March 16, 2024

All The Things She Said: A Look Back on International Women’s Day 2024

Just as much as it’s a clarion call for equality, International Women’s Day is also a reminder that many conversations are hard-won only by those who have tried to make space for them. For #IWD2024 on 8 March, we spent our Friday evening with Andeasyand and Griselda Gabriele, two of our creators who have spearheaded the kinds of conversations that Difference Engine wants to spotlight with the DE Shorts imprint.

A full house gathered at Book Bar in celebration of womanhood and all it’s messy and glorious parts. In discussing Andeasyand’s A Drip. A Drop. A Deluge: A Period Tragicomedy and Griselda Gabriele’s Bearing Witness (written by Vinita Ramani whose presence was missed) both depicting the lived experiences of woman, our speakers did not shy away from bold reflections, searing honesty, and candid humour.

Without any gentle tiptoeing, the conversation didn’t miss a beat as it opened with Andeasyand’s unhurried detailing of the awkward but relatable moments that arise while menstruating. Pains, stains, and pad wedgies were discussed in the same breath as her frustrations (of which many of us share) with upmarket pads and the period tax—the experience of unjustified shame being the most relatable point of all as nods and warm laughter rippled through the audience.

Just as Andeasyand isn’t afraid to turn period narratives on its head, Griselda spoke boldly about bringing authenticity to a difficult subject on Bearing Witness. Sharing about the process of translating Vinita’s grief for Mithra, her unborn child, into illustrations, Griselda reflected on the importance of drawing boundaries and respecting the “little things” that make up her story. Through open conversations with Vinita which eventually grew into a friendship, Griselda was able to observe and share in Vinita’s particular experience which lent itself to illustrations that captured the emotional layers without falling into the trap of painting overarching narratives of grief in broad strokes.

Griselda recalled noticing small, meaningful moments: how even amidst the sadness of losing Mithra, Vinita still thought of him with a lot of reverence; that even though it was a painful experience for Vinita, it was a spiritual one for her as well. Similarly, Griselda was able to sense how Vinita’s young daughter, Sahana, was a constant beacon of joy and love in the midst this tragedy. These nuances took visual form with the motif of the marigold flower as a callback to Hindu traditions and imagery and evocative moments between Sahana and Vinita that remain true to her emotional journey.

The subject of normalising experiences was also at the centre of the conversation that night. Working on A Drip. A Drop. A Deluge as both the writer and illustrator, Andeasyand initially took to drawing to articulate thoughts that she could not express in words. She envisioned it initially as a short zine, but realised that it needed to be told as separate stories. What eventually emerged was not only a story from one woman’s perspective, but a collage that saw the experience of menstruation as something as diverse as the kinds of bodies that bleed. 

For Griselda, it was also important to recognise pregnancy loss as a profoundly emotional experience that isn’t necessarily captured by medical diagnosis or physical symptoms. Her challenge was to paint a picture of the profound and ineffable loss, and she shared about the research she did to bring this much-needed perspective. She hopes Bearing Witness is not just a recollection but also a resource for women who might be going through the same thing. 

“I thought about Southeast Asian perspectives and how they were absent from existing comics and books about miscarriage… a lot of them were from western sources which were medical, but I wanted to bring the emotional perspective.” — Griselda Gabriele

Inevitably, the discussion about representation and incredibly personal experiences also brings to mind the question of what isn’t shared or what has been left off the page. Andeasyand spoke more about self-censorship and having to run up against the question of who A Drip. A Drop. A Deluge is written for.

“As a hijabi, can I write about this? Can I portray a cooch on the page?” — Andeasyand

In spite of her doubts, she shares that speaking to other women helps her to introspect and better understand the inclination to avoid certain topics. It is also a reminder that even though she’s found her stride as an adult, there are things that might loom scary and large in the mind of someone younger than her. She finally realises: “the book is written for the little girl who can’t get answers anywhere”.

The conversation ended with levity as Andeasyand spoke about the phrase that framed her comic: tragicomedy. The audience nodded in recognition of moments of shared awkwardness, mutual frustration, and collective indignation that gives way to a sense of found community that understands what it is to want to laugh and cry at the same time when someone readily offers a pad to you in a public toilet or when strangers offer help to someone crying on the street. The word “sisterhood” also resonated with Griselda who fostered an incredibly special bond with Vinita through the creation of Bearing Witness. “There’s a camaderie that happens and people that know will understand,” Griselda shared. “I don’t think Bearing Witness would be the way it is without our friendship because (Vinita) shared a lot of herself and the experience with me.”

“The thing about friendship is that they make you realise how deep that thing is because only with friendships is there trust… our experiences can be so lonely. It is a burden shared, a burden halved.” — Andeasyand

More like this