it you don’t have to reply to anyone.

It took me a while to really feel okay with just being silent on topics of injustice on social media. It’s only recently that I decided to speak up only when I really wanted to and not when I felt pressured to. It all comes down to awareness – make sure you’re fully aware of your actions and in control of them.

It’s also okay to not educate everyone, or anyone for that matter, about diversity, race, gender, religion or sexuality. It’s not your job. Explaining why representation matters and your own humanity is tiring and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.

I’ve also come to realize the similarities between talking about social justice online and dealing with street harassers. Street harassers will cat call and try to make you feel guilty for ignoring them or shutting them down, but you have to remember, just like social media, you don’t owe them shit.

Tune Out

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The third thing you can do is to get off the internet. Now I’m not telling you to cancel your internet and phone service, but I am telling you to tune out when your social media feeds and the news become too much. Switch on airplane mode for a few hours, play a game offline, watch a movie, read a book, go to the park and try your very best to not use your social media apps.

If you can’t tune out all the way, that’s okay! This is a judgment free zone. Instead, try muting and unfollowing accounts that often post negative news. If you run across negative media, think like Dory and just keep scrolling.

Go to your Happy Place

kimi ni todoke friends

Last but not least, when things are overwhelming go to your happy place and do something that you truly enjoy. It’ll (hopefully) cheer you up and it’s also a great reminder as to why you fell in love with geek culture. Because I won’t lie, sometimes we need reminders.

My happy place is shoujo manga and anime. The storylines are so innocent and sweet. I know the most stressful thing the characters will experience is a love triangle or holding their boyfriend’s hand for the first time. Even that stresses me out! But in a good way.

Whether it’s society in general or the pockets of geek culture that you’re apart of, it’s important to be mindful of your mental and emotional bandwidth. If things are literally too much for you to handle, please please please seek professional help. You do not need to go through this alone. 

Do you have any other tips that work for you? Please share in the comments!

Fangirl on a Budget: Cosplay Hair

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As I mentioned in the comic book edition of Fangirl on a Budget, being a geek girl can be pretty expensive, but being a cosplayer is even more expensive. Sometimes one cosplay can cost hundreds of dollars. Although it isn’t always easy to cut the costs of fabric and building materials for your costume, one way you could save some cash is with cosplay hair.

Wigs can be expensive and at times unavoidable. But, if your hair is similar in length to your cosplay character, but not color, try using hair chalk or comb-in hair color. I’ve been playing around with hair chalk since I’ve had my Rouge-inspired blonde streak. It’s a cute and non-permanent way to play around with hair colors. They wash out in about 1 to 2 washes and don’t damage your hair like bleaching and dying.

The products I tried in the video below are Creative Comb-In Hair Color (neon pink) and Hair Artist Hair Chalk (blue-green). The comb-in hair color pigment is vibrant, but keep in mind it can get a little messy since it is the like consistency of pudding and needs about 15 minutes to dry. The hair chalk isn’t messy at all and can be applied in less than 5 minutes. It’s like drawing on your hair which is kinda fun. In my experience hair chalk comes out bolder and brighter on light colored hair and is great if you want to do streaks or allover color. For dark brown and black hair I think hair chalk is best for streaks and highlights. The best thing is they both under 10 bucks.

I’ve been working with some fine folks from FYE on the reopening of their geeky pop culture store. If you’re in the NY tri-state area, check out the new FYE store in Woodbrigde Center Mall in New Jersey. They have lots of geeky pop culture clothes, toys and accessories. They’re even selling Her Universe! They have a beauty section where they sell hair chalk and other beauty products that are all under $10.

Advice on Finding the Time to Blog & Ending Bloggers Guilt

I’ve been asked a lot about how to find the time to blog, so I felt it was time to share my “advice” in a blog post. I have no idea why people ask my advice because I’m not exactly the model citizen for blogging frequency, but here I am sharing my advice.

The Practical Advice

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Get Real

Set realistic blogging goals. Every blog is different so what may be a lot for one blog, may not be a lot for another. Figure out your sweet spot. Back when I was a baby blogger I wanted to blog once a day… I was obviously crazy. As time went on I aimed for 5 times a week and that was still crazy for me. Then 3 times a week, which was less crazy but unrealistic when you add work and social life in the mix. Now I’ve come to my senses and I try to blog once a week but even that doesn’t happen sometimes.  But you know what? That’s okay.

Blog on the go

I have a long commute and sometimes I get an itch to blog on the way home (usually because of happy hour drinks + Wednesday comics). I usually write the posts in an email draft or the notes section on my phone. Blogging platforms have apps you can use as well, I prefer drafts or notes on my phone because I’m usually underground and don’t have service to save the posts. (I literally wrote this post in my email drafts on the train.)

It’s the little things

Try to take advantage of free time after work or school for little blog stuff. And by little, I mean little. Try short blog posts, answer emails, research, etc. 30 minutes of blog time after work here and there can add up. The best part is you’ll still have time to binge on some Netflix for the rest of the night. Win/win!

The Weekender

I get a bulk of my work done on weekends. I try to spend a few hours in the morning and afternoon on Saturday or Sunday for blog stuff. But if I have weekend plans, a wrench can easily be thrown into my routine. This happens a lot, so if you know you’ll be out of the house most of the weekend, try to work on your blog during the week.

 

The Psychological Advice

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Live Yo Life

Learn to be okay with not blogging as much as you’d like. This is so much easier than it sounds, but repeat it like a mantra. Family, friends, school and work take up and chunk of time automatically. But when it comes to being a geek, we also have to add all the time we spend watching, reading and playing things as well. Don’t feel guilty about that! All of those things are part of your life and make you who you are. If you’re a geek blogger, you need to watch, read and play these things for stuff to blog about, right? So do it! And be happy about it. There’s nothing worse than feeling guilty about doing something you love. Never lose that passion you have for these geeky things. If you do, your blog will feel like a job.

I blog because it makes me happy and I hope my experiences can help others. Never lose that happiness and always remember the reason why you blog. You need to go out and live your life if you plan to come back and blog about it. If you stress out too much about blogging it won’t be fun, it’ll show in your writing and that won’t be fun to read.

When I made the conscious decision to not blog as often, it was also because I decided to blog about what I really cared about. That’s why even though I wasn’t doing several posts a week (or month if I’m being honest) at least I was happy with what I had done because it meant more to me than just writing something to fill up space. This won’t happen overnight, it took me 2 years to be okay with not blogging often. But I also didn’t have anyone telling me to do that. So here I am, telling you to do that.

Overcoming Self-Doubt

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This is dedicated to everyone with dumb self-doubts… like me.

You guys, I’m the worst. Well, I’m the worst at thinking I’m the worst. If comics, books or anime taught me anything, it’s that I can do anything. Well, maybe not literally anything, but a whole damn lot. People believe in me (people who aren’t automatically supposed to like my parents), so why is it so easy for me to dismiss them? Why is it so easy for us to dismiss genuine thoughts from people about our talents and capabilities? It’s because we’re scared. And if you’re not ready to admit it, at least I know I’m scared.

I’ve wanted to write a comic for a while, not really a series but a cute lil’ one shot (or graphic novel if I’m feeling fancy). But I didn’t think I was a good writer. (Kinda still don’t tbh.) Why? Because I’ve never written a “real” piece of fiction before let alone a comic. But like, how dumb is that? (Answer: Really dumb.) I haven’t even tried and I’m shooting it down. All writers have to start somewhere obvi. I am well aware that at least in this universe, embryos aren’t writing in the womb. So why would I put an unrealistic limit on myself? Because it’s easy and a wonderful addition to my “stupid reasons for not doing something” list.

In reality I don’t even really want to be a “writer writer” but just get some specific stories out there. I don’t necessarily want a career in writing either, that’s too much pressure, baby steps people. I just want something out in the ether with “Author: Jamila Rowser” on it. But even though I don’t have crazy high expectations of my dream, I still doubt myself. My doubt is killing things before they are born. My doubts are bursting with bullshit and literally don’t make any sense, yet they hold me back. Like, they are sooo ridiculous that even I know they are ridiculous. But here they are, chillin’ in the back of my head keeping me from doing thangs.

It’s like I’m always arguing with myself like that brilliant scene in the Doctor Who episode “Nightmare in Silver” where The Doctor was debating with himself… Except my version is less brilliant and more self-doubty. (Also hat tip to me for a Neil Gaiman and Doctor Who reference at the same time.)

So you know what we should do? Just say fuck it and do it! Follow your dreams and succeed. Follow your dreams and fail. Either way you followed your dreams. You don’t know where they will take you, but at least you won’t be 70 years old saying to yourself, “Shoulda coulda woulda”. Nobody wants to hear that crap. Don’t be that person. You are the only one holding yourself back and you know it. You don’t know if your dream will turn out to be a success or failure, but at least you know it will be something.

Fangirl on a Budget: Comic Book Edition

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Let’s be honest, being a fangirl is pretty expensive. Don’t see how? Just add up how much you spend on comics, books, toys, clothes, cons, games, etc. But this made me wonder, can you be a geek and be on a budget at the same time? Well of course you can! But since our love runs deep for these fandoms, saving money isn’t that easy. I spend the most money on comics since I pick them up every Wednesday. I’m sure a lot of you are in the same boat so I figured that’s the best place to start.

Here are a few simple ways you can save money when it comes to comic books:

I’m Just Not That into You

You should probably trim the fat at least once a year. Look at your pull list or the titles you buy each month and ask yourself, “Do I really care about this series?” You may realize that you’re reading them out of habit. The ones you no longer care about can go in a box to the left.

Go Digital

Now take a look at your pull list again. Are there any titles that you don’t need to physically collect? I know when it comes to being a fan, our wants camouflage as needs. But really ask yourself if you need every single issue of each series. Maybe you can switch to buying only milestone issues or covers that you really like. If so, read those series on Comixology. They can be cheaper than the print version (but not always) and they always have sales, so in the end you’ll save money and space. Also, their guided view is pretty cool!

Used TPB

Switching to digital is the hardest one in my opinion. So I totally understand if you’re not down for it. I’m a big fan of print books and comics and rarely read digital comics unless it’s manga. When I want to read an older series or catch up on an ongoing one, I buy used trade paperbacks on Amazon (or read the digital volumes on Comixology). The used TPBs are a lot cheaper and often look just as good.

Volumes over Single Issues

Volumes can be a substitute if you’re not down with digital. If there’s a series you like, but don’t need to read the single issues every month, wait a few months and buy the volumes instead. They are usually cheaper than individual issues when you add them up.

Libraries- Submitted by Kia

This is the best option if you don’t want/need to own the trades that you want to read. I used to do this a lot when reading older series. If your library doesn’t have that volume, sometimes they can ship it from another library so don’t forget to ask!

NetGalley– Submitted by Kia

If you’re a reviewer, blogger, journalist, librarian, bookseller, educator, or in the media, NetGalley is a great place to read digital comics for free.

Local Comic Shop Sales- Submitted by B of You Fancy Me Mad

Most comic book stores have big sales monthly. Sign up for their newsletter to hear about their latest discounts and sales. Like B said, “It’s a great time to pick up trades or that variant cover you’ve had your eye on.”

Have more tips on saving money when it comes to comics? Share them in the comments section!

Doki Doki: Anime & Manga Helped Me Get Over A Heartbreak

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Last year, I was going through some up and downs. Some of the downs had to do with love. I stayed home a lot because I was in a crappy mood and didn’t want to be crappy around my friends. Also, I just wanted to be alone a lot. Being a bum in my house was literally on my schedule. So what did I do? I turned to anime. Lots and lots of anime.

Nana_manga_anime7Anime was doing a great job distracting me from being sad. Despite being a fan of many geeky mediums, anime is what I turn to when I’m sad and need some cheering up. Then Nana came along and messed everything up. I thought it was going to be a cute, harmless little shōjo/josei anime, but by the time I got to episode 5 I felt like I was looking in a mirror. So much for a distraction, right? I became completely consumed with Nana after I started reading the manga. I began playing that, “Just one more chapter!” game, and before I realized, it was 3am.

Interestingly enough, I continued to obsess about Nana even though reading it made me sad. I turned to anime for temporary happiness, but I clung to the one that did just the opposite. I saw Nana and Hachi go through the same experiences I’ve been through, and because of that, I couldn’t look away. I hoped that in the end, they would live happily ever after, which would mean I would live happily ever after. But the manga is incomplete. The author, Ai Yazawa, became sick and wasn’t able to finish the story… my story. But I think in the end that was the point. Nana_manga_anime6

What I got out of my Nana experience was that regardless of how different everyone’s experience is with relationships, love and heartbreak, there are universal themes and truths we all go through. The manga forced me face my feelings of sadness in a space I normally associated with happiness. Nana was unfinished, but I imagined a happy ending for the characters… Because that’s what I deserve.