Alison Bechdel is hot

March 8th, 2008 by

Alison BechdelThanks to a last-minute email from a friend (fellow poster Jason), I got to see Alison Bechdel when she gave a reading at the U of Minn on Thursday evening. Alison is famous in some circles for her enduring comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. I discovered collections of this comic in my university’s Women’s Center library. A green-haired girl at a mostly-male engineering school, I often retreated to the Women’s Center to feel a sense of belonging. There weren’t many of us there, but we managed to generate our fair share of glamorous drag parties, heated discussions about the gay boys leaving our toilet seat up during their meetings, and drama amongst the many cute baby dykes and bi-curious flirts who danced and drooled over one another.

Hot Throbbing Dykes to Watch Out For coverDykes to Watch Out For showed me a mirror of my own little experience and a vision of a much bigger and more diverse queer community out there in the world. A chosen family of socialist radicals, lawyers working on the system from the inside, independent bookstore-owners struggling to compete, and kinky girls just looking to get laid. Actually, they were all getting laid, and it was a heady vision of what grown-up life could be like for me one day. The idea that so many options could lead to love, professional success, undermining the dumbass status quo, and even when all of the above seemed lost, a group of friends who would always be there with support and validation. Needless to say, at 17 this vision was all still a distant dream for me, and I am grateful that her books were there to give me hope.

I continue to read the collections as they come out, many of the characters have aged and evolved, their kids have gotten older, and I enjoy catching up with them like old friends that I don’t get to see often enough. When Alison released a graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, I was amazed at the beautiful watercolor shading and loving detail that she added to her expert comic style. She told a moving story about her father, and the effects of his obsessions and secrets on her family. Alison continues his legacy of dedication to craft, but has set her own course in her mission to speak the truth in her representations of herself and the myriad manifestations of the queer community.

In her discussion of her work, she admitted that she always felt a sense of superiority being a dyke. I have to admit that I have fond memories of that feeling, and probably still cling to the differentness of being bi, despite my happy monogamous marriage to a boy (site admin Martin). I relate to Alison’s ambivalence at being assimilated into the broader culture, rather than being a spearhead in taking it down and remaking it. I also identify with feeling older and less energized to actually push the revolution. She spoke in particular about her initial rejection of the gay marriage movement as support for a corrupt institution. She seemed bewildered that gay marriage may ultimately be a breakthrough for gay civil rights, and is trying to reset her expectations for the future.

I highly recommend reading both Fun Home and the Dykes to Watch Out For collections. These characters are compelling whether or not you see yourself reflected, and I am looking forward to my next visit with them.

One Response to “Alison Bechdel is hot”

  1. Susie Says:

    I just donated 15 dollars to help fund her website, where I am now reading the strip. It is one of my favorite comics. It is a hot queer soap/ biting political satire/ realistic portrayal of humanity, and it is worth the price of a cute scarf.