Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"I think maybe it was a bit my fault. Maybe I am too nice."
'Maybe I Am Too Nice' is actually the title of one of the twenty anonymous true stories adapted by the talented Maria Stoian contained within this tremendously powerful anthology. In fact she renders the whole spectrum of sexual harassment and violence from verbal abuse through to rape in such a selection of varied artistic styles I initially didn't realise they were illustrated by the same person!
Crucially though, she's chosen styles which are so divorced from the photorealistic that these could be anyone's stories... So when I tell you I can see hints of the likes of Isabella THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH Greenberg, Brecht THE MAKING OF Evens, Joann THE LITTLE PRINCE Sfar and William THE BIND Goldsmith in her art, you'll hopefully know exactly what I mean and nod approvingly.
That sense that the protagonists could be you, the reader - and I should add at this point that there are stories contained within which also touch upon female sexual harassment towards males, and also same-sex harassment (though the vast majority are male on female reflecting a sad statistical truth) - is neatly summed up in the glorious cover, where myriad people are chatting to each other in small groups at a social gathering, except one of the figures is a reflective silhouette... This might actually be my favourite cover of the year, I think.
The stories themselves range from the amusing to the downright harrowing. You might initially bristle at the suggestion that there can be any humour to be found in the thorny topic of sexual harassment. You shouldn't, because what I am referring to is the absurdity of the some of the perturbing behaviour displayed, to the degree that it is clearly the actions of someone who is somewhat unhinged, perhaps sometimes mentally as well as socially, rather than out and out, calculated, premeditated actions. Though there are stories here that do feature precisely that sort of horrific behaviour too...
I think this anthology very neatly shows, therefore, that the reasons behind peoples' inappropriate and unwanted sexual behaviour towards recipients are as multitudinous as the scale of seriousness. Which isn't to say verbal encounters from a blindly enamoured individual, utterly unreciprocated, can't be just as disturbing and frightening for the person concerned as where there is intentional malice or intention to cause distress, but still, upon occasion, it can provide some levity, at least after the fact. Other stories definitely just left me shaking my head in despair about some of my gender though. The title gives some indication of what more than a few of the idiotic perpetrators thought their victim's response ought to be.
This work is exactly the right sort of material to bring the discussion regarding sexual consent and respect for others, in all its facets, into the light of the mainstream, where it needs to be, for people to be educated about their actions in this sphere and the consequences they will have on others. But above and beyond that worthy fact, it is also a gripping collection of biographical comics brilliantly illustrated which I found fascinating to read. Also very recently recommended on this topic is Una's exceptional autobiographical BECOMING UNBECOMING.