In the coffee shop, head down, typing, organizing, revising. One of the barristas, a younger woman, college student, white with red hair, name unknown, came by and asked out of the blue, "Whatcha doing?"
So I briefly explained and then turned the conversation on her. I hadn't seen her much lately and said so.
"I only had twelve hours last week," she said, "which is a downer because this job is half my income and I have a lot of school, and you know, that costs. I've been taking a lot of courses."
How many hours?
She thought it over. "Sixteen credits. Like, Monday, most days, classes start about ten thirty and go to three thirty but Friday, which is usually the day students have off, I have one class, and it's like six hours."
I didn't know students usually had Friday off but I was more curious about the class and prepared to ask her, is it a lab, when she volunteered, "It's photography." Now I'm ready to follow up and ask, do you want to be a photographer when she continued, "I don't even like photography but it's required as part of my degree requirements?" She often speaks as though she's asking questions, raising an inflection, like an eyebrow going up, at the sentence end. "I like line drawing, but that's the introductory courses. I'm required to take all these other classes, like fine art and oil painting, to get my degree."
So what do you want to do with your degree? What sort of drawing?
She blushes and ducks her head, bobbing it several times, twirling her keys and shifting foot to foot, conveying embarrassment. "I want to be an illustrator. Well, really, I want to do comic books."
Comic books, or graphic novels or...?
"Comic books, like the old kind? You don't make much money in them but, I love them, I love how they feel and how they smell, and I just like reading them and studying them. I really like the old style, they call them floppies now? Like comparing it to some people prefer records over CDs or digital, and just like that, some people prefer the old style, the old style of comic books, and they call them floppies, like comparing floppy discs to hard drives or memory drives or something like that, so I really like the old style, the floppies."
What about manga? You have any interest in that?
"Some, it depends on the illustrator, but manga, you know, they're still really into a lot of the sexism. It's even worse in America, in comic books, because, like, at DC, they fired all their illustrators? They wanted to go back to the old way? When women in their comic books have big boobs and no faces?
"But in Japan, they have, like manga for everyone. They have young manga, manga for young girls, and manga for handicapped people and manga for old people. The man in charge, like one man in charge asked, why is all our manga like this? Why do we have all these women with large breasts and these men doing these things? And the answer was, because you have forty year old men drawing the manga and that's what they like, so he decided he would create manga for other people and he hired young girls to write for young girls, and old people to write for old people.
"I wish they'd do that in America, because, like, they're missing a huge market, they missing, like half the women in America don't get into comic books because of how they're oriented. Like, in the NFL, they made it a rule, like, they had all white coaches so they made it a rule that they had to interview blacks and other minorities for head coaching positions."
Right, that's the Rooney rule.
"Right, that's right, the Rooney rule. Well, I wish they would make a rule like that for the comic strips and other things, and start thinking about other people and giving us a chance, too."
Wow, the energy, the knowledge, the insights. So much discovered in a five minute conversation. I loved it, and I loved that she came up to me and was willing to share.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com