Breaking NYT News: Women cannot be geeks!

15 Apr

Okay, I’m a bit late to the ranting party, and there have already been many excellent blog posts about Ginia Bellafante’s New York Times review” of HBO’s production of Game of Thrones. My good friend Kristen McHugh said several things better than I could on her Tumblr, and GeekGirlDiva is aggregating related posts on her blog. Go check some of them out.

My main purpose in posting here is twofold:

1) To add my “geek girl” voice to the chorus of irritation, because of the whole “power in numbers” thing (or perhaps I should phrase it “attention in numbers” – one angered geek will not be noticed by the NYT; hundreds of us…maybe).

2) Although I wrote a letter to the NYT editor, I don’t expect they’ll publish it. I ran long. I mostly wrote it just to add to the pile of people saying, “What you published was not acceptable to us.” So since I expect this not to appear in the paper, I thought I’d share it here.

As an aside, I completely fail to understand the near-universal dismissal of female geek audiences. I was re-watching Firefly or Serenity the other night, I forget which, and the DVD had a featurette about the show and its cancellation. One of the blokes involved with the show said that Fox was disappointed that the show was performing better than expected with the female demographic and worse than expected with the males.  First of all, why does the gender breakdown matter, as long as someone is watching the show? Secondly, did those Fox executives not get the memo that these days it’s women who make the majority of purchasing decisions for their households? That it’s our dollars your advertisers should be trying to attract? And therefore, if more women are watching a sci-fi show (because – *gasp* – we actually do watch sci-fi!) your advertisements are being put before the eyes of the people who decide whether or not the household will spend money on your product!

I saw the same bemusement at the first con I attended, which was thrown by the producers of Highlander: The Series. The producers were completely clueless about their audience! They were reportedly amazed that the number of female con attendees was so large (I believe more than half of the whole) and that one of their “guest stars” (Peter Wingfield, who played Methos) got a wilder, noisier, more enthusiastic reception than their “star”, Adrian Paul. Yeah, guess what: women watch your show! And while the Methos fans generally did think Wingfield is physically attractive, that’s not why we were fans of his. Methos was a compelling, enigmatic character that interested us more than the “boy scout” Duncan MacLeod was. AND we liked the swords and fights as much as the guys in the audience. Imagine that. *ahem* …but all that is a rant for another time.

Back to the topic at hand, this is the letter I sent to the New York Times editors (with one hyperlink added solely for this blog post):

With all due respect, Ms. Bellafante needs to expand her social circle and meet a wider variety of women, because neither I nor most of the women I know fit into her world view. Among her many claims about what all women do and don’t like, she states that no woman in a book club would vote for Tolkien over Lorrie Moore. First of all, who is Lorrie Moore? No, seriously; I’ve never heard that name. Nor have I ever seen a single episode of Sex and the City. Secondly, I was part of a sci-fi/fantasy book club that was a bit over 50% women. No, The Hobbit wasn’t read in the club; we’d all already read it – I read it when I was about 11.

I’m now 32, and I’ll admit the furor over Ms. Bellafante’s content-less “review” of Game of Thrones is the first I’ve heard of the HBO adaptation, the book, or its author. However, I am an avid fan of Doctor Who, Joss Whedon’s Firefly, Katharine Kerr‘s high fantasy book series set in Deverry (which has several fictional words, its own pronunciation guide for those, and a cheat sheet to help the reader keep track of each character’s many reincarnations), Star Trek, and too many other sci-fi/fantasy worlds to name. As I type, I’m in the process of hunting down pieces for a costume for Minneapolis’s sci-fi/fantasy convention CONvergence this summer (http://www.convergence-con.org).

I realize this has exceeded the word count for publishable Letters to the Editor, but I wasn’t really aiming to get published. I just wanted to add my voice to the multitude of “geek girls” who have a simple message for Ms. Bellafante: We do indeed exist, and we are not amused.

2 Responses to “Breaking NYT News: Women cannot be geeks!”

  1. wowafr 27 July 2013 at 08:28 #

    I didn’t see this particular review, but the dismissal of female geekery is such an old and tired refrain that I’m not surprised to hear about it.

    There’s a reason why I have a lot of female characters in my World of Warcraft comic: because I know for a fact that there are huge numbers of women who play the game and they deserve to have their fandom acknowledged. It’s what I can do to help tell the world that geekdom is for everyone.

    • ButMadNNW 27 July 2013 at 13:09 #

      I can’t really recall ever having my geekdom questioned; not sure what that says about….anything.

      And I love your female characters! :-)

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