Women Read Comics, And Other Things You Never Knew
Merlin Missy has been active in online fandom since 1994. She likes fanfics with plots and happy endings.View all articles by Merlin Missy
Dr. Merlin has been remiss in her essaying duties here at Firefox in part because of her duties to the Girl Scouts. Many of the hours she would while away here in cyberspace are now spent organizing craft supplies and soothing tempers of disgruntled parents. ("Yes, your daughter is a special snowflake. I agree. But she still has to sit down in her seat and not beat the other girls over the head with her glue stick." Mr. Merlin does eventually understand, though.) We also make pilgrimages to The Girl Scout Store. *insert choir here* On our way back from a recent outing, I asked (okay begged) my lovely co-leaders to stop at my local comic book store, for it was Wednesday. Co-leader N was worried it would be like an episode of Big Bang Theory, and I had to reassure her that my comic book store is a wonderful place. When we arrived, the proprietor pulled out the contents of my pull box without needing my name or number, and I picked up the second and third trades of Planetary; said proprietor had handed me the first trade my last time in and said I'd like it and he was right. Co-leader L looked around the gaming section while Co-leader N found a book for her daughter. I picked up four for my kids and we left, with N already considering her return visit as I handed her the Farscape issue I'd just bought. She agrees that Aeryn Sun can kick anyone's butt in the universe.
I'm the youngest of the three of us and I just turned thirty-five.
Women like comics. Girls like comics. And science fiction. And fantasy. And action flicks. And dramas. And comedies. And sports. And Dungeons & Dragons. And WoW. And every other genre out there with the sole possible exception of whatever the hell genre Manswers qualifies as. The biggest football fan I ever knew was a female chemist I worked with in New Mexico. I was dragged into comics by the recommendations of a woman who alternates between considering Dick Grayson a woobie and wanting to jump his bones. My entire opinion on Jason Todd was formed via the slash fanfic of another woman. Everyone I know thinks Marvel Divas was a decent idea whose actual solicit was made of massive fail. As for media fandom, I had one male friend who talked me into Farscape, but it took half a dozen female friends watching it in front of me and talking about it all the time before I started to see what the fuss was all about. I've met exactly one male fan of Battlestar Galactica, whereas half the women on my Friends list finished the series either worshiping at the altar of Ron Moore or running effigies of the man through with needles. (Dr. Merlin is in the effigy camp. That finale was chock full of WTF.)
Women like Star Trek. Right now, a lot of women like Star Trek a LOT. (Dr. Merlin is in the minority on this one, but having been a Trekkie since her tender years and spent a weird period just two weeks ago watching a sequence of "awesome female character comes onto TNG and dies horribly" episodes on Skiffy, she feels okay taking a leave of absence from the franchise.
Women start and maintain fanfic archives, write post-modern theses on the meaning of certain lines in specific episodes as related to mytharc concerns, and moderate the fandom newsletters. They vid, they filk. They comment on the big news sites and run their own blogs about movies and comics and shows and books, and really, have been here since the Well.
So why do we keep having to remind people that we're here? Why do we keep having to bring up, in front of guys who have been chatting with us about this show or book for years that why, yes, women are in the audience? Why do we keep having to point out from the front row that, wow, the content we squeed about last week is massively offensive towards women this week? Why do conventions still have trouble establishing and enforcing sexual harassment policies? Why do networks disregard us in the viewership numbers when we're half the audience? Why do we have to be the ones pointing out that, in fact, someone would catch a cold fighting crime on rooftops wearing that in the winter? Why do we have to argue again and again that skintight tops and fishnets and thongs and breasts that defy gravity and waists that defy the existence of internal organs might titillate the guys in the audience but continue to drive away potential new female readers every time they see a cover? I was so glad to pick up the recent Johnny DC Supergirl miniseries for my daughter, because it featured an eighth-grade version of her favorite superhero and therefore didn't focus entirely on said hero's boobs and crotch. I've loved Supergirl since I was my daughter's age, but it still annoys me that I don't dare show her books featuring heroines lest she fixate on women with less realistic proportions than Barbie and more sexual trauma than the guest cast of SVU. BOOM! Studios, do not let me down because you really are my only hope.
Why is this still a problem? Why do companies still think that guys are the only ones interested in all the bright and shiny toys? Why do we have to stand up and shout "We are here! We are here! We are here!" like the Whos down in Whoville when we've clearly been here the whole time?
Edit to add: There has been some concern over my use of the word "Trekkie." That was the word in use by my circle when I first was interested in TOS. I became aware of the word "Trekker" a few years after that, but by that point, the mental self-appellation had stuck. YMMV.
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