The most prestigious cartooning Festival of the world, FIBD in Angoulême, France is the subject of controversy this year, and not for the first time.
It all started when the long list for Angoulême grand prix — the festival’s lifetime achievement award and the biggest honor it bestows on one candidate every year — was released. All thirty (!) candidates were male cartoonists.
French cartoonist Riad Sattouf (author of “Arab of the Future”) was the first nominee to boycott the prize, asking to be removed from the long list until women are added to the list. The full text of the call to boycott can be found here, translated by cartoonist Jessica Abel.
It didn’t take long for French Jewish cartoonist Joann Sfar (author of “The Rabbi’s Cat”, this viral comic about the Paris attacks and Gal Gadot enthusiast), to join in the protest. In a beautifully crafted post for the French Huffington post, a kind of comics feminist manifesto, he asked to be removed from the shortlist.
Sfar lashed out against the long systemic exclusion of women from the comics sphere, and even in the comics themselves, which has delayed female French and Belgian cartoonists rising to prominence.
“I get angry when I hear us being labeled as “politically correct”,” Sfar wrote, “I never asked for parity. that would put every female nominee under suspicion, people would say that she did not deserve her place and she was only named to satisfy quotes. I only want to not be a part of a ceremony that is at the moment detached from the current day reality of the comics industry. Thirty names without one woman, it’s a slap in the face to those women who dedicate their lives to creating or to loving comics.”
At first, Franck Bondoux, executive officer of the Angoulême International Comics Festival, defended the decision. “Unfortunately, there are few women in the history of comics,” he said. “That’s the reality. Similarly, if you go to the Louvre, you will find few women artists.”
But after ten out of the 30 cartoonist of the list chose to boycott the Grand Prix, including American artists Dan Clowes, Chris Ware and Charles Burns, the long list was quickly posted on the website with 6 additional women, only to later be completely taken off.
Apparently, the Festival’s management decided to completely democratize the prize, letting each and every member of the voting public vote for the cartoonist they deem most suitable, without the constraint of a list.
In the 43 years of the festival, only one woman has won the Grand Prix. But maybe this year, that will change.