I’ve been called a lot of names over the years. Geek. Nerd. Loser. Weirdo. For the most part, I don’t mind. As my father would say, it’s water off a duck’s back. Yes, I like what I like and I don’t care if anyone else likes it with me.
When I do get upset as a result of name-calling, it’s when it comes from ‘my people.’ What do I mean by that? I like video games, but have been referred to (meanly) as a ‘casual gamer’. I love science fiction and have been told that I am only pretending to enjoy the genre and/or specific fandoms within it. I attend science fiction conventions, but I don’t participate in cosplay – which again, apparently means that I am some kind of dirty poseur.
I do understand a certain amount of possessiveness over the things you love. No one wants a hater to come into their space and make fun of them or the thing(s) they love. Once, I had invited some friends round to have a Star Wars marathon (as you do), and one of them wanted to bring someone who had never seen Star Wars before. When I finally got over the state of shock (‘What do you mean they’ve never seen Star Wars before?!’), it stressed me out. The idea of sharing something I’ve held so dear for so long with someone who might not like it – well, frankly, the idea terrified me.
No one should be attacked for admitting they like something. What would be the point of saying you like something that you don’t? What’s wrong with enjoying video games without being a hardcore gamer? What’s wrong with being a female Star Trek fan? Absolutely nothing! So why not try thinking about us as people who (legitimately) happen to enjoy some of the same things as you, even if we might not participate it in it with quite the same ferocity.
In defense of the casual gamer
What is a casual gamer? A distinction needs to be made between someone who likes to play ‘casual games’ and a ‘casual gamer’. Casual games don’t require any great commitment from the players and tend to be very quick to learn and easy to play, such as Candy Crush, Angry Birds, or Wii Sports. A casual gamer is someone who enjoys video games, be they casual or hardcore games, but their consumption of those games is at a more casual pace (than a hardcore gamer). This might mean that they wait months (or years) after a game is released before picking it up or that they play only a few hours here or there.
I am a casual gamer. I enjoy games. I like to go back and play games from my childhood (Age of Empires, Duke Nukem, Shadows of the Empire, etc), newer games (or at least new to me), and even World of Warcraft (yes, I’m a casual MMORPG player). Why should I be ashamed of this? Why is it any less valid than being a hardcore gamer that races through a game from beginning to end in a weekend of gaming debauchery?
Supposedly it is the casual gamer market that drives games up into the bestseller list, therefore providing this intangible group with a lot of power when it comes to the marketing and production of certain games. I’m not sure how true that is, to be honest. Maybe when it comes to casual games, but hardcore games? I rely very heavily on the reviews from hardcore gaming friends and online reviewers to suggest great games. Those that gamers go back and play year after year; they are the ones that really tend to grab my attention. So yes, maybe I will pick up a game that is years old, and that’s ok.
Given the amount of hate gamers get from non-gamers, all gamers of any kind, should stick together.
What it’s like to be a femfan
What is a femfan, you ask? According to Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, a femfan is, very simply, a female fan of science fiction. While this is very specific to SF, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to use ‘femfan’ to mean a female fan of anything remotely geeky – science fiction, video games, comic books, fantasy, anime, etc.
I am a female and I am a fan of science fiction – I have been for years. I was brought up on the stuff. I can talk your ear off about various scifi fandoms – from books, TV, and film. And yet, people still insinuate that I’m not actually a science fiction fan (it has happened to me at cons before, much like it did to Annalee Newitz). In point of fact, I’ve even had people comment on this website after writing science fiction related articles that I’m clearly pretending to like scifi. Please explain to me the logic behind that. Why would I pretend? Does it offend you that a woman likes science fiction? Or are you simply distrustful of my gender generally speaking? Even Craig Charles (of Red Dwarf fame) once said to me and my convention-buddy that we were good-looking ‘for convention girls’. What does that mean? The whole thing infuriates me.
And then you have the issue of most of the big heroes being male. What’s wrong with throwing some estrogen in then? Sure, I understand that historically speaking scifi was written by men, but that isn’t always the case. I’m currently going through a LeGuin and Jo Walton phase right now, two brilliant, award-winning SFF writers. Why does everyone love Joss Whedon – male or female – because he writes great characters of BOTH genders. Who would have thought?!
Another stereotype I hate is that when people meet me and discover this SFF interest of mine, they say things like ‘You must be a nerd’s wet dream’. Is that supposed to be a complement? According to these masses, finding a man should have been easy for me. Well, I tested out this theory. I used to ‘hang around’ in the science fiction and fantasy sections of my local video and book stores in the hope that I could strike up a conversation with a like-minded individual (this was in the days before there were conventions in Australia). Alas, while I was there, no one else would come by. And if they did, eye contact was not going to be accomplished easily.
If all that wasn’t enough, if you actually do manage to convince someone that you like a particular SFF fandom, do you know what a common response is? ‘Oh, you just like it cause you think … is hot.’ Yep, according to many, the only reason I could possibly like these TV series or films is because I fancy one of the actors. Please, someone explain to me how that works for something like Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am under the impression that some women liked ol’ William Riker, but he never did anything for me. And while Patrick Stewart is an absolute bloody legend, he never really got my loins burning.
Also, how about making some good fan t-shirts in WOMEN’S cuts! The selection for women is always abysmal. I don’t think I’m asking for too much…
Next time you meet someone who says they like SFF, take it at face value. If you don’t share their interests, that’s cool, but don’t tease them for what they like. It doesn’t matter what age, gender, race, body type, hair colour, number of limbs, costumes, etc they are/have, if they say they are a fan, I’d bet you they are. So let’s be friends ok? Respect your fellow fans, whether or not you would have guessed they shared your interests at first glance.