This past weekend was WonderCon, a comics convention full of cosplay, fandom, geekery and, sadly, casual sexism. One of my Legion of Leia writers posted a story about an incident that I hear about far too often. A woman was about to purchase a large and expensive quantity of geeky goodness when she was asked by the vendor, “Is this for your husband?” I mentioned this while on a panel, and after it was over, a bunch of audience members told me the same thing had happened to them.
Casual or unintentional sexism is pretty rampant. You know, the stranger who calls you sweetie, thinking he’s being nice. The guys who constantly tell me, “You don’t look like a geek,” as if being female means that I have some genetic reason to like shoes and iced coffee, but not “Star Wars” and comic books. The video game store clerk who asked if the game I was buying was for my husband or my son. It’s mine! My imaginary husband and son can keep their imaginary paws off it!
Remember that video a little while back of a woman walking down a street with a camera, and the insane amount of sexist comments she got? Do you know how many times I heard my guy friends say they were surprised by this? Too many to count. When the #YesAllWomen campaign came out, telling the world that not all men harass women, but all women have been harassed by men, I got the same reaction. “I had no idea it was that bad for you guys.” “This really happens to all of you?”
Geena Davis recently gave a speech where she talked about a study that showed blind auditions for an orchestra make it easier for women to be hired. When the judges could see who was auditioning, men were more likely to be chosen. When the auditions were blind and the stage carpeted so they couldn’t hear women’s heels, it becomes close to 50/50.
So, how do we change this? Awareness of what’s happening is the key. I don’t think everyone is doing this on purpose. That’s why it’s important to make people aware of what casual sexism is and change opinions. Point it out when it happens. Talk about your geekdom. If someone asks you if you’re buying that comic book because your boyfriend told you to, explain that you’ve been a fan forever. Tell the guy who looks surprised at your love for “Star Wars” that there are hordes of women out there who love it, too. Tweet about your love for action movies. Share them with your younger lady friends. The more we talk about this, the better things are going to get.
By the way, that woman bought an expensive quantity of geeky goodness from someone else.