Tuesday, October 4, 2016

"The Exception."

My aunt and my mom and I have a similar problem: we are women in largely male-dominated fields. For my aunt it's faux bois, a recently-resurrected art form with only a few living practitioners. For my mom, it's radio. For me, it's... geekdom in general. But specifically hosting duties, sci-fi writing, and the anime industry in general.

In my case, there's at least some positive, in that moves are afoot to allow women similar opportunities to break into previously 'boy's club'-ish areas. Philip Purser-Hallard surprised me (and my fellow participating authors, I think) when he announced that, other than his contribution, City of the Saved: Tales of the Civil War would be penned entirely by women. I personally like that approach, though it's not common: rather than demanding that other people do something about it, do something about it yourself if you're in a position to. 'Here's a sci-fi anthology comprised entirely of stories by female authors. What, like it's hard?'

That, honestly, hasn't bothered me as much as other aspects. But that's likely because I'm a try-hard who's used to rejection, and every time I get a response with 'unfortunately' in it, I just go harder until I get where I want to go. I'm fortunate to have some opportunities, I'm aware that being a lady in a pretty dress will immediately make it harder for me to land that geeky interview than a fortysomething nerd dude in a blazer and a Mass Effect shirt, but that's not going to stop me from stomping my way through whatever door I can find.

Nah. What bothers me, funnily enough, isn't whether people accept me, but how they do.

This goes all the way back to my early con days. Coming to room parties where I was one of maybe two or three girls, and being told that I was 'clearly different.' Hearing guys complain about fangirls, raising my voice in response, and being told 'Oh, but you're not like them.'

This came into play more as a professional. I watch a lot of anime. I cosplay, largely Doctor Who these days. And no matter what I do, guys who mock young female fans give me a pass when I do the same or similar to them. Why?

'Well, you're a professional.'

'You're obviously different.'

'You're an exception. You're all right.'

In fact, some people reading this right now might have even said as much to me, or to some other girl you've encountered at an event. To which I have three things to say:

I'm not,

You're not the judge of that, and

I don't want to be in your secret treehouse anyway.

To elaborate.

I'm not. Yeah, there's the sad truth of it. I'm not at all different from the fangirls you mock. Yes, I subtitled the entirety of Mazinger Z from beginning to end. Yes, I have one or two Classic Who actors on speed dial. Yes, I have your precious 'geek cred.' But you'd better believe there are actors I will reach dolphin pitch over if I find a particularly attractive picture of them. When I get together with my friends to discuss things I love, I will be annoying. And, worst of all, there are things I don't know. I may be able to rattle you off a complete history of magical girls and more Gallifreyan minutiae than you can stomach, but my comic book ignorance would destroy you.

You're not the judge of that. It's not -- at all -- your call whether I'm 'all right' or 'acceptable.' By telling me that I'm different, that I'm okay, you're setting your judgment up as the default. And it's not. I love all sorts of geeks: young geeks, old geeks, geeks who've seen one episode of their fave and are just learning, geeks who can tell you the chemical composition of the atmospheres of fictional worlds, geeks of whatever gender you are or aren't or personally can't stand. Why is your judgment the default, when there are plenty of people out there who can see the positive side of all different stripes of geekery?

I don't want to be in your secret treehouse anyway. No. I don't. I never asked to be tested, and I never asked to pass your test. I didn't spend two years rewriting subtitles on giant robot shows so I could hang out with the boys. I didn't interview David Gerrold so you'd tell me I'm all right. I didn't go drinking with Sylvester McCoy so you would be relieved of your urge to mock me because I'm a girl. When I say I do what I do to see others happy, I mean I like to make and present things that bring joy to others -- not that I'm fighting for approval.

By telling me that I'm different, that I'm all right, that I'm not subject to your mockery of fangirls because I'm me, that's honestly worse than straight-up mocking me. You've not truly changed your negative opinion of me, plus you've looked me in the eye and said 'But you match my arbitrary standards of acceptability, so I'll refrain.'

I never asked to be considered different. I only asked to be respected. And if you treat me kindly and then mock the teenager with the Tenth Doctor shirt in the same breath, you're only making it worse.