Why women of color struggle to find a place in fandom

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/10/11/why-women-of-color-struggle-to.html


I’ve always had a hard time grasping why there’s so much toxicity directed toward women in online spaces. I understand that people are trollish assholes online but the intensity of it really baffles me.


Because they feel like women are “invading” their spaces, that we aren’t “supposed” to be there, at least on our own terms. They dislike women who are not are quiet, compliant, and looking at them adoringly.

Pretty much, very Warrenish from Buffy, which is a terrible kind of toxic masculinity:

And this is all especially true for many black women.


Exactly: it’s a double whammy.

Until recently, it wasn’t cool at all to be a nerd or geek. Whose necks* could they stand on? Women and minorities. Twice the points for a minority woman.

*(very small joke for the olds)


I think I might have a window on that. I lived as a woman until the age of 40 before I transitioned. This creeping sexism, and the shitty comments, and crap attitudes exists everywhere. Micro-aggressions exist as a symptom of the ugly truth.

Before I transitioned, I thought the world was shitty to everyone. As soon as I hit about 6 months on testosterone, and was being read reliably as male, it’s like someone turned off a switch. All the day to day shit I went through for 40 years, was gone.

Suddenly, I could ride the bus or walk down the street in peace. Nobody looked twice at me. I could go to Home Depot and pick up some house parts without some clerk or other store patron condescending to me. Car stores were no longer fraught with sexist shitheels giving me bad advice because I looked like a woman.

These online assholes didn’t develop in a vacuum. They exist. They say shitty things in real live meat space. They are the store clerks that argue with you on what you “really” need to fix your sink. They are the guy that casually tells you in a college class discussion that your first responder medical experience means nothing because he learned first aid in the army, and besides, women just don’t do well in a crisis. They are the guys that offer you money for sex when you are trying to catch a bus to work, and not dressed remotely provocatively. It’s the guy at the bar you turn down, then starts screaming that you are a C*nt, in your face.

When you are male, this all becomes invisible. It doesn’t even happen around me. Assholes like this operate in spaces where the women they target are isolated. I don’t even see this shit happen around me now. I know that it’s an everyday thing. My female friends still face this every time they go online or step out their door. Yet, my newfound masculinity shields if from me.

It doesn’t just happen online. It happens everyday.


Holy shit, if this isn’t utter confirmation, I don’t know what is? Thanks for sharing your experiences and helping to put them into some serious perspective!


I never got this… Okay I wasn’t the most socially aware dork in my younger days but just knowing that there were many girls who were also into all the same geeky stuff I was at that age would have been awesome to me.


It’s probably because having women fawning over you is still considered a key aspect of masculinity for many men (not all, of course). If someone doesn’t consider women individuals in their own right, they’ll behave this way towards them, no matter how high up the social pecking order they are.


Thanks for sharing, i really do appreciate your thoughts on it. It’s pretty insane how maleness generally translates to being an asshole. I like to think i’m not that way (i don’t think i am at least), have you noticed yourself unconsciously behaving any different since you transitioned? You don’t have to answer… just curious.


Those toxic voices are also too easy to amplify. Arguments that are really about a whole culture get reframed as being about a discrete example, and then it’s “Censorship!!!” Even if you want more diversity in your culture, that argument can resonate.

Kind of what @‍manybellsdown pointed out about the Feminist Frequency frenzy. (She was prophetic, given the course of that topic…)


I was a small feminist before, but now I’m a FEMINIST in all caps. I just thought everyone dealt with that shit, but everyone doesn’t. Only women do. It’s infuriating.


All I can say to that is thank you!


[quote=“CarolineSiede, post:1, topic:87204”](Just peruse the comments on my review of X-Men: Apocalypse for RogerEbert.com: “The author feels like the X-Men series in general has failed its female characters—ignoring the fact that Mystique is elevated to a leadership and relevance level well above the source material.” Many didn’t want to face a critique coming from a woman, and a fan, who knows them better than they do.)[/quote]I suppose it’s pointless to suggest that one cannot assume that the commenter in question could have been female, or could have been unaware of the author’s gender, or could have the same propensity for leaving similar comments on reviews written by men.


I just went to GeekGirlCon last weekend. I have a beard, and am read as male 100% of the time. (To be fair, I kind of look a bit dude bro lately.) I work for the Department of Defense, in a super masculine environment. I was blown away at how fast I had become accustomed to it. It took me a little bit to put my mind back on right.

I back up the women I work with by echoing what they say, and giving them credit in meetings and supporting their leadership, because it’s not good there for them. However, I was kind of shocked that it was so easy to just feel that this newfound male privilege was the norm. Walking into a convention aimed at women, was like jumping into cold water. For the last two years with work and life in general, it was easy to lose a more diverse perspective.

It makes me think, being able to uphold equality and diversity as ideals can’t be one time statements or a yearly seminar at work. They have to be something we actively engage with on a daily basis.

I mean, when someone like me, that literally lived as a woman for 40 years, can be shocked by it, then how does someone that never had that experience feel?

I love GeekGirlCon, and it really helped me see that I’m going to have to be incredibly vigilant because it’s so easy to just fade into your masculinity and all the privileges that come with it, and to feel doing the bare minimum is good work.


It’s not the comment in isolation, it’s the pattern. Just as the review was not about Mystique, but the X-Men movies as a whole.


Eww that just seems awkward and annoying. As I grew up a bit and got to realize women were not some strange alien creatures and encountered some other gamers and listened to their comments I would think to myself and this is why they didn’t have girlfriends.

I think I can count myself lucky that I ended up in a good bunch of older married gaming geeks who were very good guys who just happened to like Warhammer40k and such. As I have gotten older and hopefully wiser I feel kinda bad at how white and male the gaming population still is or at least the corners of it that I inhabit.


Nope, nope. It’s all in our heads, see. /s


Not being an idiot and an asshole is a 24/7 thing, i’m lucky enough to have plenty of positive female influences in my life and currently the majority of my coworkers that i directly deal with are female. I tend to also relate and get along better with women than i do men so the sexist attitude that some men have is a bit of a mystery to me.


The worst shit I got growing up wasn’t from the “jocks” or the “cool kids”. Sure, they’d harass me if I crossed their path, but mostly I wasn’t even on their radar. But the people I wanted to hang out with, the D&D players and the comic book geeks and the Star Trek fans … well, they had the power to include me or not, and they viciously refused to include me. While of course simultaneously complaining no girls wanted to hang out with them To this day there’s a certain caricature type of “nerd” - think Comic Book Guy - that I get very nervous around because that was the type of guy that was the worst.

Just yesterday I saw a dude post that women who like “Star Wars and video games are really rare” and I just wanted to scream “No! We’re not! You’re just dicks to us!”

I mean, now in my mid-40’s I get a lot less bullshit. Or I ignore it better.


I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this post. I am 110% cis female. I’ve never wanted to be anything else. When choosing a character on video games, my eyes will skip right over any choices that aren’t female like they don’t exist.

But I read this and I feel a desperate, angry yearning. I want this, and it seems like being male is the “easiest” way to get it. I’d be male, just for a week, just to feel this way.