When I was putting together the resources for the 2017 Excelsior Award (in 2016) I decided I wanted to use it as an opportunity to properly find out just how many girls take part every year. I’d always suspected it was quite a few, and I knew I had several all-girl schools that signed up every year, but I wanted to try and amass some data on this 'gender differential' issue and see if I could prove my theories (despite my natural aversion to data collection!). So I put an option to record gender on the Rating Form. It was as simple as everything else related to the Excelsior Award. Students were simply asked to circle “male” or “female”… and then I’d have all the data I needed.
So anyway, this week I finally found some time to go through all of last year’s Rating Forms and split them into two groups, boys and girls. Obviously there were several thousand to go through and I didn’t fancy the idea of physically counting two piles of papers to find out the percentage of girls doing the Excelsior Award. It would have been time-consuming and really tedious. So I hit upon a better idea – weighing scales! I would weigh both piles in kilograms, add the two figures together and work out the percentages from there. And, even though I felt a little bit silly doing it, it worked! I knew exactly what percentage of boys did last year’s Excelsior Award and what percentage of girls. Here’s the big reveal:
- Male: 60.5%
- Female: 37.5%
- Unknown: 2%
I’m happy with that. More than a third. Yes, I’m happy with that, even though I’d like to keep working towards as close to a 50/50 split as I can get. What information like this does is put to bed the myth that comics and graphic novels are just for “reluctant reader boys”. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with targeting that particular demographic with graphic novels and with the Excelsior Award if it benefits them (and your school) but the comic medium has so much more to offer to teenagers of different genders, ages, ethnicity and reading ability. As a storytelling medium it really can – and often does – reach ALL.
As an example of the way girls can interact with graphic novels (and manga!), I’ve included some of their comments from last year’s Rating Forms. Read ‘em and weep (or not)!
“You can understand the characters well and understand their feelings which is very crucial” (Superman: Lois and Clark)
“I love the poem in it about African soil and rain, as it’s personal to me. The experience of rain on your face and feeling the clay soil under your feet” (Black Panther)
“The dystopian future is intriguing. Though not the focus of the book, it provided a convincing motive for the ghost-writer” (Clear Blue Tomorrows)
“Artwork was detailed and very aesthetically pleasing” (Yona of the Dawn)
“When I first opened the book I was shocked to see how vague the linework was in the artwork. However, after reading the whole book, I understand that the story was more important than how it was drawn” (Audubon: On the Wings of the World)
“Captain America wouldn’t be my first choice, however I enjoyed reading the book a lot” (Captain America: White)
“The dialogue of this graphic novel has an amazing way of affecting the reader. Myself, I felt a lot of sadness to Steve’s thoughts” (Captain America: White)
“The concept of Robin being an organisation of Robins is ingenious. The characters have multi-faceted personalities and [the book] explored individual backstories” (We Are Robin)
“It has an abundance of backstories, flashbacks, plot threads and twists. It offered tons of action but it also had its slower, more exposition-based moments. Fortunately, our main character is strong, silent and emotionless. What I love about her is how we see her growth and how she opens up to her emotion. We sympathise with her” (Shuriken and Pleats)
Great insights and analyses, girls. Thank you. Keep reading comics. They need you.