My love for Alison Bechdel came on fast and furiously a few years ago when the little feminist in me started to get more feisty. I wanted to know more about trailblazing women in the feminism department. Sure, I've known about the brilliant Bechdel Test (a concept invented by her friend Liz Wallace and illustrated by Bechdel in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For). Bechdel had also previously published two very personal graphic memoirs about her family, Fun Home and Are You My Mother?, and she's been an influential voice in the lesbian community since the '80s. But, when it was announced that Bechdel was a 2014 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, it became even more clear that her work as an artist was an incredibly important contribution to our culture. And, I couldn't help but feel celebratory for Bechdel, who I not only admired as a feminist, but also as someone who did not compromise her artistic vision.
My day job is as a writer, but I often don't actually feel like I deserve to call myself a writer. The stuff I want to be writing about on a day-to-day basis — at least for myself — should be the personal, vulnerable things I want to share with readers. But, in this age of blogs and scary commenters, I tend to shy away from being the most honest version of myself. So, how is it that someone like Alison Bechdel can be so fearless in her work? In Fun Home, Bechdel illustrates her childhood. She grew up in a funeral home (aka a "fun home"), then came out as as a lesbian, and then later, discovered that her father, too, was gay, and only came out a few weeks before his death. And, although Bechdel and I come from very different backgrounds, I still relate to the power of her honesty. It's her unflinching bravery that I, too, want to achieve with my own work one day.
Now that Bechdel is officially a MacArthur Genius Fellow, I'm very much looking forward to what she has up her sleeve, and what kind of exciting and risky artistic ventures she'll get to explore and share with her fans. And, next year, a Broadway musical adaptation of Fun Home will be debut on the Great White Way. As for what comes after that, in a radio interview with Kurt Andersen of Studio 360 she humbly said, “The only thing I can think of to buy so far is a larger scanner, so I can draw my comics a little bigger.”
Alison Bechdel, I'm swooning. As part of celebrating women in media, we are giving 12 female newcomers and veteran filmmakers the chance to change the total lack of representation on-screen and behind the camera in the film industry. Filmmakers such as Gabourey Sidibe, Chloë Sevigny, and Kristen Stewart are changing the way we see gender, sexuality, choice, and power from the rarely viewed female gaze.
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