Now that this semester of grad school has ended, I finally have time to write a post! It just so happens to be our last post before our holiday break, too, which tells you a bit about the craziness of my schedule…. You see, I’m a PhD student studying Learning Sciences, which is all about researching how people learn and how we can use those findings to reform the educational system. Trying to balance my online fandom life with my grad school life has been an ongoing struggle, but surprisingly, one of the things I’ve learned in my program is that many researchers in and around this field study the educational implications of fandom. Well, now I’m here to cross over between my offline and online life by sharing some of that work with you, as well as some findings from my own research!
It may come as no surprise to you that fans learn a great deal from engaging in fandom, whether they’re writing fanfics, composing meta, creating fanart, making cosplays, or heck, even writing essays from a critical lens like on this blog! But fandom still tends to be viewed dismissively by mainstream culture, and even we fans sometimes devalue our engagement as a mere “hobby”. Modern learning theorists now acknowledge the importance of learning outside of school, and are calling for in-school learning to be more like the interest- and peer-driven realm of outside-of-school learning, including hobbies like fandom. There are so many ways that fan engagement is related to the kinds of subjects people learn in school and to skills that are generally useful in life. And better yet, it’s in a context that people really care about, rather than the decontextualized content conventionally presented in schools, which can seem random and unconnected to students’ lives.
So, this fandom thing you’re doing right now? It’s totally legitimate, important, and socially responsible. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
As summer winds down into the cool months of autumn, convention season is also slowing down. There are still some big events left to be sure, but the winter months are often considered a rest period. People will use this time to save some money, focus on school or work, and prepare for the next season of conventions; early year events typically have an outpouring of well-made and creative costumes. However, in this storm of preparing, we must remember that we’re attending these events with other human beings and their desire to have a good time is equally as valid as ours. In the meantime, here are some general tipsthat will help make sure that you, your friends, and strangers will have the best time possible.
Within the geek community, there are few subcultures that catch more shade than furries. If you’ve been to an anime or comic convention you’ve probably encountered a few of them; some are immediately identifiable by elaborate anthropomorphic animal suits, and in some cases they simply sport some animal features like ears and tails. There are also many members of this community who are fans of the aesthetic but don’t actively participate in the costuming aspect. I’m not a furry myself, and don’t have any authority to really analyze the community, but in the past I have engaged in some active furry-derision, and I’ve been challenging myself about why. What led me—and apparently so many others—to choose furries as a subculture scapegoat (no pun intended)? What inclines a community made up largely of outsiders to exclude another subgroup? Well, I don’t know for sure, but I have some theories.
Halloween is right around the corner, so it’s that time of year again where we need to have a discussion about what is or isn’t appropriate to use as a costume. As with cosplay, costumes are a way to have fun and express yourself. However, some lines shouldn’t be crossed. This is not a post discouraging people from doing “sexy” costumes; I’m not one to slut-shame. No, I want to have a discussion about offensive costumes.
This has been a hot topic in the cosplay community recently. I’m sure many of you have seen the now (in)famous picture of a white cosplayer doing a version of Garnet from Steven Universe in which she employed brownface to get a desired “more accurate” version of the Crystal Gem. Although this makes me and others fairly uncomfortable (as did the ensuing non-apology), I’m not here to start a dogpile on someone—different cultures have different understandings of race relations. I’m much more invested in discussing why the action, not the person, is racist and problematic.
I’ve been getting into cosplay more and more recently. I love dressing up, whether it be costumes or formal wear. For me, this is a large portion of going to conventions. It is also why I’m so partial to Halloween and weddings. Having interesting costumes is a lot of fun, and brings a sense of accomplishment when you can create something that looks how you want it to—whether it being creating garments and props from scratch or simply piecing together an ensemble that feels just right. But frequently, people will ask: “why do you like cosplaying?” I’d like to discuss that for a bit.
As our longtime readers well know, I spend pretty much all of my time either cosplaying, working on cosplay, or earning money for future cosplay. And although I have had plenty of experience being the victim of sexism while cosplaying, as a thin person, I have the privilege of not being shamed for my weight when I dress up. The same is not true for heavier cosplayers, who are often mocked or shamed for daring to commit the crime of having fun while fat. That’s where this week’s web crush comes in. Chubby Cosplay is a fan-run blog that celebrates cosplayers of diverse body types. Continue reading →
On a rare break from work this past weekend, my excellent beard and I made the trip down to Baltimore, MD for Otakon: the second-largest anime convention in the US with over 32,000 attendees. While I was there having fun and sweating it out in my Oberyn Martell cosplay (gratuitously pictured), I intended to pop in on some feminist and/or diversity panels and happily report on the status of social progress in the geek community, but after reviewing the schedule for the weekend, I found virtually no programming that could fit into either of those categories. This would not have surprised me five or six years ago, but with other conventions and fan events putting marked effort into accepting and celebrating marginalized fans, it was surprising and slightly disheartening to realize that Otakon offered virtually nothing that I could consider relevant to this blog. Anime has many praiseworthy tropes, especially magical girls, as well as more than its fair share of problems with representation, but for whatever reason, neither positive nor negative commentary was brought to bear at Otakon.
Here at Lady Geek Girl and Friends, most of our posts focus on geeky media. We hardly ever broach the techie side of geekdom. But it deserves to be talked about, because women and POC are still massively underrepresented in technological fields. When we think of techie geeks like hackers, tinkerers, and makers, we still think mainly of white men.
There are many reasons for this, but one that I’ve personally heard girls tell me is that they just aren’t that interested in technology careers. Most girls in our culture simply aren’t raised to like the hard edges and so-called ugliness of the “guts” that make up the insides of our devices. So how can we get more girls interested in technology? One way is to meet them where they are, with things they’ve already been socialized to like, in order to show that there is more than one “right” way to approach technology.
Enter today’s Web Crush: The Laser Girls. They 3D print acrylic and metal fingernails. Yeah, you read that right.
There’s a high price tag on being a woman in our society. And I don’t mean financially, although cis and trans women both can easily spend thousands of dollars trying to meet the minimum social requirements of femininity—tampons, makeup, clothes for passing as female, gynecologist appointments, hormone treatments, as well as pepper spray and self defense classes, add up to a pretty penny. I mean the fact that women’s bodies are considered public property. In both fictional media and real life, women must be beautiful before they can be anything else, and we are at fault for not upholding those standards of beauty to an impossibly precise degree.
An oft-cited real world example is the difference between the media receptions of Lance Armstrong losing a testicle to cancer and Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy—while the former was treated as a sad but necessary loss for Armstrong in his struggle with cancer, the latter was met with significant outrage. Didn’t Jolie know she was a sex symbol? By having her breasts removed for the important and personal reason of cancer prevention, didn’t she know that she was selfishly depriving horny guys around the world the ability to jerk off to them?
This entitlement leads men to treat women as sexual objects first and people second, and this mentality is pervasive in our culture, including geek culture.
Cosplaying is a wonderful pastime. You can be creative and really be whoever you want to be: restrictions such as age, gender, and body type don’t have to exist! That said, there are still the occasional fans that insist people shouldn’t cosplay outside of their “demographic”, that is, dressing as characters of another race, gender, or body type. In my personal experience, this has often come up with race, being Black but cosplaying characters that aren’t. Luckily, Cosplaying While Black is one blog that has set out to showcase Black costumersand to make cosplayers of color feel at home. I’d say it works!