AMBER LOVE 24-APRIL-2014 Lately the pop culture community has been voicing their outrage over a t-shirt sold at Wonder Con. Our community, it seems, will get outraged about anything including the most benign things like memes and t-shirts. Can you guess what I’m going to say about it?
I’m not saying the t-shirt was appropriate or intelligent in its quip. It’s pretty callous but I don’t think the outrage was proportionate to the “crime”. Saying you hate fangirls is a dumb thing to do in a convention full of fans, half of which are female. It wasn’t gratuitously sexual or abusive as some of the art and videos I’ve seen at shows. I have dear friends who are pinup artists of the cheesecake variety which exists in the sole purpose of objectifying women but doing so in a pretty and tasteful fashion. I happen to like certain things other women hate.
I’ve already voiced my standing on the fake geek girl and defending someone over a stupid internet meme. I’ve also spoken up to creators who bash cosplay and say it’s ruining their conventions because it’s girls who just want to shake their tits like strippers to wrangle men to spend money on them. There’s a fine line somewhere and for me, it’s always moving.
Should anyone hate fangirls? No, not without a valid reason like somehow they are eliminating your chance at making a decent living. However, in our fandoms and the pop culture scene, fangirls spend their money just like the boys. It’s probably not a wise idea to piss them off. It’s not as if the shirt was racist or bringing out a message with much deeper global meaning. You don’t like women like me? Ok.
The thing is, if I had walked by that booth at Wonder Con, I think my reaction would’ve been an eyeroll and maybe a tweet and I’d choose not to spend my money on them. I doubt I would’ve given it much thought further no less been asked to blog about it. It’s just a dumb t-shirt. The world is full of dumb t-shirts many of which are sexist.
I guess I live in a different plane of the world since I don’t object to pornography or recognizing that beautiful women are going to be gazed at for commercial and pleasure more than men. Unless you are submerged in gay men’s culture, you’re mostly going to see nearly naked women in your advertisements and entertainment. I happen to like beautiful women but I challenge the homogenized definition of beauty.
Let’s remember, this latest firestorm started because of a shirt. Not even a shirt anyone was wearing – a shirt being sold. The vendor’s rebuttal after the fact is actually more noteworthy than the shirt itself. After well-respected creators like Greg Rucka and Jamal Igle spoke out about how offended they were because they are fathers with daughters who should be welcomed into fandoms, The Daily Dot sought answers which were reprinted in other places like CBR, Bleeding Cool, The Mary Sue and Robot 6.
There are entire retail markets dedicated to offensive shirts (and bumper stickers, memes, et al.) with sayings like “These Tits – Property of Kevin” or “Who Needs Tits – When You Have an Ass Like This?” or “Hopeless Romantic Seeks Filthy Whore” — I think I’ve made my point. What some people find funny will offend other people. The reaction really should be comparable to the offense. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be upset or offended. I’m saying the reaction in some cases like this dumb t-shirt make the community look like a horde. We’ve seen it before when major shops try selling shirts that say things implying girls can’t do math or boys are better than books. When it’s not cult specific and the angry mob is more mainstream, those shirts get pulled off the stores’ websites. This doesn’t mean they stop being produced and sold elsewhere.
* Do you really think being an angry mob is the best way to get results about progressing to a post-sexism world?
* Did your daughter try to buy something and vendor said, “I hate fangirls”?
* Did your daughter get shown an inappropriate piece of art of Black Widow’s crotch with her hand down her thong? (This really was presented by an artist who called over my friend dressed as Black Widow, luckily an adult, at Awesome Con).
I know some people hated the movies FANBOYS and ROLE MODELS and those that hate THE BIG BANG THEORY. The thing is, I know people just like these characters so I’m not offended by the caricature style of the fictional individuals.
Now take a look at the shirt I own and have worn to a con:
* Do you hate me for it?
* Should I face a multi-platform blogger war from the top creators and popular fans of comics?
* Should I get rape/death threats over it?
* Do you hate who sold it to me?
* Do you want to know where I got it?
It’s an official Wizard World Philly shirt from years ago that I bought at their merch table. That shouldn’t be a surprise since Wizard over the years has degraded badly into how it treats people that economically support it. And you know what? Jim Lee bought me a beer while I was wearing it in September of 2007.
Vote with your dollars. If you see a vendor that you don’t like, don’t shop there. Just like with your comics – if they are getting into territory and exhibition you dislike, don’t spend your money on them. Or here’s a thought – write an eloquent critical review about why you don’t like something (warning: if you’re a woman and do this, you’ll get rape threats and death threats).
But no. That’s not always how our community chooses to operate. This time, like many others, they chose to get sucked into hordes that charged off to war on social media. It’s effective – sometimes. Was it effective in this case? Nope. Tankhead Custom Tees will keep making them. The future con organizers aren’t going to know what products specifically are in stock and plan to be sold at their shows. They take their table fees and wait until someone reports something that violates their codes of conduct. They have to do it that way. They can’t say, “No, Vendor, your dollars are not welcome at my show because this one time in band camp you sold a shirt that enforces gatekeeping mentalities!”
Pick your battles. When professionals like Janelle Asselin or DC Women Kicking Ass blogger Sue are singled out and personally threatened, that is a war you enter with barrels full of ammunition about how we need to stand up for each other and not let assholes into our hive. But a stupid shirt?