What it’s like to be a woman in the fandom community
Even some of the best communities can have their issues
When the word “nerd” pops into the majority of people’s minds, they tend to imagine a short, skinny man with heavy rimmed glasses, oily hair, and a pocket protector. In reality, however, most who classify themselves as nerds – myself included – stray far from that stereotype.
The nerd community has become synonymous with the fandom community: a massive group of people who are bonded by their respective nerdy passions whether that’s a TV show like Doctor Who, a book/book series like Harry Potter, movies like the never ending collection that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and much, much more.
This community is known for its inclusiveness – anyone and everyone is welcome to be a part of the fandom family – and it has become a safe place for millions of those who feel like they don’t fit in anywhere else. It also boasts a much more equal ratio of women to men than most communities do, and in certain fandoms, women actually outnumber men. However, even with these respectable features, the fandom community is not immune to certain prejudices that infect much of society, specifically prejudices against women.
From my own personal experience as a woman who is in the fandom community, I can state with confidence that, luckily, this prejudice isn’t a definite thing that every woman will come across. I’ve been in the fandom culture for over four years, and I’ve only dealt with small bouts of what I like to call “male exceptionalism.” I asked some other nerd girls about any personal experiences they had regarding this phenomena, and here are a few of my favorites:
“Some guy in the theater the other day when I was watching [Captain America:] Civil War for the second time turned to me during the Sharon/Steve kissing scene and [said] ‘don’t get all excited.'”
“I had a man once tell me that women deserve to be underrepresented because we don’t participate in the capitalist aspects of the fandoms (buying movie tickets, video games, etc.). Seriously?”
“I was wearing a t-shirt with the Avengers on it, and some guy asked me if I was really a fan or if I was just wearing it to attract guys. When I scoffed and said that, yes, I liked the Avengers, he proceeded to laugh and say, ‘Yeah, right,’ and walked away.”
Male exceptionalism has only reared its ugly head toward me in one particular setting, and that is on Tumblr. Through Tumblr, the popular blogging platform, I run a blog as a fictional, female character of my own making where I collaborate with other writers and their characters to create multi-faceted stories and adventures. As an original character, it’s hard enough to find an audience when thousands of people are writing as “canon characters” – those that are from the actual media, i.e. Sherlock Holmes or Ms. Marvel – but it is even harder as a female character.
On many occasions, I have gone to someone’s blog that I am interested in possibly writing with and right there on their page, it will say that they won’t write with a female original character because they assume they will be trash. To have your character immediately judged and thrown away without a glance at your development or skill is a crushing blow, and one that most male original characters never have to face.
I have also found that male characters tend to have more followers on their blogs than female characters. As a little experiment, I decided to create a blog for a male original character to see the difference in follower fluctuation. It took me six months to get to one hundred follows on my female character’s blog. It took one month to get to one hundred followers on my male character’s blog.
My favorite part of asking my friends about personal experiences was that it was actually pretty difficult for them to come up with any negative stories. Most of the stories I got were of men and women having fun together, having intelligent discussions about their interests, and enjoying each other’s company, their gender of no consequence. The toxicity of some individuals in the community usually comes from small, angry pockets, and while they are usually the most vocal, they are definitely not the majority.
So, while I am a proud member of the nerd community, I’m well aware that we still have a lot of growing to do to ensure that everyone feels like they are a welcome and deserving member of the group, no matter their gender.