Year of the Ox

Happy Lunar New Year! And best wishes for a strong a gentle new year.

I submitted this illustration to the Goodbye 2020/Hello 2021 collaborative zine put together by the organizers of the DC Zinefest. I loved their 2020 collabzines about Halloween and COVID-19, so I jumped at the chance to participate in this one. I wanted to draw something much angrier and more political, but I ended up settling on the theme of “support and recovery.” I’m probably more furious at this particular moment than I have ever been in my life, but I also feel like I have a duty to be kind and not post upsetting things on social media while everyone is stuck inside, trapped in Zoom meetings and “essential” jobs, and dealing with poverty, eviction, and life-threatening illness. I’ve got a lot of material saved up, though, so once we get this vaccine I am going to go wild.

You can follow DC Zinefest (on Twitter) and (on Instagram), and you can download free full-color and printable copies of all the collabzines they’ve organized from their website (here).

Big-Hearted Lad Appreciation Hours

I’m looking forward to 2021, so this year I’ve decided to send out New Year’s cards instead of holiday cards. 2021 is the Year of the Ox, so I thought it would be fun to have a card with a muscular big boy with ox horns showing off his eggplant and arrows while posing against Mt. Fuji. Himbos please drag us out of the toxic swamp of 2020, that sort of thing. I checked the websites I use for Japanese stationery, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I guess I’ll just have to make it myself.

When it comes to fictional characters, some people argue that the celebration of powerful men with big bodies is “fetishization.” I don’t think that’s quite right, as gendered power imbalances in the real world still result in misogynistic discrimination and violence. To give three examples that are very close to me:

I have a male acquaintance who moved from job to job after grad school, and at every position he left behind warnings on Rate My Professor from female students saying he harassed them. People in my field know this but still hire this man because “you can’t trust what kids say on that site.”

I spent four years quietly suffering harassment from my male department chair before finally being forced to leave my position, relocate, and find a new job during the pandemic. This man now has his own page on Wikipedia, and I don’t even have health insurance.

In college, I once had to watch a man deliver a monologue to a giant dildo about how fanfic is only written by gross women who want to get raped. I still post my “gross” fanfic on AO3, but that man ended up becoming one of the key figures behind the Detective Pikachu movie. True story!

I think that, before someone gets angry at writers and artists for indulging in a fantasy of men who are visually coded as powerful yet still have a kind and supportive personality, maybe they should ask themselves why this type of male character is considered to be a “fantasy.”

I think it’s appropriate that 2021 is the Year of the Ox, because we have a lot of work to do this year. Everyone defines strength differently, and everyone expresses strength in different ways, but I personally have spent so long feeling weak and afraid that I’m absolutely ready to feel strong and powerful.

I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with many men (cis and trans) who reject toxic masculinity and use their power and privilege to support the people around them. Hell yes I will celebrate these men, and damn straight I will create strong and attractive fictional characters based on them!