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Confessions of a Geek Girl
Being a female fan isn't always easy when The Fans push back.
By Rebecca Frost
In my 30 years of being an absolute dork, I've been very lucky. I have been given opportunities to surround myself with other dorky, geeky women and friends. By surrounding myself with these like-minded people, I've been able to flourish as a geeky female podcaster in the geekiest city in the U.S.
My time has not been without hardships, though. It wasn't until I really started podcasting that I started noticing the nasty side of fandoms—and, in particular, The Fans (read: straight white men). As I would scour the internet for stories to talk about, both on "the air" and with peers, I noticed the comments sections getting meaner and meaner. The new movies and rebooted comic books that Marvel and DC were putting out belonged to The Fans and The Fans alone. If you liked it then you didn't know what you were talking about.
I was part of a Ghostbusters panel at (then) Salt Lake Comic Con the same day as the announcement of the new 2016 cast. I am a (ugh, this term) female comedian, and the announcement of comedic women accepting the leading roles was revolutionary and incredibly emotional to me. Did I know much about Ghostbusters? Not really. Did I know enough? I thought I did. Sitting on a panel stage with five other men as they shat all over the concept of a woman wearing a "heavy backpack" when instead they should be a love interest and a side character, anyway let's talk about the Ghostbusters video game ... it was the first time I felt rage over blatant, in-my-face sexism, and I didn't think I could do anything about it. After all, what business did women have in any of these things The Fans liked?
Being protective, possessive and defensive about something you love is one of our lizard-brain instincts. When that thing starts to become beloved by the rest of the world, it's easy to feel like you're losing control of the one tiny piece of the thing you love. Making fun of people for only being into things "now that they're cool" stems from this, and pointing fingers is easy when we don't have to see our reflection in the computer screen. And thus, the downward spiral that began at the comments section began to accelerate, often ending with a SWAT team at a woman's door—a woman who was just trying to create a video game. In 2014, video game developer Zoe Quinn was publicly shamed on the internet and accused of sleeping with video game reviewers. The avalanche that followed included rape threats, death wishes and a forced abandonment of a place she called home.
While I've been able to watch some of my dearest male friends go through an evolution of recognizing their toxicity toward other fans, and growing to become better people, I think every day about the mud my female friends have been dragged through. I still give pep talks to women about how they shouldn't be afraid to ask for what they want in a comic book store, or how cosplay is for everybody, and every body. I have to. We're still subject to insane vitriol for existing and claiming to enjoy [insert literally anything].
I'm quick to give a pep talk and a confidence boost to anyone who needs it, telling people they have no reason to apologize for not being omniscient, but I still find myself apologizing for liking things. I still say "sorry, but ..." if I am correcting someone. Why should I be sorry? Sorry that the reason Kylo Ren's lightsaber looks like that is a fact, and that you weren't correct? Sorry that I as a woman had to correct you on this thing of which you thought you were all knowing?
Since the beginning of comics, male characters have had a female equivalent, but now with shows like She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel on the horizon, do The Fans think that's "too far?" Doctor Who, a TV show with a time- and space-traveling alien who can change its appearance, saw its main character become a woman after looking like a man since the 1960s—so people ran to their keyboards to cry "pandering!" Women are finally getting their own shows, comics and movies—and The Fans take it upon themselves to blame studios for catering to feminism and the #MeToo movement, despite the fact that women make up half of the world's population. I'm sorry ... for existing?"
As fandoms become more self-aware of their destructive nature, the echo chamber grows larger. Loving and forgiving parts of the internet can only watch as the nasty, horrible, poisonous side yells itself into oblivion, unwilling to hear what anyone reasonable has to say, even if it's a simple, "I understand why you're upset." All anyone wants in this life is to be happy, and this crazy world of superheroes, monsters and aliens brings us all a bit of joy.
If I have one favor to ask, it's this: Next time you start to feel possessive, angry, or upset over something in pop culture, take a step back to perceive that your view is not the same as everyone else's. You might not relate to that woman on the screen, but your little sister might. You probably don't feel represented by that person of color in that show, but maybe your friends do. Don't you want your friends to feel as happy as you have been made to feel?