[DWJ] Alison Bechdel--Dykes to Watch Out For

Otter Perry ottertee at silverwinggraphics.com
Sun Nov 5 16:13:57 EST 2006

On Nov 5, 2006, at 1:32 PM, Farah Mendlesohn wrote:

> Ok, by popular demand, and despite being off topic, a short guide to
> Dykes to Watch Out For by the luminous Alison Bechdel.


> Then in the early 1980s Alison created Mo,
> a rather anxious, radical lesbian with short hair, round spectacles
> and a tendency to wear horizontally striped t-shirts.

Mo is based on Alison herself.

> Mo also had two
> siamese cats, Virginian and Vanessa. We (fans) are currently in
> mourning because three strips ago Mo and her current girlfriend
> (Sydney) found that Vanessa had died.
> See: http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/dtwof-episode-496

I just went back and looked at this again.

> This is actually a good strip to start with because it has all the
> things that make Bechdel so utterly brilliant. All the emotion, all
> the feeling is coded in body language. Black lines on a white page
> simply shouldn't be able to do all of that. Look at the very last
> strip, at the way the remaining cat sits watching them, and the slump
> of their bodies.

And I'm all teary again.  I am just devastated by Vanessa's death.

> But back to the strip.
> Mo acquired a job in a women's book store, owned by Jezanna, a black
> woman with no intentions of nurturing anyone.

The women's book store went under, eventually, and Mo now works
at Buns & Noodle.  [I worked for it, too, before Mo did, and refer
to it as Burns & Rubble.]  She's also going to library school, mostly

> She has friends:
> Lois, who is currently having fun as a drag king, lives with

"lives with" = "shares a house with" in this case

> Ginger,
> once the neverending grad student but currently actually with a job
> teaching preppies at Lake View College, and also with Sparrow, whose
> mother is Vietnamese and father a good old boy, and who has recently
> come out as a bi-dyke, and whose boyfriend is called Stuart (Stuart
> moved in with the three of them to help pay the new mortgage). Stuart
> and Sparrow are into saving the earth through meditation, but Sparrow
> has a very tough job running a women's shelter. They now have a small
> girl whose name I can't remember how to spell.
> Stuart is a very good judge of whether a woman is gay. If he fancies
> her, she's a dyke. Ginger has found this very useful in the recent
> past.
> Over the road in a suburb some distance away are Toni and Clarice,
> poster children for the right to marry, Unfortunately, right now they
> are in the throes of separating except that Clarice (black woman
> lawyer) is too busy obssessing about the election results to notice.
> They last had sex just before Bush won. They have a son, Rafael, who
> is hitting the stage of being deeply embarrassed by his parents.

Toni is Raffi's birth mother.  She is Latina, and they used an African-
American sperm donor.  There's a wonderful extended sequence in
one of the books [mostly collections of strips, but recent ones also
contain an original extended sequence] about Raffi's birth.

> He
> and Stella (daughter of the woman Toni is sort of in love with) have
> just loaded a video of Clarice and Toni rowing

"rowing" = "having a fight"

> to Youtube. There are
> hints that they are about to do something worse.

"they" = "Raffi and Stella"

> Some minor characters:
> Carlos is the gay man brought into be role model to Raffi
> Audrey is Jezanna's lover
> Janice is the transgender child of Lois's lover (a woman Ginger
> fancied but panicked when she met the then Jonas).
> Thea worked in the bookshop and was a crush of Mo's. She also used to
> date Mo's current lover, Sydney who is a high spending, fiercely
> competitive. credit card addicted cultural studies academic.

Thea's in a wheel chair.

There are some transsexuals, too, including a female-to-male auto
mechanic with whom Lois is friendly and from whom she gets tips.

> Harriet is the first of Mo's lovers we ever met, and I have a huge 
> crush on her.

Clarice was Mo's first lover, but I don't think we found that out
for a while.

> Yes, it's a soap opera, and me, who never watches or listens to them,
> is addicted. Bechdel's drawing is amazing: she encodes race and class
> in the way people move, and talk (and I do know this is a cartoonist
> I'm talking about).

Well, obviously, I'm very seriously addicted as well, and I don't do 
operas either.

> The books are available from Giovanni's Room
> http://www.giovannisroom.com/NASApp/store/IndexJsp or multinational
> book store of your choice, or you can find old strips at Planet Out,
> and more recently (since PO made the insane decision to drop her) at
> Dykestowatchoutfor.com.

If you're really a wonderful person, you will buy them from a women's
bookstore, if you have one available to you.  You can do this on-line at
http://www.amazonfembks.com/home.html  .They've existed quite a
while and had a huge fight with Amazon.com, not surprisingly.

Giovanni's Room is a good second choice.

> This woman saved my sanity as a young dyke and provided positive
> re-enforcement when I started to think my sexuality a bit more
> complicated than that.

I came out quite late, and DTWOF certainly helped me be totally
relaxed about it.

[For those not familiar with 'coming out', it's a two-part operation.
First you have to realize yourself that you're queer.  Some of us,
like me, take a _very_ long time to figure this out.  Others know
from the get-go.  The other part of 'coming out' is telling other
people.  And the third of the two parts [like the fourth book in a 
for us late bloomers is discovering that everybody's been assuming it
for years.]


The true political spectrum is not right to
left, but top to bottom.

                         - Jim Hightower

More information about the Dwj mailing list