Every time I walk into a comic book shop, my mind solely focuses on one goal: to grab and get the newest issue of Marvel’s Young Avengers. Ever since I could remember, I loved that lesser known teenage superhero team of Marvel’s — more than I love the actual Avengers! My bookshelves were lined with their comic’s issues, tracing the Young Avenger’s story from hopeful children wanting to make a difference to fully fledged heroes of the Marvel universe.
While it seems simple enough to go into the comic book store, I prepare to make my entrance as if I’m preparing for my SATs or as if I’m walking into a battlefield. I review the entire history of all Marvel superheroes as if I need to prove my membership to the Marvel fan club before I’m allowed to buy anything. I prepare to have a back and forth with the cashier as if I need to explain my presence in the comic shop. But most importantly, I force my brother to come and ask him to walk in front of me as if he was my mask or disguise. As if he was excuse enough as to why I’m here, looking through comics.
Let me make one thing clear: my brother doesn’t care for Marvel, superheroes or anything comic book related, period. Yet I feel that he’s more qualified to be walking into the store than me — the girl in a pink skirt who has her hair in delicate braids. The one with an actual reason for being there.
And to be honest…I had no one to blame but years of society telling me that Disney princesses are for girls and Marvel superheroes are for boys. Yet I have come far enough in my life to stop, question, and ask: Why can’t I like both? Why can’t I love the gritty, action-packed films geared towards boys? Why can’t my brother like sweeping fairy tale romances? (And trust me, he does love his share of The Notebook-esque romances.)
I believe the reason as to why I supposedly can’t is because of the gatekeeping culture fandom spaces seem to be doing these days. In these spaces that are supposed to be open to fun and expression, there is a hierarchy established. Older fans have the right to look down on newbies, and girls are only faking their geeky interests in order to get the attention of boys (which is almost never the case for so many fangirls!).
This gatekeeping culture can be seen in an interaction Gail Simone had on Twitter. Gail Simone is a comic-book writer who has worked on big titles such as Deadpool, Justice League, and Wolverine. However, when making a comment about how Netflix’s The Punisher could entice more of its female audience by smiling more, one man tried to ‘mansplain’ how that would be out of character for the Punisher, claiming she clearly knew very little about his backstory. This man did not know of Simone’s credentials — let alone the fact she wrote Marvel’s Agent X comics, which includes– you guessed it– the Punisher himself. Fortunately, this story ends well with said man apologizing for his ignorance and assuming that Simone didn’t know any better because she was a girl who read only ‘female-centric’ comic books.
Despite this, I believe that women are allowing themselves to be seen in these franchises or spaces supposedly targeted for men. With the success of Wonder Woman and the hype for Captain Marvel, I hope that more little girls out there can see that they too can kick butt and take names. Even when they wear their pink skirts and delicate braids.
Lately, I’ve been telling myself to feel less like a fraud waiting to be called out when I enter the comic book shop. This is who I am — I like superheroes and being as feminine as I possibly can. I do not hide behind my brother anymore; I let him wander to any part of the store he wants. I grab, get, and pay for my newest issue of the Young Avengers. The cashier does not harass me to prove my Marvel fan club membership.
I am a valid fangirl.
I am me.