- Posted by Johanna on February 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm
- Category: LinkBlogging
I was flabbergasted (in an “what an excellent idea no one’s ever thought of!” way) to read about this decision by certain famous science fiction authors to not participate in convention panels where there are no women panelists. The rationale is that female fans are half of the audience, so their presence ought to be reflected in the more visible events. Says Lizzie Barrett, the writer of the essay that made me aware of this choice:
It is common, at Conventions, to see four times as many men on panels as women, often despite the fact that there are many more female authors, editors, and publishers at the Convention … in the audience. Given that a gender split of 60% women to 40% men is about average at genre conventions, this ratio is rarely reflected in the panels and guests of honour. It should be the responsibility of a Con organiser to notice the gender imbalance and address it — before the Convention. … There are just as many female authors in the SFF community as male, if not more. So why does the SFF convention-running world that was built decades ago still assume that most SFF is being written by men, for men?
I found myself wondering what would happen if comic creators took the same approach. (Interestingly, the two main authors quoted in the linked piece also write comics.) Said Paul Cornell,
I’ve decided that I’m going to approach this problem via the only moral unit I’m in charge of: me. I’m going to approach this problem from the other end. And this approach is going to be very much that of a blunt instrument.
If I’m on, at any convention this year, a panel that doesn’t have a 50/50 gender split (I’ll settle for two out of five), I’ll hop off that panel, and find a woman to take my place. … I will then stay in the room to listen to the panel, and then, due to the small possibility that someone might have come to the panel purely to see me, make myself available outside afterwards, so no audience member is short-changed.
He even addresses the comic situation:
You probably won’t find enough female DC Comics creators to make the panel 50/50, convention organisers, so how about some women who write about comics? If it’s just me being interviewed, I’ll seek a female interviewer.
The comment thread resulting features more discussion, with the expected “but this would mean more work!” and “what about the poor mens left out?” complaints and the horribly wrong “women aren’t as qualified as men”. I applaud Cornell’s choice, and I hope more follow him to make the point that this change needs to come and it won’t unless people make it so.
Sadly, to do so at comic conventions would mean a lot more focus outside the superhero genre, which would be a difficult switch for organizers and planners of the larger shows, who get much of their audience (and media coverage) based only on that genre.
Update: (2/26/12) A case study. Writer/rabble-rouser Mark Millar has helped organize Kapow!, a UK comic convention. For two years, now, they haven’t bothered to announce any female guests until pressured to. When asked, Millar responded with the usual false assertions: Women creators aren’t big enough names. Women don’t work on superheroes. If women are working on the guest selection committee, then there can’t be a problem. The writer of that post, summing up the problem, asks these pertinent questions:
With the growing female readership of comics, and the larger female readership of graphic novels and books, is it a mistake to say only superhero or big money titles are the “mainstream”? And if we want things to change, if we want women to be more comfortable attending comic cons and spending their money, shouldn’t we strive to ensure they are represented by the guests themselves?