In praise of the friendly fanboy
There has been a lot, and I mean a LOT of talk lately in geeky circles about how horrible the fanboys are. How they are misogynistic slaves of the patriarchy and are mean mean mean to women and girls. There are accusations of inappropriate touching, of derogatory put downs (you’re not a real geek because…) and other general asshatery. I can understand why the geek girls are angry. I think it’s horrible behavior on the guys’ part and it seems to be rampant and getting worse. Or at least the girls are starting to speak up more about it all.
For myself, though, I’ve been fortunate. I have never had these experiences. Growing up, I got to be Luke Skywalker when the neighborhood kids played Star Wars. My brother and I shared his toys and we played and imagined and had adventures together. He never accused me of any lapse of authenticity in my love of geeky things. We shared them.
Later, as a teenager, I started going to my LCS (my local comic shop). It’s been over 20 years now that I’ve gone to the same store. I go every single week. I’m friends with the owner. And I have never once been harassed or looked down on because I was buying comics. And I’m talking everything from Batman to indie stuff. I’ve never once been told I was a nice girlfriend for picking up my boyfriend’s books.
In fact, one time I came into the store upset about something, I don’t even remember the details, except that someone had given me shit about something unrelated to geekdom. There were about ten guys in the store chatting by the gaming tables. Some of them I didn’t even know. They all jumped to my defense without a second thought. They were supportive and encouraging and told me if the person came in they would take care of it. I had my own small army of knights in cotton blend armor.
Luckily for me, that was not the exception to the rule. I’ve gone to a few other stores in my tenure as a comic nerd. Four others I’ve gone to more regularly than I care to admit to my LCS guy. I don’t want to hurt my pull box’s feelings. (five? ten? we’ve got a LOT of comic book stores in my area) Each of those stores is or was owned by true Comic Book Guys, with varying degrees of acerbic gruffness and friendliness. Same story, different stores. I was treated simply as a customer. As soon as my pile was placed on the counter, there may have been a bit of judgement, but it was always focused on my choice of books and, in their opinion, questionable taste. It was never about the fact that I had boobs.
Is there a problem rampant throughout fandom when it comes to gender politics? Yes, but it is not a new or different problem than anywhere else in our Western world. It may be a bit more on the surface due to certain members of geekdom having less than subtle social skills, but that doesn’t make it any worse than anywhere else. Women are looked down on in any number of arenas.
But, as we fight the good fight to get our voices heard, to be accepted in an area of our culture that historically has been male-dominated, I would urge everyone to remember to acknowledge the good guys. They’re the ones who will have an awesome discussion with you about Devin Grayson’s Nightwing run. They’re the ones that share your appreciation of Becky Cloonan’s amazing art in Conan. They’re the ones that will greet you warmly when you walk into your LCS and give you a hug out of pure friendliness.
And they are the ones who will support us all as we try to gain equilibrium and equality in geekdom. They think its awesome that girls are reading books and will make sure there’s always good chocolate in the store and great toys. There are store owners willing to tailor their stock to be more female friendly and female positive if we give them the chance.
So, give the good ones a chance, ladies. Let them help us rise above the asshats. We need their long boxes and we need their support.
(Special shout outs to Dave, Jim and the guys at Time Warp, my LCS and Mark from the gone-but-not-forgotten Middle Earth, who sold me my first comic.)