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I got an intro and everything!

So, my roomie is in library school. A little while back she discovered that most of her classmates (in a social media class catering to children's librarians) had never heard of LOLcats. Had never used most social media. And most disturbing, for people planning on mentoring kids, knew absolutely nothing about fandom. So she and a few others decided to throw them a con, all about fandom. The roomie then informed me I was going to help, since I've been in fandom pretty much since birth and have been here through two technologial migrations. Yesterday I appeared as a guest speaker (as a Subject Expert!) for two sessions of grad students and answered questions about fandom and fanfiction. (We videotaped it! It was great!)

I had an awesome time overall, and most of them, while largely ignorant, were curious and interested and asked all sorts of fascinating questions. What are lurkers? Why so much porn? Have technological changes had an overall positive or negative effect? How do you gain social currency in fandom? One of them was the big one: Why are there so many women in fandom? And I wrote the following for their class blog, because while I answered them then, I had to think about it a little while to get it down and clarify. It was interesting, and I ended up writing a lot of things I'd never thought about before, so I wanted to share what I thought was the most important bit. These are just my thoughts, based on my own fandom experience:

...a huge amount of the process of maturation for a female in Western society is centered on becoming sexualized; going from sexless child to sexual object. This is subliminal and insidious and enormously complex and full of contradictory rules and central to what it means in the mainstream (where very few people distinguish between sex, gender, and sexuality) to Be A Girl and therefore be appropriately feminine. We are not only taught that this is the fundamental quality (before reason, compassion, self-sufficiency, etc.) but to constantly obsess over whether we're Doing It Right. For a lot of girls this is not only stressful but traumatic, because gender is fluid and personal and some people react worse than others over being told that they're somehow abnormal.

The weird thing (the cool thing) about fandom is that while it's an overwhelmingly female-dominated space, it's not a particularly gendered space. Or at least, there is no uniform, ideal gender associated with being of the female sex. This idea was once implicit (female geeks have always tended to get leeway on this kind of thing; the perception of female geeks by male geeks is another discussion entirely) and is now being discussed explicitly. These days the idea that sex, gender and sexuality are three different things is acknowledged and encouraged, and the very nature of fandom encourages people to explore, develop and express their own identities on their own terms, based only on the information they wish to consider valid.

I think that this, maybe more than anything else, is why fandom attracts and retains such a strong female presence. Fandom isn't just a safe haven for geeks. It's a safe haven for female geeks, a space where we are the default, not recognizable as Other and deserving of praise and condescension and funny looks and indulgence just because we happen to be female and bothered to show up. In the real world, it's overwhelmingly the opposite: male is Default and female is Exceptional or Other, and everything we do is passed through that filter. In fandom, we are the first and obvious choice. There are not a lot of places like that, and I think it's not only beneficial but crucial that we have this one.

And then they applauded and gave me cookies. It was awesome.

And I had my practicum interview today and it went great, and today is a gorgeous sunny day, and I got a package of yarn in the mail! More lace hats! Hooray!

ETA: This pattern has now defeated me for the fourth time by disappearing a stitch somewhere. I've been trying to get a serious start on it for two weeks now and I've yet to get more than two repetitions in. CURSE YOU, PRETTY SCARF.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 5th, 2010 08:51 pm (UTC)
That is SO AWESOME! I totally would have attended your guest lecture. :P
Mar. 5th, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)
Corene and I think we should have a fandom con. Now that she has practice and everything. :)
Mar. 5th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC)
Mar. 5th, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)
And turtles brownies!
Mar. 5th, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
You are totally cool. :)
Mar. 5th, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)
Mar. 6th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure you're my hero.

Also, that scarf has been on my to-knit list for ages and now you've both reminded me about it AND told me it's frustratingimpossible so of course I want it more and it's the perfect spring blanketscarf pattern... gah!
Mar. 6th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
Actually, I think the most frustrating part of the scarf is that it's not that difficult a pattern - the most complicated move in it is a slip-slip-knit - I just keep getting... distracted, or something. I don't know. It's driving me nuts, so now I am making another lace hat instead.
Mar. 7th, 2010 04:41 am (UTC)
Go you! That sounds like an awesome lecture indeed.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


Chandri MacLeod

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