Women in Geekdom

& Ranty, Women.

[caveat - I'm unqualified to discus the below, but it's a subject I'm learning more about]

I’m not sure if it’s the psychological trick of Perceptual Vigilance or momentum, but there’s some interesting stuff going on with women’s place in geekdom right now.

There was the crazy ‘Fake Geek Girl’ attack and meme battle investigated by Apparently sneaky women were pretending to be geeks to attract the attention of male comic fans and undermine our interests. I had no idea we were so popular with the ladies… Even Forbes got involved in that one, with this nice pull quote:

In the face of this insecurity, “fake geek girls” are the equivalent of Communist sleeper agents in the uncertain 50s – the number of women who have no interest in geek culture but want geek attention at a personal level is vanishingly small, but their phantom is used to justify prejudice more generally, with the aim of keeping an unknown quantity out of the clubhouse.

 Then there’s Jim Hines’s one man battle against scantily clad heroines on Sci Fi and Fantasty covers and the often entertaining Hawkeye Initiative wherein Clint “Hawkeye” Barton is placed in the same provocative, female poses that are featured in superhero comics.

Jim Hines thankfully attempted to address the fact that advertising, and often illustration, objectifies and idealises both women and men, and wrote a follow up post with photos of him posing as every pec’d out stud you’ve ever seen on a romance novel. I don’t think he delved as deep into the meaning and effect of this other side of the coin, but that’s for another post.

What does all of this mean? I’m not sure. As an illustrator I have definitely twisted and changed the bodies of both men and women to fit contorted stereotypes of power or sexiness. Sometimes both at once. I have drawn ridiculous muscles on ridiculous men, and have let my ideas of beauty guide my hand when drawing the female form.

That said, I have often produced quite hideous pictures of life drawing models, that no one would want to see, least of all the models. There was certainly no idealisation going on there… yeek.

Comics is an interesting case. I’m not the most informed on the subject, but it is certainly perceived as a male dominated domain in the trifecta of creators, readers and central characters. We are not only the industry that caused the ‘Women in Refrigerators’ (pointed out by  Gail Simone and others) but also created some of the greatest female characters in fiction.

Here’s a recent top eight list of Female lead comic stories by Kelly Thompson over at CBR. I haven’t read a lot of these, but I can certainly vouch for ‘Saga.’

I still have a lot to learn about such things, as an author and as an illustrator. I’ve made errors in the past, but I feel positive about the amount of discourse that’s out there, and that it can at least inform creators like me, even when our industry and audience is perceived to be male dominated.

If you’ve been reading the Moth City comic so far, you might have started to realise that it’s not just Governor McCaw’s story, but that of his daughter, Glitter, a motherless young woman in the clutches of a possessive and obsessive father. Is she the perfect fictionalisation of a woman? I’m certain she’s not, but hopefully she can be.

At the least, I’m certainly not running out of blog posts to read/procrastinate with.


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    • Tim

      Hah, that’s some funny right there Stacey, thanks for the link.

      Those are certainly not uncommon character tropes in comics, but I guess that’s also the genres those characters are placed in, rather than the medium. The Big Two aren’t going to publish a story about a struggling solo mum who struggles… on and on the struggling.