As I said in my original article, “Facets of Fandom: An Introduction,” I will be delving into different aspects of fandoms, how to get your foot in the door in the door, and navigate different issues in the fandom world.
This is my first one, and since The Geek Initiative celebrates women in geek culture, I feel it’s fitting to start with what it’s like to be a female fan in male-dense fandoms. I will not be pulling an Anita Sarkeesian, slamming all men, just because they are men, in fandoms that may not be so friendly to females. That also means that I will not be touching the subject of GamerGate. I think we’ve all grown weary of that topic.
Do you really know what you’re talking about?
At this point, I think that one of the biggest, if not the biggest issue, regarding this topic, is a lot of men in fandoms assuming that their female contemporaries have no idea what they’re talking about.
This is a struggle I face on a daily basis. My most prominent personal example is from the pro wrestling fandom. As I’ve mentioned in in the article, A Sorry State of Affairs: The Divas Division of WWE, the fandom is comprised of 65% men, and the average age is 45.5 years old.
I get that this fandom knows this, and caters to them. However, they are not the only ones who exist, and are not the only ones who are knowledgeable about the fandom. Unfortunately, we women get treated like they are. If I had a dollar for every time a male fan said to me, “That’s just the way wrestling works,” or any variation of that, I would have a sizable savings account.
It seems that some men cannot grasp that women have eyes, ears, and a working brain, to see, hear, and comprehend the same things that they do. I’d like to think that maybe it’s not entirely their faults, and that centuries of conditioning have led to socially constructed views on what is “just for men” and “just for women.”
However, I am a firm believer in the ability to break cycles. These guys could just as easily see, clearly, that women have the ability to comprehend sports entertainment just as much as they have the ability to comprehend how to separate the lights and the darks, to do laundry… but they just choose not to.
I’m not sure why they do it. With some of the guys I’ve dealt with, it almost seems as if it threatens their masculinity to associate with a woman who knows just as much as they do about a particular topic that is “for guys only.” Some of them just have the compulsive need to be right. Whatever it is, it’s annoying.
I may not have been watching pro wrestling as long as these guys, so sure, maybe they do know more about its history than I do. However, unless they are somehow placed within the industry, they know how it works. The only difference is that I try not to talk with authority about thinks in which I am not knowledgeable.
I don’t take pleasure in talking a big game, then having the gaps in my knowledge exposed. That kind of stuff, is how problems like this arise in some cases. And obviously, this can happen in any fandom (AKA the “Fake Geek Girl” Phenomena”).
I once wrote about my experiences as a female con-goer, and talked about how I was treated differently, at a comic book store’s booth, because I was a comic newbie… a comic newbie, who is a female. So basically, the guy seemed to think I didn’t know what I wanted, because I was some girl who was getting into comics as some kind of trend. (Several years later, and I’m still into the so-called “fad,” by the way.)
Did I know all the things? No, of course not. But that’s how we get treated, a lot of times. Like…. how could we ever possibly understand? Spoiler alert, fellas: we do.
Oh, you’re just jealous!
Then, there are the moments when we females get verbally slain every time we express our discontent with something we see in our fandom. I won’t draw attention to every single case (because GamerGate certainly has already), but there’s one that really grinds my gears. It’s especially prominent in the pro wrestling fandom–when we express our disapproval of another female, who is somehow involved in the fandom, we’re obviously just jealous.
The perfect example is when I used to watch that piece of trash reality show, on E!, called Total Divas. There are several WWE Divas that I detest, but one, moreso than the others, most of the time. Her name is Eva Marie. I like to live tweet some shows, and one night, I was doing that with this show.
I expressed my grievances over Eva Marie (seriously, she is awful), and in doing so, I didn’t even tweet it to her with an @ reply. However, her coattail-riding, moron of a husband (no, really) Jonathan must have been scouring Twitter for any mention of her or himself.
He saw me and my friend, Stefani, talking about Eva Marie, and he actually replied to us, “Jealousy is an ugly thing… an ugly, ugly thing.” Yeah, okay, sure… Because our not being a fan of her couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that, unlike a lot of others, we don’t find her attractive; she’s selfish, she’s a bad wrestler and ring announcer, she sets back feminism every time she opens her big mouth, she’s disrespectful to her doting family (including a cancerous father), and she’s a horrible, shady liar.
Why would anyone be jealous of that? Just because we’re not part of the WWE Divas Division, where they seem to usually only care about hiring models over women with real talent? Or is it because we didn’t have a Maxim photo shoot? Or maybe because we’re not on a reality series, arguing with our doting family, about important things, and eloping with a guy that we’ve known for like five seconds?
Oh, no, I know what it is! We must be insane for not finding her attractive, with her trashy red hair, overly tanned body, and deer-in-the-headlights stare, and therefore, must be secretly coveting her looks. Yep, we totally want to be just like her. Except for, you know… no.
On the flip side of that, I’ve had some of my like-minded feminist friends, getting on me, too. They’ve asked me why I had to hate on her, and others, like Summer Rae, Cameron, and Rosa Mendes. I’ve been asked why I couldn’t just be happy for them and support them.
They tell me that it’s important for us to support other women and not tear them down, like everyone else does. And why can’t I just recognize that they have worked hard to be where they are, and why not aspire to be more like them? I’ll tell you why. I don’t want to be more like them. Several of these women are only there to get famous. I’ve heard one say that all she ever wanted to do was be a dancer.
Eva Marie, I don’t know what he deal is, but she didn’t get there by working hard. While almost every other woman in WWE has to pay her dues (such as Natalya), and still get passed over, Eva Marie was called up to the main roster, after only two months of being in developmental, I believe it was. And ever since then, she’s been trying to (and failing at) doing things on her “own terms.”
She defied WWE Creative/Talent Relations on her look, she lied about her extensive background in dancing (she was never a dancer), and she basically cheated on her then-fiance (the night that he proposed), taking off her ring, to flirt with a WWE Superstar to get ahead, because she “didn’t want to spend all that time, training.” She’s an entitled, untalented snot.
Oh and then there are other Divas with issues, like Rosa Mendes, who was out for a while because she was in rehab. That’s why I am not jealous, nor do I want to be “more like them.” If that’s what success looks like, I don’t want it, thanks.
But I digress…
All of your ideas are stupid!
Almost, if not all, pro wrestling fans, have an idea of what they’d like to see happen, storyline-wise, at one point or another. However, it seems like, most of the time, the male fans seem to think that their ideas reign supreme, and that the ideas of their female counterparts, are “cute.”
Nope. All of the nope. In fact, while I have remained mostly polite when they’ve come up, I’ve heard some truly awful ideas, for the future of WWE, that are just utterly ridiculous, and incredibly lame. Meanwhile, some of the best ideas have come from women. I’m not saying that all men are wrong, and all women are right here. But I am saying that it gets kind of exasperating, being treated like a little kid, when I’m basically told, “Aw, that’s cute. Run along, ya little scamp,” whenever I express an idea for WWE Creative… even by some of my male friends.
I will touch base here and say that, obviously, it’s not just in the pro wrestling fandom. If you’ve been reading my articles for any length of time now, you know that I am absolutely, positively not a fan of Gal Gadot being cast for the role of Wonder Woman.
Along with expressing my reasons for why I am not a fan of it, I did throw out some other names that would have been much more suitable, to play the role. Most of these discussions were with men, and let me be honest–a lot of them were not very pleasant about it.
Apparently, I “see Hollywood feminine beauty, as a threat, just because I’m ugly,” first and foremost. Then, often, every name I threw out, some of them would just laugh and go, “Heh heh, no. Try again.” It infuriated me so much, that I’ve mostly stopped having discussions with anyone about it. Why bother, when treated like a joke, for it?
What, exactly, can we do?
Those are the three main things that make me cringe every time when dealing with men with superior attitudes toward women in fandoms. However, let’s be honest. Like I said, the cycles can be broken… but I doubt they will be any time soon. People (not just men) are starting to get even more egotistical, entitled, and are becoming more like the type of people who belittle others for their “inferiority.” It makes them feel important. So, what can we do?
I think that if you cut off the source of their belittling, they then have no outlet. Especially online, it’s easy to just walk away and say, “I’m not getting into this.” I know, it’s easier said than done. I still struggle with it, myself. However, getting into the practice of doing so will make it easier.
We can also encourage civil discussions about these types of things. Believe it or not, even in this day and age, people can get along without turning into trolls to one another.
We just tend to forget that sometimes. So, when someone does want to challenge your views on things, I think you should encourage it in a civilized manner. If the discussions steer toward belittling and not being so civil, revert to what I said before, and just walk away.
Also, follow what Gandhi once said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If you are a feminist (or someone who just stands for equality, and calls it something else), show it. Speak up.
Too often, especially when men belittle women, in fandoms, it gets overlooked. That’s just an open invitation for it to happen again. Or if it does get called out, the women who do so, are all labeled as “man-hating feminazis.” (Seriously, though, not all of us are like Anita Sarkeesian). But you can call it out, when you see or hear it–male or female.
Believe it or not, women actually do need men sometimes. Because of the still-sexist world we live in, I feel like it’s important for men to speak out against sexism. It certainly gives other men things to think about. But yeah, please call it out. You don’t have to harp on it. Just plant the seeds of change.
Lastly, ladies, I think some of us need a gentle reminder, that to be treated as equals, we shouldn’t go out projecting ourselves as man-haters. Believe it or not, we tend to get a bit sexist sometimes too. We need to remember not to do that. It’s not healthy, and it’s counterproductive.
All in all, just be good to each other, and equally share the fandoms, the best you can. It could be a lot of fun.