Every time I interview an actor from a sci-fi/fantasy TV show, I always ask the same question: Do you feel like there are more empowered female characters in fantastical genres than in more traditional genres? And without fail, they answer yes.
Why? Because speculative fiction doesn’t reimagine our planet as it is; it imagines a whole new world that could be. When cylons are chasing the few surviving humans through space, when the Hellmouth is spitting out murderous beasts every week, when your ragtag band of space cowboys/girls is forced to live on the fringe of the star system, when zombies are taking over and aliens are attacking and the Joker has broken out of Arkham Asylum again, nobody’s got time to pause and consider whether or not female ass-kickers should only make 67 cents on the dollar compared to their male ass-kicking counterparts.
There is a certain sense of queerness about geek culture, an otherness that comes from knowing as much about RPG character classes as you do about how a bill becomes a law. (Or maybe that’s just me; I used to study D&D game books while my classmates watched Schoolhouse Rock.) But for all the ways nerdworld is set apart; for all the opportunities it affords women to fly as fast as Superman, fight as fiercely as Conan, or face-down demons from the underworld; for all the strides society made since Nichelle Nichols sat down in the cockpit of the USS Enterprise in 1966, geekdom is still as mired in sexist rhetoric and harmful stereotypes as pop culture at large.
In the days since Elliot Rodger revealed psychotic levels of misogyny as the motivation behind his Southern Californian murder spree, women all over the world have taken to Twitter with the hashtag #YesAllWomen to reveal the barrage of sexism and sexual aggression that they face on the regular. As I have watched the tweets fill up my timeline, I’ve felt profoundly lucky to not have encountered so many of the emotional and physical assaults that my friends and family have endured—but at the same time I have been reminded of the deeply entrenched misogyny I face every day, simply by existing in a subsector of pop culture that—according to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction—is created “by men for men.”
There is power in counter-testimony, and so here is my contribution to the truth:
Because David Goyer, the writer of Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight movies, recently called She-Hulk “a giant, green porn star.” #YesAllWomen
Because most of the female gamers I know mute their mics or hide their gender to avoid being harassed in while playing MMROPGs. #YesAllWomen
Because Superman has six movies, Batman has eleven, and Wonder Woman has zero. #YesAllWomen
Because Wonder Woman’s first film will be helmed by the writer who brought us the sexist garbage that was Sucker Punch. #YesAllWomen
Because every time I’m looking around at a comics convention someone asks me if I’ve lost my boyfriend. #YesAllWomen
Because armor mods for male characters make them look tougher and armor mods for female characters make them look naked. #YesAllWomen
Because only one single female character was added to Star Wars VII. #YesAllWomen
Because the actual statistic “48 percent of gamers identify as female and 52 percent identify as male” feels shocking. #YesAllWomen
Because the executive producer of the new Tomb Raider video game says gamers want to “protect” Lara Croft instead of “project onto her.” #YesAllWomen
Because Halle Berry’s lines from the X-Men: Days of Future Past will fit into one single tweet. #YesAllWomen
Don’t believe me? OK: “Hi, Bobby.” “Spread out!” “No, but we can slow them down.” “Nice job, really nice job.” #YesAllWomen
Because my nephew refuses to take Wonder Woman seriously because she “fights crime in her underpants.” #YesAllWomen
Because the editor of the new all-woman X-Men comic says dudes don’t draw women as they are, but as “what they want to see.” #YesAllWomen
Because the two main roles for women in sci-fi/fantasy, even in 2014, are damsels in distress of femme fatales. #YesAllWomen
Because even Buffy falls victim to wondering what’s wrong with her if male villains don’t want to ravish her. #YesAllWomen
Because McDonald’s included two Finns and two Jakes (but no Marcelines or Princess Bubblegums) in their Adventure Time Happy Meal Toys because they were “for boys.” #YesAllWomen
Because when male superheroes fight each other, it’s serious business, but when women do, it it’s a “cat fight.” #YesAllWomen
Because the Torna Canal monsters in Final Fantasy V only attack female characters. #YesAllWomen
Because Mario is still chasing after his princess “prize.” #YesAllWomen
Because the sex alien on Torchwood couldn’t process female orgasm energy because non-penetrative sex isn’t real sex. #YesAllWomen
Because when men morph into superheroes, they get bigger muscles; when women morph into superheroes, they get bigger boobs. #YesAllWomen
Because Myka Bering’s final season of Warehouse 13. #YesAllWomen
Because Stephen Moffat didn’t entertain the idea of having a female Doctor because “not enough people wanted it.” #YesAllWomen
Because Stephen Moffat deleted his Twitter account so he didn’t have to listen to the people after he said that. #YesAllWomen
Because when female characters are raped in comics, it is only to piss off the male hero. #YesAllWomen
Because comics creator superstar Todd McFarlane says comics might not be a good platform for female-centric stories because of the “high testosterone sort of storytelling.” #YesAllWomen
Please add your own observations in the comments, or tweet them to to me (@hhoagie). We need to have this conversation, in perpetuity, until we see the change we deserve in nerdworld.