Becoming Unbecoming by Una
29th Mar 2016
Una was a teenager in the 1970s; a golden age for misogyny in pop culture, and a time when the Yorkshire Ripper was on a sustained killing spree in Una’s home county.
Published by Myriad Editions, who have put out multiple impressive and important graphic novels over the last few years, including several memoirs.
In this debut graphic novel, Una portrays her own experiences as a survivor of abuse (questioning the term ‘survivor’ as well as many other ingrained notions) dealing with slut-shaming bullies and hearing repeated news reports of women brutally murdered not far from home.
The line drawings are neat and appropriately reminiscent of 1970s How To books and girls’ annuals, combined with dreamy watercolours illustrating the author’s psyche as she revisits difficult memories.
The format of Becoming Unbecoming varies from traditional comics panels to illustrated collage, informative visual essays and powerful full-page images. Far from a disjointed approach, each part of the story is told in an effective, purpose-fit way, tied to together by the overall themes.
For a book formed out of a difficult, raw honesty, it is honed into beautiful pages which are surprisingly readable despite the darkness of the situation. It is straightforward, analytical and educational in its exploration of ingrained misogyny.
The author’s own experiences are featured alongside factual details from the Yorkshire Ripper case, which reveal a frustrating lack of insight from the police. Notes reveal that they actually interviewed the killer several times, and he matched several photofits given by surviving victims.
However, the force were not looking for an ‘ordinary man’ and so they ignored the women’s testaments. His spree went on for years before he was caught.straightforward, analytical and educational in its exploration of ingrained misogyny
Newspaper clippings from the time also reveal that both the police and some members of the public had little problem with the idea of a murderer killing prostitutes. Many failed to take the crimes seriously until a 16-year-old girl uninvolved in sex work became a victim.
One of the overriding themes here is of the unfairness displayed by society; women everywhere are abused and then actively blamed for having been a victim of a traumatic experience.
The dichotomy between truth and lies is thrown into sharp relief, showing how frequently women are victims of this societal problem with little chance to have their say.
Despite the frustration and injustice inherent in its subject matter, the book manages to end on a call to arms, giving hope that with increased social responsibility, fewer and fewer girls will have to grow up with these same experiences.
A graphic memoir combined with an unflinching essay on gender violence, Becoming Unbecoming is an astonishing debut which shows Una’s talent for subverting the comics medium to powerful effect.