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Friday, September 30, 2011

Guest Post Week: This Isn't Just for Boys (I Am A Girl and A Geek)


Today's guest post is from Friend of the Geek Maia. She blogs at kurosawabride.wordpress.com and she's probably the biggest fan of the Clark x Lois pairing you and I will ever meet. Seriously, she loves it like Galactus loves eating planets! Read her thoughts on what it's like to be a girl geek below!

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With the advent of New York Comic Con, writing this essay has taken on a new meaning for me.

I think back now to how I grew up and what I was surrounded with that made me a girl who loves video games, reads comics, breathes Dungeons and Dragons, and dreams of saving a galaxy far, far away.

Believe me, I haven’t stopped.

Twenty-one years ago, I picked up my very first comic book, and I fell in love. I was 6 years old, curious and wide-eyed in the public library, leafing through whatever books I was able to get my hands on. One of them just happened to be a hardbound volume of Silver Age Superman comics. I remember my feet dangling from my chair, and swinging in growing excitement as I gazed over each panel. It was like opening a gateway to a different world and my imagination grew immensely.

When I got to the issue that had Lois Lane officially introduced (I had not yet read the old issues of Action Comics where she was already kick-ass), my heart leaped, I felt myself smiling, and the rest – as they all say – is history.

I remember reading pages upon pages of mythology – Greek, Roman, Norse, you name it – then trying to incorporate them in stories I would make up. I remember the fights with my brother over his Transformers toys, arguing over which member of Bioman we were more suited to be (we both wanted to be the red leader), being glued to the TV when the Ninja Turtles cartoons were on. When the X-Men animated series became popular, we role-played our favorite mutants with our neighbors, and I was always partial to Rogue, while the kid who had a crush on me was Gambit.

While all my dolls that relatives gave me sat ignored on a shelf, I was fighting over our Nintendo console because I wanted to continue where I left off with Super Mario Bros. I went through each level, gritting my teeth and then swearing inwardly when I’d defeat another of Koopa’s minions, only to be told that the princess WAS IN ANOTHER CASTLE. You try sitting through the afternoon on a weekend and have all your hard work going through the pipes and getting killed repeatedly by goombas and killer clouds obliterated by a stupid mushroom telling you that your bitch isn’t where she’s supposed to be. Let’s see if you don’t develop anger issues.

Wow, I actually seethed just remembering those afternoons, so I’ll stop.

What I’d really like to write about is the startling difference between then and now in the way people acknowledge that I’m a girl and a geek.

Years ago, people thought it was the strangest thing for a little girl to like comics and video games. These things were associated with little boys, and I’m sure that even if my family never said a word, they used to hope that I wouldn’t grow up to be a lesbian. While part of it is cultural, it also served as a reminder of how wide the gap still was between both sexes. As I grew older, I felt the reception of people towards my interests slowly change. Where I’d once been called “weird” and “strange” for my geeky interests, I’d be told I was cool to like the things boys liked.

However, not all were receptive to this.

I’m talking about the misogynist geeks I’ve encountered who sadly live in a world where they feel that girls having these same interests are basically encroaching on their masculinity. Just looking at the sheer number of attendees to comic and anime conventions should be an implication that things have changed. I am meeting more and more girls who openly admit to reading comic books, playing video games, or being emotionally-invested in an anime series that I wonder: “Why are there still people who vehemently reject the idea that girls can like these things?”

Let’s face it, some of the most successful comic creators, artists and writers of this generation have been female, and they have a loyal male readership. Yet, I remember being subjected to the mocking laughter of a guy who said that girls couldn’t draw comics (WHAT?!). In Japan, a majority of the mangaka are female and are spoken of in high regard, by both male and female readers alike. In recent years, more and more females have gone on to win video game tournaments and establish that chicks playing video games are just as good as their male counterparts. I, myself, enjoy a good game of Diablo 2 because it’s honestly fun.

So why the gender discrimination in this day and age? And over a non-issue?

I remember fighting with a kid who didn’t let me borrow one of his Superman comics, when I was 8. He kept saying I wasn’t allowed to read it because I was a girl and I yelled “It doesn’t say ‘For Boys Only’ you jerk!”

And when you think about it, none of the video games come with that label either.

So is this really still necessary when things are clearly changing?

I’ll leave you all to think that over. In the meantime, I have some zombies to decapitate.

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