“This is not so much a radical change as a return.”
July 25, 2015 7:09 AM   Subscribe

Has geek culture finally embraced gender parity? [SLGuardian]
“One important finding is that gender does not have much effect on the behaviour of fans,” Salkowitz says. “Men and women exhibited interest in the same sorts of things, similar spending patterns and similar attendance levels. If anything, women are slightly more intense in their fandom by certain measures.”

"So how did geek culture arrive at gender parity with such seeming rapidity? MacDonald, a longtime writer for Publishers Weekly, points to the rise of online life.

“Obviously, social media made it possible for women to express themselves without gatekeepers telling them what is or isn’t appropriate,” MacDonald says, “and there was also a sea change among young women that it’s OK to be interested in this stuff.”
This piece, by Michael Cavna, also appears in The Washington Post.

Previously: "the entire universe is now aware of her awesomeness"
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (40 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't even need to read the article to know that Betteridge's law is going to apply here.

Sigh.
posted by schmod at 7:15 AM on July 25, 2015 [17 favorites]


Well, no. But it definitely has come a long ass way.

I think certain pockets of geek culture, like cosplayers, have been a lot more welcoming than others.

“and there was also a sea change among young women that it’s OK to be interested in this stuff.”

This is the main thing I've noticed. Men/boys are still being utter shits in many cases but the women gamers/geeks/etc are getting their voices out there and finding strength in numbers.

Just hearing voices like Gita Jackson and Danielle Riendeau on gaming podcasts has been a huge breath of fresh air.
posted by selfnoise at 7:20 AM on July 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't even need to read the article to know that Betteridge's law is going to apply here.

Actually, this one employs Schrödinger's Goalposts.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:24 AM on July 25, 2015 [14 favorites]


Guys! It turns out Gamergate is over!
posted by Going To Maine at 7:33 AM on July 25, 2015 [16 favorites]


The manufacturers of geek culture may have embraced women, in that they recognize we're a source of revenue they haven't been actively chasing. But the consumers of geek culture are a different story.
posted by palomar at 7:38 AM on July 25, 2015 [18 favorites]


But aren't the "consumers of Greek culture" themselves women?
posted by rebent at 8:01 AM on July 25, 2015


Considering that Black Widdow is currently being actively shopped out of merch, I'm going to say... Nope.
posted by wotsac at 8:10 AM on July 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


Guys! It turns out Gamergate is over!

Though let's not put cart before horse here: GamerGate is very much a reactive movement responding to what it sees as the undermining of gamings boys club.
posted by Artw at 8:14 AM on July 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


Regarding the breakdown between different types of geek:
“Comics, videogaming, hobby gaming and toy collecting are majority male, usually in the 55-to-60% range. Manga/anime, science fiction/fantasy and media fandom are 60 to 65% female. Because today’s big conventions appeal to fans of everything, audiences coming to shows are pretty much gender-balanced. However, it’s still the case that, say, ‘comics’ fandom tends more toward older guys, whereas manga appeals more to younger women.”
And you can of course break this down even more specifically. In gaming, for example, you will find that it matters a lot whether we're talking about FPS or RPG type videogames.

But overall, the problem I have with this framing is this: Gender parity is not just about how many women who are present, but how they are treated. And we still have a hell of a long way to go with that.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:14 AM on July 25, 2015 [39 favorites]


However, it’s still the case that, say, ‘comics’ fandom tends more toward older guys, whereas manga appeals more to younger women.

Glad of the quotes around 'Comics' there - concentrating on a limited subset of comics that amounts to "the kind that come out in 22 page monthly installments and fit in a long box" can really skew the picture.
posted by Artw at 8:35 AM on July 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


The manufacturers of geek culture may have embraced women, in that they recognize we're a source of revenue they haven't been actively chasing.

I wish it was so, but with Disney/Marvel taking Black Widow and Gamora out of merchandising to make it clear that girls should be buying Princess stuff instead of Comics stuff, and solo female superhero movies being pushed back and back and back (because obviously nobody watched The Hunger Games) it doesn't look promising for now in that aspect.
posted by sukeban at 9:09 AM on July 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also, isn't it tiring to be always treated as if women in fandom was something new forever? I'm almost 40 and I'm younger than the concept of the Mary Sue.
posted by sukeban at 9:15 AM on July 25, 2015 [19 favorites]


Guys! It turns out Gamergate is over!

Hey guys! It turns out that no one has ever thought that the Gamergate folks were mainstream geek culture!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:37 AM on July 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the erasure of Black Widow and Gamora from Marvel merch is especially ugly. I was a cis-gendered '80s geek boy, and you can bet your ass I had the action figures for Scarlet, Cover Girl, Lady Jaye, Jinx, the Baroness and Zarana. I can only imagine how infuriating the lack of BW and Gamora is for young girls, 'cause I'm a 40-year-old dude who doesn't even buy dolls anymore, and I'm pissed about it.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:42 AM on July 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


Tell Me No Lies, wouldn't it be great if there were no sexists in geekdom.
posted by sukeban at 9:42 AM on July 25, 2015


scaryblackdeath, there's always the DIY option.
posted by sukeban at 9:44 AM on July 25, 2015


“I’m standing by my prediction from over a decade ago that we’ll have a majority female industry by 2024,” McCloud says.

And if that's the case, if geek culture is really equal, we won't see a ghettoization of the female-majority parts of it, right? Because we're not already seeing that sort of negativity around manga and anime, right?

It's so adorable when a dude tries to equate parity with acceptance and equality.
posted by qcubed at 10:21 AM on July 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Someone should just start manufacturing BW merch, and when sued for copyright infringement, turn around and countersue for discrimination and sexual harassment.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:04 AM on July 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


sexyrobot: BW merch is available all the time at conventions, along with merch for pretty much everyone else. I have Lego knock-offs of Black Widow and She-Hulk right here on my desk. You can find shirts, dolls, artwork, jewelry, all of it done by people not affiliated with Marvel (or DC or whoever else in the case of other IPs). Never really understood the legalities behind that sort of thing, but there it is.

The thing is, most people don't go to cons, nor do most parents or kids have the skills to create their own dolls. It's a great solution if you have the opportunity and the money, but if you don't, you're stuck with whatever Disney/Marvel/whoever decides to package and market.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:41 AM on July 25, 2015


GG is just the weaponized form of the raging, entitled, sexual-insecurity-fueled misogyny I've heard publicly and privately in mainstream geek culture for decades.

Not to downplay the scale of the GG shit show, but its themes and preoccupations are entirely unsurprising.
posted by ead at 11:58 AM on July 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Hey guys! It turns out that no one has ever thought that the Gamergate folks were mainstream geek culture!

I'm not sure if you're saying that there's more to geek culture than videogames (true, because geek culture is a weird thing that has no unifying principle) or that gamergate doesn't represent the majority of folks who play video games (also true). However, I'm pretty sure if you asked someone on the street to boil gamergate down for you, they'd say it was a bunch of geeks attacking women, and they'd also consider it to be one of the notable events in video gaming from last year. Perhaps the notable event. (Of course, they probably also don't realize that it's still happening.)
posted by Going To Maine at 11:59 AM on July 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Perhaps the notable event.

Certainly the most notable cultural event for video gaming in the past year.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:01 PM on July 25, 2015


However, I'm pretty sure if you asked someone on the street to boil gamergate down for you, they'd say it was a bunch of geeks attacking women

I'm pretty sure if you asked someone on the street to boil down gamergate they'd stare at you blankly and then say, "what?".
posted by Justinian at 12:48 PM on July 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


I feel like saying its "come a long way" is even relative. It's like saying only one person has been stabbed at that one really dangerous bus stop this week.

If this was a 0-100% thing, we've gone from 5-25% or something. Even with betteridges law in mind, I cringe, because I know an awful lot of nerdy dudes declaring mission accomplished George Bush on the aircraft carrier style. It's like, how about we just don't go there?
posted by emptythought at 1:43 PM on July 25, 2015


I'm pretty sure if you asked someone on the street to boil down gamergate they'd stare at you blankly and then say, "what?".

There are some gamers I've talked who who have gone "what?"

But they're not unfamiliar with the attitudes that fuel GamerGate. Some of them will of course deny that they're there - but the less ideologically blindfolded ones are aware that women in gaming often get treated like shit, and just for being women. Some games are better than others, of course.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:06 PM on July 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure if you asked someone on the street to boil down gamergate they'd stare at you blankly and then say, "what?".

There are some gamers I've talked who who have gone "what?"


Yeah, I remember it was a few months into the ugliness before I heard the term used. I think that there was a kind of lag before gamers who played games but weren't very involved in the wider culture (reading articles on Kotaku et al, hanging out on Reddit, reading blogs and listening to podcasts) learned what was going on.
posted by AdamCSnider at 2:14 PM on July 25, 2015


And if that's the case, if geek culture is really equal, we won't see a ghettoization of the female-majority parts of it, right? Because we're not already seeing that sort of negativity around manga and anime, right?

It's already happening. As of tomorrow, Raina Telgemeier's four graphic novels have spent a cumulative 321 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list -- I may even be undercounting, since I think the Babysitter's Club adaptation is a reissue in color after first being published in b/w a couple of years ago -- and despite ComicsAlliance referring to her recently as "the biggest name in comics today" she gets relatively little press attention.

I noticed that the creators of the current hardback graphic novels list are 75% men (except for Roz Chast, Babs Tarr, and Sydney Padua), but the paperback creators are all female except for two (Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie). I'm not sure what the significance of that is -- more reflective of readers' long-term interests? cheaper, so more kids are buying them? -- but it felt worth a mention.
posted by bettafish at 2:15 PM on July 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Correction: Telmegeier has eight books, not four -- I was correct that Kristy's Great Idea was a reissue but I didn't realize there were three sequels plus an X-Men manga. In any case she's been a hugely popular YA author for the past nine years.
posted by bettafish at 2:21 PM on July 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's already happening. As of tomorrow, Raina Telgemeier's four graphic novels have spent a cumulative 321 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list -- I may even be undercounting, since I think the Babysitter's Club adaptation is a reissue in color after first being published in b/w a couple of years ago -- and despite ComicsAlliance referring to her recently as "the biggest name in comics today" she gets relatively little press attention

So that's interesting, but is this a question more of content than form? I mean, I wouldn't consider the Baby Sitter's club to be stereotypical geek fare, regardless of who wrote it. I'm similarly not surprised, say, at how Roz Chast and Allison Bechdel aren't being covered as geek material.

(Not to disagree with your larger point - I also assume that ghettoization is happening. I just don't know that this is the example to look at.)
posted by Going To Maine at 2:22 PM on July 25, 2015


The X-Men Manga though - it seems like that would have got some coverage.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:23 PM on July 25, 2015


But they're not unfamiliar with the attitudes that fuel GamerGate. Some of them will of course deny that they're there - but the less ideologically blindfolded ones are aware that women in gaming often get treated like shit, and just for being women.

Reminder that this particular grade of shithead "care" about not just gaming, but "movies, music, comics, etc."

Women get treated like shit all over the place, unfortunately. Good news: the collective weight of their multi-hour youtube rants won't turn back the tides of progress. Bad news: They are shitting all over everything and we aren't cleaning it up fast enough tbh.
posted by sparkletone at 2:52 PM on July 25, 2015


I'm pretty sure if you asked someone on the street to boil down gamergate they'd stare at you blankly and then say, "what?"

If you asked me to boil down Gamergate, I'd ask for a large enough cauldron and a lid that locks.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:50 PM on July 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


I thought it was about ethics in game journalism and misogyny?
posted by blue_beetle at 5:29 PM on July 25, 2015


And looking at the other side of the page or screen, gender representation of the characters portrayed in geek media may be a bit better, but there's still a long way to go.

For example, from Feminist Frequency's post last month, Gender Breakdown of Games Showcased at E3 2015, only 9% of the new games have an exclusively female protagonist, while 32% feature exclusively male protagonists and 46% let the player choose the gender.
posted by metaquarry at 5:32 PM on July 25, 2015


So that's interesting, but is this a question more of content than form? I mean, I wouldn't consider the Baby Sitter's club to be stereotypical geek fare, regardless of who wrote it. I'm similarly not surprised, say, at how Roz Chast and Allison Bechdel aren't being covered as geek material.

The thing about gatekeeping is that there's always a reasonably legitimate reason that a particular group gets overlooked or excluded, and it's unfortunate coincidence that said group largely consists of people who are disenfranchised on a societal level. Ahem. But among most people I know an interest in comics, as in the entire medium, is considered geeky fare regardless of subject matter, and mainstream media coverage tends to reflect that -- and equally reflect a disproportionate focus on superheroes and genre stuff where despite a lot of recent improvements the industry is still very male (+straight/white/cis/etc) dominated.
posted by bettafish at 6:54 PM on July 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Has geek culture finally embraced gender parity?

No. Next question?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:06 PM on July 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here's a piece by Chris Butcher which specifically cites Raina Telmegeier as part of an examination of how "the comics industry (and occasionally the medium) going out of its way to ‘other’ the success of books that they don’t like, or don’t want to be representative of ‘their’ industry." He's optimistic about recent changes and so am I, but this is definitely a thing that's been going on for a long time and recent in this context means this calendar year, essentially.
posted by bettafish at 7:16 PM on July 25, 2015


I went to Manchester Comic Con yesterday and my impression was that there was a wide range of merch there - but nothing that hadn't been already proven to be popular with guys. Nothing specifically female other than some manga, and My Little Pony, which hardly counts. We're not at parity yet.
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 10:56 PM on July 26, 2015


I know it's not what's being discussed in TFA or here, but: there's no better word for comics+scifi+fantasy+games than 'geek' or 'nerd'?
posted by signal at 5:21 AM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree, Signal. I think a big part of the problem is that some people have stolen a concept of "intellectual, obsessive, fantastic, hobbyist" or whatever, to apply only toward their specific definition of what that is.

i think this happens pretty much everywhere, though. "streetwear isn't actually fashionable (despite having >$1000 pricetag)" - "people who drink domestic beer aren't actually into beer (despite drinking much, much more than I do)" - "People who are liberal aren't 'true' patriots (etc etc etc)"
posted by rebent at 7:59 AM on July 27, 2015


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