Why are there so few “female nerds” (or “geeks,” whatever your semantic bent may be)? This is something I’ve been thinking about for the last two days. I guess I’ve always had it in the back of my mind and delight in throwing my theories at the uninitiated, but the actual question has been bothering me. My friend and I are starting a comic book writing workshop for Utah writers and we’ve gotten a number of recruits on our meetup.com site, which is great, but I am the only female member so far.
I understand that the typical comic book enthusiast belongs to a very specific demographic: ‘tweens-30 years old, white, male (a general group description, I admit, but fair.). So, it stands to reason that the majority of Utah Comic Book Writer’s members are 20+ year old, white males (go ahead and look). The “female geek” (I’m alternating) is becoming more common, but no where near matching in numbers of male geeks, so my first question, as posed above, is “Why?”
There are the obvious and correct reasons: the market is bent towards young males (through the copious use of swearing, violence, and sexualized, unrealistic women in comics)because that is the primary audience. But, then we get into something like “Which came first, the sexist comic book industry or the sexist comic book reader?” So, the next question must be, “Are girls being gendered to resist anything nerd-related, or more generally, intellectually stimulating?” This is a question that may garner a resounding “No shit” response from anyone reading this. Fair enough. But, why are girls still being taught to avoid anything that may stimulate imagination or adventure, in favor of the “more realistic” goal of becoming a wife and mother? Hell, why are boys being gendered to only like cars, trucks, guns, war, and to never express emotions except anger?
You’ll notice I used the word “taught” above. I want to emphasize that; children are being taught a specific gender identity, as opposed to discovering one on their own, or to think beyond such an identity. It appears that children are encouraged (let’s not say “forced” or something as aggressive) to stifle any unique traits that could develop into an interesting personality, a personality beyond gender roles. These statements, I would like to point out, also indict the parents/guardians/media/schools who attempt to feminize boys or masculinize girls, not just the traditional “Boys wear blue; girls wear pink” crowd. It’s all messed up, everyone should be ashamed and question their abilities to parent and think. So says the woman with no husband nor children. I brought this up to my parents and they were very quick with the defense. It’s true, I was never taught not to handle a gun or discouraged from playing with Barbies. My sister, a very pretty and feminine woman, delighted in ripping my aforementioned Barbies’ heads off. She dismembered Ken. Poor Ken. I like to think that, because my parents let me figure things out on my own, I don’t live my life based on societally approved gender norms. Of course, most people think I’m gay. It’s all about sex with you people.
Anyway, all that, up there, is why I think there aren’t as many female nerds. That and the primitive desire the males in the geek culture have to bully someone else now that they have their chance. They’re no better than the jocks that tormented them. But, that’s a different track. I’m circling back, hang in there. Coupled with my desire to be in a comic book writing workshop group, but not to be the only girl in it, leads me to a more specific question: How can I make Utah Comic Book Writers more appealing to female comic book/graphic novel/manga writers? (The fact that these women would be geeks/nerds/enthusiasts is a given). I read these articles (the first two were sent to me from my friend, Mike) and sites:
- DC Comics Fires Top Female Writer For Refusing to Comply with Company’s Sexism (Except for the lack of clarity and the slight against Whedon–possibly showing that Abdul Siddiqui, the article’s author, has never watched Buffy, Firefly, or The Avengers, nor read any of Whedon’s comics–it’s a decent article.).
- Ker-pow! Women kick back against comic-book sexism
- The Hawkeye Initiative (A Tumblr site putting Hawkeye in the same poses as female comic book/manga characters, to show the ridiculousness of them).
- Women in Refrigerators (This one is terrifying, but necessary).
- The Mary Sue (This one’s my favorite).
And I got an idea. I want to issue a challenge to female comic book geeks (and potential writers) to be part of the change that is beginning to occur in pop-culture. Women need to become as great of contributors to the comic book/graphic novel/manga universes as men have been. Hopefully this involvement will trigger better story-lines and character development, of both male and female characters, and their respective series. As children shouldn’t be gendered to fill societal roles, neither should the pop-culture icons that have gained sway over the way we think and act, indeed, the figures who have become almost prophetic of our times and culture should not be fixed in gender identities such as “The unthinking and/or hypersexualized woman” and “The testosterone-fueled dickhead.”
Now, I love Civil War, it’s up there in my Top 5. But, it’s not immune to the misogynistic tropes so common in comic book writing. I hope, through this post and future campaigning for Utah Comic Book Writers, more women will be interested in joining our group to become educated in the format and become part of the change, if only they (I’m hoping more than one) do so because they are pissed off by an all-too-old injustice commonly done to female characters and, therefore, stories that could have been more than the hero’s journey.
Those men and women reading this now, what do you suggest? What can I do to appeal to the Female Nerd?
- Women In Comics: Liu & Cloonan on Gender Gaps in Mainstream and Indie Comics (comicbookresources.com)
- Cafe Scifi-tique: feminist protest against sexist comic book nerds (lostateminor.com)
- Misogyny, or “You’re Not a Real Nerd!” (vemccarroll.wordpress.com)