France’s top comics festival scraps nominee list amid sexism row
Just 24 hours after scrambling to add women to their all-male list of nominees for a prestigious award, the organizers of France’s leading comic book festival said Thursday they would scrap the list altogether.
The move marks the latest twist in a heated row that saw the Angoulême festival, one of the world’s leading comic book events, face accusations of sexism after it had failed to include a single woman in its original list of 30 nominees for a lifetime award.
In a statement on Thursday, organizers said they had decided to “invite all comic book authors to vote freely for the author of their choice”, describing the decision as “a new step in the democratization of the Grand Prix selection process”.
A day earlier, the same organizers had said they would add “the names of additional female authors” to the list of nominees.
The lack of women in the original list prompted female authors to call for a boycott and generated a social media effort to highlight the work of women comics creators.
Several nominees, including Frenchmen Riad Sattouf and Joann Sfar as well as Americans Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns, had asked in an act of solidarity that their names be pulled from the list of nominees.
‘Cannot contort the reality’
In the organisers’ defence, festival director Franck Bondoux said the January gathering "cannot contort the reality" of the comics industry, which has been nearly exclusively male-dominated.
"The Angouleme festival loves women... but it cannot rewrite the history of comics," he said in a statement.
France's Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin waded into the controversy on Wednesday, saying she found it "rather unusual" that no women were on the list of nominees.
A collective of about 200 female comics authors took to the Internet to express their outrage over the lack of women nominees.
"We rise up against this obvious discrimination, this total negation of our representation in a medium that includes more and more women," the group, Comics Creators Against Sexism, wrote on its blog.
Only one woman, Florence Cestac, has been honoured with the Grand Prix at the festival, which she won 16 years ago.
Women make up just over 12 percent of professionals in the world of Francophone comics, according to comic journalists and critics association ACBD.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)