Hi there, Ming! I love your artwork! So, in my Business of Art class, we were discussing women in comics. Most of the guys in my class said that women only get jobs from editors because they're attractive or cute. I'm the only girl in my class, so I stayed out of it to avoid trouble. As a woman trying to break into comics myself, this worries me. I'm far from what most would consider attractive, but for all the other girls out there trying to get work, what would you say to that? Thank you!

The short, practical answer: Most business is conducted entirely over email. Your editors may hire you, work with you for years, and if you don’t post selfies or attend conventions, they may never know what you look like. Even if they do know what you look like, editors care more about your quality of work, your timeliness and your professionalism, than any selfie. Be fearless, do the work, make connections online, and of course you can flourish!

The long, twisted answer: Yes. We’re women, it’s inevitable that we’ll be judged, coveted, and derided purely on the basis of our looks, our age, our perceived sexual availability. These judgments crash against us at every turn in life. They’re inescapable, and yes, explicitly or implicitly, from men and from women, you will confront these judgments and many more during your professional career. 

If you choose to make your gender public knowledge, some readers will be cruel to you. They’ll seem to single your art out more loudly and consistently than any equivalently accomplished male counterpart’s for pillorying. They’ll call your lines ugly, and in the comments section they will call you ugly. Or, they’ll be too kind to you. It won’t matter how unattractive you may think you are, they’ll speak to you too long at conventions, they’ll stare and say you’re even prettier than your art, and that will be worse, because if you can be the target of such bombastic, lecherous praise, then maybe your art is actually just as bad as you’ve been made to feel.

If you choose to make your gender public knowledge, some readers will support you. They’ll support you unfailingly, they’ll class you as a “woman creator” and they’ll ask you to provide sound bites that speak for all women, though of course that’s impossible. They’ll put you on a “Women in Comics” panel at every show, and often that will be the only panel you’re ever on. They’ll buy your work because you’re a woman, just because you’re a woman.

Have I gotten more or less work because of the way I look? Like you, I bear all the lifelong mental wounds of growing up in this society and consider myself “far from what most would consider attractive.” I think a lot of women do. But when I was first breaking in, I encountered my fair share of sexually charged interest and dismissal, in equal turns. I’ve escaped from gross situations with professionals and never worked with them, but also never spoken publically about those intimidating experiences. I’ve been hired to be in multiple woman-themed anthologies exclusively because I was a woman. I’ve been in an Asian-themed anthology because I’m Asian. Almost any review of my work from the first five years of my career begins, “Drawn by the lovely/beautiful/hot/exotic and talented Ming Doyle…”

Whatever you are in this life, however you look or identify or are identified, it’s going to impact you professionally and personally. Attractive, unattractive, majority, minority, there’s no getting out untouched. And if that sounds grossly generalizing and invasive, that’s because that’s what a lot of these experiences are like.

But remember what I said way back up there in the short answer, about being fearless? Do that. Yes, there’s a host of adversities attached to embarking upon any endeavor as a woman, and comics come with their own unique and prickly set. But if you love what you do, if you’re good at it and you can persevere, if you can access the core of who you are as a person and align that with what you want to accomplish as an artist and hold that knowledge as a shield in front of everything you do, you can make it! And I hope you will, because I want to see you here. For all the awful people who may make the journey rough or unpleasant for you, there is a large number of people who want to employ you and want to stand with you professionally.

Thank you. And please, even after I’ve said all that, GO FOR IT! It’s not going to be easy, but it was never going to be. The secret is that it’s not easy for anyone, and in the end that’s what’s going to make you a goddamn warrior.

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