Let’s start with a true story:
As a child, teenager and in my early adult life, I had plenty of lovely friends, but I was always just a little bit lonely. This was because my so-called ‘tribe’ rejected me on a regular basis. I read comics, loved to read in the ‘hard’ Science Fiction genre, loved to watch Science Fiction movies and television shows, and was what would be recognised today as a fangirl. And yet, I couldn’t find other people who accepted me for that side of my nature. I went to a comic con in Brisbane back in the 1980s, and found it a very negative experience because the boys (and they were certainly too rude to be called men); those boys kept ‘calling me out’ as not being a true fan. None of the women I knew were into Doctor Who and Star Trek and Star Wars to the same extent that I was.
Some people like to glamourize the ‘lone wolf’ role in the media, but it isn’t much fun when you are actually living it. I fitted in the best I could. I really did have a wonderful group of adorable friends, and that helped. I was drifting through life, keeping my enthusiasms private and close to my chest. When I did try to share my passions, I was often made to feel peculiar, even by my family.
Then things started to change. I started meeting women who were just as interested in Science Fiction as I was. Fandoms started to gain acceptance in the mainstream media, and even moved into ‘fashion’ – look at the popularity of the Marvel universe at the moment. Pop culture conferences took off in Australia (YAY!), and were attended by men and women. Then I discovered the Steampunk community and finally found my true tribe. Funnily enough, I’ve found my growing confidence in being part of an alternative subculture has flowed into all aspects of my life, with my family growing more supportive of my ‘quirks’. I think this acceptance was aided by the younger members of my family who have grown up in this more tolerant era; I love that my children, nieces and nephews actually have joined various fandoms of their own. I no longer feel isolated … instead, I feel very excited to be living in an era where my interests are shared and celebrated by so many other people.
So, it makes me very sad when I see that sexism still lingers in the alternative scene. This is evident in several ways. If you’ve missed the Tankhead tee-shirt kerfuffle, to cover the highlights, their shirt read I like Fangirls how I like my coffee. I hate coffee. and were surprised when this generated quite a backlash. The fact they thought this was funny tells me a lot about the ingrained sexism in that company, and I was immensely irritated by the fact that people used the “Women should grow a sense of humour” argument in the argy bargy afterwards. Whenever a woman comic book artist makes a comment about the unrealistic figures, costumes and poses expected from female superheroes (when compared to male superheroes), she is bombarded with abuse and threats for having an opinion. This often frightens women and men away from trying to start a discussion about sexism.
Don’t let the haters silence you. Fandom is NOT a men only party. It never was.