The Poor Representation of Women in Media Consumed by the Geek Subculture is NOT Imagined

Photo by PMaz; morguefile - public domain image.

Many self-identified geek females are justifiably outraged at the lack of fair representation of their gender in media consumed by the geek subculture. While many in the subculture proclaim to be progressive, producers of video games, books (including graphic novels), movies, TV shows, and other media are still predominately male. This creates a climate in which most of the narratives consumed by the geek audience are constructed by males.

While the male perspective and heroic journey are equally important and notable, the current presentation of story in geek media is not representative of the audience consuming it.

Are We Just Imagining That This Is a Problem?

When I bring up this topic with some friends (both male and female), I am sometimes told that I am just imagining an issue where there isn’t one. As a member of one gender, it’s impossible for me to view media from an unbiased perspective, however when you look at the number of video games featuring females in a positive role versus the amount of females who consume said media, it’s clearly not representational. Even the number of women marketing to women is grossly imbalanced.

…And then there’s the backlash Anita Sarkeesian received in response to postings on her Feminist Frequency YouTube channel when she sought Kickstarter funding for her “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” series. Someone even took the time to send a rape threat via tweet. Clearly the inequity is not imagined.

Does Consumerism Dictate Representative Equality?

“The Avengers” was undoubtedly successful at the box office – but did you know that 40% of the audience attending that movie were female? The reasons for this percentage are debatable – but the statistic is solid. While the median income in the United States for women remains lower than that of men, women’s income is still substantial – $37,791 per year (compared to men’s $49,398). This represents a significant amount of spending power, and research also suggests that the income gap is closing.

Therefore, it’s likely that companies realize the female spending potential in geek media (seems like Marvel already has) and now include women in their target demographic by presenting and marketing engaging female protagonists. Consumerism is a possible solution to a lack of fair gender representation in geek culture – but does that really change the attitudes of those on either side of the debate?

 “You’ll Catch More Flies With Honey.”

When it comes to persuasive arguments and diplomacy, some claim it’s best to simply be a good example and to use sweetness to convey a point.

However, when the very point is that women are continually overlooked, unheard, and misrepresented, just talking about it nicely or being a ‘nice woman’ isn’t necessarily the best way to communicate a clear message and initiate change. When the issue is ‘the system treats me like a doormat,’ acting like a doormat does nothing to fix the problem.

What Can We Do To Change Things?

Women and men in the geek community are far from powerless. Beyond simply speaking out on the issue, there are several things we can all do to improve the representation of females in media consumed by geeks.

  • Encourage creative and intelligent females! It isn’t easy for anyone to get a job in Hollywood or at a major comic book publisher, but with the changing landscape of consumership, women are in demand in these fields – and some companies actively recruit women to write and produce games, movies, and other media. It’s tough (especially as a young girl) when most of the writers and producers are male – not because that means they’re automatically taking something away from you, but because there are few female examples and precedents. Good writers also tend to write what they know – which means lots of male protagonists and few female ones. Encourage a talented female to pursue her creative goals to increase the representation of women in geek media. More employed female creatives means more empowered female characters.
  • Be aware of the representation of women in media. As you’re reading books or watching movies, actively think about how the women are presented or represented. Is that the kind of example you would want your mother, sister, or daughter to use as a source of inspiration? Why or why not? What is the message expressed by pieces of media your children are watching?
  • Support media that represents men and women fairly. Are you enjoying art, film, or literature that offers a fair representation of genders? Like it on Facebook. Tell people about it! Word-of-mouth representation is the most inexpensive and easy way to initiate change.

You should also consider discussing the topic. Do you agree or disagree with the points here? Take it to a Facebook post or leave your comments below. Please also feel free to recognize your favorite female geek.

 

 

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