As a Fangirl, I am very proud to be part of the Star Wars fan community. I enjoy talking to other fans about the amazing franchise of Star Wars. Whether it be through my own blog EverydayFangirl.com or The Cantina Cast, and on Social Media in general. It is a great time to be a fan of Star Wars! Especially with fellow Fangirls, like myself, who are starting to make Star Wars their own as a recent New York Times article mentioned. However, there is a dark side that is not discussed as often as it should — how fangirls are mistreated in the Star Wars fan community by fellow fans.
There is a portion of the Star Wars fan community that is not as welcoming to all fans as others are. For instance, Fangirls like Amy Ratcliffe, Bonnie Burton and Tricia Barr and even school aged girls are harassed and questioned about their views and opinions by other Star Wars fans for liking or being part of a ‘boys’ franchise.
Even Carrie Fisher, General Leia Organa in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is not immune to harassment from Star Wars fans and made a point of calling them out on Twitter after the movie was released as mentioned in this Telegraph Article:
Responding to tweets such as “YOU DIDNT AGE WELL AND U SUCKED IN STAR WARS”, the 59-year-old novelist, screenwriter and Princess Leia actress tweeted that the abuse thrown her way recently has “hurt all 3 of my feelings, My BODY hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.”
I know that it is not a majority of Star Wars fans making things uncomfortable for females in the fan community. However, there are enough of these instances that I felt it is time to bring these concerns to light to those that are not aware that this is happening. For instance, Star Wars fans like The Cantina Cast blogger, Eric Onkenhout, while aware of these concerns has yet to encounter them on a personal level. When I first asked Eric about these concerns he stated…
I honestly don’t know that many women in my life that are fans of Star Wars, but those that are seem to get treated okay.
I introduced my little sister to Star Wars (especially the Clone Wars) when she was younger and she fell head-over-heels into the franchise. Unfortunately, I think she’s beginning to see the nastier aspects of the fandom since her introduction to social media. It really is unfortunate that people care so much if someone of a different sex or gender get involved in Star Wars.
I guess, that question depends highly on the individual or group being asked. Most everyone will have a different opinion or story to coincide with their personal experience(s) and that opinion depends greatly on just “how” immersed said fan is.
For me, personally, it has been a mixed bag of “good and bad,” but at the end of the day, it’s only what you take with you.
Hard words to live by and those literary standards are almost just as high as the so called “glass ceiling” that still hovers above our heads. The women fans in the Star Wars community aren’t always treated with the same respect as our male counterparts; we still have a ways to go and that seems a bit more than disheartening. After all, it is almost 2017 and yet, we still have a lot of bullying going on against the women fans. But it doesn’t stop there.
As the hype of fan based podcasts and websites continue to grow in popularity, so does the “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” What does that mean exactly? It means, that there are sneaky and conniving predators out there, portraying to be one thing and are really looking to prey on innocent contributors. Yes, this is happening and it is real. There needs to be more awareness out there and a “safe haven” for these fans to go to, and seek guidance, and support.
So while we wait for the world to catch up, let’s start with the galaxy far, far away and embrace the importance of women.
In many ways, being a female Star Wars fan is like being a female in other male-dominant fields. Whereas it seems to me most guys get a free pass by other guys – if you’re a dude and you say you like Star Wars then you’re cool – girls usually don’t get that luxury. Girls generally have to prove themselves in order to be accepted as more than just a novelty or a pretty face.
There was a guy (who we’ll call Chuck) I dated back in school and his best friend (who we’ll call Ralph) who liked Star Wars. When I told them I liked Star Wars too they looked at me skeptically and decided to test my knowledge. “Where is the Jedi Academy?” they asked me. And I responded (keep in mind this was over 10 years ago before Episode VII was a twinkle in Disney’s eye) “Which one?” They looked at me blankly. “Which Jedi Academy? Are you talking about the Jedi Temple on Coruscant or the Jedi Academy Luke started on Yavin 4?” Ralph turned to Chuck and said “The Force is strong with this one.” And just like that I was in. But what if they’d asked me something I didn’t know, or couldn’t remember? They would have challenged and patronized me for any Star Wars talk from that point on. Other times, other places I often feel I have to prove myself in the same manner.
At least now that I’m a blogger for The Cantina Cast, I can throw that out in the introductory phase of meeting other SW fans for the first time. It immediately establishes my fandom knowledge and credibility. I will say that now, with more women than ever in the fandom, things are getting easier for us girls to enjoy Star Wars and our place in that fandom. And not every guy fan scrutinizes a girl’s fandom at first meeting. But this conversational ‘rite of passage’ is still a common issue, and dealing with this subtle sexism really sucks. We need to stop excluding, judging, and challenging others’ fandoms because it ruins the fandom for many.
Writers in SFR Brigade community see this as an ongoing concern that is not just unique to the Star Wars Fan community, but with many Sci-Fi and Fantasy communities as well…
Author Athena Grayson states…
I remember my first few cons as a college student, I was often given a badge with a man’s version of my name because the con-organizers thought it was a typo or bad handwriting, that a girl would actually be attending their convention. At more than one small college con, I was one of four or five women total.
My personal experiences with inappropriate behavior are mitigated by the fact that I’ve always gone to cons in the company of Mr. Athena, who is 6’3″ and can work up a good, “I’m silently judging you” look. That didn’t stop more than one guy from inserting himself between me and my dice to regale me with a twenty-minute long tale of how his dwarven fighter accomplished an Epic Feat in some previous campaign, or another one from mansplaining to me the rules of a game I knew how to play so well that I was listed in the credits as a playtester.
What saddens me is that our “home con” while maintaining a mostly-family friendly atmosphere (by keeping the adult-oriented stuff confined to late nights and specific floors in the hotel) has been growing its “literary” offerings from a generic media-oriented con to a more book-and-media atmosphere, yet there have been very few panels where female writers and male writers share the stage. Talking to some of the male writers there, I learned that most of them really didn’t even realize there was an entire track of writing-related stuff where women ran the panels.
Author and Blogger Pippa Jay states…
I think I’ve been lucky. I’ve never encountered any hostility or misogyny when I’ve talked about SciFi or been to cons, either as a teen almost 30 years ago (mostly Doctor Who signings but also several SF conventions and London Film and ComicCons) or online and at cons in the last five years. My best friends at school were a handful of male SF geeks because none of the other girls wanted to talk Doctor Who or Star Wars. Maybe it has something to do with being British and not being quite so demonstrative? About the only misogyny I’ve encountered was as a teen trying to join the Doctor Who Appreciation Society. I applied twice with no response. A few years later a male member told me applications from women were deliberately mislaid, ignored or destroyed. I’ve no idea whether that has changed because I never bothered applying again. At Star Wars Celebration guys were quite happy to chat to me about my Jedi costume, my thoughts on the new film etc with no attitude of ‘fake geek girl’. At BristolCon, there was an equal number of male and female SF authors and artists, both being equally represented on panels, and there was admiration for my Anakin cosplay (no ‘You shouldn’t be wearing that because you’re female etc). But coming online and finding groups like these were the real bonus and only possible because of the internet, because I finally found other women like me who liked SF – I’d met very few in real life – so that was awesome and only possible due to technology. So that has made for a big change in recent years I think.
Author and Blogger Corrina Lawson states…
Women aren’t seen as much as an aberration as, say, 40 years ago, but there’s definitely a huge backlash toward females stepping in “my space” from men online. One only has to look at the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian, Gamer Gate in general, the Sad/Rabid Puppies who didn’t like women and people of color “crashing” their Hugo Awards Party, and the recent backlash against a comic book cover for Mockingbird that led to assault threats against writer Chelsea Cain. Fandom has a long, long way to go. The good news is that the battle has shifted and it’s those toxic fans trying to hold ground but losing.
Author JC Cassels states…
In the 1970’s, I would have to “prove” myself to the guys by enduring a quiz about whatever SF franchise was under discussion. That continued into the 1980’s, but I quickly got a reputation for being a walking encyclopedia of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Whovian knowledge. By the 1990’s the guys seemed to begin appreciating the geek girl and gamer girl. I was well-received at the cons whether I was there as an author or a fan. I didn’t have to face another pop quiz to “prove” my geek card until just a few years ago when a middle-aged fellow galumphed up to me at a signing and began testing my knowledge of Sci-Fi by demanding to know who I read. He slunk off when I corrected him a few times.
It is my hope that readers of this article will get a better understanding of the concern that female fans have of being mistreated in the fan community. I also hope that the stories shared by authors and my fellow bloggers may help clarify any questions and to further the discussions so that these concerns can be limited or eliminated.
So what is YOUR experience with this concern?
What are your suggestions on how we can bring this concern to light for those that may not be aware?
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!
Patty is the Everyday Fangirl from Michigan who has a disguise as a mild mannered data analyst. You can find Patty on Twitter @PattyBones2 or blogging at EverydayFangirl.com, TheCantinaCast.com, FutureoftheForce.com or TheBeardedTrio.com talking about Star Wars and much more!