Over the course of the weekend, I read this interesting article on Kotaku about Nerds and Male Privilege. You should read it through, if you haven’t already, before continuing to read my post here as it makes a lot of great points that are relevant to what I’ll say below.
I had two separate discussions on Facebook about this Kotaku article this weekend that will lead us to my proposition. One was very heated, off-topic and weird; the other was mostly with a man who had his heart in the right place, but was still kind of the belief that there wasn’t much to be done about sexism and male privilege in comic book and gaming fandom. (We’ll limit this to those two fandoms for now, since that’s what the article focuses on too.) The aforementioned man did suggest one thing, however: shaming and ostracizing those who act like total assholes towards lady-geeks just because they’re ladies
And that, dear readers, just seemed so wrong to me. Aside from the fact that I subscribe to the belief that every little good deed counts towards making the world better, male privilege isn’t good, but it isn’t a crime akin to murder. What needs to happen more than punishment is re-education of offending male geeks and the normalization of lady-geeks within fandom. The first goal is a bit lofty, since not every guy is open to the idea of letting go of male privilege, so let’s see if we can achieve the second.
I would like to propose a plan, a sort of a movement: Place at least two women in comic book shops or video game stores on new release days, during different peak hours of business. Have them buy at least one comic book or game while in the store. (No large chain stores like Barnes & Noble, preferably, as those are usually not a meeting place for community geeks. Game Stop would work since it only sells games.) They should be alone or with other women who are also buying comics or games. No boyfriends, husbands or male friends, preferably, unless the woman is able to buy more than the men she is with. Whenever possible, have the women talk to the other geeks in the store. Do this with as many comic book or video game stores out there as possible. Repeat each week on new release days. In other words, lets make it so that men see women in these stores all the time.
The goal of this plan being: while women insert themselves visibly in the fandom, the men will gradually meet us on equal ground as geeks, instead of as ladies first and geeks second. That male geeks will stop thinking that we have no passion for or knowledge of our fandom, or that it’s just something our boyfriends got us into. Perhaps, if we’re lucky, the guys will re-educate themselves as the gals become a stronger part of the geek community.
Now that you’re done reading the proposition and its goals, I just want to tell you right now that this is not a discussion about whether or not some men in comic book and gaming fandom are being assholes to ladies. Why? Because the answer is yes. We all know it’s happening. Geeks are famous for being mostly male and acting weird towards women. Thankfully, this isn’t all the guys in fandom, but even those who think they are respectful towards women might not realize they do some disrespectful stuff sometimes.
Also, I’ve come to realize that discussion is somewhat worthless on this topic, as most of the discussion is dominated by men who are miffed that they’re being singled out like this. Some of them don’t even care that they’re being sexist to ladies. To me, that is a call to action. Time for female geekdom to step out and show the other half of the geek population that we aren’t in the comic book and game stores to be stared at. We are here to participate. To buy geeky stuff alongside other geeks.
Can this actually happen? I don’t know. I’m just a writer for one measly manga-related blog and I know that even putting two ladies in every comic book store in the U.S. and Canada wouldn’t totally eradicate sexism and male privilege in fandom. But I’ll be doing this, alternating between Meltdown Comics in L.A. and Comics, Toons and Toys in Orange County each week. (Due to work stuff.) Even if I can only change the opinion of a few male geeks in my local community, that’s worth it to me.
Let me know if you have any questions, concerns, suggestions or if you’d just like to join this movement so I can track numbers and which stores are being visited.
Note: This movement might not be for every woman. If you have been scarred by past visits to comic book or game stores, no one here will make you go back if you don’t want to. The basic idea is just to take change out of the hands of men and bring it into the hands of geek women who are sick of the sexism and want to change things.