When I was younger I was a self-admitted nerd, but like most young people, it wasn’t something I was proud of or something I announced at high school. But I was a nerd none the less. I loved anime and spent hours watching shows like Naruto, Bleach, Death Note and Full Metal Alchemist. I also wasted my hours devouring mangas, anime’s static counterpart, such as Claymore and Inuyasha. I kept these past times hidden away, as something to be enjoyed with my door shut, when all my friends had gone home.
Later on in life, when I was around 18, I was talking about my old anime love to someone on the bus. He was an avid fan, probably way more committed to the fandom than me, but still, I thought we had something in common. About half way through the conversation I noticed something strange. My boyfriend at the time was sat next to me, and even though he had never been that serious about anime, the guy I was talking to kept discussing these topics to him. So whenever I made a comment about preferring the early Shippuden issues of Naruto, this guy’s eyes would automatically turn to my boyfriend to make a rebuttal. It was like he didn’t want to be hearing these remarks from me, he just wanted to have a ‘bro-mance’ with my squeeze.
I couldn’t understand it. Or maybe I could, and just didn’t want to admit that, as a woman, my position in this fandom world was a bit precarious.
Now I understand the old argument of women feeling excluded from the nerd world is a tired one on the internet. Since joining sites like tumblr, I understand there is a MASSIVE female community who like these fandoms. I also understand that most men are very welcoming to women who wish to get started in these communities, but not all…
The problem is that it often feels that there’s no winning when it comes to nerding out for ladies. You either go out of your way to prove you know your stuff and get called out for ‘making a big deal’ about having a vagina and playing Halo. Or you don’t go far enough and get called a poser. How can you win with those odds?
This issue has been perfectly addressed in a comic project by a Paige Hall. In the comic below we see just what mixed messages we ladies seem to be receiving and how hopeless it can make the whole situation seem.
What I love most about this comic is the line – why the hell do we have to prove ourselves to anyone?
I certainly felt I had something to prove to that guy on the bus, and I’m sure other women have felt the need to prove themselves at one time or another. Take for instance the situation with Rae Johnston.
Why is there an ideal that we have to reach for in a community that’s supposed to represent an escape from mainstream pressures? Have any of you experienced this kind of thing?