Saturday, September 28, 2013

Geek Chic

I found a vest and tie that I want to wear at Geek Girl Con next month. The vest had plain black buttons, and I replaced them with crystal-looking plastic ones in pale lilac. The tie is purple with a subtle pattern and texture, silk. But it's not plain anymore...

I got a screen capture of my Night Elf druid (my first toon) emoting a /roar, sized it to fit on my tie (it's about 5.5 inches tall, and 3 inches wide). I deleted out all the background, lightened it to increase the contrast in Photoshop and printed it out on an iron-on transfer sheet (Jolee's Boutique Easy Image for dark fabrics, glitter). Once trimmed, I peeled it off the backing, which was tricky. The film is actually fairly thick, but it's like anything else you have to peel: you have to catch a corner and try not to damage it in the process.

The instructions are for ironing on cotton. I couldn't find anything to tell me how to do it for silk, so I just proceeded as if it was cotton. *shrug* I was a thrift store tie; if I screwed it up, I was out $4 but gained the knowledge that it doesn't work on silk.

It actually worked quite well. The texture of the material shows through the transfer, which makes it look better than if it was essentially a big sticker. If I had to do it over, I would lighten the printed image even more, because the printer laid down quite a bit of ink. I would have preferred to put a couple layers of paper towel in the tie, to avoid the back seam showing through when I ironed it, but it was sewn in a way that I couldn't do that.

"You roar with bestial vigor. So fierce!"
I might do a whole series of these, because I can. My only other 90 is a Tauren druid (love the class), so I think I'll limit myself to the upper-level toons. That way I won't end up with a couple dozen ties... >_>

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Geek/Grrl Power Playlist

I am not a music-obsessed person. I don't even listen to the radio, instead choosing mix CDs I've burnt from my odd collection of music, and then usually only when I'm driving. (I like the quiet at home.) But sometimes the urge to create the perfect soundtrack for a mood or event forces me to go hunting. The event that was my inspiration this time is Geek Girl Con.

I've got 33 songs, for 2+ hours of music. I have a 4 hour flight. If I can't find other music, I might leave it at that. Anyway, this is what I've got so far (not in order yet):
  • I Am Woman, Helen Reddy
  • (I'm the One That's) Cool, The Guild*
  • Nothing to Prove, The Doubleclicks
  • All I Really Want, Alanis Morissette
  • Rock This Joint, Alannah Myles
  • What I Am, Edi Brickell & the New Bohemians
  • Call Me, Blondie
  • Control, Janet Jackson
  • These Boots Are Made for Walkin', Nancy Sinatra
  • We Got the Beat, The Go-Go's
  • The Warrior, Scandal (Patty Smyth)
  • Redneck Woman, Gretchen Wilson
  • Goodbye Earl, The Dixie Chicks
  • Respect, Aretha Franklin
  • Bad Reputation, Joan Jett
  • Bitch, Meredith Brooks
  • Just a Girl, No Doubt
  • Man! I Feel Like a Woman!, Shania Twain
  • You Gotta Be, Des'ree
  • All I Wanna Do, Sheryl Crow
  • Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves, Eurythmics & Aretha Franklin
  • Independent Women Part 1, Destiny's Child
  • U.N.I.T.Y, Queen Latifah
  • One Girl Revolution, Saving Jane
  • Rebel Girl, Bikini Kill
  • Can't Hold Us Down, Christina Aguilera w/ Lil' Kim
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper
  • I Am Woman, Jordin Sparks
  • I'm Every Woman, Chaka Khan
  • Superwoman, Alicia Keys
  • Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, Sista Monica
  • Never Underestimate a Girl, Vanessa Hudgens
  • You Don't Own Me, Rasputina†
There may be more to come; this is just the work of an evening and morning. The con isn't for another month (squeeee!), so I have time. I also have to put them in order so things aren't lumped together. (I Am Woman and I'm Every Woman cannot be together, that's obnoxious.)

* Not a female-empowerment song as such, but I love Felicia Day, and the reference to "prom queen bitches" is fierce. Who doesn't remember those girls?

† You wouldn't believe the frustration this song caused. The original version is by Leslie Gore, and frankly, I find it incredibly draggy. These lyrics need to be sung with defiance and fire! In the end, I chose the cover by Rasputina that is even more draggy than the original. Why? Because I couldn't find what I wanted so I went in the opposite direction. :P

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sexism, Rape Culture, Media and the Real World

I just read an article about "6 Sexist Video Game Problems Even Bigger Than Breasts;" a few of those problems are applicable elsewhere, like comic books, or real life. (If you haven't already, I recommend reading it.)

The issues that the Cracked staff raise in the article are a lot of the same issues that critics have raised about sexist issues in comics. Women are sometimes reduced to the nurturing background character, not the dynamic one who saves the day. They are used as tools to further someone else's (a male character) story, particularly when they are killed. Rape is a tool used to show how bad a villain is (at least according to Mark Millar). Sometimes a team has a single female member, just to have a female on the team.

If I could, I would make every man read points #3 and #1 of that article, over and over again, until they fully understood it: Sexualized Violence (with an excellent explanation of rape culture) and The Real World. Those, to me, were the key points.

screen shots from the F-P website
When we present media that has so much sexism, whether it's in movies or comic books or video games, that message gets internalized. Girls see it, and feel disenfranchised. Boys see it, and learn girls are commodities. Those kids grow up with those attitudes, and see even more media that gets reinforced over and over. T-shirts that say "Boys are Better Than Books", mottos like "bros before hos", et cetera, ad nauseum. And who can forget the cricitism that Mattel received when they released a talking Barbie that said "math class is tough"? Even the "simple" gendering of toys (girls are princesses that get saved, boys are heroes that save princesses), that starts with replaying the same pink/blue message over and ever, teaches young children "the way things are."

Here's an example of how we teach our kids early: A pink/purple diamond ring for a "precious baby girl", and a blue hammer for a "busy baby boy." This is what Fisher-Price wants your 3 month old child to learn! Now, those babies don't care that one is a ring and one is a hammer; they care that it makes noise and they can chew on it. But thus begins the pink/blue split between toys. It starts that young... and the marketing never relents. (I can't watch tv without being bombarded with messages that I am imperfect and must fix it. Nearly every ad is about the way I look, and that it isn't good enough. FFS, Dove, now even my pits need to look pretty?!)

In another article that addresses solutions to real-world situations, "How to Design a City for Women," the criticism was baffling. Vienna, Austria took a look at how women used public spaces and made changes, like more lighting and wider sidewalks.
"Gender can be an emotional issue," Bauer [a city administrator] adds. "When you tell people that up until now they haven’t taken the women’s perspective into account they feel attacked. We still have people asking, ‘Is this really necessary?'"
I have to admit, the pushback on this really did surprise me. Some of the changes the city made were to the benefit of everyone. The thing I find most puzzling about this culture of sexism and male privilege is that nearly all men have a mother, wife, sister or daughter in their lives. Why would they not want to make the streets safer for their mother, walking home from the market? Why would they not want to make parks more girl-friendly for their daughters? This is the thing I really, honestly do not understand. Are women so overlooked, so disregarded, that making things better for them is seen as a threat?

The jerks who will make comments in-game like "Tits or GTFO*" and make "your mom" jokes, would they say those things to their mother? Some might, it's true. But all this is learned behavior. They have no incentive not to act the way they do, and there are no consequences. So when this vile behavior they learned in video games (and other media) spills out into the real world, now we have such a deeply-ingrained sexist attitude that produces situations like Stuebenville, Ohio.

Excuses of "it's just a game" or "they're comic book characters, not real people" lead to comments like "she shouldn't have been drunk at the party." It's all a slice of the same rotten pie. Without teaching boys to respect girls, and girls to respect themselves, we're only going to keep playing this same song over and over again. (And by song, you can take that literally with that misogynist masterpiece, "Blurred Lines," by Robin Thicke.)

* Get the fuck off -- basically show us your boobs or leave; one of many things said to female gamers, and why many female gamers choose not to disclose their gender.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Supergirls: Book Review

The Supergirls: Fashion, feminism, fantasy, and the history of comic book heroines
©2009* by Mike Madrid
ISBN: 978-1-935259-03-9 (print)
978-1-935259-00-8 (ebook)
Exterminating Angel Press

The Supergirls is a marvelous book by Mike Madrid (you may remember him from the Wonder Women! documentary if you watched that), and it tells the stories of some heroines you know already (but maybe didn't know some of the early history) and some who were groundbreaking (and since forgotten). Madrid shines a light on the dark corners of comic book history and the ladies who've been there all along, but who certainly haven't had the same recognition.

Madrid divides the book by decades, beginning with the 1940s, with colorful histories separating one decade from the next. In these eras, he shows us how current events and social movements are directly tied to comic books and their heroes and heroines. It's by no means exhaustive; instead you get a taste of the way things were (and are), which should make you want to go find more, and from the original sources! And if wanting to know more about obscure heroines -- or obscure histories of well-known heroines -- isn't your thing, I can't imagine why you're here reading this blog...

His own fascination with superheroines started young, when he first recognized that Supergirl was not treated the same as Superman. Later, he noticed how most of the women were named: Supergirl, Invisible Girl... even when the women in question were adults, their alter egos were demoted to "girl" status, when teenage Peter Parker was Spider-Man. Not only were their names diminished, but their powers weren't as impressive either, and they often required rescuing from the more powerful male characters, at least in those early years.

Not all of the book is a social/historical look at superheroines. The chapter "Heroine Chic" is a rather biting commentary on the practicality -- and lack thereof -- of superheroine costumes. This chapter in particular should be required reading for every writer and artist working in comics. "The world is your gynecologist," indeed...

The Supergirls is a well-written look at the convoluted and sometimes baffling world of superheroines. They are both mirror and lens for how women are perceived in society, and it's not always flattering. Anyone who is interested in superheroines should have this on the shelf right next to Trina RobbinsThe Great Women Superheroes. Feminists, people who study women's history, comics geeks of all stripes, should read this book.

For all their problems, I love these heroines. They have complicated histories, bizarre twists in plots to contend with and weird reboots. It's because I love them that the disrespect shown them by publishers and creators makes me angry on their behalf. (Yes, yes, I know: fictional characters, blah blah blah. Don't coming whining to me if they change something about one of your beloved male characters. Superman isn't a killer, right? Right?)

It's pretty clear that Mike Madrid loves them, too. And because The Supergirls is written with such care and affection, I am all the more exited about his forthcoming title, Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics, due out this October. Madrid will also be signing books at Geek Girl Con in October, and I look forward to telling him in person how much I enjoyed his book (and hopefully getting a copy of the new one).

Read my review of his book Divas, Dames & Daredevils here. The villainess companion book, Vixens, Vamps & Vipers, is due to be published October 2014.

* The copy I have is the 3rd printing (in 2013), and he notes that Ms. Marvel took the name Captain Marvel in 2012.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

DC's Latest PR Disaster

DC Comics is having a contest. You can break into comics, just by submitting panels that they have scripted for you. Four panels in all showing Harley Quinn trying to commit suicide, with the 4th showing her naked in the bathtub. Lots of other articles have been written about this so I won't add to them, but it was the Daily Dot article that brought something to my attention: this contest began just days before National Suicide Prevention Week.


In response to this and some other recent gaffes, my husband suggested that someone should check the DC offices for radon.

ANYway... I'm not entering the contest, but here's the 4th panel as I see it:

Yeah, I know, the hand is wrong. I never claimed to be an illustrator. I also didn't follow
the instructions as they were given. Knives are way better than a hairdryer, if you ask me.

Read more about DC's PR goofs at The Outhouse.

UPDATE: DC has issued an apology: 
"The purpose of the talent search was to allow new artists an opportunity to draw a single page of a 20-page story. True to the nature of the character, the entire story is cartoony and over-the-top in tone, as Harley Quinn breaks the 4th Wall and satirizes the very scenes she appears in. DC Entertainment sincerely apologizes to anyone who may have found the page synopsis offensive and for not clearly providing the entire context of the scene within the full scope of the story."
But I still think that this is a pretty clear indication of just how out of touch that they are, that they didn't realize from the start that this would cause some controversy. Or hell, maybe they did! It certainly got them lots of attention and press!

Miscellaneous Geeky Girl Stuff

By now, you've almost certainly heard/seen "Nothing to Prove" by The Doubleclicks. (You can buy it from iTunes or Bandcamp, and read the lyrics here.) It's an awesome and poignant Geek Girl anthem, but it's the signs that choked me up. Many people (famous and otherwise) submitted signs for the video; they estimate that they received between 150 and 250 signs, but the song just isn't long enough to include them all. Here are the ones they were able to use (I tried so hard to get all of them, but I know I missed a few):
  • Hi there! We are geek girls.
  • I started playing D&D in 6th grade. I never stopped.
  • I learned to read with comic books.
  • I've been a Gamer since before I can remember.
  • I grew my hair out / so I could dress up as Princess Leia.
  • I played Myst when it was released. I was 11. It was the GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE!
  • My Transformers played with my Cabbage Patch Kids.
  • I received my first console when I was nine years old.
  • My regular Saturday night "date" was with the 5th Doctor.
  • Comics taught me women can be beautiful & powerful!
  • [arrow pointing at face] Founder and president of my high school Star Trek fan club.
  • I spend hundreds of hours working on cosplay.
  • [hugging toddler daughter] I'm raising The Next Generation of Geek Girls!
  • Accounting associate by day, Elf ranger by night.
  • I was obsessed with Star Trek: The Next Generation and had a super huge crush on Jonathan Frakes. / Now we're friends. It's weird.
  • I write code for particle accelerators.
  • im in ur HOUSE OF IDEAS writin ur COMICS
  • Being a geek girl is really awesome / ...except when it isn't.
  • I LOVE video games but BOYS tell me I'm not a "REAL" GAMER
  • That look of surprise when I talk about Star Trek? It gets old.
  • Why are you surprised I want to be an ASTRONAUT when I grow up?
  • I'm a SCIENTIST not a secretary.
  • I own a comic + game shop, but people just assume I 'm humoring my geeky husband!
  • People say I only play video games because of my boyfriend but I owned over 200 games before I even met him!
  • I work at a comicbook store. Male customers tend to ignore me completely or as if there is a man around to help them.
  • Being Asian & a GEEK doesn't mean I have to like ANIME.
  • I was told I traded my cleavage for free comics.
  • I have to have a gender-neutral pen-name just to be Respected.
  • I was told I "sound smart for a girl in a pink skirt."
  • I con vendor told me that the smaller dice sets were for women to wear and show off (accessories). The regular ones were for me to, you know, play games with.
  • Here's a message for the haters, elitists and bullies / from us, the geek girls, and our friends.
  • No one gets to tell you how to be a geek.
  • If someone has to pass a test to hang out with you... / YOU'RE the problem.
  • You think I do this for your approval??? / mwa ha ha ha! / Get over yourself.
  • There are no fake geeks... / ...only real jerks.
  • Who died and made you Batman?! Wait. Was it your parents? In that case, I'm very sorry. Nevermind.
  • I don't need you to tell me how much I like anything.
  • We've both been ridiculed for our hobbies... Be supportive. We're on the same side!
  • I don't need to go to a con to be a geek. I am & I haven't.
  • Please don't let my gender turn you into an elitist. *We love the same things for the same reasons.*
  • Don't tell my daughters that Lego, Robots and Superheroes are for boys.
  • "Geek" + "Equality" equals GEEKAUALITY now!
  • I was a Geek before I saw a cult film or played a game. I don't need your approval in the end.
  • Be RESPECTFUL and I won't EAT you.
  • Staring =/= Respecting / Men are women, too!
  • I'm a geek and I'm awesome / and I don't need your permission.
  • I'm older than "your mom" and I still love MMORPG's!
  • I am a geek. Search your heart. You know it to be true.
  • I founded a camp to teach girls how to program.
  • I am a cardboard-flipping card gamer.
  • You can't take the geek from me.
  • [stick insect on girl's face] Buuugs!
  • I'm a geek!
  • I am a geek! (and I'm good at sports!)
  • I'm a geek!
  • I'm a geek.
  • I'M A GEEK!
  • I am a RPG Nerd!
  • I am a geek!
  • I'm a Geek <3
  • I'm a geek.
  • I will do anything for $5 [I'm a little confused with this one]
[the images come really fast right here, and I can't quite catch all the signs] 
  • I am a Costume Geek!
  • I cosplay for attention. LOL NOT
  • I'm Me NERD
  • I'm a Geek!
  • I'm a NERD.
  • I'm a fraking NERD!
  • I'm a cosplayer.
  • I'm a NERD
  • I am a Geek Grrl!
  • I'm a GEEK!
  • I am a GEEK!
  • I am a tabletop geek girl!
  • Browncoat Comic Book Collector Convention Panelist I'm a GEEK. Tabletop Gamer Fanfic Writer
  • I solved the cube in 36 seconds on TV 30 years ago... now I publish the card game FLUXX.
  • I just knew that one day STAR TREK could be cool. Take that EVERYONE from junior high!
  • I turned nerd watching the 90s XMen with my dad.
  • [daughter and mom, can't make out the signs completely] I am a geek girl in training. / aka a general all-purpose geek girl!
  • Trek-obsessed cosplaying grammarian librarian.
  • I got my husband into gaming.
  • I am a geek!
  • It's not easy but I'm a geek.
  • I crochet my own Elder Gods!
  • I have been playing video games for almost 28 years!
  • [can't read it]
  • When I ran a two-week line up for the first Star Wars prequel, my homeroom teacher called me an EMBARRASSMENT and said I was ruining my school's reputation.
  • My mom let me read her copy of The Jedi Academy trilogy when I was 10!
  • I was born making Vulcan hands.
  • I often contemplate the merits of a Hogwarts education.
  • I got my PhD in Electrical Engineering with a research focus in Computational Neuroscience.
  • I am a Wizard, Jedi, [?], XMan, Baker Street Irregular, Companion, Browncoat, Starfleet Officer, Dread Pirate, Walker, Wizard, GEEK.
  • Ich bin ein aussenseiter :) ["geek" in German]
  • I'm geeky enough for me.
  • I teach robotics to kids, make my own cosplays, and I work as a professional NPC at my local comic book store. (And I watch lots of geek TV shows.)
  • I was born pulling things apart & putting them back together. Now I do science on a boat. #geekforlife
  • Write fanfiction. Do cute and sexy cosplay... BE YOURSELF. Do what you want.
  • I can be a ballerina AND kill cylons!
  • When I was six my family brought me to PAX. I loved it!
  • Chem teacher told me I would never make a good SCIENTIST. I start my PhD in Biology in September.
  • I said I liked Illusion of Gaia. He asked me how many red jewels the game contained.
  • Don't worry of you haven't read, watched and played everything. With [?] time you will explore!
  • In high school and university, guys were shocked that I played video games and read sci fi/fantasy books.
  • I am a geek! YAY!
  • Geek girls are awesome and we are not going away. / Deal with it.
[roll credits]


So not only are the lyrics awesome, but those signs are fantastic. This song will definitely be going into the iPod playlist I will make for the upcoming GEEK GIRL CON coming up in October. Because I am so going this year, and OMG am I excited about it. The schedule is going to be posted (IIRC) on the 15th. Christina Blanch, who taught the amazing MOOC Gender Through Comic Books is presenting there, so I'm super-stoked for that and looking forward to meeting her. I'm a little sad that it's only a 2-day convention, because I have way more geeky clothing than I can wear in just a couple of days. :/ (On Twitter, I'd think that has to be tagged with #geekgirlproblems, dont you?) The Skirt of Awesome for sure, but how will I narrow it down? *dramatic hand to forehead*

Another guest I know will be there, for the second consecutive year, is Mike Madrid, author of The Supergirls: Fashion, feminism, fantasy and the history of comic book heroines, and the forthcoming title Divas, Dames and Daredevils: Lost heroines of Golden Age comics. I'll definitely have to take my copy of The Supergirls for him to sign.


And one more thing (actually 2) before I go play with my action figures. Jill Thompson is about to finish up her Kickstarter to make a Scary Godmother doll. It's gorgeous, and I want one desperately, and there's only a few days left, so go pledge! The other Kickstarter that I want to urge your backing of is for Charles Dowd's Lilith Dark graphic novel. He wrote Lilith Dark for his daughter, when he saw the serious dearth of comics for kids and for girls especially. This is a heroine our girls (and boys, too!) need to read about! Check out his project and see if you don't agree that it's pretty fantastic.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Diversity, or Lack Thereof

Chinese-American Jubilee
When you have a conversation about comics and action figures through a feminist lens, it also brings up topics like diversity and inclusion. If you happen to be a white male, maybe the lack of diversity in this medium hasn't really occurred to you, but if you're (for instance) a black female, you're reminded fairly often that there aren't many heroes or heroines who look like you. Quick! how many black superheroines can you name without looking them up? How many black characters, period? Or Hispanic? Or Asian? Or gay? Or disabled?

Disabled Lt. Sparks
It's a common piece of advice to writers, "write what you know," and there's not a ton of diversity in the offices of the Big Two. Mostly straight white males are writing about mostly white, majority male, predominantly straight characters. Things are changing, slowly. Gail Simone on Batgirl had Alysia Leoh confiding to Barbara that she's transgender (and bisexual) and shone a spotlight on LGBT characters. We've seen a few gay marriages in comics recently, too, with Marvel's Northstar and (surprisingly for some) in the Archie Comics town of Riverdale, to the horror of One Million [narrow-minded] Moms.

Mentally ill Aurora and her gay twin brother Northstar
Grace Gipson (one of the Black Girl Nerds) was interviewed by the Huffington Post about her research on black heroines. "I chose this research because I wanted to provide a voice from a black woman's perspective regarding comics, especially the black female characters." When She-Ra was popular, entrepreneur Yla Eason founded Olmec Toys because of her son. In 1985, there weren't action figures he could relate to as an African American boy, so she set out to make some. For all the issues involved later, she gave non-white children heroes they could aspire to be. The Bronze Bombers (AA G.I. Joes), Butterfly Woman (AA She-Ra) and Sun-Man (AA He-Man) were important, and showed that there was demand for these toys.

African American Storm
But why is all this diversity important? The world is both very big and very small. It got a lot smaller when the Internet made it possible for people all across the globe to share their passions. The days of living in a monochromatic world are gone, and even if you are a straight white dude, you have to acknowledge that there are people who are not like you, who have just as much to offer to the conversation. It's important because our children learn from us, and model our behavior -- bigoted behavior is learned. Violence against persons not like you is learned. You don't get to live in that tiny, isolated world anymore -- those days are over. And frankly, I don't get why you'd want to.

Hispanic La Lunatica

It's up to us as consumers to demand that our superheroes be as diverse a population as the world we live in. Support the writers and artists who bring us characters who are well-written and interesting, not just tokens of any given minority. Make your voice heard. They're creating this stuff for us to buy, after all.

Celebrate the similarities with your fellow human beings, and appreciate the things that make us different, too.

Relevant Links

World of Black Heroes
Black Girl Nerds
Black Action Figure
The Museum of Black Superheroes 

Prism Comics (nonprofit promoting LBGT comics and creators)

Lonely Gods: Social Minorities in American Superhero Comic Books

Ethan Lewis at Den of Geek has a series of "top 10" lists:
1/7: Characters with Disabilities
2/7: PoC/Hispanics in Comics
3/7: Non-Christians in Comics
4/7: LBGTQ Comic Characters
5/7: Women in Comics
6/7: Minorities in Comics: The Creators
7/7: Activism and Community

Native Americans in Comic Books: A Critical Study, a book by Michael Sheyahshe

International Catalogue of Superheroes (not strictly non-white characters, but worth looking at)