Thirty Names, Without One Woman: Comic Book Creators Withdraw from Nomination for the Angouleme Grand Prix in Protest
The Angoulême Grand Prix is a prestigious lifetime achievement award for comic book creators; this week, the Festival d’ Angoulême announced the 30 nominees for 2016, the Grand Prix’s 43rd year, and already twelve have withdrawn their names from consideration. The reason? Of the thirty nominees, not one was a woman.
Brian Michael Bendis, Christophe Blain, François Bourgeon, Charles Burns, Pierre Christin, Daniel Clowes, Etienne Davodeau, Milo Manara, Riad Sattouf, Joann Sfar, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Chris Ware have expressed their desire, on their personal social media or through their publishers, to be removed from the list of nominees.
In light of this pressure from the creators it sought to honor, Angoulême announced that the list of nominees now includes Marjane Satrapi and Posy Simmonds, who had been nominated for the Grand Prix in previous years, to the list of nominees. At the same time, the statement released by the Festival notes that “The Festival cannot remake the history of comics” and that “positive discrimination” (called “affirmative action” in the United States) "has no place in the arts.”
Bendis, the latest to drop his name from the nominee list, wrote on his blog that “the lack of female presence certainly does not reflect the reality I live or work in.”
Clowes, whose work includes Ghost World and Wilson, said in a statement released by his publisher Fantagraphics that the Grand Prix “is now a totally meaningless ‘honor.’ What a ridiculous, embarrassing debacle.”
Sfar wrote of his decision to withdraw from nomination in the French edition of the Huffington Post. “I request to withdraw my name from this anachronistic list,” he wrote. “I simply do not want to participate in a ceremony that is so disconnected from the realities of contemporary comics. Thirty names, without one woman, is a slap to those who devote their lives to creating or loving comics.”
The European advocacy group BD Égalité, or Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism, brought attention to the dearth of women on the list of nominees with a statement released on January 5 advocating a boycott. The statement notes that in the history of the Grand Prix, only one woman, Florence Cestac, has ever won.
“We protest this obvious discrimination, this total negation of our representation in a medium practiced by more women every year,” the statement reads in English.
“We are discouraged from having ambition, from continuing our efforts” the statement continues. “How could we take it otherwise? It all comes down to the disastrous glass ceiling; we’re tolerated, but never allowed top billing. Will we require women in comics to perpetually remain in second place?”
The members of BD Égalité will not vote for a recipient of this year’s Grand Prix, which will be given out at the Angoulême Festival, taking place from January 28- -30.
The CEO of the Angoulême Festival, Franck Bondoux, defended the list of nominees in the French newspaper Le Monde, saying that the Grand Prix is awarded to artists “of a certain maturity and age." He continued, “Unfortunately there are few women in the history of comics. If you go to the Louvre, you will also find very few female artists.”
Graphic novelist Jessica Abel has been working to get the word out about the boycott among American artists, contacting the nominees she knows and posting a statement of support on and explanation of why the Angoulême Grand Prix is an important honor on her Facebook page.
Abel told ComicsAlliance, “Every cartoonist on the list deserves to be recognized for his great work, but it's not an honor to receive a prize so deeply tainted with sexism. I applaud my colleagues' decision to withdraw, and hope the rest of the list follows suit.”
UPDATE 1/7/2016: The Festival has now announced that there will no shortlist for this year's Grand Prix. Members of the academy will have a free vote. The winner will be announced at the festival on the weekend of 28-31 January.