Artsy Fartsy / Comic Bookery / Feminism / Nerdery / Pop Culture Analysis

On Being Non-Compliant (or, on Being a Female Geek)

Bitch Planet #2 Variant Cover by Kate Leth

If you follow me on Twitter (@geeky_vixen), you’ve seen me talk a lot about being a female comics fan. I’m going to attempt to organize those thoughts here, and thankfully I’m a lot calmer than when I initially wrote those tweets. To give you a little background, most of it was in response to discussions around Frank Cho’s Spider-Gwen sketch and subsequent critique. It was the latest in the saga of “feminists suck all the fun out of everything.” Briefly, my thoughts are that people lost sight of the context of why people had an issue with it, and others lost sight of why such a huge reaction to it was ultimately conterproductive to the cause they were attempting to champion. I thought it was mildly inappropriate, and I took more issue with Cho’s childish reaction and the call to arms from Liefeld and J. Scott Campbell, because it fueled the more sexist comics fans to really rail against women in comics.

Female geeks constantly have to prove themselves worthy of their Wonder Woman t-shirts, lest they be called “fake geek girls” and get drummed out of the clubhouse. I’ve had to do that from time to time. If you’ve been with me from the beginning of this blog, you’ll know that I was on a podcast briefly. It was a fun experience and I had the opportunity to interview some awesome guests. The first meeting I had with the guys, a couple of them quizzed me on my comic knowledge, asked me if I even read comics (even after the guy who brought me on told them he brought me on because I had reviewed comics for him and that he and I had mutual respect for each other’s comic knowledge). The first podcast we did, we discussed the release of the DC Animation adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. The very first question one of the guys asked me was how I felt about the film adding a female Robin. I said, “Um, well, they’re following the source material, and I was OK with it when I read that, so I’m glad they stuck with it.” Ultimately, the whole experience was hit or miss, mainly because I wasn’t compatible with most of the group and being the token girl wasn’t what I wanted to be.

For a long time I didn’t identify as a feminist because of the negative connotations the term often has. However, I’ve realized that ’80s pop culture made me a feminist way before I used the term to describe myself. My heroes growing up were Princess Leia, Wonder Woman, and She-Ra. Princess Leia appealed to me because she was not just a princess–she was the leader of the rebellion against the Empire. She could take care of herself (and sometimes save the skins of others). She had Ewoks for friends. Wonder Woman was the main female in the Justice League, and she was a hero in the ’40s, a time when women weren’t exactly seen as equals. She-Ra (or at least, Adora) was raised to be a leader in the Evil Horde, and she, along with Angella and Glimmer, led the rebellion against Hordak, once she realized her power and became a force for good.

In the decades that I’ve been a geek, I have cultivated a varied fandom. I collect toys from Princess of Power to Transformers to random monsters. I buy comics that range from Bitch Planet to Transformers vs. GI Joe and everything in between. When I’m digging through longboxes, some days I may be searching for Valkyrie appearances; other days I may be looking for those last few Transformers: Generation 2 issues I need. I love Tarantino movies and bloody horror flicks, but I also love comic book movies and really terrible movies. I fall in love with characters like Agent Carter and Lagertha from Vikings. I don’t fit into one neat little box of what it means to be a female geek, any more than you could pinpoint one set of fandoms for a male geek.

And yet, when we talk about women and their role within any given fanbase, it’s expected that (at least to some) women are involved because they have crushes on the male stars of a movie. If they criticize a piece of art, it’s because they’re trying to censor or ruin someone’s fun. If they latch on to comics because they liked a character in a movie, they aren’t real comics fans. If they cosplay as their favorite character, they’re criticized if their body isn’t right or if they’re cosplaying a popular character. They’re jumping on bandwagons to read comics (even though girls have been reading comics as much as or more than boys since the beginning).

So what should we take from all of this? Storm the castle, ladies. We make up almost half of the comics readership (according to some statistics), and we spend a lot of money on and at conventions. We play video games and make costumes and create art based on things we love. Some of us are making comics and films, and that’s amazing! What we should take from all of this is that being a geek knows no gender any more than it knows a certain age. I’ve been a geek since the first time I saw Lynda Carter spin around and turn into Wonder Woman and tried to emulate it in my Underoos. I learned to read by reading comics. I spend my vacations going to comics conventions and live in a house filled with comics and toys. I’ve earned my place as a geek, and you’d better believe I will fight anyone who says otherwise. And for those of you who would try to gatekeep and keep women out–it’s too late. We’re here, and we’re here to stay.

3 thoughts on “On Being Non-Compliant (or, on Being a Female Geek)

  1. Well put Stacey. I just don’t understand why so many men feel threatened by the idea of women liking the same things that they do. I really would like to understand the psychology behind it. I’m so very tired of men giving men a bad name.

  2. “And for those of you who would try to gatekeep and keep women out–it’s too late. We’re here, and we’re here to stay.”

    We were always here, you just never noticed us. 🙂

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