Obviously, there is no question that women are capable of analyzing, appreciating nuance, scoping out characterization and plot. Women seek out complexities in fiction. We exercise our intellects when we approach fandom and we do it regularly in all sorts of ways. This discussion would be a good example.
But in my mind, the dismissal of the POV of a fangirl—and the fact that fanboys are seen as overly analytical nerds and girls overemotional ones—is just the surface of a deeper issue here. It’s not all about whether or not she’s connecting to something with her brain. It’s more about how women aren’t allowed to take a ‘girly’ approach to hobbies and interests without facing ridicule.*
Let’s face it, a lot of fanfiction and fanart is emotional. For every long, meta-y, brain-bending fanfic, there are fifty more stories about boning, crying, or cuddling. And that’s bad. Because, as we all know, emotions are icky and female. Kinky sex fic is bad too because women can only be a certain kind of sexual and any unorthodox bedroom behavior should be kept in the dark where it belongs. Especially if it’s a little queer, god forbid.
Anything feminine can’t be taken seriously, so if a woman wants to be treated with respect, she has to abandon emotionality and sexuality.
I don’t want to have the argument about whether or not women can intelligently engage with fiction. Fuck that. We know we can, I’m not spending any time explaining the obvious to some asshole. No, the point I want to make is this: Women can be both intelligent and enjoy things with their bodies and emotions. It doesn’t make them less worthy. A woman should be able to read a trashy romance novel without being dismissed by either misogynists or backward feminists who think women have to meet a certain gender-representation standard. A woman should be able to write the dirtiest most saccharine piece of fluff fanfiction and not be dismissed because of it. She should be able to paint a picture of Green Arrow in a corset and a ballgag one night, and a picture that expresses an opinion about corrupt capitalism the next.
Just like men, we’re allowed to be shallow sometimes. We’re allowed to indulge our id. We’re allowed to be weird and sexual and silly. To embody or defy stereotype. We’re allowed to write casually, even badly. We’re allowed to see a movie because it has cool explosions or read a comic because Dick Grayson’s butt and Black Canary’s thighs are nice to look at. Fandom is where you’re supposed to let all that shit hang out. It’s supposed to be fun. We can both laugh at ourselves and respect that people are complex enough to mix the unsophisticated with the intellectually stimulating.
And that’s why I’m completely onboard with comic book companies targeting the fangirl audience—whether that be through our brains, our hearts, or our underpants.
It’s the feminist golden rule: women are human beings. We want to be treated as such. Flaws and all.
*this is also true for men who have interests that don’t fit with male stereotype
This is very important.
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