Text: “Enable < Empower” – A comic by Justin Hubbell
An empty cradle drops from above, a la “Rock-a-bye Baby.”
Text: From the cradle up, we’re told we’re unworthy.
Words float in space, delivering all too familiar messages like “too poor,” “too fat,” “too stupid,” “too Black,” and so on. They seem endless.
Text: We’re always too something!
A cisgender woman wearing a hijab signifying her Muslim faith looks uncomfortable as large arrows point at her from all sides reading things like: “movies,” “school,” “media,” “housing,” and “games.” The woman is shown staring at her reflection in a mirror with a look of anxiety.
Text: Oppression is everywhere!
Text: And we absorb it. All of it!
A fat cisgender Latinx woman in a wheelchair sits at a desk in an office setting. She wears a nervous grin as she cracks a self-deprecating joke.
Text: It always starts out small.
Woman: “Oh my god. I’m so stupid today. Where’s my brain?”
A co-worker (a Black cisgender woman) to the woman’s left leans over to quickly put a stop to the self-abuse.
Text: If you’re lucky, you get corrected.
Co-Worker: “Hey! Don’t say that! Everyone has off days. Take a break. Wanna go for a spin?”
A second co-worker (a white cisgender man) to the woman’s right leans over and laughs.
Text: But if you’re unlucky?
Second Co-worker: “You’re funny!”
A spotlight shines brightly down on a solitary hat, one meant for a clown.
Text: Now you’re in it. You’re the clown. And every time after this?
A biracial cisgender man with that same nervous smile gazes in the distance as he delivers the latest personal attack on himself.
Text: It gets worse.
Man: “Wow! Only I would get this wrong!”
A Black cisgender woman sits, her hand holding up her head as she droops in agony, her eyes looking upward as she degrades herself.
Text: And worse.
Woman: “I suck today. I don’t know how y’all hired me.”
A red-headed genderqueer trans cartoonist (Justin, super white) looks incredibly stressed as they spout injurious comments about themselves.
Text: And worse.
Justin: “I’m such a fucking idiot. What the fuck is wrong with me?”
The backside of an anonymous employee in a chef’s smock stands in front of Justin, who looks hurt in the background.
Text: And then one day you don’t have to make the jokes.
Chef: “Don’t mind them, they’re having a ‘Justin moment.’ Ha ha!”
Justin stands beneath towering silhouettes of people grinning maliciously.
Text: Because people make them for you now.
Justin looks uncomfortable, but still attempts to crack a grin; the attempt is nearly futile.
Text: You’ve trained them for this. You’ve made it okay…
Justin looks absolutely miserable.
Text: …and if feels awful.
Text: Can we be done with this?
A cisgender Haudenosaunee (Native American) woman smiles broadly, very clearly pleased with herself and enjoying the moment.
Text: Can we be nice to ourselves for a change?
Woman: “Yes! I nailed it. I’m so talented I don’t even know what to do with myself!”
The same scenario plays out, except our hero seems tired and stressed out as she acknowledges a recent victory yet simultaneously managing to insult herself.
Text: I know that sounds shallow, but look at the alternative!
Woman: “I can’t believe I pulled that off! It’s a miracle every time I don’t completely fuck up.”
Text: We’ve all learned to bully ourselves.
The Latinx woman in a wheelchair from earlier is back, this time smiling and paying herself a compliment.
Text: But we can teach ourselves to be nice instead.
Woman: “Woo! I got a sale! I’m awesome!”
The two co-workers from before chime in each, offering words of encouragement.
Text: And we can teach others, too!
Co-Worker 1: “Hey! Way to go!”
Co-Worker 2: “You are awesome!”
Our hero beams, happily, full of confidence!
Text: Be nice to yourself. Do it for you.
Text: You’re great!