I Just Don't Get It

I’ve been going on a lot about the Twilight/Fanboy debate, mainly because it really irks me.  But the reason for that is that I’ve never experienced any real prejudice in my comic shopping, or at cons.  Several commentors on the Robot 6 blog article about Girls and Fandom gave anticdotes about their experiences with Fanboys and in comic shops, and quite frankly, it shocked me that they were meeting any kind of resistance from the other patrons and/owners.

I’ve been into comics since Elfquest issue 4 (the original, magazine sized issues) back in the early 80’s.  I was maybe 10 when I started.  Throughout the 80’s, I was an avid comic book shopper, riding my bike to the local shops (there were two within blocks of each other) the next city over from where I grew up.  My mother, patient and understanding woman that she is, would take my brother and I down to a shop in Huntington Beach whenever a new issue of Elfquest came out, as it was the only place that carried it way back when.  In all the time I went to these shops, I never ONCE ran into anyone who looked down on me or told me I didn’t know what I was talking about when it came to comics or fandom.

Maybe it’s the area I grew up in.  Southern California, more specifically Orange County had lots of comic shops in the 80’s.  As I said, there were 2 the next city over, Fullerton, one of which was owned by a woman.  That shop was called Adventureland Comics, but it was called Carol’s by everyone who went there.  Here I bought a lot of my comics and started getting anime and manga items, all the way up until Carol sold the shop.  The other one, don’t remember it’s official name anymore, but it was owned by a guy named Rick.  He was a pig, but not a chauvenist.  I got a lot of British sci-fi/Doctor Who stuff from that store.  My Dark Shadows comic collection started there too.  I even worked there during the summer to make money for SDCC.  Over in Orange there was 21th Century Comics, the home of Carl Macek and Barry Short, and the birth place of Robotech (not sure if that’s bragging rights, but I thought I’d mention it).  It had lots of Japanese and anime related items.  But I could walk into any of these shops, and barely get much more than a heads up from the clerks just to see who was coming in.  There was no jaw dropping or scoffing.

Maybe it was because of my brother.  He’s 4 years older than me.  He’s big, and loud, and has a short temper, but is really a sweet guy underneath.  He would never hurt anyone for real.  People who didn’t know him might not know that, but there weren’t very many fans in our area who didn’t know him.  For the longest time though, I was known only as “John’s Sister”.  I didn’t have a real name until I was in college I think.  It probably kept most of the guys from asking me out, but I don’t think any of them found my presence in the comic shop a nuisance.

Or maybe it was because I didn’t read a lot of the superhero titles.  Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, none of these books interested me.  I read Uncanny X-men, and the more offbeat titles; Blue Devil (the real version, not the retcon with Danny selling his soul.  He was a stunt man that got struck by magic and was stuck in his technosuit!!), Amethyst, Gold Key Dark Shadows, The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, the Comico Star Blazers and Captain Harlock, and the Shirow and Takahashi manga.  I wasn’t “overstepping my bounds”.  But then, it’s not like the anime and manga titles weren’t also dominated by guys, but still, my presence was never resented.

As I think about it more, I come to realize that I grew up in a different time, with different kind of fans.  Girls interested in sci-fi and comics were a rarity when I was growing up.  The guys didn’t want to chase me off.  They wanted more girls who would understand their interests and wouldn’t tell them to “grow up” and/or sell “all that junk”.  They encouraged us, and every once in a while, even asked us out.  I met my husband at a CF/O meeting.  And an even bigger difference is that the guys were polite to me.  Even when I was being “one of the boys”, I was treated with respect, something you just don’t see in teens or young adults so much anymore.

So where does all this scorn come from now?  Where does this attitude that girls can’t be fans come from?  Is it because Geek Fandom is popular now and they want the spotlight all to themselves?  Why do males who have been called “nerdy and smelly” by girls (though, stereotypes do come from somewhere you know), and are finally getting acceptance from those same girls now want to chase them away now?  Do they want to go back to being uncool and the butt of jokes again?  Will that make them happy?  Why is there such a big step backwards for just attitudes in equality being taken?

Make up your damn mind guys.  Do you want to walk around comic-con with your girlfriend dressed as slave-Leia, or do you want to go back to being with just the guys wishing you could find a girlfriend who could appreciate and understand your interests?  You can’t have both, and your are incredibly delusional if you think you can.

5 thoughts on “I Just Don't Get It”

  1. Comics have pretty much always been seen as a boys domain, and when girls intrude they get their noses bent out of joint and assume they can’t understand because they’re girls.

    I’ve also found that boys tend not to consider comics aimed at girls to be comics, they tend to reffer to them as magazines, as though that makes them a lesser thing.

    It’s a sad thing, cause it’s pure bollocks.

    The thing is there are very few sane fangirls out there. I’ve never been to a con in the states, so i’m basing this on my UK and german experiences. But out of all the cons ive been to in the past decade almost every girl i’ve met has made me wonder if they need a rabies shot.

    I’m not saying all girls are like that, because i have met some sane ones who are just as if not more knowledgeable than the average guy fan.

    The problem is the ratio of genuine fan, to the ‘he’s hot so i’m a fan’ styled rabid fan.

    Then of course there’s the psycho way they tend to act. If you crtiercise their pet love they go psycho on you (literally). I’ve seen more than one girl carted out of the con because she flipped out on someone who didn’t like what she liked.

    I don’t think i’ve seen a guy flipping out at another guy cause he dosent like the same thing.

    As a result guys tend to treat girls as though they’re all rabid and in need of a rabies shot.

    Also the whole way girls act over their fandom is a huge thing. I don’t think i’ve ever seen a group of guys giggling like they’ve been gassed just because a girl looks sexy in a movie.

    I got dragged to the twilight movie and had to sit through watching a bunch of normal school girls doing just that. Not something/

    Robot 6 has it wrong on one point though. The out cry over Twilight being adapted as a manga isn’t so much that it’s aimed at teen girls, rather that it’s a pile of crud.

    There are several better vamp stories aimed at girls that would have been better recieved than Twilight.

    My friends daughter was a Twilight fan for all of 6months, after that she said she got bored of it and it didnt interest her anymore.

    The twilight saga is the female version of the Eldest saga (aka Eragon). It’s baddly writen, and a pile of garbage, but has been well publicised and aime at a very specific age group that will buy it.

    But, as i said, it all bois down to the illussion that comics are only for boys. However the industry is largely to blame for that as well i think, since the vast majority of titles released are aimed at boys. There are very few girl aimed comics these days. And most of the ones i have seen are aimed at the early teens (13 and under).

    Maybe if companies started to release more comics aimed at the girls in their teens, attitudes would change.

    In that regards i’d suggest doing what they did with the witchblade manga.

    Pick up some fairly short shojo manga (say a max of 5 or 6 volumes), flip and colour them, and release them in chapters.

    I don’t like it when manga is butchered like that, but in cases like this i think the ends justify the means. In so much as it gets more girls reading manga (albeit through the back door), but it also helps to change the missguided delusions of comics being a boy only domain.

  2. Well, as another So Cal comics fan, I’ve never been outright unwelcomed or told to leave, but I’ve gotten condescending tones and weird stares at comic book shops that I stopped going altogether. Instead, I go to the anime/manga shop nearby. It’s owned by a guy, but all of the staff members are female and really nice. I don’t get weird stares and no one talks to me like I’m an idiot. It’s sadly refreshing.

    Granted, every fanboy I’ve met has always been very cool, nice and conversational. I chalk up the “comic store thing” to my role as an endangered species or something. Of course, it’s not the first place I’ve felt out of place in a retail store (I’m a minority, too), so I just don’t patronize those kinds of places. My money’s not good enough for you? Fine, I’ll spend it somewhere else.

    But, your point is well taken. The rabid fanboys can’t have it both ways and should just accept that there are people out there that like things they’ll never like. Sure, I don’t care for rabid fans one way or the other, but I don’t begrudge them their right to like what they like. All of fandom doesn’t need to get along and sing around the campfire — we just need to respect one another and move along.

  3. In my experience, the “fan men” meaning fanboys who are over 30 but act 15 are the worst offenders. I say this as a man who is WELL over 30 and who has a fan wife. I see it as a case of “well there goes the neighborhood.” or NIMBY-ism – Not In My Backyard.

    They’ve had the run of the park for so long that they’ve forgotten that it isn’t polite to fart and not say “excuse me.” or that daily showering is expected. They’ve gotten used to the fact that other men will tolerate their peccadilloes more than most women will. They’ve gotten into a mode where they can behave like the comic book guy from the Simpsons without a touch of irony and get away from it.

    Opening fandom to new fans means inviting people who haven’t inured themselves to the trolls of the fandom. It means that we get fresh young people to point out that the Emperor has No Clothes. We have to justify our acceptance of the worst of our kind. It also means that we have to accept that many of these newbies will be gone once the trend passes.

    So we can try to insulate the fresh fans from the crusty ones. We can offer them guidance into the wonders of comics by sharing out favorites (and not so favorites) without judgment of what they like and dislike. We can try to engage them in the breadth of wonder we all share as fans and try to let them see why we can appreciate the cruft of fandom just as we appreciate the fresh blood.

    And maybe, just maybe, we can change some of the stereotypes from negative ones to at least neutral ones.

  4. I grew up in So Cal too, in Mission Viejo, but my mother felt pop culture was junk. Not a comic book store in sighte, but my high school had a Batman collection in their research department and Elfquest, the fiction book, that I would look at during lunchtime. My family then moved to Northern VA and I had my first comic book shop experience at Guisepppi’s. Guiseppi’s saved me, I was in a new strange place and Robotech was not even on the tv, but this comic book shop carried the Elfquest and Robotech comics. My interest grew, but it was when I went to collage and got my own car that I really saw how different comic book culture could be. I found some horrible dives where the clerk’s eyes left me shivering as I drove away as quickly as possible with my purchase or absolute paradises where all my anime needs were found in the early 1990s as the anime community was starting to expode. I was for awhile the only female to a large group of guys hanging out at a comic/anime shop. It was a blessing and a curse. The bad part, there were some guys that would socially NEVER accept a girl into this private sanctum. The good part, I ended up with different boyfriends and eventually my husband of 15 years. I was a patron of this shop for 5 years and when my husband and I moved 4 other females were finally hanging out and we bemoaned the lack of girl manga, weekly, even though we loved Ranma, OMG and Shirow stuff. Now I live in TX and have seen the advent of DVDs and the manga explosion. Female fans have come out of the woodwork, so to speak, but the bookstores seem to be their place to purchase stuff. I have been really lucky that my local comic book shop has an annual xmas party and a few female employees, but girls are still few compared to the guys. As I see the younger fans get into anime and manga and I hear the rabid giggles I remember back to my own first moments that got me into anime, Mark and Rick, two hotties that sent my heart a flutter as I woke up early for Battle of the Planets and came home from school lickity split for Robotech. But all my giddiness was self contained as only a few of my friends shared my passion back then.

    I do think today’s fanboys feel overwhelmed by all the estrogen and lack alot of the social skills to just let them be. It’s sort of funny looking on this from the sidelines, it’s like looking at 3rd graders and each sex fears getting cooties from the other. You just chuckle and wonder who will be shagging whom in just a few years.

  5. You have to remember that most of these fanboys are trying to live vicariously through their chosen medium. Comic book fanboys want to be powerful and always get the girl (ala Peter Parker in Spider-Man), anime fanboys want to get the cool toys and be able to win the day against overwhelming odds, etc. They want to be insulated from the actual reality because it hurts too much that they’re stuck in a fantasy world, that’s why so many comic shops are female-phobic. Lots of shop owners are just as much fantasy-prone as their customers, that’s why a lot of comic shops are dark, jumbled dungeons that normal people would never walk into, they’re designed that way for a reason.

    But now you have a lot of female fans who are basically doing the same thing, trying to live vicariously through a book series that frankly presents relationships in an incredibly unhealthy manner. If the tables were turned and there were stores dedicated to Twilight, would any of us be surprised if they were male-phobic? After all, who wants to be faced with the reality of real boys when one can fantasize about Edward Cullen?

    I never really saw a lot of gender issues back in the day when I rode my bike to the comic shop every Friday (back when comics came out on Friday), there were plenty of people, male and female in the first shop I ever went to regularly and when I started frequenting 21st Century Comics (yes, to my eternal shame, I’m one of the people who introduced Carl Macek to anime), there were still plenty of girls who hung out there too. As I got older and started driving and expanding my range, places like Carol’s became hangouts because I ran a C/FO chapter and she was one of my members. It’s really only been at conventions that I’ve seen any overt snickering about female attendees and that hasn’t been for many years.

    Seriously, the few who have a problem with it, the nerdy, smelly fanboys who hold signs, are missing the point. The same fantasy-prone nonsense that the fanboys have done for years is appearing in the fangirl crowd and instead of recognizing it, they’re making fun of it.

    It’s two clueless ships that point at each other and laugh in the night.

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