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.