This week’s lessons on Geek Anthropology is about the acceptance of women in fandom compared with the acceptance of white men in fandom. Finding your way into the geek culture and fandom can be challenging for women. While men are quickly accepted, women are tested about their intentions. It is true that times have changed quite a bit and that women can enter without much ado in certain circles. However, the stereotypes on geek girls and
fake geek girls are alive and making things difficult for those who decide to enter into the realm of fandoms and geekdom.
One of the main barriers still existing is the hostility girls face when entering certain male-dominated fandoms or geek realms, like comics. Women-friendly comic book stores have been popping out recently, but many women find themselves in uncomfortable situations every time they want to explore a comic book store. Talking with friends, I discovered that the main reason many order their comics online is to skip the same comments and questions of the
creepy local comic book store. All of this is due to stereotypes that make it hard to the community to accept women in comics or women in other fandoms.
Let’s make an exercise and turn around the roles. What would you feel if you were asked these questions every single time you decide to go and buy a comic you love? Wouldn’t you be pissed at the end of the day?
Who got you into comics? Your father? Your boyfriend? We assume that women who are into fandoms that traditionally have been male-dominated are in there just because of a male: a father, a brother, a friend or a boyfriend. What if we decided to be in just because we like it? The acceptance of a woman to be into a fandom or a geekdom of her choosing just because she likes it, it’s still hard to accept. Why? Because of stereotypes. Fandoms and geek realms that have been traditionally dominated by male find it difficult to believe that women would “like such things.” This is connected to gender roles within society. That women might like to do activities that have been traditionally attached to men make some brains blow up. When stereotypes are challenged, these are met with resistance. If you take the same situation, and you put the woman in the role of the men, we realize that the problem with acceptance is quite stupid.
Another assumption that makes acceptance hard is the notion that women enter into certain fandoms and geekdoms just to be liked by someone who belongs into that fandom or geekdom. This assumption has the premisse that women cannot like certain things and will only do them to be accepted by a certain guy in the pack, or to be cool, or to get famous. The idea that women might simply want to be in because they like it challenges stereotypes again. As gender roles fade, stereotypes lose their practicality, and so, why are we still using them?
Another barrier for acceptance is constantly being tested about how much you know about the fandom. In comics, you’re going to be asked thousands of questions that have only as a target to proof that you’re just like the other girls: you really don’t like the comics. This KGB questioning routine is just another way not to accept a new commer into your precious realm. New fans find it difficult and even stop trying because the attacks make them feel so bad that they don’t want to enter the community anymore.
Another assumption that makes acceptance hard is the notion that girls are unable to go to the cinema to enjoy a movie just for the movie itself, not because of the actors that play certain roles. The assumption that they are only able to read romance and talk about fashion all day long, reinforces the stereotype on women and thus their old gender roles within society. What would you do if you were constantly reminded of watching movies just because of the actresses that play certain roles? How would you take it?
Acceptance might be hard, but thanks to the awareness online, and more voices explaining their experiences within fandom and geekdom, women are quickly finding their place within them. Even if many men are still not for it, as gender roles in society are getting more flexible, so stereotypes start to crumble. Next time you find a guy who has a hard time in accepting you as a full member of the fandom you choose, be it the world of comics, games or any other geekdom; just pity him. He is the one who will have to do the job of acceptance, and be cool with it, sooner or later.
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