Monday, August 11, 2014

Fangirls to the front

As much as various social circles don’t seem to be similar on the surface, more things are the same than they are different. And a recent development in the world of sports has reminded me of how the same kind of thing happens in the world of what is traditionally nerd/geek stuff. And for the record, you can be a sports nerd.

As some of you may have heard, the NBA World Champion San Antonio Spurs hired a woman to be an assistant coach. Becky Hammon, 16 time WNBA All Star, is the first woman to be hired to such a position. Not only is her hiring historic, she now holds a position that is a huge career stepping stone. It has become common for members of the Spurs coaching staff to go on to head coaching positions and other executive positions on other teams. It is a huge accomplishment for a woman or a man. I don’t follow basketball as much as I used to. I don’t even follow sports all that much. But I am a fan of news. And things that are different catch my attention. That is why I began reading the news stories of this when the news broke. Okay, so the fact that the Spurs are my hometown team helped with my interest some too.

 The next thing I did, and I’m not sure why I did since I knew I wouldn’t be surprised, was read the comments. More specifically, when I scrolled down to read I was thinking, “Wait for it…” And when I saw some of the comments I thought, “There it is.” “She is too hot to be a coach.” That was the first thing I saw. Various others followed. A few were along the lines of how “you know” one player or another was “gonna hit that.” There was even someone who went so far as to call it a “token” hiring, much in the way one would hire “a black person” to give the impression of diversity in the workplace. I wanted to comment, but what would be the purpose? Besides, knowing the Spurs, and knowing Head Coach Greg Popavich, you don’t get hired to a position like that unless there is great faith and respect for a person’s abilities. Becky Hammon’s hiring speaks for itself. She isn't a token anything.

So what does a glass ceiling moment in professional sports and its corresponding typical misogynistic commentary have to do with the worlds of comics, gaming, sci-fi, and fantasy? I think it would be obvious. Even though the “nerd” world is known to be inclusive and accepting, there are still individuals and elements out there that… Well, they just don’t seem to get it. Or more to the point, I don't get the hostility. I’m not a woman, so I can’t know how exactly what it feels like. But being a nerd/geek I do know what it is like to feel awkward, alone, and not accepted. Though to be fair, some of that was my own insecurities messing with my head instead of what was really going on in the world around me. But back to my point. I don’t understand the negative reaction to woman being interested and participating in “guy” stuff. I really don't get why some guys get offended when any woman, nerd or not, denied their advances. Get over it. Please. I was a lonely comic reader. I had crushes. I've gotten denied. I've gotten dumped. It sucks, but it happens. But I never held a grudge. But back to my point again... I know, I ramble sometimes. Why so territorial about nerd life?

It happens in music too. Recently I watch a documentary on singer Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, The Julie Ruin) called The Punk Singer. Great film by the way. As great as her and her band were, there was still pushback from some men. She started a policy of “girls to the front” at her performances so her female fans could enjoy themselves and not be harassed and pushed out of mosh pits by guys. But again, why? And especially why in the nerd world. And especially when the stereotype of the lonely guy in his parent’s basement who is a virgin still exists. When I was younger I would have loved to have seen more girls at the comic book store. I wouldn’t know what to do or where to begin with any nerd girls, but I wouldn’t have rejected any of them. I would have thought it was awesome. And I think it is fantastic today that more fangirs are in the world. I am even lucky enough to be married to a fangirl who enjoys cons as much as I do. How great is that? There are plenty of female fans who who can rival the knowledge and skills of the male fans. And they can be just as intense. And I'll back away as slowly and carefully from them in the same way I will from you guys out there who can get a little intense. You know who you are.

But why are some guys so hostile at the mere thought of a woman being into, and god forbid better at, the same things they are into? I’m not going to get into any specific theories. Most I think come from some insecurity or another I think. But I’d rather focus on the positive. Every fandom, whether it be traditional nerd type stuff, pro sports, and everywhere in between is enriched by having as diverse a group of fans as possible. The funny thing is, diversity has been a common theme in nerd/geek things. Why would you be so opposed to a woman being a fangirl? At least the hostility comes from a seemingly shrinking minority. Maybe it will always be there. But what can you do? Life is to short to focus on negative people. Especially when there are so many good comics, games, books, tv shows, and movies to geek out about with good people that are men, women, and everywhere in between. Why not let women take the lead and waive the banner? It gives us fanboys the possibility of 50% more friends and allies. And who knows, maybe if you treat one of these new friends/allies with respect, she just might like you in a more than a friend way. And if not, you still got a new awesome friend. I don’t see a downside. As for Becky Hammon, she has a good chance of being the first woman to get a championship ring from a male pro sport while these critics are still sitting at home trying to figure out some sort of “witty” insult to post somewhere.

I don't typically "get all serious" and walk into territory that can get overly political and dramatic. In fact, I was hoping to write something more in keeping with the light nature of this blog for my 100th post. But this has been on my mind lately and it's an important topic. I hope I was clear and fair about this. Comments and questions are welcome. But please be civil.

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