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Part II: Good Enough: The Key that Binds Us and Seals the Future.
There are some that would claim that we live in progressive times. I’d argue that we live in an era where progress is stagnating. The gears whirring in the machines of change are grinding to a halt. All because we are overwhelmed with what little representation we are allowed. In that instant that we are content with seeing ourselves represented, we forget what we represent. In comics, we make excuses and support female characters that are subjugated or are nothing more than objects for male characters. Yes, we are there, but I’d be so bold to claim that merely being there is not sufficient. I’d go a step further and say that until we are accepted and respected no amount of pandering and isolated examples of excellence will ever be good enough.
An unforgivable transgression: It was my mother who introduced me to Star Wars and taught me how to play Pokémon cards. I have vivid memories of watching her play Legend of Zelda as a child, and not being allowed to touch her PSP when I was in High-School. Not to mention, in her prime she was both a better artist and athlete.
The idea of women in “nerd space” was never a troubling concept to me. After all, in my house it was common place. I’ve noticed an ongoing trend of women being treated as trespassing imposters when it comes to “nerd space”. I talked with steenzartblog, a manager at Saint Louis’s top comic shop, Star Clipper, about this issue.
Steenz, known for wearing a Robin costume under her clothes, has impressive encyclopedia-esque knowledge of all things comics; from indie to mainstream. She shared with me a scenario that happens quite often at her store. A male-human would walk in the shop, and be greeted by her and asked if they were looking for anything. The patron would ignore her, and gravitate towards another male under Steenz’s management and ask for the latest Batman or whatever he was looking for.
This is indicative of how the presence of women in this space is perceived as disingenuous. The same can be said about women and gaming and women at conventions. When it comes to games, they are a joke or poseurs. When it comes to conventions, they are objects to be judged or scenery to be enjoyed. It’s rare that fandom or passion is applicable reason for participation in these things.
I believe that women in nerd-space plays on the insecurities of men occupying that space. Directly questioning their masculinity. In Comics and Ideology by Matthew P. McAllister during the chapter about women’s suffrage and comics, the idea of mannish women is introduced. Women interested in things like politics was a direct threat to the comfortable status quo men have become accustomed. An empowered woman would have no need to be dependent on men. Through comics, politicians attacked women who fought for their cause by depicting feminist to be undesirable and mannish.
It’s no secret that nerd-space is a reprieve for many delta-male looking to escape the trappings of “main-stream” society. A woman choosing and supporting her fandom on her own accord is mannish and therefore in direct threat to what fleeting masculinity they’ve found in their escapism. Think of it this way, if what you did to feel like a man was an activity enjoyed and dominated by women, what would become of your escape? This may seem trivial, but I implore you it is not, it is of the utmost paramount. Though women are not physically barred from attendance like they were from the polls, or blacks from pretty much everything during segregation, there still exists this very real human factor. It is that human factor that acts on it’s intolerance and privilege.
A nerd’s frustrations and anxiety about “real women” would be multiplied by the presence of women legitimately wanting to exist in this space. Especially when those women are creating and extracting their own ideals about their popular fiction in a space they thought they held dominion. It’s easy to make enemies of those who want what you have. Especially, when they have what you don’t.
I’ve always seen the attack on women by men in nerd-space to be an appalling hail of contradiction and ignorance. If you’re an “attractive” woman you have no place amongst elves and starships. If you are not mannish, you should be concerned with the Kardashians and not the Cardassians. If you’re neither you are put in a corner. Ignored and disrespected.
It resonates with the way I feel being about being black and playing Magic: The Gathering. I can’t tell you how many shops I’ve walked in to across the US and had someone explain to me what Magic was while white patrons get a pass.
This is a sore subject. It reveals the worst of us all and how we were raised. It reveals the flaws in our ideology and our unwillingness to accept people as people. In the coming weeks, I will continue to attempt to explore this and take it as far as I can. The key to our shackles is giving in to the ideology that things are “good enough”. That where we are is good enough. The day we accept good-enough will be the day we are defined as a people.
I do not self-identify as a woman. Never have, probably never will. I cannot begin to pretend to think that I know what it is like to be a woman. So, I’d like to thank all the women, like Steenz, kind enough to share their experiences with me. With that I will end this week with a quote from Steenz, herself, that sums this week’s discussion ever so eloquently.
“ More women are finally saying that they have been reading comics all this time. Bros are saying that they need to GTFO like they just waltzed into a man’s world. Which is false.”
th+ink comics is an attempt to dynamically discuss the sociopolitical side of comics and sequential art. Feel free to engage. Updated Wednesdays. __________________________________________________________