These are scans from the Varoom Article by Chris Campe, she is a designer and illustrator who feels strongly about gender equality in childrens literature and an excellent resource for beginning my dissertation. This article is from Autumn 2014 issue, Issue 27; as this is clearly such a current issue i will be able to find plenty of material to discuss on the matter. Also as i am looking at how an illustrator can help the situation of gender representation in children’s books, an illustrators perspective on the matter is an excellent one to have. This article has answered so many of the questions i had on how the client/ illustrator relationship works when illustrating gender and it’s given me an insight into not only how an illustrator can ease gender stereotyping, but also how you as an illustrator can fall into the trap of avoiding one gender stereotype but enforcing others in their place:
” A mere reversal of the characters gender in an image does not avoid out-dated gender roles all together”
This is apparent in this article and something i had not previously considered, the example given in this article speaks of how an illustrator was asked to create an image showing a family getting ready for christmas. She created an image that showed a mother stirring a pot on the stove, children sitting at the table and a father on a ladder decorating a christmas tree, being helped by an older woman. The client deemed a woman doing the cooking too stereotypical and asked the illustrator to edit it. The illustrator did change it so the man was doing the cooking, but in doing so she changed the characteristics of the man showing him in somewhat irony, because he was wearing a jaunty bow tie, a chefs hat and draped in Christmas lights whilst enjoying a glass of wine, this shows him as more of a cooking aficionado and a hobby chef, someone who cooks for enjoyment when time allows. This is a total contrast to the original female character who was quite plain in appearance and in turn created another stereotype in the place of the first one. This gives the impression that a man can make something a woman see’s as a chore, into something enjoyable and this is wrong, its saying that a woman’s work is more entertaining in the hands of a man, this is sexism.
This is something i hadn’t encountered previously and now i have considered that in my own practice i should be wary of avoiding stereotypes by enforcing others, it is not enough to switch the genders i understand but i need to avoid adding irony by accident that creates new gender stereotyping issues.
This article shows how sexism has worked its way into the arts and commercial illustration, and elucidates ways that illustrators can fall into traps when trying to be politically correct with gender, but accidentally enforcing lesser known internal gender stereotypes when doing so. It has shown me the importance of knowing gender stereotypes on an in depth level and how this should influence my practice and encourage me to be more careful with how i represent men and women. But i am also faced with the dilemma when doing this that it affects my own practice and the way in which i create, because i could have been creating imagery involving gender stereotyping without realizing but it could be part of the style of my work that enforces this. I need to find a balance of artistic freedom and gender representation in my work that allows me to enforce my strong beliefs about gender stereotyping, but still be a flexible illustrator that is attractive to potential clients. I understand that the illustrator will not always have the choice in how characters should be represented, and you must work well with a client to achieve their requirements, i need to find the middle ground in this and know where the powers of the illustrator lie.
I found this section of the article particularly informative, because it speaks of when an illustrator steps in to challenge the changes, challenge the changing of the gender stereotypes on artistic grounds, they are asking if the changes to the gender roles were a change for the better in a particular illustration or not. I found this interesting because there are two sides to every argument and in this case the illustrator wanted to use an image showing a boy chauffeuring a girl in a red convertible, which the editor decided was too stereotypical and wanted it reversed. It was here that the illustrator said that he was referring to historical imagery and a time where gender roles were more traditional, and explained that the chauffeuring was a gentleman-ly gesture not a sexist one. It’s here where i see as an illustrator sometimes your visual memory and your historical influences can be a problem when working with a client, but this illustrator stuck to his idea in this case and the image remained the same. Because both sides can overstep their mark in this argument, because on the one hand we want gender to be completely equal in representation, but are we erasing our history and nostalgic references in doing so? Is it ok to sometimes use historical references that may not be deemed politically correct if it produces beautiful imagery?
I do not want my dissertation to become a moral debate, i would like be objective in the essay about an illustrators role in representing gender and what they can do within industry to make their imagery more gender neutral. But i find it important to cover moral issues in my research in order to give an informed piece of academic writing on the subject, but for the most part i would like to remain objective and let my examples and the writing of Natasha Walter on modern feminism inform how this subject affects my practice and how it will inform my FMP.