Bryn Mawr College

December 5th, 2006 | Uncategorized

The panel at Bryn Mawr was really fun. God, that was 5 days ago already. I’ve lost track of time because I’m visiting my mom in Pennsylvania for a while. I’ve fallen into that strange dimension of reality known as the Family Zone, where time passes erratically. If at all.

family zone

(Don’t worry. Soon I will tire of the PhotoBooth feature on my new computer.)

I’m struggling to remember my former life. Fortunately I have these pictures. Here’s my co-panelist Jessica Abel. (Um, great shot.)
jessica abel

And here are my co-panelists Lauren Weinstein and Gabrielle Bell.

lauren weinstein and gabrielle bell

Here’s the top of Jessica’s head in a panel of Gabrielle’s mesmerizing story, “My Affliction.”

gabrielle bell

If you don’t know their work already, check it out. It was really energizing to hang out with these younger cartoonists. They’re so smart. They know stuff about cartooning that I either don’t know, or have only arrived at after years of muddling along on my own. After the panel, an audience member observed that no one had asked us the perennial question “why aren’t there more women cartoonists.” And we were all glad that it hadn’t come up. It was nice to just talk about the work itself.

54 Responses to “Bryn Mawr College”

  1. cml says:

    I’m so grateful to you for keeping this blog. I don’t often comment but the thought of you visiting my alma mater – the very place where I first discovered your comics some 16 years ago – has been making me smile. Besides, I bought and read *Fun Home* last weekend so you have been on my mind. Thanks for all your moving, poignant, and funny work over the years.

  2. AnnaP says:

    There are lot of women as cartoonists, when I think of cartoons I liked as a little girl the first one coming in to my mind is Tove Jansson who is more famous from her Mooning books, not for being lesbian and a cartoonist.

    These are my fawourites besides AB
    Hanneriina Moisseinen

    Kaisa leka

  3. tallie says:

    um, i just got a new mac. and you won’t tire of the photobooth feature. trust.

  4. Tera says:

    you look so tired : ( poor thing.

  5. Jana C.H. says:

    A drawing of a percussionist playing a triangle was driving me crazy, so I borrowed Alison’s technique and my Dad’s PhotoBooth this Thanksgiving to photograph my own hand holding a pen like the triangle’s stick. I had asked the musician about correct grip when I made the original drawing last summer– everything was completed but the right hand! I thought I’d have to use my left hand a mirror, but this is so much easier. The rehersal sketches from “The Pirates of Penzance, 2006” are finally finished.

    I might have to ask Santa for PhotoBooth for my own Mac. Maybe my book about my grandad in World War I can be a graphic bio after all. I just need to take a zillion photos of myself dressed as a WWI engineer. Yow!

    Jana C.H. “the Cartographer”
    Saith E.G. Forbes: Never spoil a good story with too much truth.

  6. Jaibe says:

    Glad you are getting along with your mom still after all that revelatory business! I hope she realizes how cool & interesting she sounds from your book. It’s probably hard for her to see that; do we ever REALLY want to know what our friends think of us?

  7. Colino says:

    Jana C.H.,
    If you ever need photographs from WWI, check out this site:
    It’s in french, but pictures are pictures, aren’t they?

  8. silvio soprani says:


    That’s a great site. People from sixty years ago LOOK different. Is it just the clothes? Or is there something in expressions that is contagious within a decade or so?

    For some reason those pictures reminded me that last evening I was watching part of a documentary on public television (in the US that means “good intelligent programming”) about “pre-code” depictions of women in film. The code was started mostly by the Catholic Church in the 1930s, I think, to protect the public from immorality on the big screen. (the so-called “Legion of Decency.”) But before the rating system began, there were some pretty racy depictions of women.

    The was Greta Garbo in QUEEN CHRISTINA,in which she is a cross-dressing monarch who must share a room/bed with a fellow “man” in a hotel. When he figures out that she is a woman, of course they fall in love. It was so refreshing how her sex appeal really was not dependent on her gender identification. She was hot either way!!

    Then they showed some Busby Berkeley movie clips (For anyone unfamiliar with his movies, he is the director who choreographed elaborate water ballets and dazzling costumes with lots and lots of women wearing bathing suits and spangles. His screen shots are so geometrical; they are almost like the psychedelic light shows of the 60s! )

    I am still sorting out whether it empowers women to bare it unabashedly and gloriously or whether it limits them to being sex objects. There was a great shot of Maureen O’Hara (I think?) as Tarzan’s Jane in the one where they go skinny dipping and the camera follows her underwater. COWABUNGA what a beautiful image! It really seems like the pre-code movies had an enthusiasm that transcended objectification.

    I don’t know if this next is pre-code, but remember Judy Holliday in BORN YESTERDAY? She plays a sort of pre-cursor of Edith Bunker/GRacie Allen with her squeaky voice and feigned air-headedness, when actually, she had a real independent mind and a curiousity about life that was in total contrast to her gangster’s-platinum-blond-babe character.

    I have to say that Lois has always been my fave among the DTWOF because, like Queen Christina, she just does her thing and lets the rest of us try to figure it all out.

  9. shadocat says:


    “Born Yesterday”, was post code–made in the 50’s, I believe. But Judy Holliday gives a great performance. You know she beat out Jdy Garland (for “A Star Is Born”)for the Oscar that year. Have you ever seen “Woman of The Year”?
    It’s a Hepburn/Tracy flick, but Judy H, very nearly steals the show as the woamn accused of shooting her cheating husband.

    I love that skinny-dipping scene in “Tarzan”, Objectification? Maybe, but I think many of these types of scenes in the pre-code era defy that description, because the women are so beautiful and natural,unlike the sex symbols of today. Have you ever seen the German film, “Ecstasy”? (Love that title!) Hedy Lamarr goes a-streakin’ through the forest in that one, making her the first major star to bare her breasts in a major film-btw, she looked lovely). She was a remarkable woman–here’s the link to her Wikipedia page, if you’d like to read more about her. More than just a pretty face…

    Of course in the early days of film, their was plenty of sex to be had, on and off film . Just read Theda Bara’s Wikepedia page for starters…

    OK, I know I’ve posted it befor but it bears repeating–lots of lesbian activity in the early days of Hollywood; and don’t you just love that costume?

    Wikepedia–how did I ever do without it?

  10. shadocat says:

    What the hell–here’s Tallulah Bankhead’s bio, just for fun (her’s is spicier anyway).

  11. liser says:

    like cml, i’m a martyr who first discovered yr girls (in the early 90s) while riding the blue bus between bryn mawr and haverford. i remember thinking lois turning 30 was about as old as it got. sigh. at any rate, i’m so pleased that you continue to make such wonderful work, and that you’ve expanded your universe so that so many more people now know your work. i work (and i know this is a horrific admission) at us weekly, and Fun Home was making the rounds there when it first came out. everyone was “fans,” as pedro almodovar characters are wont to say. talk about a bizarre collision of worlds! i think you should be grateful you expanded their horizons….trust me!

  12. Jana C.H. says:

    Dear Colino,

    Thanks for the website! I don’t know French yet, but I’m going to have to learn. Researching this book (which has barely begun) will naturally involve a trip to France. Research can be tough, I know, but it has to be done.

    I’ve put the site in my MDW folder (that’s “My Dear Wife,” the salutation my grandad usually used in his letters to his newlywed bride). I had originally figured on writing a regular book, not a graphic bio, but Fun Home is so inspiring! And Alison’s trick of photographing herself to get the poses right might make it possible for me to get my amateur cartooning up to snuff.

    Alison Bechdel is my Muse!

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

  13. --MC says:

    Well, Jana, if you ever need any help (technical, logrolling, that sort of thing), let me know.
    Me, I’m tinkering with the idea of using her shading technique. I have a fifty-odd page story I’m just starting and am thinking of using wash shading this go-round.

  14. R says:

    lol…the family zone, do u find that u regress into ‘childhood mode’,esp. if fellow siblings are around. Role on the holidays!!! or is that just me?

  15. mm says:

    Hey…I’m a mawtyr who googled this site after having gone to the panel. It was really amazing. I confess even filched the promotional poster from my hall bullitin board (I doubt anyone’s mourning it) for my wall. Heh. Anyway, I really appreciate that you-all came and spoke. Although they print DTWOF in the BM news, it’s so periodic that you really don’t get a sense of the story, and it was fun to finally see a piece of one of your comics all the way through. (My parents, for whom I until now had no Christmas suggestions, are doubtless thankful too.) In short, your comic rocked, thanks for coming. ^_^

  16. Feminista says:

    Silvio–Yes,Garbo was great in Queen Christina. In the 70s I discovered some great role models in some 30s & 40s films: Hepburn was a feisty feminist in Adam and Eve (think that’s the name–Kate and Spencer Tracy played attorneys,a married couple,on opposite sides in a trial). Roz Russell was riveting,opposite Cary Grant,in His Girl Friday. Dietrich was also a powerful presence,and Ingrid Bergman was wonderful in The Sun Also Rises and Casablanca.

    Re: Busby Berkeley movies: I read the routines were inserted into films to distract the Depression-era audience from their troubles. I found the synchronized swimming and dancing somewhat objectifying,but very mild compared to today’s cimematic exploitation of women.

  17. Colino says:

    I’ve always found that watching a silent movie from, say, the early 20’s and and a talking picture from the 40’s or so, was like looking at two different worlds. It seems those silent movies were much more daring, aesthetically and maybe even in the showing of nudity. French movies like L’inhumaine by Marcel L’herbier (1923), or La coquille et le clergyman by Germaine Dulac (1923, screenplay by Antonin Artaud!) are good examples of that, or movies with Louise Brooks, by G.W. Pabst, like Pandora’s box or Diaries of a lost girl (1929). I saw a documentary too,a few months ago, which explained how it all came to change, but I have to say I forgot all about it (talk about memory span…).

    Jana C.H.
    I live very near the place where the Armistice was signed in 1918 and some of the most gruesome battles of the war took place not very far from here, so I’m rather familiar with that part of history (Johnny got his gun comes to mind). If you go to the document section of the site, you’ll see a part about a Mr Luquin: he was my great-grandfather. He got wounded in 1914 in Belgium and the documents there show his military record and some of the paperwork from the hospital, for his discharge, his pension etc… I still have all this stuff.

  18. Danyell says:

    I highly doubt you’ll tire of Photo Booth. I mean, you’re still only using the “normal” setting! The effects are so hilarious!

  19. Deb says:

    Alison, you have the ‘family zone’ look on your face for sure! And ‘R’, yes, I have fallen into the same patterns in the past. Strange feeling to do that too! Alison, try and get some rest……….go take a nice walk in the snow, through the woods.

  20. Judy says:

    Thanks for the recommendations. I am currently reading recently purchased work by Laurie Weinstein and Jessica Abel. Your website is helping me to fill up my cartoonist/ illustrator bookshelf. All the titles by you were starting to get a little lonely.


  21. shadocat says:

    While I was reading your post, Feminista, I saw your comments on the Hepburn/Tracy movie- I had replied to Silvio’s post earlier, talking about the same movie, but we both had the wrong title. The movie was “Adam’s Rib”. A very interesting, and funny film. Supposedly. the piano player friend who chases after Hepburn was based on Cole Porter–or at least his witty repartee and mannerisims, if not his “real life” sexuality…

    Also–a little off topic but I have to ask;why does it say “Your comment is awaiting moderation by my previous post? And why don’t the links I listed appear in that pretty pumpkin pie color, like they usually do?

    Just wondering…

  22. Rohmie says:

    Hmm, Ruben Bowling’s most recent strip is awfully reminiscent of Alison’s “Snug as a Bug” (#438).



    Great minds …

  23. Chris (in Massachusetts) says:

    Alison, go home. Sleep for a week. You look like hell in that photo!

    And look! Reality has conspired to help you write a strip or two.

    Yep, Mary Cheney, Dead Eye Dick’s big gay daughter and her equally big gay partner of 15 years, are expecting a baby. Mary is pregnant!

    No word yet on who supplied the turkey baster filler.

  24. Maggie Jochild says:

    Adam and Eve is probably the best of the Tracy-Hepburn movies, not the least because of the presence of Judy Holliday in the movie, a brilliant woman and amazing actress. The biography of Katharine Hepburn by Darwin Porter claims that she had an affair with Judy Holliday.

    I’m also partial to Desk Set, another classic Tracy-Hepburn with a focus on reference librarians that no doubt gives Mo wet dreams (as well as many of us on this blog, me included). Adam’s Rib was written by Ruth Gordon (aha) and Garson Kanin; Desk Set was written by Nora Ephron’s parents, Phoebe and Henry Ephron.

    Thanks, Shadocat (we meet again over old movies) for the information that David Wayne’s character, Kate’s across-the-hall neighbor in Adam’s Rib, is supposed to be Cole Porter. He plays this man as such a flamer, it’s incongruous that he’d be chasing a woman — unless you know the inside joke, I now see. I still think of the word “verandah” every time I hear the name “Amanda” because of that song he’s always singing.

    Rosalind’s Russell portrayal of her character in His Girl Friday was so powerful (1940) that when they decided to do a remake in the 1950s, I think it was, they felt compelled to change her character to a man. I love contrasting Roz’s acting in that role with her portrayal of the gossip in The Women, and then Auntie Mame. (Life is a banquet, indeed.) And as for Ingrid Bergman — we have so much to thank her for, but most of all is her giving us Isabella Rosselini, que no?

    There’s an unauthorized biography of Katherine Hepburn out currently which argues she was not lesbian or bisexual but rather transgendered — although applying any of those labels to a woman who knew damned well what they meant and declined to apply them to herself is, I think, problematic. In the 1970s we excessively claimed women of herstory as dykes who would never have claimed it for themselves, for a variety of reasons. (Like Queen Christina, and Garbo who played her, for instance.) This biography also argues that part of the reason for the not-so-secret long-term affair between Tracy and Hepburn was to cover the fact that he was bisexual. I prefer to report on what people actually did and/or said about themselves, and leave it at that.

    Which I hope will help keep me from registering dismay at the idea of a third generation of possible Cheney class-based hatred being handed on…

  25. silvio soprani says:

    It figures that on the busiest day of the semester (lots of grades to prepare and final exams to administer), that the blog would be chock full of references to films I must see. Later when happy hour arrives, I will return to the blog and OUTLINE all the actresses, movies, subtexts, unauthorized biographies, and gender rumors contained in todays amazing collection from the Usual Suspects here!

    Thanks, Maggie, Shadocat, and Colino!! Now I will have to resume my subscription to that wonderful mail-order DVD rental service, Netflix, because they still have the best collection of old, foreign, and/or obscure movies. My public library does too, but most are decrepit videos that break in the middle of the movie. Free, but frustrating…

  26. shadocat says:

    Thanks for the thanks, Silvio. I highly recommend if you can only see one of the movies we talked about, see “Ecstasy”. It was truly ahead of it’s time, as was it’s star, Hedy Lamarr. She is mainly known for her looks and her film career, but few know of her “other” career, as an inventor. She and her business partner patented an invention that eventually led to the creation of the cell phones we use today. It’s really worth checking out her Wikepedia link (I’ll try posting it again; if it doesn’t work just google Hedy Lamarr)–she was truly a fascinating woman.

    And Maggie-now that I’m onto old movies again, there is so much I’d like to talk about, especially Roz Russell and “His Girl Friday” (aka “The Front Page”), but I have a doctor’s appt. to keep, so I guess it will just have to wait for another time, Just one thought; is it me, or does it seem that there were alot more female stars back then OVER the age of 35?

  27. Mame says:

    Silvio soprani: It was Maureen O’Sullivan (Mia Farrow’s mom)in that just barely pre-Hayes Code Tarzan. Not O’Hara. You got your Irish Dames mixed up. Maureen O’Hara is a wee bit younger than Maureen O’Sullivan and didn’t appear in any pre-Code films…but she is just as alluring , if not more so, to fans of DTWOF and I recommend “At Sword’s Point” to see the fab Maureen as a musketeer’s daughter in some excellent sword fights with the guys.

    Maureen O’Hara in real life was successful in forcing the US Govt to have her immigration papers say Ireland, not Great Britain. INS records show Ms. O’Hara as technically the first Irish immigrant. Seriously. every other Irish person to immigrate legally into the US had docs that read Great Britain as the country of origin.

    And still, for years, Ms. O’hara was not allowed to be the Grand Marshall of the St Patrick’s Parade in NYC due to her gender…

    anyway, total babe. straight, but a total babe.

  28. Mame says:

    I liked Hedy Lamarr in Estacy too.

    Check out Claudette Colbert in the Pre-Code Cleopatra. Esp the swimming pool scene…be still my beating heart.

    and young very sexy Joan Crawford (i’m serious) in pre code stuff like the 1932 Possessed …not the one from the forties with the same name that’s just high camp.

    Marlene Dietrich was one hot number mit a very sexy ahccccent.

  29. silvio soprani says:

    Mame–regarding Colbert, Crawford, and Dietrich: no argument there!

    This blog is so helpful to a person like myself who can never remember the names of books, movies, or people that she recently found so enjoyable. Current case in point:

    Mame, you referred to Claudette Colbert’s Cleopatra. This vaguely reminded me of another film, set somewhere in China back in the early 1900s–like the 20s or something. A Madam who is supposed to be Chinese, but she is an American actress–was it Garbo? I don’t think so–but anyway, we find out that years ago she was abandoned by some man (I think she was sold as a child and put in a cage) and she decides to get revenge by running the most happenin’ den of iniquity in this Shanghai or Hong Kong-like city.

    The evil betrayer eventually walks into her club and she gets her revenge in a big way.

    but what I remember the most (not saying much, since I can’t remember the actress’ name!) is her hair. It was done up in these fantastical braids and tufts that stuck straight up to rival Padme in those stupid Star Wars episodes where her hairdo changes every 5 minutes.

    Does anyone remember THE NAME OF THIS MOVIE and THE NAME OF THE ACTRESS? I would be most grateful to add it to the long list I have just compiles from today’s blog entries. It is quite an unusual historical piece!

    I was amused at the costume/hair designer’s idea of how a Chinese Madam would do her hair!

    Thanks everyone…has it occurred to you that we are a Collective Unconscious? (well, at least in my case the 2nd word applies!)

  30. Colino says:

    Isn’t it The Shangai gesture, by Josef von Sternberg and with Gene Tierney?

  31. --MC says:

    That might be the one, Silvio .. Ona Munson played the bar owner, Mother Gin Sling (bowdlerized from “Mother Goddamn” in the original play, according to IMDB) .. stills from the film show her with a hairstyle that’s pretty excessive.
    Not to be confused with “Shanghai Express”, in which Marlene Dietrich says “It took more than one man and one night to change my name to Shanghai Lilly!”

  32. Jana C.H. says:


    Thanks for the offer! Would you like to privately exchange e-mail addresses? I have an account on Smirking Chimp under “Jana”, and can be contacted there.

    Jana C.H.
    Saith JcH: Some people drink, some people gamble, some like whips and chains– I buy books.

  33. shadocat says:

    Ona Munson-Belle Watling from “Gone With The Wind”, a Chinese Madame? Definately will have to check out “The Shanghai Gesture”!

  34. Colino says:

    A couple of extracts from some of the movies I was talking about…Hope they both work: the first one wouldn’t show on Dailymotion, so I hosted it on my own webserver. Should be ok, though.

  35. shadocat says:

    Colino- I tried to get the first one to play, but it wouldn’t move-is there something else I can do from my end? Sure looks intriguing…

    Looked up Ona Munson and found this interesting link:

    OK, it’s not orange, but try it anyway (Am I doing something wrong?)

    And guess what? Yup, she was gay, or at least bi. Damn, was every person in Hollywood back then gay???
    (That doesn’t look gramatically correct, but not sure how to fix it).

    Oh and to Alison; Are those lines under your eyes real or has that picture been “artistically enhanced”? (you look like Toni…)

  36. Colino says:

    No, you shouldn’t have anything to do but click… I’ll see if I can fix it; thanks for letting me know.

  37. Colino says:

    I think it’s ok now… ah, and your link works just fine!

  38. Carmen Sandiego says:

    Bechdel, you better not stop taking pictures, I mean what will I look at in class? Think of everyone else….Gosh.

  39. Amy in Madison says:

    I’m a Bryn Mawr alum too (’98)! Glad you had a great time – it sounded like an awesome panel!

    Good luck with the Family Zone… I’m glad I’m not the only one who experiences that bizarre shift in perception of time!


  40. Jana C.H. says:

    Dear Shadocat,

    No sentence beginning with the word “Damn” needs to be grammatical. I’m sure that’s in Fowler somewhere.

    Jana C.H.
    Another Social Liberal and Lexicographical Conservative

  41. shadocat says:

    Thanks Jana!

  42. Tae Bee says:

    I love His Girl Friday too, but it was actually a remake of a 1931 film that was based on a 1928 Broadway play. In the play and in the first film, the Hildy character is a man; Hawkes reportedly changed the part to a female one when he had his secretary read some lines. (Hawkes was very good at putting strong female characterizations in his films.)

    So, there really wasn’t anything nefarious going on (other than the travesty of remaking a great film) in have a male play the part in the 1974 version. I just had to mention that.

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