I only have a few more weeks of summer in which to do my blog posts, so expect to hear from me a lot in the near future. This one is just another linkspam, though … but it has commentary!
I haven’t been analyzing my data yet – I’m still letting it pour in until Wednesday, two weeks after the survey opened, and not until I do one last “Hail Mary” pass by having @TheOrlandoJones retweet me again.
However, I have been reading several descriptions of Comic-Con that situate it as a cultural space for feminist criticism to interrogate. I started with Natalie Wilson’s “Comic-Conned: Gender Norms in a Carnivalesque Atmosphere,” which describes the gender issues surrounding Comic-Con: women may make up 40% of convention attendees, but the people they’re coming to see – the people behind their beloved movies, TV shows and comic books – are overwhelmingly male (and straight and white, btw).
I didn’t experience the sexism described in this piece during my trip, but I think that has to do with a few factors that isolated me from it: I wasn’t in costume, I didn’t wait in line for the big panels in Hall H, and the media I do care about often describes itself as feminist (as with Orphan Black) or deliberately seeks to turn the mirror of racism and misogyny on itself (as the character of Pierce does in Community). However, I did see how sexualized the female body is at Comic-Con: for every ripped Wolverine cosplayer, there are at least five scantily-clad Lara Crofts. As Wilson says in her piece, it’s woman as a “sex object without sexual agency.”
It was Wilson’s discussion of behavior in Hall H, also known as the “brohive,” that really interested me. Todd VanDerWerff, the TV editor of The A.V, club (and a guy I’ve tweeted with and generally like, in spite of his not liking the later seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), described Hall H as a religious experience. However, it is not a religion that welcomes women. Geeks Out, a blog/community that empowers the queer geek, had this to say about talk of women’s issues in Hall H, particularly in the Women Who Kick Ass panel in 2013:
“The geek bonafides of these women [including The Walking Dead‘s Danai Gurira, Battlestar Galactica‘s Katee Sackhoff, and my beloved Tatiana Maslaney, from Orphan Black] was absolute and impeccable. Facilitated by moderator Sarah Vilkomerson, the actors on the panel shared the kind of juicy backstage intrigue and realtalk politics that geeks usually salivate all over themselves to hear.
That is, unless it’s about sexism.
Unless it has even a whiff of feminism.
Then, it’s GAME OVER.
Wilson describes how the “Women Who Kick Ass” panels usually go:
Notable examples of the intolerance for “lady topics” have occurred at the “Women Who Kick Ass” panels in recent years. The terms such as “white male privilege” and “destructive male culture” were employed by the likes of Danai Gurira and Michelle Rodriguez in 2013 … the female panelists’ searing stories of sexism in the industry made many in the audience squirm and grumble sexist comments. One man, presumably suggesting a more apt title for the panel, shouted out, “Women who talk too much!” If audience members in Hall H would be so rude to a panel of smart and accomplished women in the fields and media they claim to love, just imagine what happens to the non-famous females in attendance.
Todd VenDerWerff described guys who sat around him during the panel in 2013:
For the most part, the dudes I’m sitting near either pay respectful attention or check Twitter, though there are some jokes from an older guy in front of me about how stupid he finds all of this. Then Rodriguez uses the phrase “destructive male culture” — as part of a larger answer about how women need to take more agency in telling their own stories — and something in the crowd flips. A certain subset of the audience begins to get more and more vocal, and when the panel runs slightly over, as all panels have done during the day, the vocalizations begin to get easier to hear, even to someone sitting clear across a giant room in a place that tends to eat sound from specific individuals in the audience; one really has to make a ruckus to be heard.
Now, full disclosure time: the Women Who Kick Ass panel was the one panel I regret not seeing. I really should have braved Hall H to support women – my heroes – who share my opinions as they face a hostile audience of misogynistic fanboys. I’ve even just texted my friend Dave warning him that we’re waking up at 4:00 am to get in line and doing Hall H next year just for this panel.
Some other links describing Comic-Con in feminist terms: Dame B imagines what Comic-Con would be like in a perfect feminist utopia, Bitch Magazine looks at gender and comic book culture at Comic-Con, Wilson follows up her earlier piece and asks if Comic Con condones rape culture for Ms. Magazine, and ThinkProgress continues the conversation about women’s roles in geekdom, And, of course, What Culture features The 25 Sexiest Cosplay Hotties at Comic Con in 2013. In case you were curious.