I am not begrudging women like Olivia Munn or Felicia Day, or Zooey Deschenel their beauty, or their success. I am not saying that they’re shit because they’re beautiful. I am not putting them down because they’re beautiful, or a little quirky or nerdy.
What I am opposed to is the idea that they are the Gold Standard of females in fandom. That people (mostly men, some women) hold them up as how to do being a nerd girl “right.” I’m tired of hearing “All that and brains too!” or “all that, and she plays Skyrim!”
I’m tired of my friends, and other perfectly worth-while human beings being degraded and either explicitly or implicitly put-down for just being who we are. Because we found a community where it is OK to be quirky and nerdy and overly enthusiastic about the things we enjoy, and now we’re being told we’re not good enough nerds, either.
I have been in fandom a long time. Certain fandoms, like Doctor Who fandom I had to claw myself a foothold in. I entered when the new series hit, and older male friends dismissed the sudden influx of women as only liking it because they shipped Doctor/Rose, or because David Tennant was hot (I personally have no opinion on his appearance). Because THE THINGS THAT GIRLS LIKE ARE NOT AS GOOD OR VALUABLE AS THE THINGS BOYS LIKE, SIMPLY BECAUSE GIRLS LIKE THEM.
Clarification and example: Bronies. Fucking bronies. You ruin everything you touch. You’re like Midas but for destroying nice fandom things. Not the nice, kind, respectful dudes. You’re ok. But there’s a huge segment of male My Little Pony fandom who feels that we should be THANKING them for liking My Little Pony, because if a BOY can like it, that proves that it’s WORTHY. THAT is an example of the things girls like not being seen as valuable, until a guy also likes them too. Then we guess it is ok.
No. Just because “male” is the default and everything is designed to appeal to males (most movies if they want to turn a profit need to appeal heavily to the Spike TV audience, just an example—or look at any cover of any DC comics in the last couple of years and the spine- breaking achievements of the cheesecake super heroines on the covers) that does not mean that anything that is not male is inherently lesser. My Little Pony is not elevated by men enjoying it to being something worthy of male attention. That means that My Little Pony is a GOOD CARTOON SHOW. Have you SEEN the episodes with John Delancy? HOLY SHIT. All the Star Trek, and all the Star Wars feels… with a FUCKING DRAGON. It is pure fucking gold.
I’ve sort of become a Big Name Fan in Doctor Who fandom (through circumstances I still don’t fully understand). I am finally allowed to sit at the big-kids table (sorta) during various discussions. Some of old guard just accept that I rant about and have a different perspective on things such as the Doctor’s Sexuality (largely accepted to be asexual up until the new series and the influx of shippers). I have only had one jackass confront me with open hostility from the audience on a panel I was on with two other people regarding my opinions of Torchwood (Cyberwoman is the best 50 minutes of television in the history of ever and I will defend that, and the metal bikini with my last breath).
My opinions have gotten me sort of… typecast in some ways at conventions and with what I’m asked to contribute to books. I’m a girl, I like talking about shipping… so I get asked to talk about it. A lot. No one wants to talk about the cinimatic masterpiece of Cyberwoman or why Superman Returns is utterly fucking brilliant (Bryan Singer convinced a studio to make is crackfic babyfic pastiche amalgam bastard-child into a 3D movie. WAY cooler than podfic, IMHO). Though, thank you to the six dudes who indulged me Thursday night for like six hours at Gally on my drunken rant about how no one in the DCU is completely straight except for maybe Barry Allen. You guys were real troopers. That said, you tell me you are having a shipping panel and I will be there with bells on. So don’t stop asking me. Just, y’know… maybe give me a forum to talk about my how Lisa’s cyber-conversion MAKES TOTAL FUCKING SENSE once in a while too. That’s all I’m saying.
There are other fandoms I have never really found acceptance in. I am still unclear after DC’s most recent fuckery why i keep coming back to DC Comics’ characters, because I am pretty sure I am in an abusive relationship with the publisher of some kind. They meet like 13 of the 15 criteria for abusive relationships including destroying my property because the value of their books goes down as soon as I drive them off the lot (that was a joke, people).
I have been going to comic book conventions off and on for oh… fifteen or so years. The first couple I went to, I was a dutiful little nerd-girl and wore my Batman shirt, to announce my nerdiness, and when I tried to talk to vendors, they would answer my question TO the male friend who came with me just to hang out (who didn’t know anything about comics).
I have been told explicitly in the way men talk to me about other women at conventions that they don’t see me AS A WOMAN. Even though I identify as a woman, I introduce myself as a woman and I present as a woman. I am not “another one of the guys” until I start talking about how Batman and Superman really need to just get it on and release the sexual tension, and Lois Lane agrees with me.
Nor am I someone for a guy to whine to about how their girlfriends/wives do not understand their obsessions. Nor am I someone to whine to about how such and such pretty girl will not pay attention to you. Nor do I want to hear about how they are SO PERFECT because they’re SO HOT in that Zoe jumpsuit, and could I be your wingman. I WILL NOT BE YOUR WINGMAN.
I have watched men fifteen or twenty years older perv on young cosplayers in ways that made me, and the girls they were perving on GROSSLY uncomfortable. And they’re just expressing the deep-seeded misogyny both in our society, and in fandom. Why dress like Leela unless you WANT to be perved on, after all. Your cosplay isn’t about YOU and what you’re trying to express, or what sense of empowerment you feel by pretending to be a savage warrior aboard the TARDIS for a day—your cosplay is about the men around you, and their ideas of how you should dress and behave, and what your dress entitles them to do.
I have heard men at conventions (and some women—you are not exempt from bodysnarking) OPENLY mocking all the girls dressed as Amy Pond. OPENLY mocking the ones they considered too heavy to be Amy Pond and implying they should be ashamed of themselves for not being the exact same body type as Karen Gillan, who I am sure is 90% leg and 10% hair. They’re saying those girls (and some dudes, in a couple of cases) can’t dress like a character they love because of how they look.
In all honesty, I do a lot of listening at conventions. I often sit in the lobby and just listen to the conversations going on around me. I hear what’s important to people. I lurk on a lot of forums. You learn a lot when you listen. And when people think you’re invisible. I know what fandom values. I know that the nerd girl was finally starting to make some headway. We were being seen as a viable contribution to fandom.
Things like Chicks Dig Time Lords, Whedonistas and Chicks Dig Comics had actually gained acceptance and notoriety. The opinions and experiences of the women in those books (full disclosure: two of those include my opinions) were actually being taken seriously. While our perspectives might have been a bit different than some male fans, and our experiences different, our basic love for the source material was the same, and that was being made known.
But I think in some ways, The Felicia Days of the world can set back that acceptance a bit. Again: I do not begrudge her her good looks. I know she is a real and true fan with some very serious love for gaming and other fannish activities. She’s going to be applauded for that. Because she’s the “right” face of female fandom. She’s pretty and young and nerdy and just a touch awkward, which reads as quirky when you’re of a certain size and shape. And she and others like her are going to get attention for doing it “right.” For being attractive and female and nerdy.
The rest of us will be left behind AGAIN, after we’d just spent SO MUCH time catching up to the guys. They finally accept that women ARE reading comics (well, DC and Marvel’s heads dont, but… another rant for another time), ARE into Doctor Who for reasons other than a spouse dragging us into the fold, or because David Tennant is hot. Please ask me my opinion on the Hall of Souvenir Toilets, which I have reasoned to exist in the TARDIS for reasons that sound totally logical once you hear them. I think. Maybe. Or my opinion of Moffat’s loose relationship with, um… physics and science and other important things. You want someone to be a continuity fascist? I am your person. My brain THRIVES on continuity and internal story-telling logic/world-building consistency. And these things don’t make me unique among women. Cos I can unfuckify River Song’s timeline, explain the inherent flaws and still insist that John Watson is the bastard offspring of River Song and Jack Harkness (I HAVE CITATIONS).
Women in fandom are not fucking unicorns. At a lot of conventions, we’re reaching gender parity with guys. I actually had to wait for a restroom stall at the local comic book convention this winter. That is the first time in the history of ever. NO JOKE. I have NEVER WAITED IN LINE FOR A BATHROOM STALL AT A COMIC BOOK CONVENTION MY ENTIRE LIFE UNTIL 2012.
We’re there, and we’re present. We all look different. We have different interests in fandom. It is just as valid for a girl who wants to ship Doctor/Rose well past the point the rest of us have moved on as a boy who wants to memorize every director of every episode of Doctor Who from 1963 onward. There are guys that build Daleks, and girls who sit in the lobby and knit for the entire convention. We come in all shapes and sizes. From the girl dressed as Leela that I mentioned earlier (real person, yo) to someone with weight or mobility issues. We’re all still women and we’re all still fans. We all still have nerdy pursuits that shouldn’t be any less valid than the Days or the Munns of the world just because we’re not pretty. We shouldn’t be less, or the runners-up at being worth your time because you don’t want to bang us upon meeting us.
I have not even broached the fuckery of Sherlock Holmes fandom in the last twenty years of my life. Stuff went bad in the late 90s, it might have been me, it might have been them… let’s just say… being a YOUNG woman did not help. Being 19 or 20 and female did not win me any friends. I was basically told to go sit in the corner and shut up. And I wasn’t even especially talkative to begin with—I was inclined to listen to my elders, but when it got a little condescending and *pat you on the head, there’s a good girl* I got a little fed up. I had one friend who was a real actual BSI who took me seriously and that’s what kept me from disconnecting from that fandom permanently. I regret having lost contact with him.
I know there’s a ”get off my lawn” element toward the sudden influx of young female fans into the Sherlock Holmes fandom via BBC’s Sherlock series. They’re frustrated that the girls think Cumberbatch is dreamy, and that they’re giggly and silly and draw Watson as a hedgehog over and over. Not all the traditional SH fans, mind you. But I hear the same whining from some of them that I heard from classic Doctor Who fans when the show returned and it was girls and giggly and heart-shaped eyes and shipping all over the place. That’s fine. This kind of fan is vastly different than what they’re used to. In fact, I get kind of frustrated with the younger ones sometimes. I’m like… YOU’RE NOT PLAYING THE GREAT GAME RIGHT. GET OFF MY LAWN. But then I have to step back and catch my breath, because these girls, whether a lot of people like it or not, are the future in fandom.
There was an article written in 2010 (will haveta find proper citation) about the aging population at scion meetings and get-togethers. It broached the topic of how to get more fans involved. And then Sherlock was delivered like from on-high and suddenly you have twelve year old girls reading MUSG and LIKING IT. They get a lot of flack because of their tendency to ship John and Sherlock like holy burning. But, uh… I shipped it since 11th grade when I read The Picture of Dorian Grey and was like… oh. OHHH. OHHHH that’s how this shit worked in the 19th century.
Anyways, getting back to something two points ago—like it or not, these girls are the future of your fandom. Not all of them, but a handful of dedicated young women are going to read the ACD canon and either show up at your scion meeting (and wonder why you’re all so stuffy, even as you’re begging her to get off your goddamned lawn) or, more likely, she’s going to form an organization that suits her needs, where she isn’t ridiculed for her insistence that Mary Morstan was a willing beard (I HAVE CITATIONS) and where they play the Great Game HER way. If scions aren’t a little kinder to new fans, ESPECIALLY female fans, they may find themselves dying off from attrition in twenty or thirty years. Just sayin.
So this got a little ranty. And took a lot of twists and turns. But I think my original point about not discounting nerd-girls who do not look like the Gold Standard Nerd-Girls like Zooey Deschenel, Felicia Day and Olivia Munn is part of the larger issue of discounting nerd-girls in general. If our only credibility as being a viable nerd is tied to our appearance, and the Days and the Munns are used as the Gold Standard, fandoms are going to miss a lot of valuable contributions, and I think without young female fans, Doctor Who fandom was in trouble of dying of attrition, and Sherlock Holmes fandom was looking about to go the same way.
Ok, so don’t treat us like human beings, and stop holding us to unrealistic standards because it could save your fandom. Or because women actually do fucking read comics. Do it because we’re human beings, entitled to respect, no matter what shape or size we are. Don’t discount us having something to contribute, or being good friends because we’re “all that,” but not “beauty too.”
Maybe stop defining who is a “real” fan by whether you think their likes and dislikes are too girly. Maybe, for those of us who don’t get the +5 pretty girl bonus that turns all of our weird like and behaviors and attitudes and habits into something quirky and cute, try to see us as human beings, instead of adorable little fans with legs that look pretty in tights.
Alright. So there’re actually multiple issues tied up in here that all resolve back to the way we view women and their worth both in the “real world” and in fandom. But hopefully you get my point. We’re not toys. We’re not non-gendered, non-sexual creatures you permit to exist in fandom simply because we’re not bangable, or cute, or quirky, or whatever. We’re here, and we ship Captain Jack with anything, including that toaster, if it can consent to late-night shenanigans in the Torchwood Hub.
As you can tell… I’ve got a good twenty or twenty-five years of animosity built up, and it’s all kind of come spewing out in this epic blog post. Um… sorry. Sorta.
And in closing: Cyberwoman is the only episode of Torchwood Series 1 worth watching. Repeatedly. I have seen it over 130 times now. I encourage you to do the same.
*also, this is not behind a cut because I have been using tumblr for like two years and I still can’t successfully work the cut thing consistently. I honestly am afraid of losing the post, which has happened to me a couple of times, so, no cut for you.
The only thing she’s wrong about is Cyberwoman, which is a terrible episode and I know this because I’ve watched it enough for one lifetime. Gross.