Thoughts On Women In Geekdom, Cosplay, And Steampunk (and Dieselpunk) As A Response

Ok, so a dickhead made a dick move the other day, and made a dick post on facebook.

Ok, I don’t need to reiterate everything that’s being said all over the internet, but John Scalzi had some great snarky tweets about it. He’s awesome for defending women in geekdom and women in general. My husband has the same feelings, and it’s one of the many reasons I love him, of course. And anyway, the internet is kinda coming down on this poor dipshit’s head anyway, so I don’t think I even need to. The internet’s good that way.

But it got me thinking about women, and how women are wedging their way into the world of geekdom that has traditionally been a haven for white males. I recall friends in my D&D group walking into 7-11 with PHBs in their bags and one of the other customers going “Hey, you guys play D&D? You should come play with us, we have aย girl in our group.” And my friends, who are a bit more mature than the typical geek crowd, perhaps, going, “Good for you, we have three of them.”

I’ve never been inย cosplay. I love dressing up inย costumes, but never saw myself as a character in a book, or comic or movie. So when I started going to cons, I made costumes like a medieval princess, and when I wore my wedding dress with the white cloak, I called myself The Snow Queen.

Last week I went to Comic con for the first time ever. Won’t go again – lineups were far too long, and it was far to crowded for me to enjoy it. But there were some awesome costumes, and yeah, there were some attractive girls dressed in some revealing stuff. Those are the brave ones who are comfortable enough with their bodies to do that.

But there was also something else, that I wasn’t expecting. There were multiple women dressed as Batman. Women dressed as Robin. Women dressed as Superman. I didn’t see one single Princess Leia in her metal bikini, I swear to all the gods, but I did see one woman dressed as Han Solo.

A few months ago, I discovered that one of my cousins, who I live too far away from to know very well, is into cosplay. She has an amazing FFVII cosplay costume. She cosplays Cloud.

I think what this is saying is that we women are trying to tell the comic book and gaming industry that we’re not happy with the female characters they’re creating. We don’t want to dress up like sluts in order to conform to your fantasies, but look what you’re giving us to work with.

Then there’s Steampunk. There were a couple of Steampunk tables, and they were dressed up. But with Steampunk, there isn’t as much material where there’s definite images of the characters to cosplay. And within the Steampunk community, it seems to be more the norm to make up your own character or alter ego. Which results in something far, far more friendly to women. A woman going Steampunk can go anywhere from a corset an bustle, to a lab coat and safety goggles, to a geisha kimono with a clockwork fan, to coveralls, flight jacket and flight goggles. And none of it needs to look slutty. In fact, the victorian and edwardian times that the look intends to anachronize (if that’s not a word, it is now), is all about the prim and proper, girl’s-got-to-protect-her-reputation sort of feel.

That and the Steampunk and Dieselpunk communities have never, to my knowledge, been the exclusively male community that geekdom at large has been. There’s never been that attitude that we have to keep the girls from taking over what he have here.

I’ve seen lots of women into Steampunk these days, but it’s not a girl’s thing either. I’m not sure what the numbers would be, but I’d bet the involvement rates of both genders to be fairly close to 50/50, and that’s something you don’t see in a lot of communities.

Which is really cool.


11 responses to “Thoughts On Women In Geekdom, Cosplay, And Steampunk (and Dieselpunk) As A Response

  1. So, I tried to read the offending entry, but got bored after about three lines, the excess of CAPS COMMENTS in it did not provide much encouragement. Also, there were one or two typos and I am a bit of a purist….so I bailed out.

    The one thing I would say, from what I did read is this. I have a lot of sympathy for shy males, having once been one, and as an introvert I still find some social contexts uncomfortable, but it’s never going to be right for men to objectify women, to treat them in any context as sexual objects, to try to confine them or categorise them somehow. It’s never going to be right for anyone to hide behind the small minded, cowardly, and just plain wrong philosphy that sees women as alternately the terrible temptress and the dumb bimbo. There’s no maturity in it, no generosity of heart in it – it just shows up the poverty of the writer of this piece.

    I’ve really tried to read this guys post a second time and understand where he’s at but, seriously, about two thirds of the way through I’ve had to bail out, again. It’s wrong, just wrong. And I think one of the (many) reasons is that anyone with this poverty of vision about other people will, by necessity, only cope with life by bringing everything and everyone down to their level, and a pretty base level it is too.

    I’d say to Tony Harris (author of the rant) – don’t you think this is making you look like the problem rather than whatever your rant is saying? Why don’t you just let people be who they are? Are you so scared of women just being who they are? Are you scared of people just being who they are? Do you have so little confidence in yourself, so little security in yourself that you have to come out with this stuff? Go away and think about it before you hit the keyboard again.

    And to the boys I’d say – take no notice of this rubbish, be bigger and more generous than this in the way you live and deal with the people around you.

    And to any women reading this I’d say nothing, you don’t need anything I could say to just be you, and transcend the sad, limited world view of Tony “Effing” Harris – as he calls himself on Facebook ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Pingback: Thoughts On Women In Geekdom, Cosplay, And Steampunk (and Dieselpunk) As A Response | Just Put Some Gears on It |

  3. Talking as one member of the fandom universe to another; I like your comments. I would like to add this. Cosplay is something I have only an observer’s interest within the greater sphere of fandom which I live. But hey, if that’s what winds the clock, more freedom to them. I celebrate their choice. No one EVER does anything for just one reason, however, and Harris’ comments reflect his lack of understanding of that simple axiom and his simplistic & insular viewpoint. I love being around people who have no fear of expressing themselves, their values, their interests, their love of celebration, through art, and culture. Art celebrates life, does it not? I also love the freedom and relative lack of judgmental attitude fandom provides. (My only caveat being no harm is done) Cosplay is a part of fandom and fandom is, well (heh) fandom. I suspect our Mr. Harris does not subscribe to or understand that – even if he does pick up the cheque on a regular basis.

  4. All well said above, bravo!

    I would like to add that, as feminist, I would love to see more strong, complex female characters within the fandom/geekdom universe. I know many exist already, however I would simply love to see more. As a male writer, it is more difficult for me to write strong female characters but it is also one of the most exhilirating challenges. I love characters that can use their brain, their body and their soul to overcome the obstacles they face without being oversexualized, be they male or female.

    As a casual observer of fandom and geekdom, it is apparent that there is a plethora of diminuatively clad female characters running about the universe. As you said above; their bodies, their choice. My only clause would be that I don’t want women to be limited to only those types of characters. A woman can be a powerful, complex, attractive character without necessarily having show a lot of skin. Or at least, she should be able to. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • See, when I say these things, there’s guys like you all over the place standing up to defend me. It goes a long way to restore my faith in the gender ๐Ÿ˜› But in all seriousness, it’s terrible that a group of so few can exert so much power that they can make women feel like they do.

  5. Just have to say, after TRYING to read his comment, guy’s a moron and a dick and it’s a good thing he’s a comic ARTIST where he doesn’t have to communicate anything verbally or in a written sense because dear god. Who would even bother reading past even half of that.

    I mean, I’ve read plenty of insight on women in the “Geek” world, and heard lots of good insight on both sides, good reasons why men feel like their “territory” is being encroached upon and reacting so negatively.

    As a bit of a side track: From what I’ve gathered it’s because many (of the more sane male nerds that I can discuss these things with) feel after being emasculated growing up now it’s becoming a “cool” haven, then suddenly it feels like everyone’s jumping into it as soon as it gains a bit of popularity. Then the hipster in all of us kicks in and they just have to scream out “I READ THE BOOK BEFORE IT BECAME A MOVIE!” Unfortunately they’re not realizing that the reason nerds are coming out everywhere now is that they feel alright admitting it. Many of those deriding female nerds don’t realize nerdy women went, and still go, through the same issues with their peers of being ostracized and, for women, “efeminated.”

    Then there’s just the jackasses who see women as things, after not having the balls to actually talk to many of them growing up, and they get mad when the pretty thing won’t talk to them and then they respond by calling them not pretty. *shrugs* That’s what we call “butthurt” and any attempts to deny this are extremely transparent and childish. I mean, most rants like his include this crazy psychotic anger towards the pretty girls in revealing costumes NOT because they feel that particular girl only chose that costume because it was revealing (and even so, Sir, you DREW them that way so I’d either quit complaining or draw female characters that women can relate to that AREN’T dressed provocatively if it bothers you) but because these women “WON’T TALK TO ME! WAAAAH!!!”

    I find the tantrums that degrade to that are best responded to with “You need to find a better hobby.” or “Let me introduce you to your left hand. It’s the date you’re obviously looking for. It’s your ideal conversation partner as well.”

    I know many cosplayers of both genders who have cosplayed both genders, and they choose characters because they either feel affinity for that character, want more people to know about that character, or just think they look badass and want o try to recreate that badassery in 3-dimensions. Sometimes it looks amazing, sometimes it doesn’t work out too well. Either way, it’s their prerogative, and CON is their time to shell out $20-60 to do whatever the hell they want for that weekend without feeling that non-geek “what the hell are you wearing?” stare. And, who DOESN’T know a guy who picks a character just because it means he can walk around without his shirt on?

  6. It’s rather strange that fandom in general seems to except cross-gendered character portrayals in cos-play, but still seem to have problems with cross-cultural/ethnic portrayals of those same character. Just an observation, but fandom logic has always been rather difficult to get ones head around.

    • Honestly, I don’t think it’s so much that it’s accepted in cosplay as people in fandom tend to be more accepting of gender fluidity in general. I know at least two male-to-female trans people who were at my local con last year, and they are warmly welcomed whether cosplaying or not.

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