Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Girls and Comics, part 5

Just when you think a series of blog posts is over, Publishers Weekly throws a great article at you.

In "Life in Comics: What a Girl Wants," Jennifer de Guzman shares her own comic-book-shop-creep-out moment, and her thoughts on comic-book-shop girl-friendliness.

However, towards the end she uses a turn of phrase that really struck me:

Comics have thrived, in their own way, on being insular and appealing to a closed circle of fans. Comics isn't just a medium for many people—it is a community. And, unfortunately, a community whose largest faction is very much a clique.

It seems to me that many members of this clique regard it as having a clear "no girls allowed" rule. They don't want to stop using their comic shop as boys-only clubhouses. They don't want their superhero comics to stop brutalizing and objectifying female characters. They don't want to take the time and effort to produce and effectively market female-friendly comics when they have a built-in audience to cater to.
Now, de Guzman is dead-on, but at the same time, the irony of the statement struck me as hilarious. What she's pointing out is that things have progressed so far in terms of mainstream culture accepting comic-book geekdom that comic book geeks are being chided for not letting people into their clique. I find it absolutely charming that people now like us well enough (remember us? the people that nobody liked talking to back in high school and middle school because we were too nerdy? the ones excluded from the rest of the world's social circles?) that they resent being shut out of our company!

She's also dead-on as to what the remedy to comic-book-shop creepiness is:
The solution to this? Ladies, we're just going to have to do this for ourselves. The last finding of Larson's survey was "There need to be more women creating comics and working in the industry as editors and publishers." I would add that there need to be more women working in, managing, and owning comics shops, too.

I doubt that my comics shop horror story would have happened in a store where women work or a store that a woman owns, and where it's expected that all customers be treated respectfully.
Outcompete those creepy dudes, ladies. Trust me—all the rest of us guys are creeped out by them, too. We'll shop at your stores in a second.

3 comments:

Dea ex Machina said...

(remember us? the people that nobody liked talking to back in high school and middle school because we were too nerdy? the ones excluded from the rest of the world's social circles?)

Um, dude? That was us lady nerds too. We've been here all along. And we had it worse than you. Not only were we ostracized and ignored by "the rest of the world's social circles," we were ALSO ostracized from the one circle we SHOULD have been accepted into. Condescended to, creeped on, and glared at.

Before the movies? Before the mainstream acceptance? We were there, slinking into comics shops, being ignored by the rude clerk and alternately being dismissed or ogled by the clientele.

This isn't a "now we want in because you're cool!" situation.

This is a "Screw this, we're not putting up with your BS any more" situation.

Matt said...

I see your point. I guess, from my side, I just never imagined that ANYONE would have wanted in to our crowd back then.

(And for the record, I was never even a very good comic book geek. I obsessed over a few series—V for Vendetta, the original TMNT—and hardly followed the rest. I was actually much more of a newspaper comic strip geek, and no one cares about them.

Even today, I feel like I'm on the outside of the comics crowd, since I never came up through the convention/direct market scene. I went the children's publishing route instead... so I have the distinction of running into comics people who know every indy and minicomic and webcomic that's being published, but have never heard of Babymouse, and they sort of look at me out of the corner of their eyes like, "What is he doing here, again?"

Again, I point out the irony of the fact that I feel somewhat excluded from a "clique" that is itself made up of rejects that no one else wanted in their social group.)

Before the movies? Before the mainstream acceptance? We were there, slinking into comics shops, being ignored by the rude clerk and alternately being dismissed or ogled by the clientele.

Sadly, as Hope's survey indicates, this is still going on. And as I said, we guys often find the stores and crowd just as creepy and unwelcoming. I'd LOVE to run across comic book stores run by women.

Dea ex Machina said...

Eh, it wasn't so much that we wanted into your crowd exactly, it was, just... The cheerleaders weren't talking to US, either, you know? It wasn't like anyone was falling over themselves to befriend the awkward, bespectacled kids with bad skin on EITHER side of the gender divide. And at least the nerdy boys had each other. Nerd girls were less common, and frequently in the closet. It was hard for us to find our own kind. We would've liked to have had someone to talk about Ninja Turtles and X-men, too.

But I know my attempts, at least, fell flat. I once mentioned to a boy in middle school that I loved Star Wars. "YOU DO NOT," he said, "What's the maximum fuel capacity of the Millenium Falcon?! Huh?! No?! I THOUGHT SO!"

In high school, some guy left his Marvel Mega-Crossover issue on his desk, and I was looking at it, and when he saw me looking, he smirked and said "That's a 'comic book.' Can you say 'comic book?' And that's Wolverine, and..." and when I interupted and started filling in the rest ("And The Hulk, and The Scarlet Witch, and Iron Man, and...") he just looked confused and walked away.

Being a girl nerd had all the downsides of being weird, but almost none of the benefits. Even the other rejects rejected you. It was a pretty lonely life.

I think it's a little better for nerdy teen girls, now. The net means like-minded femme-creatures can find each other more easily, if only in cyberspace. And those of us who grew up in darker times have reached the point in our lives where we feel strong enough to speak out and fight back against poor treatment, instead of just being grateful to the jerkass clerk for deigning to sell me the books I loved so I could escape the hell that was high school for a little while.