Chicks Dig Comics is an anthology collection by female writers and artists, published by Mad Norwegian Press. The panelists were all contributors, and they are:
Sarah Kuhn. Author of One Con Glory. Her essay is Me vs. Me, and is about why she doesn’t like the conversation of who would win in a fight. She’s not a fan of pitting characters against each other.
Jill Pantozzi. She’s writes for The Mary Sue, among other things. Her essay is about the Green Lantern as metaphor for her life and the emotions people go through as fans of comics.
Sheena McNeil. She is currently “Editorix and Chief” of webzine Sequential Tart, which was created to support women in comics. Her essay about the evolution of the zine and her experiences with it, and her knowledge of comics.
Rachel Edidin. Editor at Dark Horse. She works behind the scenes in comics. Her essay focuses on the editing and how she engages with comics in that way.
Erica McGillivray. Writer and blogger at 6’7″ and Green. She’s also the head of Geek Girl Con. Her essay is about Geek Girl Con and she and others decided to create it after connecting through the cosplay community.
Jen Van Meter. She has written for dc and marvel. She hesitated when asked to contribute because she was worried about writing nonfiction, since it had been a while since she’d done it. But her daughter was having issues at school and it reminded her of being young and relying on horror comics, and wanting to like scary stories. She found Vampirella, among others, so her essay is about how those comics helped her deal with fear and social anxiety.
After introductions, the panels opens by talking about Geek Girl Con and what it means to them, and how comic fandom has changed for women. Kuhn says one thing that’s really great bout GGC is the sense of community. Pantozzi is very thrilled that people and fans are happy to come together online and in person. When she started her own blog, there weren’t a lot of women out there writing about comics and that’s changing now. Twitter has helped the community grow and connect as well.
Kuhn agrees. She even has a Twitter list called “Nerd Girl Mafia.” As far as connecting to other female comic fans, she says things shifted when comment sections popped up on the internet. As much as we hate those, before they existed, you had to email someone to reply, which took a lot of effort. Comments allow other women to say hey, I am a lady and I like these comics too.
McNeil says that when manga peaked in the us, female readership of comics went up. Some places embraced that, and some did not. With manga you didn’t have to go to a comic book store to get it. And there’s a 50/50 chance the author is female.
Edidin got involved tn the comic book world from several different angles at the same time. Writing essays and working at Dark Horse .”One of the things that I’ve found I the feminist comic community.. is that it’s really celebratory.” There are a lot of stereotypes about women competing and being catty, but it is largely the opposite in the comic world, at least as far as she’s observed.
McGillivray came from the Buffy fandom and the world of fanfic writers, both of which are largely female, so when she got into the comic scene, she was like where are all the ladies?
“I’ve probably got ten years on very one here,” Van Meter says. Back when she was a kid who liked comics, the stereotype was closer to true. There weren’t even comic book stores, just comics on spin racks, so there was no way to really interact with other fans until one found the convention circle. Even there, she often felt like she was one of the few women there as a fan and not a girlfriend. When she first started going to SDCC twenty-one years ago, the ladies’ room was always empty. The first time she had to wait in line for the restroom, she was thrilled.
Edidin spent a lot of time being the only female in her D&D group. Geek Girl Con isn’t a convetion of women, it’s a con where the default gender isn’t male. That is huge.
Audience Comment/Question: As women are becoming more visible in geek world, there is this insane thing about accusing ladies of being fake geek girls. Will you discuss that?
The fake nerd girl thing makes me so angry, Edidin says to loud agreement. The main qualifier for being a geek is self identifying as a geek. “The idea that there should be qualifying bars for geek community infuriates me.” It’s elitist and sex shaming, and it helps put up barriers rather than connect the community.
“[That argument] always devolves into guys complaining about hot women being around,” Kuhn jokes, but of course she’s right.
“I’m sort of of the mind that there is no such thing as a fake geek. There are new geeks,” Pantozzi says, and everyone was a new geek at some point. And there can be an idea that established geeks are better, but that’s more elitist crap.
Audience Question: Talk about the new marketing movement of “geek is sexy” and what you think of it.
“Yes,” says Edidin. Van Meter agrees, but admits there’s some social tension between what she’s comfortable with as a parent and what she wants as an advocate.
Edidin does worry about the ‘geek is sexy’ because there are two ways you see characters idealized: there are the characters you respect and want to be, and then there are the characters you want to hook up with. The problem is that in trying to make geek sexy in a broad market, there can be this pressure on geeky women conform to traditional ideals of sexy, which then defeats the purpose.
Audience Question: What would you like to see more of in comic book movies?
“It’s ridiculous that it’s 2012 and we can only get one woman in The Avengers,” says Kuhn.
Pantozzi would like see more armor and costumes that cover the private bits. McGillivray wants to see more great female friendships. McNeil would like to see more realistic body mechanics.
Audience question: It’s great that female geek communities are coming about but is there danger that we’re alienating ourselves from the larger community?
“Geek Girl Con didn’t ban guys,” McNeil points out. Edidin says that most of do interact with the larger community but creating female geek spaces is just a way of carving out our own niche.
“I think it’s good to have the safe place where you can go without having to defend yourself,” Pantozzi says.
Final Audience Question: Have you ever had an experience where a guy is blown over to learn you read comics?
The panel unanimously agrees it happens constantly. Pantozzi recently got an email the other day asking for a photo of her comic collection to prove she really reads them. Kuhn’s usual reply to any guy who is stunned is “actually most of my friends who read comics are girls.” McGillivray went into a comic book store where the guy at the register knew she ran geek Gil con and still thought she was buying comics for her boyfriend.
And with that, the panel ran out of time.