Tuesday, May 20, 2008

News of the Day -- Tuesday, May 20

+ A very good opinion piece at i09 about women and the perception that we don't like science fiction. God, all I watch is science fiction. I was going to say, "what's wrong with me?" Instead, I'm going to say, "what the hell's wrong with everyone else that they DON'T watch science fiction." There's spaceships for cryin' out loud!

+ Apparently, one cast member of "Lost" knows how the show will end. Intriguing...

+ SciFi.com has details on the upcoming Transformers sequel. Sadly, after seeing "Ironman," the only flying robots I can think of have Robert Downey Jr. at the helm.

+ I'll be announcing The X-Files movie poster winner tomorrow, so there's still time to sneak in a haiku or two if you'd like to get in on the action.

6 comments:

NancyRoo said...

That is an excellent article from i09. As a woman who spent years working at a comic book shop, I can attest to the disbelief expressed by many many people who buy into the women don't like SF/comics stereotype. It's frustrating. I'm so glad blogs like io9 and the wonderful Park Bench exist to prove those silly people wrong.

SFG said...

Yeah, but the stereotype is still true in aggregate. Otherwise I would have started dating a lot earlier. (No, it's not what you think; I actually had non-nerd girls crushing on me and ignored them because I was holding out for nerd girls. I never found any willing to go out with me and in college caved and dated non-nerd girls.)

There's this perception that 'gender X tends to do Y' means that 'NO persons from gender X don't do Y'. Actually, it's more like height; men are taller than women. There are certainly women over five foot eight, and there are special issues associated with being a tall woman, such that tall women might want to associate and talk about them, but in general men are taller than women.

NancyRoo said...

Yes, but as the I09 article pointed out, women don't have a natural aversion to space ships -- the blind support of a "nerdy dudes only like sci-fi" stereotype teaches continuing generations of women to avoid looking into the genre at all. Plus, the stereotype is simply not true. Readers of The Park Bench are a small sampling of that fact.

The issue of who watches sci-fi shows should be a matter of general personal taste. Some people like the genre, and some people don't. Instead we keep falling into the trap of restricting it along gender lines.

The Sci Fi channel is actually shooting itself in the foot by supporting the stereotype. If they began challenging the underlying assumption, they could start the process of making the Battlestar Galactica and its ilk appealing to everyone. By reinforcing the idea that women don't like space ships they are only making their viewership problems worse.

sfg: if we want more "nerd" girls in the world, we should all challenge the stereotype at every turn. Fighting the stereotype may make a change in the future, showing more and more women that the SF genre is just as acceptable for them as for anyone else.

maintaining Nerd Pride is a whole different issue altogether!

SFG said...

Scifi wants to make money. Trying to change the zeitgeist is unlikely to work; whether nature or nurture, it makes more sense for them to go with the stereotype because it's the way people are now and if they play to it, they'll make more money. Sure they could pour more cash into trying to change people's opinions of science fiction, but that has little chance of being successful as a unilateral effort from a cable channel. You get the government to tell people science is cool, you might get somewhere. If I'm the manager of a cable channel, I'm going to go hunting where the ducks are, not trying to convince songbirds to hang out in ponds.

Now to get kicked off Park Bench:
(Why am I doing this? I love to argue, honestly. I'm a lefty and all I do is visit right-wing blogs and argue with them.)

I guess it's the old nature/nurture argument, which is probably not worth going into. The existence of female scifi fans disproves nothing except for the weak statement that there are no female scifi fans, which is ridiculous; there are male and female aficionados of everything. It's a question of probability.

Why do I think this is biological? Partly my own ill luck, partly the research of people like Baron-Cohen (men tend to have more thing-rather-than-people orientations and a higher incidence of autism) and Benbow (even mathematically talented women prefer the life sciences and humanities). Keep in mind these are tendencies, not absolutes; there are plenty of women who are interested in things. In fact, it's not surprising that women with 'male' nerdy interests would feel out of place among girly girls and seek to find others like them. Look at the social exclusion and physical violence directed against men who appear effeminate or interested in the arts, especially in small towns. Remember 'Heathers'? If you're in Ohio and you don't have a brewski in your hand, you might as well be wearing a skirt.

So, yes, the old stereotype, but with shades of gray in between, and some people from each sex on the 'wrong' side. That's what the conformists always miss.

Besides, a woman pays a heavy social price for being geeky. She isn't going to get the best-looking guys, and she's going to hang out with guys nobody respects who will wind up making less money than the suave football players. (Your odds of getting beat up by or cheated on by a male nerd are lower, but since when do teenagers think that far ahead?) Us geeky guys, with our inferior social skills, have no choice, but I'm not surprised most women steer clear.

So, yah, you're a rare bird. Look on the bright side: you'll have your pick of the fellas (assuming you're straight; if you're gay I've noticed a lot of women at cons are bi, so you're probably still in luck.), and you probably have better people skills than a lot of the dorky guys around you, so you can rise to a leadership position. I mean, I wasted my time waiting for the world to change when younger, I gave up. It's the jocks' world, we just live here.

NancyRoo said...

This will be the last time I comment on this. I promise. I'm not going to argue the nature/nurture angle. I just feel like I need to set the record straight on a couple of things.

First of all, I and every other woman I've known are not into SF for cute boys and possible leadership positions. It is even more absurd to suggest that those things would be compensation for withstanding sexist stereotypes and our ability to lasso only mediocre partners who make no money. (WTF?)

Second, sexism runs deep in SF and comics culture, and women are often not welcomed with open arms. (Unless we're charming and willing to put out, I guess?) As I mentioned earlier, I spent years working at a comic book store, and I encountered a less than warm reception. I took me months and months to wear customers down. Many people find it impossible to believe that a woman could have a detailed knowledge of comic books or science fiction. My knowledge of comics was constantly challenged, and my opinion discounted. Many times I was not asked for my opinion on a comic at all. Many male customers openly commented that I was either related to the man that owned the store, or I was hired for my pretty face.

I was determined to stay at that job, and I needlessly proved myself over and over again, because I wanted to fight the sexism and the stereotypes so clearly present in comics culture. I also wanted to make sure that when women came into the store (and many did), that they would see me behind the counter.

I don't know how much of a difference I made in that job, but I do know that nothing will EVER change if we don't make a stand for ourselves.

Ok, I'm done now. :)

SFG said...

This will be the last time I comment on this. I promise. I'm not going to argue the nature/nurture angle. I just feel like I need to set the record straight on a couple of things.
Nothing wrong with arguing. I myself enjoy the intellectual give-and-take.

First of all, I and every other woman I've known are not into SF for cute boys and possible leadership positions. It is even more absurd to suggest that those things would be compensation for withstanding sexist stereotypes and our ability to lasso only mediocre partners who make no money. (WTF?)
Of course that's not why you're in it to begin with! I was trying to find the upside in a bad situation. Frankly, if there was a pill that would turn me into a sports-loving guy, I'd take it in a minute.

Second, sexism runs deep in SF and comics culture, and women are often not welcomed with open arms. (Unless we're charming and willing to put out, I guess?) As I mentioned earlier, I spent years working at a comic book store, and I encountered a less than warm reception. I took me months and months to wear customers down. Many people find it impossible to believe that a woman could have a detailed knowledge of comic books or science fiction. My knowledge of comics was constantly challenged, and my opinion discounted. Many times I was not asked for my opinion on a comic at all. Many male customers openly commented that I was either related to the man that owned the store, or I was hired for my pretty face.
That is very hurtful. I have heard similar stories, although I also knew a lot of geek girls who would constantly brag about the advantages of the ratio. It might have to do with your local environment, or it might have to do with the fact that in retail you're exposed to the entire general public, who tend to behave badly.

Could it be that male and female fen come to fandom for different reasons? A lot of men on the left tail of the personality bell curve might find it the only place they can fit in, whereas the women are probably driven by a strong interest in the subject. What are your observations on this?

I don't know how much of a difference I made in that job, but I do know that nothing will EVER change if we don't make a stand for ourselves.
That's true, and you're to be commended for doing so. (You've read Ms. Newitz's book, I trust.) I just don't believe things ever can change completely (though people like you might drive the ratio toward parity). And I don't consider it a desirable state of affairs, BTW.

If you don't want to, feel free not to comment. Sorry if I hurt your feelings and drug up old demons. I would like to hear your point of view, though.