“To me being a feminist is about treating men and women the same. I regard men and women as all human — yes there are differences, but many of those differences are created by the culture that we live in, whether it’s the medieval culture of Westeros, or 21st century western culture.”
-George RR Martin
First off, thanks for all the lovely compliments! Second off, sorry it took me a few days to get to this. It is kind of a loaded question, and I wanted to answer it when I had plenty of time.
Feminism in a nutshell: A tool in which women will attain equal rights and treatment as men.
I think feminism in nerd culture specifically is really interesting. With more and more women becoming involved in things like comics, video games, sci-fi, etc we are seeing more and more people call these types of arts on their shit (see Escher Girls).
For decades men were almost exclusively the purveyors AND consumers of comics and video games, so they just naturally became “Old Boy’s Clubs”. Since the comics and video game industries were only interested in selling to young men (why would women want to play video games or read comic books?), men (white men specifically) would be the main character, and women would be the damsel in distress, the personality free love interest or the sex-pot femme fatale. Now don’t get me wrong (and this should go without saying), but I love a lot of this old-school media, and I’m not saying there isn’t a place for any of these tropes (personality free love interest aside.) However when these tropes are the primary ways women are represented there is a huge problem. As women journey into these forms of media, it just makes sense that we are going to notice a prevalent lack of lack of diversity in the ways we are seen.
I remember as a child in the 80s realizing very early on that I wasn’t very well represented in the cartoons, comics and video games I loved. When I played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the kids in my neighborhood they always tried to make me be April O’Neil. I wanted to be Donatello, he was the smart one who wore purple, which made him the best in my opinion. I blame my grown up obsession with Batman on the fact that he had some of the only awesome female baddies in the TV shows I was exposed to. The X-Men cartoon, The Original Power Rangers, and more began to show female heroes to young girls like me, but go to the store and try to find a Pink Power Ranger or Storm action figure and you’ll have little luck as they usually only put one in any given lot of 50. Things are definitely better now than they were during my childhood, but just saying, “things are a lot better, let’s call it a day,” does a disservice to the people who fought to make things better. There is still a long way to go, and I think we will get there as long as we all realistically and thoughtfully explore these controversial topics.
SO - I think it is fantastic that more women are in Geek Culture than ever before. They are beginning to break through the glass ceiling to writing and drawing comics, and being parts of videogame teams. Just the fact that we are more involved than ever before forces some difficult questions to be answered. Why aren’t there more female protagonists? Why are the ones that exist only to be eye candy for men? There are plenty of exceptions to these rules and I am sure as we go forward there will be many more, but these are legitimate questions and if we ignore them things will never get better.
Also - I may give bronies some shit, but it is nice to see that a “girl exclusive” show could garner such a following from guys. It shows that the classic movie rule that men won’t watch a film with a female protagonist could be in the past very soon.
OK - Let’s tackle the next question. What makes a strong female character? When it comes down to it, we are just human. I think a show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (while questionable when it comes to their lack of POC) had an interesting assortment of female characters and there inlies why it resonated so strongly with girls. There is no “right” way to create a strong female character other than giving her a defined personality. I mean even as a feminist I truly believe that if it is your dream to be a housewife (or househusband for that mater), and both you and your partner are fine with that and still see each other as equals then go for it.
The Mass Effect series is another piece of media that has a wide assortment of female characters with different personalities. I thought it was actually pretty interesting that in Mass Effect 3 if you have a FemShep and you saved Ashley you would have four female party members to two men. What I am getting at here is to make sure that all of your female characters have individual motivations, and that you consider how they present themselves to the outside world vs how they actually are in their hearts. If you think about all of these parts you will be sure to have a interesting, complicated and hopefully realistic character whether they are male or female.