C08P38 – Not yourself – MOKO Press presents: LeyLines, a Fantasy Adventure Comic by Robin Childs Skip to content
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C08P38 – Not yourself

C08P38 – Not yourself published on 20 Comments on C08P38 – Not yourself

I’ve talked a bit about this on social media, but I’ll post it here too.  GoldieBlox is a brilliantly crafted toy created to make Engineering and Science accessible to girls in a way that isn’t just “slap on some pink” – even better, it’s created by an independent, Debbie Sterling, and was funded by Kickstarter.

Now Debbie managed to get her product onto Toys ‘R’ Us shelves, but she’s been warned that “They’ll never survive sitting next to Barbie” and “engineering toys for girls are a ‘niche’ for the affluent.” Help prove these nay-sayers wrong! The next time you’re faced with the Aisle of Pink, search out that GoldieBlox box and let a little girl you love know that there are more options in her life than princesses and pink!

I get really emotional about this project because I’ve spent a good portion of my life hearing “You can’t because you’re a ____.” Whether it’s “girl” or “artist” or “engineer” or just “you.” When I was little I was told sexism was dead. That was not what I learned when I went to college. Or in the engineering work place. And a large part of this is due to women not being present. 25% of the people graduating from engineering colleges are women. In most cases, they exceed the men in performance. But I have yet to work in any engineering company where women made up even as much as 10% of the engineering staff. The environment remains exceptionally hostile and backwards, which means that many of the women that do manage to get hired don’t stay long, thus perpetuating a nasty cycle where women are always the odd gal out, the token, and have very few people around them to act as mentors. I got very, very lucky to have had a mentor for the past three years that didn’t treat me differently, but now he’s gone and I’m not sure what the future will hold for me. So when I see somebody creating something to help little girls know “you CAN be more than just a princess, you CAN want something different out of life, you CAN still be feminine but create and build things,” I want with all my heart to see that succeed. I wish I had been shown more options when I was a child. I wish I’d been encouraged to explore lots of things, instead of a single path that has lead to much stress and misery. I’m working very hard to build Moko Press and create the kind of life that I want to live, but it’s an uphill and uncertain battle. Some days, when I crunch the numbers, I think a hopeless one, too. Still, I want to believe that I live in a world where something like GoldieBlox can succeed just as much as Barbie can. And to believe in a world where my stories can succeed someday too.

What paths did you consider when growing up? What made you choose the one you’re now on?

20 Comments

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As I think you know, I had planned to be a story artist for Pixar. It was so inspiring and I was so passionate for it, even though now I wonder if it was ever a good fit, and I was so consumed with beliefs of where I was going to go and what I was going to be.
When I think of what was (and isn’t anymore), I feel like someone sliced me open and ripped my skin off. I have a new skin, one I’m quite happy with and that fills me up and awes me, but sometimes I look down and see the skin I used to be, as an inanimate, empty husk, and it makes me a little sad.
I’m not sad to have lost my dream, but I guess I am sad that I had such a dream and believed it so, and looking back it all looks so very flat. But it’s also been a huge weight off me, to be able to just do art occasionally and not feel bad about myself if I cannot, or if I am not as good as everyone around me.

I have learned over the years that I have one singularly exceptional parent. My father is quite close minded and a devout chauvinist, and I still find pockets of internalized sexism here and there. But from an early age my mother was specifically seeking out books with strong female main characters and no one ever challenged the fact that I would love and dote on a Godzilla action figure as much as a Beanie Baby because if it was an animal I loved it, The End. No one ever tried to give me barbies or home maker playsets because everyone knew to buy me animal toys, which I see now probably was to my advantage since there’s little gender sculpting attached to camels and alligators.

I’m really excited for the GoldieBlox line of toys, and I hope more and more girls have the opportunity to grow up with toys that don’t try to tell them how to be or are shoved at them because girl=pink.

Sometimes I think that I’ll just be shedding skins forever. I’m not yet thirty, and I’ve transformed huge pieces of myself so many times already. And am doing so again right now. And probably again in a year or two. So I very much relate to the feeling you describe. I just wish the shedding process was less painful.

I wanted to be a game developer since the time I first played videogames on a unlicensed Russian copy of NES. When you’re a child, making things seems simple. At least, yyou can always say: ok, I’m still not able to do this, but when I grow a little older…

But I’ve never made a real attempt to follow my dream. I was just inventing the storylines, didn’t try to study design or programming seriously.

Then comes another story. My dad is an amateur mathematician, who always felt that he was forced to go the wrong way in engineering. So he wanted me to be in the world he always aspired to. Also, my mom studied math in Moscow State Uni, the leading high-school in Russia. Finally, MSU has a very fancy building, and I always wanted to study there.

After several years in the math department, it finally appeared to me that I don’t have any passion for programming, but I seem to like math.

Well, math is like a drug. It’s not that easy to get addicted, but once you do… Many people leave math, unable to cope with high demands and a constant feeling of being unbearably stupid, but I can assure You that noone does it without regret.

I’m afraid I’m currently on my way when I’ll have to quit math, though there are too much grounds for me to keep on, despite the misfortunes. Yet, I dream another dream also. My childish “”game-invention” has transformed into storytelling. I’m slow on my way, but I’m trying.

The great thing about storytelling is everything you learn in life can be fed into a story. From mathematics to physics to history to psychology to standing in line at the grocery store. It’s all useful in its own way.

If you’re looking for a good storytelling resource, I cannot recommend Brian McDonald’s “Invisible Ink” enough! Has printed and digital versions.

Thanks, I’ll definitely check it out.

By the way, it seems I’m the only male who has left a comment here. Is LeyLines supposed to be a “girly stuff” then? I doubt that, of course, but the statistics…

I don’t believe so. That reader survey I ran a while back indicated at most a 60/40 split, female to male. At conventions, it’s the reverse of that. I have noticed that online women are more likely to leave comments and buy things from the online store.

Maybe it’s just that the other guy readers don’t feel as comfortable talking? Perhaps I am just very scary. And you are the bravest reader of them all. RARR!! 😉

One path I didn’t go down was acting, because it’s also a very hostile environment (presumably for all genders). I always LOVED musical theater in elementary school. But being so close geographically to Hollywood showed me exactly how cutthroat the competition was when I got to high school. Oh, you haven’t been in a play because you moved? Fat chance getting anywhere now, you lazy 14-year old! People I knew were dropping money they didn’t have into agencies and throwing themselves into extra work for miniseries that might not even air before I even graduated, and those are long hours for very little pay.

Later, when I started thinking about getting a job related to entertainment, it was practically the same. Entertainment designers would have to make 20 movie poster designs in a day for $10/hour until they burned out. Entertainment payroll companies work 12 hour days. Animation studios are super-competitive and demanding. So many businesses want to have the bragging rights of BIG NAMES in their portfolio.

It put such a bad taste in my mouth that “show business” in any form was not the life for me, and I still stay away from jobs that are too cutthroat. And the truth is, once I started taking graphic design classes in college, I really fell in love with it. There’s this whole psychological aspect to conveying information in informative and compelling ways, and let me tell you, working as a creative person surrounded by people who are NOT creative makes you feel like you’re performing miracles.

Today, I’m doing fulltime freelance graphic design, mostly for big boring software companies that no one has ever heard of, but it’s been steady work, I’m well appreciated, and I have a flexible schedule to work on other projects. I’m happy with my path, and hope to continue doing this for many many years. =)

I’ll definitely help spread the word about GoldieBlox! A friend of mine who’s raising two young girls is also sad about the fact that everything for girls nowadays is ‘princess-princess-princess’. It’s nice to have things like this for girls too. I remember my parents bought me and my sister lots of science kits, including some engineering kits and circuit makers, to help us get interested in science and math. All my female friends had things like this too; I’m sad to hear that it isn’t the case in most families.

I guess I’m a bit of an anomaly as my mother was a chemist (she’s retired now). She was disappointed that I wanted to pursue art and storytelling as a career; she would rather have had me go to into the sciences and was discouraging when it came to me doing art. My sister ended up being the scientist; I need to tell stories and do art. I always have; I wrote my first fanfiction at age 11. I would tell my sister stories before we went to sleep. It wasn’t until I discovered ElfQuest that I knew I wanted to tell stories in comic form; before that I wanted to be a writer. From that day on, I’ve been making comics (and doing some writing as well).

I still dream of making money at making comics, which hasn’t happened yet. Part of it could be the stories I want to tell aren’t highly marketable; fantasy stories are still not widely accepted in the comic market field. But I’ll keep pushing and working hard toward that goal. And maybe one day we’ll both be making a living at this together. 😀

ElfQuest had a huge influence on me too, in much the same way. First comic that really told a deep, developed story with a varied cast. I’ve been collecting the old full-color hard-backs lately. Slowly adding them to my library. Nice to have them around, and re-connect with that influence.

🙁 Zhiro has so many scars.

Those toys are so cool. Whenever my friends start having kids, I’m giving them all that stuff. (Because boys should play with “girl” toys too.)

I went through a mid-major crisis where I wondered what the heck I was actually going to get out of my English degree (something I still wonder, honestly) and added a psych major, since that was what I wanted to do when I was much younger. However, the methods classes showed me that as fascinated as I am by psychology (and as troubled as I am by the problems within the field), it’s not for me. I’d rather take a risk and work in publishing, doing what I love, than spend the rest of my life doing something I’m only okay with.

When I was a little girl I played with Barbies, loved fairy tales and my favorite color was pink. Most people would have said I was a “girly-girl”. After I learned to read, I started reading about science and realized I loved it and was very good at it. In High School my favorite classes were Algebra/Calculus and Chemistry.

I got into college with a declared Chemical Engineering degree, but dropped out at the end of the first year because I couldn’t keep up with the demands of college. I moved back home and started taking classes at the junior college near us until I realized that what I liked about math and science wasn’t the math and science per say, but the problem solving that both were centered around. It didn’t even matter to me if I got the right answer so long as I was able to go through the problem solving process.

Once I found that out, I completely dropped the engineering idea and thought about what I actually liked doing and realized I liked the problem solving that went into typography/graphic design. The funny thing was, I had loved doing that even as a little kid. So now I’m in school to get a certification for graphic design. Interestingly enough, my favorite art from is fractal art which is math based.

Now though, my favorite color is blue, I find romance stories boring, I like watching action flicks, and my toys tend to be things like Rubik’s Cubes, my computer, and RPGs. Somewhere along the line, I went from “girly-girl” to being considered a nerd/geek. I remember what it was like being a kid and enjoying all my girly stuff and science stuff at the same time; it was lots of fun. I also remember being a female college student who felt like people thought she was “unique” for wanting to go into an “un-girly” major; it felt like people where happy to be able to have someone who fit into a non-typical stereotype. However unique it was though, it was still a stereotype.

I fell like in the backlash against pressuring girls into female-only roles, another stereotype is being developed; one of a girl interested in science. It feels nowadays that it’s only possible to be either a “girly-girl” or a “science-girl”, but not both.

Sorry for the long post.

I do agree that there’s a back-lash. I actually personified the back-lash stereotype for a very long time, due to being overwhelmed by Princess stuff when I was young. I remember being very excited for my birthday, when I was 3 or 4. I couldn’t wait to open my presents. And then every single one of them was a Barbie. Every. Single. One. It really upset me. Even at that young an age, I felt like people only saw me as one thing. Before that, I had loved Barbies AND a whole lot of other things. After that, I despised them. I think that rejection of all things “Barbie” is what made me reject my own femininity for most of my life. I’m having to rediscover it now as an adult, and try to come to terms with it. So I think that’s why I feel strongly about a product like GoldieBlox, which manages to be feminine and cute and girly, but also emphasizes building and problem solving. It doesn’t reject being a girl. Only that a girl doesn’t have to be just ONE thing.

I have a tendency to stick my head in a lot of ‘male’ things – but most of the time the reaction are ignorable, from my perspective. AKA I enjoy proving them wrong. I play Go and chess, I like video games, I’m a D&D DM, I write occasionally, I spent two years studying geological engineering and then two years studying programming, I love anime (and not generally the romantic mush ones either. I like Kenshin, Naruto, Bleach, +Anima, etc). The one time it bugged me was one day when I was the only female at the college anime club, and the guys started discussing showing some hentai – I pointed out that there WAS a girl in the room, and got treated to a simultaneous roar of ‘You’re not a girl, you’re a guy with boobs!’ -.-() I wore skirts for a month after that. And guys claim they want to see more geek girls….

As for whether I’ve wound up where I expected…*laughs so hard* If I’d been told growing up that I’d wind up an artist, I would have thought the person telling me was insane. Or trying to ‘pull my leg off and beat me over the head with the bloody stump’, as my mom puts it. No, I thought I was going to be a scientist with multiple PhD’s and knowing half a dozen languages by thirty. By HS I’d settled on geology. But as fascinating as science is, for me it’s at hobby interest-level, art and helping people are my passions.

If I’d told my younger self where I’d be in 15 years, I don’t even think I’d have been able to comprehend it. At that point, I still believed that I would work my entire life in a lifeless, robotic fashion and then die alone and unwanted. I also believed I was incapable of passion. I don’t think I would believe a person that told me I’d make my own small company and actually pursue something that I love as much as storytelling. How things change…

Wanna say I love the way you’re drawing Zhiro now.
About me? Convinced throughout school that the only course of action was to become some kind of professor–whatever I was good at, math or science just because I was the only girl around for the last couple of years of high school in any of my math and science classes. Except that the social atmosphere was hideous, and it dawned on me that coworkers who behaved like that, and I didn’t expect them to become enlightened since Dad was an engineer and warned me that they wouldn’t, would make the workplace unbearable. So I decided that I wasn’t cut out to be one of those ships that cut through frozen arctic oceans (in those days, arctic oceans froze) and I moved over to what came easily–English–when I wasn’t teaching lit I was helping very clever people figure out why the structure of the language made them very unhappy when they had to write stuff down. That is not how people usually describe Freshman English, but believe me, if you take that approach, the semester has some practical use for most people. Now? aha–a costume designer for a Shakespeare company–for health reasons! Life is what happens . . . yes, it’s true. Migraines were going to hit, and they did, and after it became clear that the job and the medication were incompatible, I asked myself what I could do that was flexible and I adored. Answer was obvious. Very happy me.

Sadly, your father was not wrong. In a lot of places, it hasn’t gotten better. And it gets very tiring to “cut through the ice”. And I love how you’ve presented English so practically! Writing is so difficult for a lot of people, but it’s such a crucial skill!

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