One Girl's Rambles Through Geek Girl Culture

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My original vision for Girls Errant hasn’t panned out.

There are large stretches of territory in the map of geek girl culture that are unfathomable to me, or where my knowledge is only shallow at best. I can’t–and wouldn’t–speak with authority about gaming, comics, anime, or cosplay. I’m primarily a lit geek, and my propensity to wander off into the wilderness means I’m often by myself and missing whatever’s currently got everyone excited.

Maybe that makes me a bad guide. Or maybe it makes me a good Girl Errant–the type of person you meet in the deep woods who can point you toward something new, and maybe something you didn’t know you needed.

I’ve spent some time mourning the original Girls Errant, and some time lying low as the internet became increasingly hostile toward women with something to say.

But I’m not ready to completely let go of Girls Errant, and I’m not willing to be silenced. This tiny, rarely traveled corner of the internet will return. Maybe it’s not going to go as planned, but we’ll see where we end up.


white roomA man wakes in a white room. He’s conventionally good looking: tall, thin, brown hair, blue eyes. He sits on the edge of the bed, contemplating how he found himself in this place and where he’s going next. Adventure awaits him once he figures out what’s going on, and the sky’s the limit once he leaves this room.

“White Room Syndrome,” described in the Turkey City Lexicon, is considered a failure of an author’s imagination. There is no equivalent term for centering a story on a white man, even though an examination of all speaking parts in 100 top-grossing films from 2013 shows 74.1% were white with an average of two or more men for every woman regardless of race. In the 100 top-grossing sci-fi and fantasy films as of 2014, only 12% featured a female protagonist, while only 8% had a protagonist of color (none of them women). 2% had protagonists with disabilities, and absolutely none had LGBTQ protagonists.

In an illuminating interview with Pilot Viruet at Flavorwire, Mathew Klickstein, author of SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age, had a lot to say about diversity, along with a great deal of dismay about women in publishing, women as creators, women as comedians, and even women as an audience. Read the rest of this entry »

Women have always been an equal part of the past, we just haven’t been a part of history.

– Gloria Steinem

When you look at statistics like this:

womenInFilm-light-revisedOr this:

womenInFilm-light-revised(Both infographics found here–along with a whole lot more information about women in front of and behind the camera)

How long do you suppose women have been directing films?

How about 118 years?

From Wikipedia:

Alice Guy-Blaché is the first female filmmaker and is responsible for creating one of the first narrative films in 1896. Guy’s career of 24 years of directing, writing and producing films is the longest career of any of the cinema pioneers. From 1896 to 1920, Guy directed over 1,000 films, some 350 of which survive, and 22 of which are feature-length films.

Guy was and still is the only woman to ever manage and own her own studio, The Solax Company.

Women were directing, writing, and producing films from the very beginning, so why is film treated like a boy’s club?

There’s more attention than ever on women behind the camera right now in part thanks to Etheria Film Night, “a one-night event showcase of the best new horror, science fiction, fantasy, action, and thriller films from emerging female directors.” Heidi Honeycutt, film journalist and the director of programming for Etheria Film Night, explained to LA Weekly that it’s not a lack of women directing.

“That’s not actually the case,” says Honeycutt, who is currently working on a book about female horror film directors. She says that, on a low-budget indie level, the ratio of male to female horror directors is about 50/50. “As you move up on the budget level,” she says, “the numbers drop dramatically.” That, she says, is pretty similar to what you’ll see in the rest of the industry.

“Women tend to not be given the benefit of the doubt the way male directors are,” says Honeycutt. “Directors who are male who have one successful low budget film— it goes to Sundance, it goes to Cannes— and gets a lot of attention, will often be offered a very high budget film in Hollywood not too long after,” she says, citing the most recent version of Godzilla as an example. Director Gareth Edwards was picked up after his indie film, Monsters, made a splash.

That’s not the case for female directors. “With women, it’s more that they have to prove themselves and it’s always considered a ‘risk’ but nobody really knows why and nobody explains why they think that.”

Lexi Alexander, getting real on her blog, said it more bluntly:

There is no lack of female directors. Repeat after me: THERE IS NO LACK OF FEMALE DIRECTORS.  But there is a huge lack of people willing to give female directors opportunities. I swear, if anyone near me even so much as whispers the sentence “women probably don’t want to direct” my fist will fly as a reflex action.

Greater success in Hollywood will depend, in part, on overcoming the perception that a woman succeeding is an anomaly and a woman failing is proof that all women will fail. Women need to be allowed to stand on their own both in success and failure.

But why sit around and wait for Hollywood’s gatekeepers to catch up when they continue to show they have no real interest in doing so? So, if there isn’t a lack of women directing, but there is a lack of opportunity, what can we–as fans and supporters–do? Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and GoFundMe have opened up the gates to projects that might never see the light of day.

You can also Invest in the future with Reel Grrls, a media training program where female media professionals teach girls ages 9 – 21 production skills through classes and hands-on workshops. In the last 13 years, more than 1000 girls have participated in Reel Grrls programs, and donations can help subsidize the costs for girls attending in the future.

Finally, never underestimate the power of word of mouth. Indie projects especially can live and die on positive buzz. Don’t have money for that Kickstarter? Share it. Help it reach as many eyes as possible. See a trailer for an awesome film? Share that, too. When one of those films does come to a theater near you–or is available to rent or purchase online–your ticket or your rental matters, and when you’ve seen a film you loved, letting everyone know how much you loved it generates that precious word of mouth.

I’m personally waiting with bated breath for the US release of The Babadook this fall.

Are there any films directed by women you love, or you’re eagerly waiting to see?

Through the WoodsThe stories and illustrations in Emily Carroll’s book, Through the Woods, put me strongly in mind of childhood, despite (or maybe because of) the gruesome nature of the tales within. The stories and illustrations are rich and detailed, yet just spare enough to leave me grasping and hoping and wishing for more–just a little more story, just a little more explanation, just a little more something that’ll make this feel safe and resolved. Enough to make it feel settled and explained and comfortable.

Of course, these are not stories meant to comfort. These are stories to haunt and linger, for reading in the dark and giggling over to hide that shivery feeling. Carroll captures that unnerving feeling of the forest primeval after you’ve fallen off the edge of the map, and her stories and illustrations have a timeless feeling. They’re like reading fairy tales, but the darker, more violent stories that don’t often make the cut into friendlier, brighter children’s anthologies. Read the rest of this entry »

At this year’s E3, Ubisoft announced that there wouldn’t be any female playable characters in Assassin’s Creed: Unity because women are apparently super hard to animate. It would have doubled their work. Having to cut women out was a “reality of game development.”

This was met with plenty of criticism, including #womenaretoohardtoanimate.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many do you think a cosplay is worth?

batgirl_promo_poster2I’m the product of a pair of unapologetic geeks. When I was little, my dad read me Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser as bedtime stories. My mother felt those were too violent for a child of my tender age and read me Pern novels instead. They were both members of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

I was doomed from the beginning.

Neither of my parents are particular fans of horror, so that’s something I came into on my own. Same with my affection for steampunk and assorted other -punks. I attended my first convention as a pre-teen, and I haven’t looked back. My geekiness has mostly been focused on the written word: give me novels, short stories, mythology and folklore. I came late to movies and I’m making an honest effort to catch up while not falling further behind.

There are huge holes in my geek cred: I know next to nothing about anime, I avoid gaming not because I’m against it, but because I know that as soon as I pick up a controller, my life is over, and I’m interested in cosplay, but I’ve never engaged. My first geeky love was ElfQuest, and I’ve since picked up and devoured Sandman, but comics have otherwise never been a part of my life.

It’s not for lack of interest. I’ve got a deep affection for the X-Men and Batman, both due to Saturday morning cartoons. The back catalogs for both are staggering, however, and finding a place to start is confusing at best. With a teetering stack of books to be read looming over me and a constantly growing to watch list, it’s always been easy to backburner comics.

I’m sharing all of this because I don’t want to pretend to be an expert. I also want to make it clear that I’m sharing my personal opinions, and I’m coming from the place of a near complete newcomer. I’ve got no attachment to particular characters, writers, or illustrators. There’s no baggage and limited preconceptions. Read the rest of this entry »

What seemed significant about my friend’s confusion was that it related to a persistent rumbling that I have heard echoing through science fiction. That rumbling says, in essence, that women don’t write science fiction. Put a little more rudely, this rumbling says: “Those damn women are ruining science fiction.” They are doing it by writing stuff that isn’t “real” science fiction; they are writing “soft” science fiction and fantasy.

Pat Murphy, Wiscon 15, March 12, 1991

Lightspeed_49_June_2014So opens the introductory editorial for the Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue of Lightspeed Magazine. Christie Yant’s introduction could easily have been the rallying cry that lead to the creation of Girls Errant–if it weren’t that I somehow miss all the best Kickstarters (my wallet is far happier than I am). There’s an overwhelming temptation to include quote after quote from editorials, interviews, and personal essays and simply exclaim, “This!”

Tempting. Easy. Not nearly what this fantastic double-issue of Lightspeed Magazine deserves.

Twenty-three years out and, just as Christie Yant writes, Pat Murphy’s quote could have just as easily been made last week. Or today. It could have been part of a discussion about fake geek girls or about whether ladies cosplaying in revealing costumes are just doing it for attention. Women writing science fiction doesn’t just threaten the genre: the mere presence of women at conventions threatens fandom itself.

Women, however, have been a part of science fiction since the beginning. We’ve been a part of it since Mary Shelley anonymously published Frankenstein. We’ve been a part of it since, in 1926, Clare Winger Harris was the first woman to publish science fiction under her own name. We’ve sometimes had to disguise ourselves with initials, as Ursula K. Le Guin had to do in order to be published in Playboy without alarming the male readers. Sometimes we’ve taken on a masculine pseudonym. We’re still here, as writers, as artists, as directors, as fans. Read the rest of this entry »