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~Discuss: Women in Fan Spaces~

Thank you all for the amazing discussion yesterday!

We can still keep that one going, but it's time to open a new thread: the treatment of women in fan spaces. We had a discussion last week about conventions, and the social reasons male fans are so possessive of the fandoms they're in. There's also been a really interesting conversation emerging on this card about racebent cosplay, and whether or not conventions and other fan spaces have been made unsafe for nonwhite fans, and it seems like this concern applies very much to this conversation! Some things to consider:
What kinds of boundaries are necessary for a space that's safe for everyone? How has sexual harassment changed the culture of fan spaces? What is lost when we exclude certain kinds of fans? Is anything gained? Have you ever felt like you didn't belong in a fan space?

Leave your replies to the prompt below!

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I've never dressed up at these events either so I'm not sure. I mean if your comfertable with yourself do it! I wouldn't really care what others say. The one anime convention I went to there was a black inuyasha and people got mad but he didn't care. He enjoys the show not what people think.
I don't have much to offer this discussion except that harassment of all kinds is wrong and shouldn't happen. However, I don't believe people should walk on eggshells and always have to worry about what they say. In the same breath, watch what you say to the point of don't say anything where you intended offense. If someone says something that you find offensive, be an adult and don't assume they meant to, and politely tell them. If someone corrects you and, be an adult and apologize and then don't say that kind of stuff around them again.
Oh this is a fun subject... LOL. Not really - and I say that because there are so many contradictory messages sent out in our society. Women are presented as sexual objects - in some cases it's more like hypersexual. @shannonl5 - you or someone else recently wrote about the lack of character development for females - that they are often more like a prop or a plot device - but not a character with depth and real purpose in the story. And this is so true. Yet look at how women are drawn in comics, in animation, presented in movies. Women are told through marketing and advertising that their happiness and any fulfillment in life comes from being the better dressed objectified "ideal" of what a man would prefer. From the design of the toys you are given as children to the commercialization of everything to do with BEING female, women are force-fed this BS about what it means to be a woman and what makes a woman desirable, etc... in our society. My background in business - where I cut my teeth - the place that really cemented my sense of purpose and direction as a professional - was (gasp) Corporate America. I worked for the 5th largest media company in the USA. Before that I worked for two of the largest private hospital systems in the USA. It's not a joke that as an employee of a huge corporation you are a number. You're absolutely that. Your number is either red or black... you either produce or you are an expense. And I can go into that later... it's another whole big can of nasty worms on it's own. What I do credit Corporate America for is the amazing concept of "liability management" and "risk assessment". See depending on the laws of the State where you live and work, you have a wide variety of rights. Some States are more sensitive to those rights than others. The last thing a large, profit-driven company wants are situations where their brand and image is tarnished - and situations that cost them operating efficiency and therefore profit. This means - and I am dead serious about this - that the really BIG companies I've worked for in the past have a ZERO tolerance for sexual misconduct of ANY kind. From inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to inappropriate touch - honestly - looking at anyone - same sex or opposite - in the company cafeteria and winking and licking your lips can get you fired. Sexual harassment still happens - but mostly in the form of what is called "The Glass Ceiling" - where qualified female candidates are passed over for promotions, etc... because of the "boy's club" mentality that some middle and upper management males subscribe to. So here's the problem as I see it. It's wrong to make anyone feel uncomfortable or bad because of their sexuality (gender, orientation, etc...). It's wrong to project your beliefs onto another person (political, social, religious, etc...). And it's one of the most disgusting things anyone can engage in to deliberately be hateful or negative to anyone else just because they can. People who choose to rain on other people's parades because they get some sick sense of accomplishment or they feel empowered are truly lost souls and they should be pitied. There is another very real issue with social skills, confidence, maturity, and self-control where I have witnessed fan populations acting inappropriately with one-another. Truly, fan art is about celebrating the things about whatever you are being a fan of - through your own sense of individual expression. In a way it's between YOU and the characters or stories or whatever that you love. Sharing it with other like-minded fans is simply a way to grow the enthusiasm for what you see as the part(s) of what being a fan of (whatever) - that makes you happy and a fan to begin with. Respect for another person's creativity. Respect for another person's enthusiasm, or knowledge of the subject at hand, etc... means just that... giving respect. I think there's a mentality with some of the fan populations (males) that is born from a lack of socialization. Another issue is the characters themselves. I've never been a "she was asking for it" sort of person. No is no. And just because someone dresses in a way that may be revealing or provocative doesn't mean that they are ok with being touched or treated in a disrespectful way. There is ZERO justification for ANYONE acting in a disrespectful manner to ANYONE else (honestly in regular society or in the fandom of this or that). That being said I thing sometimes immature guys try to justify their behavior - being sexually aggressive towards cosplay participants - as "the character you dressed up as is sexually promiscuous or is a "vixen" or whatever" - and the sad thing is that many of the female characters - a majority of them - that cosplayers are fond of are females who were drawn or presented in a way that goes along with what I said in the beginning of this comment - they have been treated as sexual objects. What's messed up is that just as someone like Robert Downey, Jr. - is in real life NOT Tony Stark and it's really not cool to walk up to him and disregard him as a person and a talented actor who has far more depth than any single character he's played... female cosplayers and female members of this or that fan population ARE NOT the characters they dress up as or that they show appreciation of. Lastly - here's the funny thing that years of "sensitivity training" will teach you. Do you know when you say inappropriate things? The truth is that most people when asked sincerely do not identify themselves as sexist, racist, etc... but when asked questions that relate to sensitive subjects such as race or sexuality, respond in a way that is indeed insensitive and therefore racist, sexist... etc... I grew up in the deep South. Racism is VERY much alive and well and it's so ingrained into Southern culture that the majority of racist people I've come across aren't aware that they are horribly racist. Here's the simple fact about any "ism"... racism, sexism, nationalism, etc... If you use an "identifier" in any of your statements to describe differences between any two people (yourself and someone else - two other people - etc...) you are engaging in bad behavior. Think about this. If I said, "Man, my best friend Mark growing up - he and I used to talk about breaking out of the South and getting away from all the BS small minded people there." - what does this say about Mark? He and I were best friends and we shared the same dreams of the future and the same frustrations with the overall culture of where we were growing up. If I said, "Man, my best friend Mark growing up - he's a black dude - he and I used to talk about..." I said he was my best friend. I said he and I shared the same feelings. But I also had to point out that he was black when in fact the color of his skin had NOTHING to do with what I was sharing. That was racist. It's that simple. Morgan Freeman - the famous actor - once said - and I don't have the exact quote but the gist of it is - until he and the man who was interviewing him could just look at one another and see each other as "men" - not white men or black men, etc... there will always be racism. And I think it's a brilliant point that you can also apply to any commentary on gender. Shannon is a wonderful person. It's my personal opinion. I like Shannon. If I had said "Shannon is a wonderful girl"... Right there I'm bringing attention to her gender - where regardless of her gender being a wonderful person in someone else's eyes doesn't denote anything about their gender. In terms of if someone is a good person - a person you admire, or like, or appreciate, or trust... what does any identifier that denotes a difference matter? It's what I call a "backhanded compliment" - to say something nice about someone else and then add a qualifier that draws a separation between them and you or anyone else - it's not nice at all. How about we all try to NOT look at each other in terms of ANYTHING other than how we treat one-another. Because sincerely that's all that matters... am I right? It doesn't matter what anyone looks like - what country they are from - their gender - sexual orientation - political beliefs - religious beliefs - etc... All that matters is are they nice? Can you relate and respect what they contribute here? Nice people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors... as do evil people. The wrapping paper doesn't matter - it's what's inside the package that counts.
once again this is a huge problem in most fan spaces. and unfortunately I think that its an issue that the venues have to take responsibility for. they should make it clear that there is 0 tolerance for sexual harassment or any other type of harassment.any one found guilty of sexual harassment or any other type of insulting behavior should be restricted from attending the events permanently or on a temporary bases.I think that that is the only way you can really solve this problem.I've said it before,I really believe that these fans are being enabled because they are paying customers, and this has to stop. these women are true fans and are paying to attend these events as well.they don't deserve to be groped and discriminated against. the sign says it all really.just because these women are wearing these costumes doesn't mean that they want to be stared at and inappropriately talked to and touched.
@RobertMarsh @JonPatrickHyde @ChosenKnight thank you all for your responses! I think you all brought up some really important points. The emphasis you all placed on respect is a really important element that I think is often missing from these conversations. I think what you said @ Robert about apologizing when you've done something hurtful- it doesn't matter if it was your intention- is an important thing to point out. There is a prevailing message in our culture (like you said @ Jon it's *everywhere*) that certain kinds of behavior are ok, but that's no excuse. If anything, it means we need to be more self-aware. Not censoring ourselves necessarily, but considering why we might need to. Am I keeping this to myself because I don't want to get yelled at? Why do I think I'll get yelled at for it? Is this more insensitive or hurtful than I realize? What you were saying about those internalized types of racism and sexism really resonated with me because I feel like I had a similar experience, and honestly it's still something I'm working on. But the unfortunate reality is that we all HAVE to work on it. We can't just *say* that we're not sexist or racist or whatever -ist we're talking about. We have to put honest work into dismantling the things that we've learned that are racist and sexist. People are capable of saying sexist things without *being* sexist, but how we react when we realize that's what we've done determines who we are. @ Chosen I think you're definitely on to something about the con policies. Like @ Jon was saying having a zero tolerance policy when it comes to harassment of any kind and directed at anyone seems like the best solution. That kind of overt behavior is frowned upon for very good reasons- it creates a toxic and dangerous environment for us all.