The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Women are constantly being considered less than men and have the need to fight for space to express themselves. And perhaps even worse than most spaces, in the geek community, they are constantly questioned and pushed aside. Of course, why wouldn’t they, since comic books and superhero movies are only meant for boys to consume?
Since childhood, girls are often gifted with dolls and kitchen sets, but rarely with comic books or action figures whose purpose is to save the world. Truth is those companies never really focused on the female public and always sought to show powerful and manly characters on their pages.
But they are not the only ones responsible for it. The geek community itself excludes women, both in real life and in fantastic stories. When Marvel announced a woman was assuming Thor’s mantle in 2014, fans weren’t happy that the Norse God, one of Marvel’s most important heroes and member of the company’s “big three”, was swapping sex.
The publishing company heard the public, after a letter from an 11-year-old girl to DC Comics went viral on Twitter. “I love your comics, but I would love them a whole lot more if there were more girls. Please do something about this. Girls read comics too, and they care”, wrote Rowan Hansen to Marvel’s rival.
Marvel committed to Jane Foster’s version of the Norse God, as writer Jason Aaron said in the announcement of the character: “This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel universe”.
And even later, after the Mighty Thor received a lot of hate from comic book fans, the superhero’s creative team responded to it in the strips – with the Mighty Thor breaking a villain’s jaw for “saying ‘feminist’ like it’s a four-letter word”.
On the big screen
When Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarök) announced he was bringing the Mighty Thor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, portrayed by Natalie Portman (Black Swan), the public’s reaction wasn’t thrilling either. A Twitter user even said: “This is why I’m no longer interested in the MCU…Too much of wokism abhi lady thor, gay characters…just for wooing female audience”.
Captain Marvel also went through a lot of criticism when the first film starring a female protagonist in the MCU was launched. Even before its release to the general public, trolls tried to “review-bomb” the film with fake negative reviews posted on Rotten Tomatoes. The critics were mostly directed at the main actress, Brie Larson (Room), who condemns the lack of diversity in Hollywood and other film critics.
On the other side, things weren’t different: Wonder Woman, one of DC Comics’ most cherished characters, was a target of misogyny on the backstage during Justice League’s production. Many scenes reshot by director Joss Whedon (Avengers), who faces charges of abuse by the film’s cast, show the superheroes’ bottom in unnecessary close-ups and makes a joke about the Flash falling in Wonder Woman’s breasts by accident.
One of the accusations Whedon faces comes from Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), who said the director threatened her career if she questioned the film’s dialogues and scenes. After Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League was released in 2021, such “dialogues and scenes” came to light, showing the “male gaze” contained in 2017’s version and the objectification of Wonder Woman.
Geek women in real life
As mentioned before, this reality is not restricted only for female characters, but also reaches woman in real life. Content creator Ana Paula Barbosa Martins, founder of the page Narrativa Feminina on Instagram, told Her Campus how it is to be a geek woman in a chauvinist society.
She started the page precisely because she felt the lack of female representation in pop culture. The idea came when a college teacher said the semester’s evaluation would be based on a project they created, and it should be something related to what each student liked.
Ana Paula always loved films and grew up going to film rental stores with her family, so she knew she was going to talk about it. Besides, the teacher’s project was presented in the same year that Greta Gerwig was nominated for the Oscar of best directing, which raised the discussion of the lack of women in this category and made Ana Paula reflect about her own consumption of audiovisual productions.
That’s how Narrativa Feminina was born, and now reaches 11,3 thousand people on Instagram. She said it was not easy to keep on going with the page, but she managed to create a routine and content that she found very enjoyable. But, when compared with the levels of difficulty of geek men producing content, she believes that for women is way more complicated. “I feel like it’s harder for women to grow on social media. Yesterday I was talking to a friend about TikTok, and she’s been creating content for a while now, and she realizes that men that started just the other day on the social media, talking about basically the same subjects as hers, grow quicker than she does. She sees that for them the ‘legitimacy’ thing is quite easier. I asked her for advice to create content on TikTok and she vented about it, and it’s tough because I see the same thing happening on Instagram, how easier it is for them to grow. And in general, when we see the biggest websites and YouTubers that talk about pop and geek culture, they are always men.”
The page attracted other people’s interest, and she managed to build a community that is loving and supportive. However, sometimes she needs to deal with sexist comments from others. When questioned about it, Ana tells us that “When I make posts, really specific ones, criticizing men, some men and women make comments that are not nice. Posts such as the one I made talking about (Cristopher) Nolan, criticizing James Gunn, from Suicide Squad, the one I made of Will Smith… So when I criticize men, yes, there are a lot of comments, because this is when the bubble bursts”. The content creator also says that people can be very prejudicious against members of the LGBTQI+ community and women: “If the comments are really mean, and I realize that they are offensive not only to myself but also to my public, I erase them”.
Conquering space may be tough
She adds that all of that negativity isn’ t that frequent when compared to the offenses received by her friends. “They are really few, I’m quite privileged for it, mostly because of my niche. Some female friends of mine who talk about everything are much more attacked. I think there’s this idea that, because I talk about women, they don’t meddle in my content because it’s a woman talking about another one. Now, if you talk about something of their interest and you are a woman, you are not getting it, or you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Ana Paula also states that because she is a woman and talking about “contents for women”, men usually “don’t meddle in a lot, because ‘you’re in your place talking about something that is not for us’, which is totally wrong. My content is for everyone, especially for them to understand the representation of women and LGBTQI+, but they look at my content and believe it’s not for them. They don’t see themselves as my target audience.”
Besides, the content creator strongly believes that even the geek community itself is still reluctant in accepting women as part of it, and she also doesn´t see many people inside of it talking about female content. “I’ve got a friend who has a really famous Marvel page and he loves my posts, and he tells me ‘I wanted to share your posts in my stories, but I’m worried that people will attack you’. This is a reflection of the reluctance, that men think it’s their content only, so when we say something about it, we don’t know what we’re talking about, or we don’t have knowledge or experience in it. Seeing that my public is 86% female and just the fact that they don’t see my content as something for them as well, I consider it reluctance.”
there is space for change
When questioned about the company’s responsibility for focusing their content on the male community, Ana says that they are comfortable having a masculine public and if changes are happening, they will come very slowly. On the other hand, she believes that when we start talking about it, there is space for change. “ I do believe that, while the protagonism has been changing and evolving, we are more and more feeling comfortable to talk about it and realize ‘maybe this space is not totally theirs, there’s a place for us too’. So what is shown on the screen reflects on our work as well. What is shared, liking or not, makes us feel comfortable to talk about it and dominate that space that is also ours. I believe that both walk hand in hand”.
Finally, we can see that the geek community is still not quite open to discussion on the matter of women being an active part of it. On the other hand, if studios and comic book companies begin introducing more female characters, girls and women will feel more identified with those stories, they’ll think they actually belong there. And when they claim their space and voice in the geek community, who will be able to stop them?
The article above was edited by Lorena Lindenberg.
Liked this type of content? Check Her Campus Cásper Líbero page for more!