Charlie Jane Anders (again) rounds up the two most recent clueless dissings of female genre fans. In the first, as Johanna reported, the huge, Fox-owned gaming site IGN ran a contest for a trip to Comic-Con that was originally only open to

males who are both legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and Washington D.C. and who are at least between 18-24 years of age as of July 23, 2009

Well, this spawned a bit of hue and cry. As some pointed out, this was not just a “lucky winner gets a ticket” contest but “the lucky winner gets to be IGN’s lucky guest blogger/video talent/reporter.” And so, IGN explained the contest thusly:

The eligibility requirements for this contest were determined by Columbia TriStar Marketing, the marketing team behind the District 9 film, and were passed on as a directive to IGN as Sponsor of this particular Sweepstakes running on the IGN.com site. While IGN supports gamers of all ages, genders, shapes and sizes, these guidelines were created to foster a buzz for the film among a very narrow target group that the film’s promoters felt would be extremely passionate about the film’s subject matter. Thanks for listening, we hope this provides some clarification…

…which, amazingly, calmed things down entirely, if by “calmed down” you mean “threw a can of gasoline wrapped in excelsior into the fireplace.”

Torie Atkinson at Tor.com pointed out the irony in that the movie DISTRICT 9 is about societal tensions caused by the arrival on Earth of insectoid aliens.

The tagline is:
They are not welcome
They are not accepted
They are not human
That sounds painfully familiar. Women in the gaming and comics community have been hearing this for too long.

Another takeaway is confirmation of all paranoid suspicions that if you’re a woman who likes this kind of material, you just don’t count. A poster at Tor.com suggested entering the contest disguised as a guy, a strategy adopted by women who wanted the same things men got going all the way back to Fa Mulan and Joan of Arc, so, you’ve come a long way baby!

IGN and Columbia eventually added a separate (but equal?) contest for females. It’s a shame, because when we saw the DISTRICT 9 trailer, we were really intrigued and definitely wanted to see it.

But now that we know that women over 25 aren’t the target audience, I guess I’ll save my 64¢ dollars for something that has a Prada bag in the ad.

Original-1The SECOND incident involves a recent LA Times piece called The Girls’ Guide to Comic Con 2009, which explained that there was life outside TWILIGHT, and it involves doing the laundry on Jake Gylenhaal’s abs. We’re personally a little more ambivalent about this piece — certainly we have noted many times the rigidity of Gylenhaal’s Prince of Persia abs, and we continue our tradition of senseless beefcake as a wink and nod to the tradition of senseless cheesecake embodied elsewhere. Our personal philosophy towards mot things is bets summed up as “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” The problem is the Times piece didn’t seem to acknowledge the real female fans at Comic-Con. Or as Radio Comix publisher Elin Winkler put it:

Because, you know, that’s the only reason women go to Comic-Con. It’s not to get comics, toys, art books, anime goods, trading cards, autographs, video game premiums or free geek swag from all the major producers of such. They also don’t go to the con to work booths, do the portfolio rounds, or network to find jobs in the industries. Oh, heck no. Women only go to Comic-Con if they are DRAGGED THERE by the men in their lives, DUH! But hooray! Now they can ogle hotties while they wait for their bearded compatriots to get out of the Hasbro Exclusives line, instead of having to stand there all bored and stuff.

WInkler also praised fellow comics editor Mariah Huehner’s Geek Girls: A Guide That’s Actually Helpful which does include much useful info for the practical.

While, the idea of women at Comic-con as mindless slaves to Robert Pattinson and Jake Gylenhaal is obviously one that’s problematic for the working women in the biz, Cinematical’s Elizabeth Rappe was also less incensed by the Times piece:

That’s why I don’t care that the LA Times runs a fluff piece about girls and ComicCon. At least they’re acknowledging that women exist, and might have an interest in attending, unlike IGN or Columbia’s contest. That’s a giant leap for womankind after months of sneering when we complain about superheroines or Star Trek. Plus, if I may be terribly blunt, if there’s an image geek girls could live comfortably with, it might be one that suggests we have a healthy appreciation of the opposite sex. Who knows? Maybe they’ll start hiring us Booth Beefcakes.

If some good came out of this, it’s that lots of people posted their own guides to surviving Comic-Con, including All Things Fangirl which offered useful cocktail advice:

1. Tiki Bar at the Marriott Marina. First off, ask for a Tijuana River. Hand over ten dollars. Prepare to be drunk for the rest of the day. Best investment you can make at Comic Con. Second, be prepared to calmly observe and possibly interact with various genial, relaxed, also-drinking guests of the Con such as the talented, accomplished, and polite Ron Perlman or that dude Kevin from Attack of the Show, who is awesome to tiki with. But I’m serious about that Tijuana River, it’ll mess you up but quick. My first experience with it culminated in me falling asleep on the table at dinner, but right before that, when passing comic book legend Stan Lee in the lobby, moved me to greet the most honored creator of Marvel comics with: “Lookin’ good, Hef.”

In summary: it is good to know we are not alone in feeling that Hollywood, comics and other big media empires are going out of their way to dismiss the Femmenerd audience. Is it because we really are insignificant? Or is it because, for some boys, knowing girls like the same nerdy things they do gives them cooties?

Reading the comments at other message boards we were somewhat c omforted to see that other blogs have the same kind of partizan fighting that The Beat does. But the lack of empathy between those saying “I’s just marketing!” and those saying “It’s just sexist marketing!” remains puzzling.


  1. I think it’s like the unintentionally outdated civilian clothes in so many comics – some people honestly have trouble processing that current reality might be different from what they imagined things were like as a kid. Clearly fandom is your middle school lunch table writ large!

  2. Yeah, the L.A. Times thing was more sort of lame than anything else. Boiling down female attendees to groupies seems problematic…but it’s the Times. I don’t exactly go to them for non-fluff. But at least now lots of folks are posting their tips for con-going, which is a dialog that’s always useful.

    As for District 9…so disappointed in the IGN thing. We’ve had that cyclical conversation here before, but, I get really tired of the idea that women as some monolithic hive mind don’t like Sci-Fi. It’s just flat out not true…and we definitely don’t appreciate it when we’re actively told “no girls allowed”.

  3. All this stuff is just so much crap. I’ve been reading comics AND science fiction since I was about 5 or 6 years old, which means I’ve been hearing the same crap for almost 50 years. I’m so frelling tired of it. Really.

  4. There will never, I say never, be full parity between male nerds and female nerds until the girl nerds are also regularly accused of living in their parents’ basements and not showering enough.

  5. This sort of gender targeted media bias is not exclusive to sci-fi or geekdom or women. Look at young adult fiction. 90% of the new young adult fiction these days is marketed to pre-teen girls. The conventional wisdoms says that young boys don’t like to read. So publishers don’t spend resources trying to build that market. With a limited marketing budget publishers will always go to the group with the most money.

    Give your money to the marketers that address your needs and withold it from those who don’t. Eventually they’ll get the message. But money is the only thing that speaks to them, angry blog posts about their campaign only count as a “consumer impression” to them and that counts as a plus in their book.

  6. I think it’s a good thing, especially considering how many companies and publications have fallen by the wayside since FEMFORCE first came out.

    Trina said nice things about the book somewhere.

  7. I’m tired of this crap too, tired of being considered a ‘bonus market’ that it’s great to capture some of, but certainly requiring no respect. Women are used to taking what scraps we can find while men can always flee to a different choice out of many should any of them offend one iota of the hyper-masculine image they have been fed for so many years.

  8. Looks like their narrow targeting for District 9 will be self fulfilling ’cause I’m not seeing it now.

    (And the concept is ripped off from Alienation, nyah)

  9. I hadn’t heard about the IGN/District-9 contest. What the hell. This kind of crap drives me absolutely crazy, because of all the industries and art forms in the world that you’d maybe expect to not treat women like they should be out shopping or bare foot in the kitchen, it would be the ones that gave us Buffy, Starship Troopers, freakin’ Wonder Woman….

    Ufff, disappointed.