Pledge Drive

November 2nd, 2006 | Site Update

Okay. Here’s a long overdue post on the spontaneous fundraiser that “DTWOF Fan” set in motion on October 17th. (DTWOF fan, if you would please identify yourself to me, I’d like to thank you personally.)

I’m sorry I haven’t provided more feedback on how this was going. The whole thing began just a few days before I had to leave for Europe on that book tour, and I just haven’t had any time to properly respond until now. I thanked everyone personally who made a donation before I left on the trip, and I’ll get to everyone else asap. I’m really sorry I’ve been so behindhand with things, but I’ve been barely managing to hang onto my sanity with all this travel.

So I finally sat down today and analyzed my PayPal history. $2441.52 has come in since October 17th, five times the “$500 by the 500th episode” that DTWOF fan proposed as a way of helping to cover the costs of this website. Thank you! 99 people made contributions, 25 of which came from outside the US. At first that struck me as oddly disproportionate, but I’m thinking maybe it’s because those people depend more on the website than US readers, who have easier access to the strip in newspapers and bookstores. But I’m not sure. Maybe it’s something else.

At any rate, I’m extremely grateful to everyone who contributed money. But I’m just as grateful to everyone who’s been visiting the site and commenting on the blog over these past months, for making it such a vibrant forum. As some of you who’ve been following the blog for a while know, I started hosting the strip myself last April after PlanetOut dropped it, and I was trying to figure out whether there was a way to make up that lost income as well as cover the cost of maintaining my own site. Advertising? Subscriptions? Finding another website to host me?

I explored all of these things a little bit, and each had its shortcomings. Then I got overwhelmed with the book tour for Fun Home, and put the whole thing on the back burner. From April to the beginning of the recent “pledge drive,” 33 people made their own spontaneous donations totaling $828.

That means that I’ve received in donations enough to cover what I’ve invested in the website so far, which is really excellent. Since the donation model seems to be working pretty well (mostly thanks to “DTWOF fan”, admittedly), that’s going to be my strategy for the time being. And when I get a little more time, I’ll find a way to attach an explanation of the policy to the PayPal button.

You may recall that soon after the “pledge drive” began, I expressed that I had mixed feelings about it. I’ve been trying to figure this out. And I think it’s basically this: while I’m deeply grateful for the contributions and can certainly use the money, I also feel uncomfortable about the possibility that there’s a kind of charity motivation at work, that some people are giving out of an abstract urge to support me and DTWOF rather than a particular urge to fund the website.

Maggie Jochild made a post about how perhaps instead of giving money to me, people should support the network (my publishers, for example, and Pine Street Art Works which exhibited a show of my work last month) that supports me and other artists. Then some related discussion ensued on the blog about how people should buy my artwork (or I should auction it off) as a way of supporting me, and that too made me uncomfortable. On October 29th, I saw a comment on the blog by A Nonny Mouse expressing some annoyance about the “frequent exhortations” to buy my art. And I took the opportunity to post this remark in reply:

I appreciate the posts about helping me (and the larger network of cultural workers) to survive financially. But I don’t like the vibe of urging people to buy stuff. Original art is absurdly expensive. And I trust that if someone really wants some, they’ll come and seek it out. I don’t want people to buy art to support me. I want them to buy art because they want the art.

I feel like I need to clarify that—it was expressed badly. I was addressing the thread of comments suggesting that people buy my art as a way to support me, NOT the posts by Liza Cowan of Pine Street Art Works, directing people to her site where they can purchase my work. I totally want to encourage people to support Pine Street Art Works—it’s a wonderful gallery, and I’ve been remiss in not putting up a better link to the site. I will do that as soon as I can.

I’ve been remiss about a lot of things lately. I’m finally at the end of 6 months of promoting Fun Home, and it’s been a very wild ride. I feel like you guys have been on it with me, and I’ve appreciated the company. But I also feel like there’s been something disturbingly narcissistic about my blogging about it all—it’s very seductive to have a lot of people paying attention to me.

I’m going to think about that more. But right now I just wanted to say thank you.

64 Responses to “Pledge Drive”

  1. ;-) says:

    I just feel like “jotting down” a few points:

    It seems to me that narcissism works both ways here, so there is nothing wrong with that.

    About the donation thing, non US supporters/fans have no need to donate money to Pine street Art Works, there’s no charity in the fact that some of them want to support an independent (so far) artist.

    Bravo for Fun Home, it is a real reading experience! What’s next? 🙂

  2. kat says:

    Alison,
    I’m sure that I’m not the only one who feels that my donation was made out of a sense of appreciation rather than charity.
    I’ve only ever had access to your strip online, and prior to the “pledge drive” had never paid to do so. I’ve enjoyed your work immensely, and have been entertained, touched and thought-provoked (if such a thing is possible) by it. The least one can do, after several years of this, is to say thank you and send a token of appreciation.
    Besides which, you seem to knock yourself out including us in your adventures and frustrations on this blog, and I’m grateful for all the fun, pictures and discussions that I’ve found here.

    Obviously we can’t make you feel one way or another about the whole situation, but we are having a wonderful time peeking into your world and we will do whatever we can to make sure that that will continue.

    Keep up the amazing work!

  3. Deb says:

    My sentiments exactly Kat. I would also like to add that my intention of purchasing Alison’s art is more selfish on MY part. It will something that will be unique and valued in my home that reflects my lifestyle, community and my views on life. It will be an addition that will not only be valuable monitarily but valuable to me personally. I can certainly purchase through the Pine Street Art Works to support our community in the larger sense. If I could afford an original Georgia O’Keefe I would but I cant….but I have a print in my dining room….really! Anyway, I want to buy art from Alison because I love the artist, what she has to say, I will be able to afford it and it will be valued to me along with my friends and family. Charity? Gawd, I work for a 5O1C3 and have for almost 30 years. I give everyday to charity!

  4. tallie says:

    “I feel like you guys have been on it with me, and I’ve appreciated the company. But I also feel like there’s been something disturbingly narcissistic about my blogging about it all—it’s very seductive to have a lot of people paying attention to me.”

    i think this is partially true, in that blogging in and of itself is a somewhat narcissistic activity. BUT, as a person who reads this blog (and others), and as someone who donated (here and elsewhere), i see this as part of a larger and really fun cultural moment, where i get to have some kind of immediate connection to artists, activists, and authors, and where my money goes directly to them so that i can keep enjoying the posts (while not doing ANY of my own work, but that’s my issue). Part of what i love about blogging is that it is so much like seeing a band live:i go to see live shows partially for the music, but mostly to see the musicians interact, tell irrelevant stories, give little tidbits about their lives. This is totally part of the fun for me, which is why blogging is so cool. it’s part intellectual/artistic/political/whatever, and then part random everydayness. it’s a combination that’s accessible and entertaining for me.

    perhaps the discomfort about the “charity” motivation is a bit about obligation, too, like we feel obliged to give money and then you feel obliged to us, or something. but one of the lovely things about it for me is that it actually is NOT coercive in any way. (at least on my end)

    so, thank you for the space, for the art, and for allowing me to flesh out your persona as an author/artist a bit.
    and you’re welcome, it was no big deal whatsoever.

  5. rob says:

    i contribute for two reasons: out of deep sense of gratitude for almost 20 years of art that helped me feel less like a stranger, *and* because i enjoy this website -so- much, especially knowing how much work is involved in keeping a nice-looking website running smoothly. buying a $15 book every few years just doesn’t seem adequate.

  6. Ian says:

    Hmmmm, I wonder if we could actually make it to $5,000 before the 500th episode? :p

    I do agree: donating via Paypal isn’t charity; it’s appreciation. But yes, us non-US viewers would be giving to keep the blog going. Not only does it give us an extraordinary connection and insight into one of our favourite artists, we get to see the strip regularly!

  7. esmeraldus_neo says:

    I like the website. I’d like it to continue. Therefore, the opportunity to contribute was welcome. The print version’s hard for me to find most of the time.

  8. liza from pine street art works says:

    I worked for a left wing non commercial radio station for years. It was WBAI in NYC where I was a music producer and also the host of feminist and Lesbian shows in the early nineteen seventies. We got all our operating expenses from listeners. We didn’t accept any grants or government funding and there was no corporate underwriting. Just the listeners. It was sometimes gruelling, often exhilerating, and we got to say and play whatever we wanted (except swear words) I say this to let you know that I understand and appreciate listener – or in this case – webreader support. And also to tell you that I have been around in the world of left wing, alternative and Lesbian cultures for longer than many of you have been alive.

    I now run an art gallery. I am an artist and a photographer and a business owner. I like them all equally. When I opened my gallery a year ago I asked Alison and Phranc to do a show. We had all known each other forever and all had appreciated each other’s work over the years. I knew that having Alison and Phranc would be a great asset to my gallery. They are both visionary artists whose work would resonate with each other, and make a brilliant show. And I really wanted to see Alison in a gallery setting. There is something about having a real gallery show that can be career defining, career changing, the way that publishing a book can be. At least, that’s been true for me as an artist.

    I appreciate that Alison has mentioned and hyperlinked pine street artworks, where her framed original strips are, by the way, still for sale. And I’d like to clarify something for those of you who think that buying art from a gallery rather than from the artist directly (frowned upon in the artworld in most cases) is somehow “donating” money to that gallery (if I understood the post of the person who signed in above in as ;-).)

    Art galleries are cultural institutions. They exist for the pleasure of the viewing public, who can come in for free to see the work exhibited on the walls. When they are good, galleries are exciting, vibrant and educational contributions to a community. They are also the most common way for artists to get recognition, to develp their careers, and to make money. Art, by the way, is a terrible way to make a living. It’s really hard. And having a supportive gallery is a boon to artists everywhere.

    But a gallery is a business. It takes money to run. Rent, utilities, advertising,printing,framing,insurance, web development, salaries – these are only the most obvious of expenses. A lot of money flows out. And how does the money flow in? Sales. Money in, money out. No money in, gallery go bye bye.

    And that’s a loss for the artists, the community, and for the future of art in general.

    Pine street art works has no government funding, no corporate underwriting, no sponsorship. Like WBAI, it depends on viewer support in the form of art sales. As I’ve said here before, your investment in art pays off several ways. 1)You get to enjoy a piece of art that you love, 2)if you have made an informed choice and you are lucky your work can become more valuable over time 3)you support an artist whose work you appreciate and 4)you support the gallery that brings art to a community and supports the artists you love.

    I know that many readers of this blog can’t afford some of the art they want. I can’t afford a lot of the art I want either, and I thank my lucky stars that I can see it in galleries and museums and studios. But I urge you to buy art at whatever price level you can. There is amazing – really and truly amazing art – to be had for $25 if you know where to look.

    If you love art and want to own some, you can. It’s true that some original art is expensive (and to paraphrase Marty, its relative) but there is something fresh and wonderful and exciting available at your budget. I promise you. Looking for it is half the thrill.

    Support art, artists and the cultural institutions that artists need to thrive. Support your local galleries, artists markets and open studios.

    And if you want to own something by Alison, call me.

    Cheers. Liza Cowan

  9. liza from pine street art works says:

    I don’t understand that smiley emoticon above. The website genereated it, not me. I don’t use emoticons. I was trying to reproduce the “name” of the poster who used a semi colon, a dash and a close parenthesis as her signature.

  10. Josiah says:

    Alison, why not think of it as a democratic version of the old “patronage” model? Instead of having to find one rich aristocrat to support your artistic endeavors, you’ve got dozens — if not hundreds — of people willing to chip in with what they can afford, to show their appreciation. And you don’t even have to paint us in the background, hangin’ with the saints! 🙂

  11. D. F. says:

    Ay! $5000 for the 500’th. And I like to think of it as a voluntary sliding scale web-subscription / energy exchange: you (help) sustain me (in your way), i (help) sustain you (as i am able). keeps things moving.

    in the meantime, i’ll start stopping in at local galleries more, start that exchange going.

    but more importantly — whew! congrats on getting through six months of heavy promotion!!! hope you get some down to y’self time, and that the withdrawal from all that energy is gentle.

    p.s. i’m sad about toni and clarice.

  12. Tera says:

    albeit there is a bit of narcissism involved in all forms of blogging, I am so appreciative that you have taken it up. It gives me a chance to read about you and your process. In a world where “celebrities” are so far removed from the rest of us, it’s nice to feel that you relate to your fans and are interested in communicating with them and hearing their input. I also just appreciate being able to go online and view the strip archives and read the newest strips right away. You are providing a service to your readers. I also just want to say that one of the things I appreciate about you is the way you put so much thought into everything, and it’s refreshing to see someone reflect so much on themselves.

  13. fjm says:

    Alison, how many strips (on average) do you produce a year? I would be more than happy to pay a dollar a strip. That’s not charity. That’s payment for goods received.

  14. Louise says:

    While it may feel “disturbingly narcissistic” to you, Alison, your blog creates a vibrant community that many of us visit regularly, learn a lot from, and feel a strong connection to. I especially learned a TON from the postings about the MWMF and transwomen. My whole world view is broader now, my heart more open. I am a straight woman, a committed ally to my GLBT sisters and brothers, and this blog is one of my favorite ways to listen in and understand.

    What you are doing is culturally significant, and a huge contribution to all of us. Your art is at the center of it. Although you are the creator of DTWOF, Alison, and we cherish you as a human being, I personally am contributing to support the well-being of this wonderful community. And that means supporting you.

    I heartily agree with Lisa from Pine Street Art Works, as well as Maggie Jochild’s posting from some days back. Artists need strong networks, we need community, and we need to be creative in finding venues for our work. I am a painter, and know from experience that people who run galleries put themselves on the line day in and day out to keep their doors open. The very best gallerists support their artists to take risks and take it upon themselves to build a dynamic community around their artists. At the very best, this community is welcomes everybody who is interested, regardless of income, class, race and level of education. I’ve seen it happen from time to time, and it is just fantastic when it does.

    It just makes sense to support the people who build communities around the art and ideas we care about, in whatever ways we are able to.

  15. Jaibe says:

    Narcisism — well, I think its only a problem if it becomes so rewarding it stops you from doing other things you think are more important, but I find the internet useful for winding down and connecting in a rather hectic life. I’m currently living in a small town with relatively few childless intelligentsia to hang around chatting with. And I tend to comment on most sites I read (and in most talks I go to) so it’s not like this one’s any kind of burden, far from it. It’s just one I really enjoy.

    Art sales — art sales have always been in roughly equal measures about aesthetics, supporting the artist you like so they’ll stay being an artist, and investment. In fact, I read in a biography of Gertrude Stein and her brother that they had to be asked to *stop* buying someone’s paintings (Manet?) because he wasn’t getting known because they bought everything he did while he was too unknown to cost much.

    Paypal — yeah, I dunno, and I’m not at all judgemental about others, but personally I’ve bought everything you’ve ever published at least once & paid to hear you speak but the paypal thing is still a little weird to me, though if there was a recommended subscription rate (and you could use a credit card — I still haven’t given paypal my bank details) I’d probably subscribe even if it was voluntary.

  16. Jaibe says:

    Sorry, geeky question about “proportionate” — according to your world-map thingy, what proportion of your hits come from the US? Not that it really matters given however many other cultural factors are at stake.

  17. aimes says:

    I have been reading DTWOF for years. The strip affirms my identity as a lesbian. DTWOF provides that deep-rooted sense of community I try to honor in my own life.

    As far as I am concerned, the amounts sent for the web site were long overdue.

  18. SuzyQzy says:

    We all do what we do to try to make a contribution to our community. Alison, you have chosen to provide this most wonderful perspective on our life. You have the artistic ability and personal insight to make it resonate with a world-wide following. And the perseverance to keep producing it and finding it new outlets when the old ones fail.

    I’ve followed your strip in many venues, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate finding it in a spot where it appears to have a permanent home (or at least as permanent as anything gets in life). If I can help in some small way by making a contribution, that’s an offer I’m more than happy to accept.

    Those of us who enjoy the DTWOF site need to remember to continue to contribute a little something to help keep it going. Even after the 500th strip is posted.

  19. Silvio Soprani says:

    The way I look at it, if you have a beautiful plant hanging in your sunny kitchen window, you water it gladly. (everybody get the metaphor? This is a pretty literate bunch so hopefully that is all I need to say.)

    Alison, Live Long and Prosper. (Have they invented an emoticon for that yet?)

  20. FemiKnit Mafia says:

    Brenda Dayne, who records a knitting podcast that I adore, struggled with putting a donation button on her podcast blog too. But she felt better when one commenter equated the donations to gifts to NPR or public television.

    We get a tangible good from your artwork and blogging. If people choose to contribute, it’s similar to a theatre ticket, admission to a museum, etc. The main difference is that folks can choose to donate, but can also enjoy your work for free. You’re opening up access to your art to a much wider audience. It’s tied into the open source movement, and that’s good.

  21. anonymous-eponymous says:

    I think Josiah has a point. I felt like a mini-Medici when I clicked that PayPal button. Supporting the arts that I like, making the Renaissance happen, etc.

    In the IT world we have this concept called “shareware”. The model is, you download the software and, if the software turns out to be useful to you, you pay the person who wrote it some money. This is different from “freeware”, where you’re never expected to pay, and it’s different from commercial software, where you must pay to own the software. I have downloaded a couple of shareware programs which I have then found useful; in those cases I’ve paid the writer some money, because they’ve done me some good.

    To me, the strips and the blog seem a lot like shareware. They “do me some good”, so I might as well pay up, since I can.

    I’ve moved on average every 1.5 years since 1991. If I acquire another object it’s just something I’ll have to either move or get rid of in another 1.5 years. I would much rather be able to support art I like without the burden of having to actually own it and care for it and transport it. It’s true I bought the book, but it’s a handy size and can get moved along with the other books I own when they time comes.

    Finally, art galleries, though no doubt wonderful establishments, are yet another venue where the “in” crowd can make sure that those who don’t belong know their place. Being put in my place is a process I don’t enjoy and can’t see the point of, really. So, alas, art galleries are not my natural stomping ground.

  22. Michelle from Vancouver says:

    I didn’t consider my donation charity, like so many of the previous posters. I enjoy this site so much, and I love the strips so much that it only seems fair that I give a little to help cover the costs of the site. I would never expect the same person who is providing all that entertainment and enjoyment to shoulder all the costs themselves. Just wouldn’t be fair. Thanks for all the great strips and posts Alison 🙂

  23. liza from pine street art works says:

    When I decided to open an art gallery I was determined that mine would never be one of those places you describe, anonymous-epnomomous. I agree that there are many of them, but not all galleries follow that model.

    My gallery is filled with couches and chairs and music. People bring in coffee from next door and sit down to read the books I have scattered around. I always talk to my customers. Sometimes I’m too busy for much of a chat, but I awlays try to make people feel at home and welcome.

    So please don’t make assumptions about galleries. And since mine is the one that has been under discussion here, please don’t make assumptions about psaw. The “in” crowd here consists of people who are enthusiastic about art and artists, who appreciate a great place visit and come in with a cheerful disposition. Double points if you bring me a coffee from next door.

  24. Suzanonymous says:

    Every day we pay for things that make life better. DTWOF certainly has made my life better.

    About the relative donations of Americans and Europeans, looking at the cluster map, by rough count, it looks like there are currently almost half as many European blog visitors as American. That could certainly be atypical because of the recent tour, though.

  25. anonymous-eponymous says:

    liza:

    It sounds like you’ve got a nice, comfortable place there. And it seems like it turned out to be a nice venue for Alison and Phranc. All that is good.

    But it hasn’t only been your gallery under discussion. It has been art galleries in general as an avenue for supporting the work of artists one likes. it turns out that there are some drawbacks to art galleries for me—I know from previous experience that if I were to attend a show by a lesbian artist such as Alison Bechdel in the town where I’ve been living that there would be others there who would positively relish the opportunity to snub me. No assumption there, just me learning from experience in many venues, not just art galleries. I don’t like to be snubbed and I don’t really enjoy pre-emptive snubbing. It detracts from my enjoyment of the art.

    And although you may have made lots of efforts to make your gallery inclusive you don’t really have much control over whether it really is or not. I’m reminded of a conversation I had with SONiA of dissappear fear once (we have a mutual acquaintance so these conversations occasionally happen, though I don’t know her at all well). Anyway, I had mentioned that I was attending a concert the following night, and she had asked who I was seeing. At this point, I started to feel tense. SONiA’s core fan group coincided a lot with the lesbian jock demographic at that time. I was interacting a lot with such people then; I’m pretty active and had started playing soccer after a long hiatus. Anyway, I hesitated, because mentioning this particular musical group would open me up to a lot of derisive comments among most groups of lesbian jocks and, foolishly, I expected SONiA’s reaction to be the same. I decided to brazen it out and I named the group. To my surprise, SONiA got really excited, expressed her envy, described a show of theirs she’d seen a few months back, and generally behaved not at all like so many members of her fan base would have. Similarly, you, Alison Bechdel, and Phranc may be quite free of that sort of cliqueishness and the enforced conformity that goes along with it but you’re not going to affect my experience, in a different town, among people who are emphatically not you, Alison Bechdel, or Phranc, in the least.

    I’m going to take a vacation from posting. My experiences inform my opinions, which is why my experiences end up on this blog. But so much of my experience on someone else’s blog seems disproportionate.

    Enjoy!

  26. AK says:

    A big ‘You’re Welcome’ to you, Alison. — I’m guilty (but not feeling it) of both the “abstract urge” and the “particular urge.” But I don’t consider any donation “charity” (the word itself has some questionable connotations which I think trip up people by encouraging guilt) because I’m getting to post here and get to see the strip without searching for it. For me, I don’t think of the money as a “donation” either but as payment for years of services rendered with the hope that more artistic genius will follow. I lived in Arkansas until recently, and only saw the strip through PlanetOut(ugh) for free. I rediscovered this site in desperate search post POut b/c DTWOF simply wasn’t/isn’t found in my home state. As a service or kindness or oblation to creative urges, this site and your work deserves a little kickback to keep it going. I don’t think of it as digital busking. And for the record, I like busking. To steal the concept of FemiKnit Mafia, I think if open access can be sustainable financially that’s a blessing.
    ****
    I don’t know, is public introspection narcissism? This blog has been like a travelogue recently, giving me insight on independent bookstores that I want to hit when I travel. My own blog functions like a scrapbook and I refer to it like a diary. It just so happens I now live far away from friends, so I wanted them to know what was up with me. This blog’s response page has been an awesome sounding board for my own thoughts when certain topics have come up. As to whether it promotes narcissism — if the blog takes away from old school human interaction, or if the only motivation to blog is attention…maybe so, yeah. It’s not a black/white issue but if it’s causing guilt…hmm. What is moderation in this circumstance? If it continues to be a source a of internal conflict, maybe a regularly scheduled post (like weekly updates) is a solution. I don’t want it to be the solution, but I’m throwing that out there. Sheesh, I’m too wordy.

  27. Robbie says:

    I don’t feel that the donations are chairty at all.

    I’d rather buy you dinner, lunch, breakfast – whatever you’d like & give you a personal “thanks for reflecting parts of my life back at me and making me laugh/cry/think”- but since I live in the middle of nowhere (E. Central Illinois) I don’t think it’ll happen soon.

    Call it a small token of appreciation.

  28. Kommishonerjenny says:

    I’m going to just chime in quickly to echo what others have said: DTWOF has been incredibly important to me ever since I came out in 2001. I get a lot out of both DTWOF and this blog (in fact, the discussion on this blog is the only thing that’s given me any hope for the MWMF debate ever being civil). This isn’t narcissism, it’s community.

  29. Arte es Vida says:

    How do you take your coffee, Liza? Catching the next flight.

  30. Silvio Soprani says:

    My goodness. Where to begin? RE: everybody,

    Alison, I just want to expand on my previous (crypic )homage and say that when I was a teenager/young 20 in the 60s/70s, Joni Mitchell was my link to sanity. She expressed things that made so much sense and nobody else was expressing through music at the time, and I just depended upon her articulation to feel good. When you are young and you are still figuring things out, (in this case as a woman/musician) it is so crucial to have an icon to be your model, your beacon. (Cris Williamson wrote a song expressing a similar sentiment to Judy Collins called “Lodestar.”)

    You, Alison, by providing us with DTWOF for the last 20 years have given me a similar model/affirmation by putting images of our community out there, but with such wit and intelligence that I have marvelled for years at how you have put a history of our community into the public eye.

    I especially admired/appreciated how you had the confidence, for instance, to put a pro-transgender character (Lois) out there in the 90s when it was not affirmed shall we say by the mainstream feminist power group. Ditto the bisexual relationship of Sparrow/Stuart. Ditto the carnivorous urges (Lois again) on the way home from the Michigan festival. Remember that episode, everybody, when Lois suggests stopping at Burger King (or was it McDonald’s) for a burger because of its feminine (cow) vibe (compared to the male gender of the sprout!). how clever to turn that one on its head!

    I worked for several years among some hard line defacto separatist lesbians in the 90’s. My own boundaries were a bit wider, but because of my need for approval and my disinclination for confrontation, I experienced the party line as a very stressful situation. Now, some years later, I know who I am and I understand that I did not need to blame my constraints upon them, but at the time, I appreciated Lois’s pushing of the boundaries. I liked her self-affirming, almost a-moral attitude.And her absence of uptight-ness was downright joyous from my perspective.

    so Alison, (even though I am still waiting until money is not so tight to visit Paypal), I will be so happy to contribute. IT IS NOT CHARITY!! (although there is nothing wrong with charity except the low self-esteem it causes in the recipient). It does a person good to share their money (time/ energy/ whatever) with people who have DONE THEM GOOD! You have done me a LOT of good! THANK YOU!!

  31. Deb says:

    I really like the idea of Alison reflecting parts our lives back to us and making us laugh and/or cry. I really like that concept that someone above said. Very nice and for me, true.

  32. Anne in K-town says:

    Liza from Pine Street made a number of good observations.

    Why not hold a plegde drive quarterly or semiannually to meet your operating costs? It wouldn’t be all that different from a public television/radio event. You could find a way to cap the donations once your needs were met or alternatively use any excess to fund other art projects, a scholarship, and so forth.

  33. Wendy says:

    Alison,
    I think it’s great to have people donate, which is just a less complicated way of paying, to support your website,which is a great way to read your comics. After all, I pay for the newspaper just so I can get my fix on comics every day. I have no easy way to get your comics as hard copy on a weekly basis, so this website is a god – send to this dyke who has a bad DTWOF jones. I’ve been reading the comic for at least 15 years, probably longer, and I am totally in love with the thing. So I’m happy to donate/pay. I was figuring about $15 a year, about what I pay for the books that I buy as soon as they come out. Does that seem reasonable?

  34. ;-) says:

    So much passion (in every sense) !

    To Liza: my post about your gallery had nothing judgemental about it, I just meant that the overseas bloggers of this site not being likely to visit pine street art works in person any time soon (much to their regret), they’d rather make a donation/contribution.

    To Suzanonymous: AB has been known in Europe for years (to our greatest enjoyment reverence, admiration…), long before her tour in Europe.

  35. Andrew B says:

    Jaibe, you can use a credit card with Paypal. I did. The information you have to provide is pretty basic: card info, your real name, billing address, and email (which they swear up and down they will use only for purposes of the immediate transaction). Just what you’d have to provide for any online purchase. You don’t have to open an account with them.

    Alison, you use “charity” in kind of a funny sense. I don’t think it’s charity to support a work that I find entertaining and provocative, or to support the artist who created that work. I’m not sure what’s wrong with that as opposed to supporting the website as a particular way to view the work. Taking a guess as to what might bother you — and everyone should be clear, this is just me taking a guess — I want to say that if you gave up DTWOF tomorrow and started writing lies for the Republican National Committee, I wouldn’t want my money back. I would be extremely disappointed, needless to say, but I don’t feel like my payment created any kind of obligation on your part.

    It’s academic in my case, since I do appreciate the website. There is no alt weekly in my rural corner of the USA, much less an alt weekly that carries DTWOF. I’m hesitant to subscribe to Off Our Backs sight unseen, and I’ve never seen a copy. I’m outside the typical DTWOF demographic and literally don’t know anyone else who reads it. So the blog is my only opportunity to discuss it.

    Anyhow, I intended my payment to be a contribution to your income, not purchase of a share. I’m not expecting a seat on the board of directors of Alison Bechdel. I expect that’s how the vast majority of your fans feel. If there is anyone who feels differently, well, bummer for them. And again, this is all based on my guess about what might be bothering Alison about “charity” and could be totally off base.

  36. Pam Isherwood says:

    AndrewB, I’d guess Off Our Backs would send you a sample copy if you asked. Or you can see their style on their website http://www.offourbacks.org/index.htm , with some archive articles. It’s one of the very few self-proclaimed feminist periodicals, let alone radical feminist. It ain’t glossy but it does shine…

  37. shadocat says:

    After several days of thought and contemplation about what I should say, if anything, about this issue, I feel it is best for me just to go ahead and come out to the blog: I am the the chickenshit writer of the post that used the name “a nonny mouse”. I thought about just sending an e-mail to dyke@dykestowatchoutfor.com, and just leaving things at that, but I feel I owe an apology to everyone, not just Alison.

    I want to explain why I said what I said, and apologize for posting under another “anonymous” name, instead of the one I usually use. I use “shadocat” for so many things, I guess I just didn’t have the guts to have it connected with such a negative post.From now on, it’s “Shadocat” forever, no matter what the message.

    When I wrote what i wrote on 10/29 , I was responding to several posts I had seen about buying art, and the 500/500 thing was going on. After having some time to reflect, I think I wrote the things I did because I was reading all of this through the lens of my own experience which was (and to some extent still is) pretty negative , due to a health issue, finances and the like. I felt pressured, and now I not sure if that pressure was real or imaginied. Right now, I’m leaning towards imagined.

    Please excuse those rantings of a middle-aged,menopausal manic. If you love Alison’s art, and are in the position to buy it, do so! I hope to do so one day. And I have no qualms about “pledge drives” or contibuting to this blog. When I can, I contribute to a lot of things, and not one of them gives me as much pleasure as this strip and it’s blog does.

    I also want to apologize to liza from pine street- if I’m every lucky enough to travel to Vermont. I will definately stop by for a visit. Maybe even buy something. I never meant to citicize you, or your gallery, or any other gallery.

    I guess that’s all there is to say.

  38. rob says:

    shadocat – much brave. go you !

  39. Josiah says:

    Further to my earlier post, I was wondering — can you have patronage without being patronizing? Can you be a patron while opposing the patriarchy? Hmm….

  40. Deb says:

    *Smiles* to shadowcat!

  41. cybercita says:

    personally, i was delighted to be able to send some money your way — i’ve been enjoying the strip for many years, always for free, and i didn’t pay for my copy of fun home, either. so it was the least i could do. it’s not charity. you draw the strip and i read it. i am reimbursing you.

    i understand your mixed feelings about the paypal button and i know how difficult it can be to accept money for what we do. i’m an occupational therapist and worked for years in hospitals and clinics. i never had a problem accepting a paycheck. yet when i transitioned into private practice, suddenly i felt incredibly awkward taking peoples’ money, even though i was actually providing much higher quality therapy in my practice than i could manage to do in a hospital or clinic. despite knowing that i was doing very good work, i always felt sort of fraudulent and as if i didn’t deserve to be paid. eventually, i got over it. {mostly.}

    there is another blogger whose work i enjoy very much. she is a young wife and mother and has written often about the financial difficulties she and her family face on a daily basis. after you put up your paypal button, i emailed her and encouraged her to do the same.

    i hope that your continued success with fun home broadens your audience enough to allow you to continue to create without financial worry. meanwhile, i’m happy to hit the paypal button every so often in exchange for reading the strip.

  42. Jennifer says:

    Start sellin’ totebags. For those who haven’t donated yet, a totebag would sweeten the deal. Who doesn’t want to shlep their groceries in a canvas bag with Mo’s face on it?

  43. Silvio Soprani says:

    shadocat,

    ditto what rob said in yoda-ish!

    money will make you crazy if you let it…so as liza minelli told jon voight in CABARET,(although I think she was referring to sex, not money) “We won’t let it!”

    (and as an aside on the value and persistence of good art, l.m. and j.v. were YOUNG in 1972 when that movie came out, and now they are old and wrinkled and it is 34 years later, and yet that movie means as much to me now as it did then. Alison’s work is the same…what sustains a person is timeless. life is good…)

  44. R says:

    Whilst i have yet to make a financial contribution (forgetful) i would like to state for the record that i would have no qualms making a payment, would prefer an annual registeration fee: This would give me access to the cartoon strip and archives, allow me to comment on the blog and possibly enter an annual prize draw thing!!!. non membership would still be able to read the blog and view current strip only..these are only suggestions..at the end of the day we all have to make a living..off to visit paypal

  45. Unseen says:

    Let’s hear it for the totebag suggestion. My totebag would have Carlos saying to Clarice (about Raffi) “Sounds like time for another deposit into his therapy fund” (#251). That has been an endless source of humor/comfort in raising my own child.

  46. Jana C.H. says:

    Maybe we should consider ourselves matrons of the arts– defined as being patrons without being patronizing. You don’t have to be matronly (though I am– where DID those hips come from?) or even female to be a matron of the arts– just supportive and nurturing.

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    Saith Floss Forbes: If you don’t know the tune, sing tenor.

  47. Maggie Jochild says:

    As the election approaches, I’m becoming mo’ Mo (where are my striped shirts?) and trying not to give in to hope, yet. Even when signs are all around me. Like this blog. I remember when Reagan ran for re-election on the slogan “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” At that time I lived in San Francisco, ground zero for yuppiedom, and I went into a rage every time I heard that line because he was rubbing our faces in it, speaking only to those who benefitted from funneling money upward at the cost of common good. Building walls and dancing on top of them to piss on the rest of down below. Walls that block even conversation.

    But conversation has begun again. It’s here on this blog: We’re talking to each other in a kind of discourse for which I’ve been ravenous for two decades. Even when we don’t agree, we’re listening. Few of us snipe, and when we do, other voices lift the tone again. I want to appreciate every single one of us who is trying to address the question of how do we support art, especially art which gives voice to the mute or the quiet.

    And Shadocat — thanks. Doris would be proud of you.

  48. Alex K says:

    A “hear, hear! for Maggie Jochild.

    As I read the weekend’s posts on this topic I had begun to muse on how literate, well-informed, careful, and kind the posters strive to be – and on how I fall short in these areas, again and again, and how I must do better – I was listening, and thinking.

    Now, of course, I’m talking… 8^)

    Time to make a donation. PAST time. Thanks for a wide circle of benefits that D2WO4 has brought me, Alison, including this blog and the chance to learn from its posters.

  49. Julie says:

    There’s an underlying question here of “What does charity mean?” that I find hard to answer! I share the inclination that it’s great to “give what you can” to support this site, for the reasons many have stated. It’s a great feeling to help sustain something that’s so special, important and sustaining to us. I think it’s a really positive vibe.

    It’s hard to figure out what a dollar means, what a living wage means, what work means. We see that our culture is economically (at least) unforgiving to artists. Yet we know we need artists and art…

  50. sksdurham says:

    I only recently found DTWOF. I’ve been out to myself for about 10 years and have steadily become more out to everybody else. But I was 34 before I figured out why I didn’t get the hoopla about boys. I was in graduate school and the time for me to be carefree and to sew my wild oats was passed. So instead I made a vow to be true to myself and do what I could to help people understand that “lesbian” is not a label for everything, just one part of me. I’m very proud of how well I’ve done that… but… there is a downside. Namely, the people I know in all the different areas of my life now take me so much in stride that this one part of me that is so special and exciting often gets lost in the shuffle.

    Straight people either know and don’t care, or they know and are interested, or they never figure it out and I just roll my eyes and think they are pretty goofy and slow to catch on. But if people know and don’t care and are straight they also don’t understand that it’s DIFFERENT. They often don’t understand that, while I didn’t get to choose my sexuality, I certainly did have to discover it and come to grips with it. Sometimes my efforts to show folks that “different is not bad” end up being “different is not different.’ It’s an emotion-laden topic here in the Southern US (even the rich, well-educated part of the South where I live) and if I say “I’m a lesbian” then everything immediately become hyperfocused on that. But if I say nothing, then there is an assumption that my experience is the same as everyone else’s, and it just isn’t.

    So comic strips like DTWOF and this blog and give me a glimpse into something else. Some part of my life that I didn’t get to live fully because I was too busy being confused and convinced that there was something terribly wrong. The part I can’t do now because the time has passed and because the work I love puts me in a world where “people like me” are in short supply (on soooooo many levels!)

    I’m not unhappy with my life. It’s terrific. I was meant to be a settled middle-aged person with a stable home life, reliable partner, a terrific creative outlet, and a steady job doing important work. But sometimes I miss the other stuff I never knew and DTWOF and blogs like this let me have just a little bit of it.

    So Alison, if I send you money and you think it’s charity, then, well, humor me. Because in way that may or may not make sense to you, you are offering charity to me. And if writing your blog makes you a narcissist, then doesn’t reading your blog make us voyeurs? Comes out about even, in the end. hee hee

  51. shadocat says:

    Maggie-

    I had been re-examining what I said for several days, and then I had that fun exchange with you and and several others this week-end, and I thought “Okay, you big hypocrite, you better do something. So to paraphrase one of my favorite songs;

    Watch it hey, I’m *not* Doris Day
    *But* I was not brought up that way
    *Had to come* across
    Even Rock Hudson lost,
    His heart-to Doris Day

    And thanks to everyone else for their positive thoughts 🙂

  52. Silvio Soprani says:

    sksdurham–good words!

    Regarding your concluding sentence, I have ALWAYS felt like a voyeur reading this blog! But it can’t be helped. This blog is my favorite thing!

    More about charity–anyone who has had surgery and gone through the long slow recovery, or anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, or any other serious disease has had to learn how to 1) ask their friends for help, and 2) accept the help people offer.

    It is an amazing revelation to discover that by accepting a hot casserole delivered by a friend, or a few hours of babysitting, or a ride to the hospital, that you have actually GIVEN your friend an opportunity to express their love to you.

    What you said about how if Alison humors you and accepts your “charity” that she is actually offering you something is exactly true.

    It is ironic that it seems so difficult to just relax and be receptive to the gifts of others. After you learn to do it, and let down the defense of being too strong to need help, life is much sweeter.

  53. Jo Y. says:

    OK- I’m afraid I can’t get through all the comments right now, as I have to put my toddler to bed soon, but here’s my thought on this.

    When I read the strip in a paper, the paper pays for the privilege of running the strip. I am making this worth their while because I am either paying for the paper or through revenue that they receive from advertisers that are based on circulation rates or both.

    In my case your strip is not available in any of my local papers. So I read it on your site. When I read it one your site I do not find that I have to put up with obnoxious advertising. I actually find that an added bonus. I am more than willing to trade a little of my money for an advertising-free experience. And yes, I could wait and buy the books, but I’m not that patient. (I buy the books anyway when they come out, but I want my instant gratification!)

    So once the mortgage gets paid this month our household will be joining those who donate. It’s not charity. It’s removing the middle man. I’d much rather keep an artist who produces work that I enjoy and provides me with art that reflects aspects of my life that I don’t normally see in a lot of more mainstream art.

    And it’s commercial free. It’s more commercial free than both PBS and NPR, and I give money to both of them.

    I really don’t see this as ‘charity.’ I see this as payment that I feel is due.

  54. Middle Man says:

    My ancestors came from the middle east, and we settled in the American mid west in the middle of the nineteenth century, by way of Middle Europe. We became middle class by being middle men. When you say you want to cut us out, it hurts. Ouch.

    Is there a middle ground? How about this: Support the website directly, but also buy the books, the strips and the art from the middleman. Everyone thrives.

  55. Suzanonymous says:

    Middle men are valuable. But sometimes you look at the few (2-3) bucks an author gets for a book sold new and you want the author to get more. That’s the logic behind donating.

  56. Therry says:

    Roll back up the page a bit, and read Josiah’s post about patronage. Alison, I LIKE the idea of you doing a thanks strip with the faceless mob of people who’ve been following you since they first got a look at a DTWOF wall calendar back in the day. I follow you obsessively on the web and as soon as I hear you’ve got a book out, I instantly buy it at my local bookstore and tell them to order a few more copies for the shelves. Their graphic novel/memoir section has expanded hugely since it first started out as a few books on an endcap.

    As for me, I’m sitting here next to my computercat Angel, puffing on a putative cigar and worrying about my gout! Nuthin’ like being a patron, nossir! Hand me the pate, will ya?

    Love, Therry

  57. Jen says:

    my own 2 cents on the problems of “charity”.

    Capitalism sucks. I know that sounds simplistic, but it truly does. We already live in a society where the model is that one does work, in return for which one is given cash, which, in theory, should provide for sustenance.

    However, this is predicated on the idea that what you do is valuable to society. Sadly, mostly what society seems to value right now is either churning out more consumer crap that kills the planet or sitting at a desk and shuffling papers around that will further enable your parent company to profit off of said churnings.

    Right now, if you do something other than making more crap for companies, it is very unlikely that society will pay you, or will pay you enough to live off of. (yes, that’s a bit exaggerated, I admit, but I’ll stick with the general point).

    Activists, artists, counselors, teachers, caregivers, mothers and fathers, environmentalists, spiritual leaders, comedians; these people are either not paid or are woefully underpaid for the valuable contributions they make to our society.

    When we give money or other support to these people it is not charity, regardless of whether the money is given in a direct and immediate exchange for a good or service. When we support teachers and artists it is like a vote, in my humble opinion. It’s like saying, “This is what I support and want to have in my society.” I want to have environmental activism, I want to have someone around who cares for people when they get sick, I want to have novels, and essays, and art.

    If we never had a capitalist system, we would show our support for a given artist by actually going and looking at their work and giving praise. But we have the system that we have, and until we can change it, we have to recognize how it works.

    That’s my 2 cents.

    Oh, and on a related note, I too really like the community of comments created on this site, and I really appreciate everyone’s commentary on the strip and everything else.

    – Jen

  58. Bob says:

    Alison-
    In my almost 20 years of enjoying your strip, I’ve gotten thousands of dollars worth of enjoyment out of it while paying less than 100 dollars for it. I imagine that’s true for many readers. So don’t think of the donations as charity; think of them as very small payments towards a gigantic debt of gratitude.

    Also, you could simultaneously make money and make readers happy by selling t-shirts and the like on cafepress.com. Imagine the possibilities: Mo on a mug! Ginger on a dog t-shirt! J.R. on a bib! Lois on a thong!

  59. shadocat says:

    Bob-and others-Alison did have some merchandising like this about 8-10 years ago, but she dropped it all because it just wasn’t profitable.

    Back to the election returns…

  60. shadocat says:

    don’t know why that font got slanted-I swear sometimes stuff just appears on it’s own on this thing…

  61. Bob says:

    Shadocat-
    I understand your concern, but one thing that’s changed in the last 8-10 years is that cafepress.com has come into existence, making profitability in this realm far easier to achieve. You pay a nominal fee for a page on their site, upload your designs, and they do the rest. Everything you sell is created on demand, which is to say that there are no inventory costs, because they make each shirt/mug/etc. as it’s ordered. They have a set fee for each item, and the seller can set their price at any level above that and keep the difference. (For example, the last I knew, their fee for t-shirts was $13.00 per shirt, so you could sell them for $18.00 each and make a $5.00 profit, or $20.00 each and make a $7.00 profit, and so on.) I know I sound like I’m advertising for them, but it’s only because I want to be able to buy DTWOF merchandise.

  62. shadocat says:

    Me too–I still kick myself for not buying a Mo mug when I had the chance…

  63. angie says:

    Artists deserve to get paid for their work. Just because you have a passion and vocation for what you do doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paid – and you can’t eat passion for breakfast. As a retired (for now) performing artist, I know the struggle of learning to take – and insist – on proper payment for your hours of work, not to mention the years and years and thousands of dollars worth of training that came before.

  64. Suzanonymous says:

    (Maybe that’ll stop the italics.)

    To continue along the lines of Jen’s comments: It’s remarkable to flip open a magazine and find advertisements for alcoholic drinks, that you know cost thousands of dollars to produce such images of airbrushed glamor or perfection or whatnot, and then thousands of dollars for the ad space and then the liquor itself is expensive and has no shortage of people ruining their health and lives with it. All those people who got paid to do this to our society: the admen, the marketers, the bottlers.

    My favorite abstract economic system was described in a book written in 1924: Social Credit. Two Canadian provinces used it in some form or another for a couple decades. The text is online somewhere, or it was a few years ago.

    Suzanne, who last bought a tee shirt in 1999, a mug in around the same time. But, yeah, we are stuck with capitalism.