Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This Industry Continues to Baffle Me


If you've read this blog before, you know that I've been in this godforsaken industry for over 18 years now. Hopefully you've also picked up on the fact that I am female. Good gosh, I'm a girl, it's true! I've been fighting stereotypes in this industry the entire time I've been working in it, and before that as a fan. At times, it has been very frustrating. Obviously, being a woman, I know nothing about back issues. Obviously, being a woman I must be married to or at least dating whatever male I am working with at the shop. Obviously, being a woman behind the Moonstone booth at various cons, I must be married to one of the men that work behind the scenes at Moonstone. Obviously, being female, I must only read "girly" comics. Obviously, being female working at a comic shop, I must want men to refer to me as "honey" "sweety" or "doll" on a regular basis. You've all heard me bitch, you've heard all the stories about the fun I've had with this sore spot over the years, you may have even witnessed some of these fun vignettes first hand at the shop! Many people that come into the shop to sell back issues, automatically start addressing whichever male employee I happen to be working with that day, and then when that employee points out "no, you need to talk to HER" said walk-in customer will stand in front of me but still LOOK at the male employee while addressing me. Anyway, most of this just makes me laugh, I mean really after this many years, there shouldn't be anything left to surprise me. Lookie here, I've been surprised yet again.

Two interesting discussion topics came up IN THE SAME EVENING. I was hanging out with some like-minded comic-book friends, discussing the Fables series of comics and graphic novels. I need to mention the fact that this was a Halloween themed get together with many attendees wearing various costumes of the Fables-related variety or other fun costumes. I was dressed as Red Riding Hood, see above picture. As should be OBVIOUS to anyone, I am indeed a female. I was standing next to one of my male comic book friends to get a picture taken of both of us in our costumes and his brother says to him "stand closer to her like you like girls" and he replies "but Lori doesn't count!" That's right, I don't "count" as a female. Ok, makes sense, I'm one of the guys in many ways. I can discuss Batman, Green Lantern, obscure Golden Age characters, indy comics, manga, pulps, you name it, with any guy on any day and odds are good that I am better informed than said individual. All I'm saying is, I do know a thing or two about the industry I work in, hard to believe, but I swear to god it's true. Many men and women that shop at our stores are well aware of this fact. So I'm not really a "girl" in their eyes because many of the women they know don't have the knowledge or interest in the sheer number of stereotypically "male" hobbies that I do: sci-fi, fantasy, role playing games, board games, card games, comics, graphic novels, toys, etc. I've always felt like "one of the guys" for most of my life. The vast majority of my friends have been male, back when I was younger, as well as today. I have never considered myself overly "girly". (Ok, I do like Hello Kitty, but that doesn't count!) So this friend's comment that "Lori doesn't count as a girl" makes sense. I'm not offended in any way, but coupled with the other comment I was on the receiving end of that night, I am perplexed!

That same evening another comic-book minded friend of mine was "surprised" when he read Fables upon my recommendation and found that he liked it, because he figured if I liked it, it must be "girly." I've know this person for many years, he's been shopping at MY store for many years, and yet still he somehow thinks I must only like "girly" comics. Whatever the hell that is. I'm not talking about Shojo manga, the type that is created FOR women. I've told this individual all about some of my all time favorite comics: geez that list is long, but I want to share with you some of the titles so everyone can bare witness on how "un" girly my tastes run. JSA, JLA, anything by Grant Morrison, anything by Alan Moore, anything by Garth Ennis including "THE BOYS" monthly, most Peter Milligan comics (and yes Hellblazer is VERY girly), Ed Brubaker (again when I think "girly" I think of books like Criminal and Captain America for god's sake!), Greg Rucka (mind you he is currently writing Batwoman in Detective Comics, but the vast majority of the Rucka fan-base is male), all the Green Lantern books, Daredevil (again he is SO feminine, I know!), Batman (better be careful if you call Batman a sissy and he hears you, you will be in for a mighty ass-kicking) and many many more. Oh and here's a partial list of some of my favorite pulp characters, yeah you know that predominately MALE fanbase includes me, I've even worked on some of these characters for Moonstone: The Spider, The Avenger, The Shadow, and Doc Savage, oh and Black Bat, and most of the others! I love Green Hornet, and Zorro too. I also have a collection of swords at home, another example of just how girly I am indeed.
I can NOT believe the strangeness of it all. It just goes to show you that no matter how hard I try I can NOT understand the world of comic books. I'm damned because I'm a woman that reads comics, edits comics, and sells comics. To summarize: I'm considered both "not a girl" and yet also "too girly" therefore my tastes do not count. I just don't' get it, and want to scream very loudly on the top of my lungs because of the absurdity of it all.

These days, many women shop at comic shops on a regular basis, including Amazing Fantasy of course, and many women work in the industry, yet we still have problems. We've come a very long way, but not far enough apparently. The road will continue to be both long and arduous. If I ever make sense of it all, I'll be sure to share. :) Sorry for the bitch fest, but sometimes....

7 comments:

  1. I am sure it is not much consolation, but you are not alone. My wife, who is a fan of comic books (especially the X-Men), a hardcore gamer (MMORPGs and X-Box 360), and a lover of big budget action movies. Yet she runs into this kind of prejudice all the time (especially among the gaming crowd).

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  2. Stop complaining and go back to your Barbies.

    ;)

    pleasedonthurtme...

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  3. Just goes to show that there are ignorant people in all walks of life! Even nerdom.

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  4. You DO understand that you exist as something of a singularity in the area, I take it? Your exposure to the comics world has shown that you are not the only woman in your predicament, but I think the rarity with which individuals like yourself are seeded throughout the comic landscape shouldn't be ignored. It's oftentimes a matter of culture shock to John Q. Average living in the American midwest and shopping for comics in Frankfurt, IL to come across someone they didn't expect to have to interact with.

    And even in the cases where people know who you are, it's not innacurate to say that comic fans are, by and large, socially awkward/inept males with arrested developments that don't know how to respond to women, especially in their male oriented hobby. Even when those men are married or have girlfriends, they oftentimes don't know how to regard you because their significant other rarely has the prowess to match them in their hobbies of interest. So they may have adjusted to life with a significant other, but that doesn't mean they relate to the other gender any better.

    Probably the most telling thing about your blog here is that regardless of how much we are evolving as a species on a cultural level, preconceptions and misconceptions still hold strong and take very deep root in our public consciousness.

    Regarding the eye contact thing, I think it's that your presence and knowledge and the role you play at the Frankfurt store (dually manager and fan) intimidates and disarms people that don't expect it simply because you ARE a woman, and that probably speaks more to the misconceptions people have about women than about you in particular. Because of your experiences, I wouldn't be surprised if you felt some irrational personal level of persecution despite your rational brain telling you otherwise. Apologies for the dimestore psychoanalysis:3

    Although, I have to admit that you are a singularity in my life. I've never met anyone like you at all before, and while this may seem like unnecessary lip service, I am grateful to know you and proud that you are a considerable presence in my life. I'm glad for that.

    When you told me you had a sword collection, I reacted the way I did NOT because I didn't expect it out of you as a girl, but more because I had this preconcieved notion that you would look at sword collecting as one of those obsessive, impractical hobbies that you wouldn't have an inclination to get into. I don't look down on sword collecting, but I just figured you were the kind of person that would say, at best, 'those are neat, but I don't need that stuff cluttering my house.' The two things I ultimately learned from discovering you were a sword enthusiast:

    1.) I should never presume to know someone well enough that I think I have them figured out. If society would take this same viewpoint as a whole, we'd all be better off.

    2.) I love knowing people that can continue to surprise me. It not only makes the relationship with that person stronger and more interesting, but it makes for great conversation that can go in areas I never would have anticipated. This is a hallmark of a good 'connection.'

    The best thing about you (and again, I'm not really trying to pay lip service here, even though you deserve it in my ailing old eyes) is that despite your vast wealth of knowledge and varied interests, you don't come off as a know it all or someone who oppresses others' opinions with your own.

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  5. I'll first note that I had a conversation on Lori being the girl in a boy-dominated hobby, and she didn't seem to feel persecuted. Like the post, mostly amused and sometimes annoyed. For someone working with the public, Lori seems less annoyed than most. Like my former Marine friend who works at a bank: he ends most days wanting to shake people and scream at them to behave. Lori, you seem to enjoy your job more than that. Also, your nerd herding skills are top notch.

    Second, your taste in comics is way more manly than mine. I'll go back to my Mouse Guard reading....

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  6. Thanks for the comments everyone, lol! Sometimes the whole girl-in-a-mostly-male-dominated-nerd-wrold just makes me laugh, that's all! I don't feel like I'm being persecuted or even singled out. Sorry if there was any confusion. Just me venting, in a public forum, for no good reason, other than it amuses me to do so. :) It can be frustrating at times, true enough, but the good far outweighs the bad, so all is good at the end of the day.

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  7. Tom Tolios, dimestore psychologistNovember 11, 2009 at 11:32 AM

    @Gene & Lori:

    Good points. In retrospect, I probably saw a tiny little molehill and made a Fuji sized mountain about it in regards to the 'persecution' issue. Apologies for that.

    BUT I'M RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE!!!!

    /flees

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