Talented creators who deserve better
By Sonam Kaloti, Arts Editor
According to supply and demand, perhaps the root of the issue is not with the media alone, but also with the people consuming it.
Nerd culture is unique because it aggressively rejects dominant culture. However, while this should create a safe space, there are countless records of harassment within this subculture (both online and in-person) towards women. The sexism and misogyny that resonates within nerd culture is deep and emphasized in video games, comic books, and the movies themselves. The lack of female main characters in nerd media compared to their male counterparts, female characters being depicted as sex symbols in tight latex, and the shallow writing for female characters are all huge recurrent issues in nerd culture. There’s no reason for a character whose armour doesn’t even protect their vital organs.
However, according to supply and demand, perhaps the root of the issue is not with the media alone, but also with the people consuming it.
Anita Sarkeesian is a nerd media blogger who launched a Kickstarter campaign focused on the representation of women in video games. She was harassed tenfold with her Wikipedia page vandalized with pornographic pictures, and a video game was created using her image, allowing the player to punch her until she was covered in bruises.
For season three of Rick and Morty, four women were added on as the show’s first female writers (also, all 47 of Rick and Morty’s showrunners are male). Erica Rosbe, Jessica Gao (who was also Robot Chicken’s first female writer), Sarah Carbiener, and Jane Becker underwent major harassment from the Rick and Morty fanbase. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, Gao said, “Overwhelmingly, the person who is deciding who is the funniest is going to be a white guy, usually in his 30s or 40s who for sure grew up middle class or upper middle class. Someone like that is going to have very specific life experience and a specific sense of humor.”
These women were consistently harassed and threatened online, especially on Twitter, and they were even “doxxed” (meaning their personal information was put online). Many of these trolls would call them “social justice warriors” who have joined the show only to ruin it. This article explores just one corner of society that demonstrates why there is even a call for social justice anyway.
Gail Simone, one of the writers behind The Punisher (and countless other comics), has been the victim of harassment far too frequently. She is fantastically quick-witted, and she took to Twitter to say “The Punisher would be a lot prettier if he smiled more. All I’m saying is, give the ladies a little eye candy. I don’t think I should have to support a show that clearly hates half its audience by not showing a little more butt cleavage.”
One Twitter user who completely missed the joke decided to mansplain to Simone that “the jab doesn’t work due to his backstory and personality. He actually has a huge plot point as to why he doesn’t smile alot [sic]. Try harder.” Once informed that Simone is, in fact, a comic book writer, the user continues, “That actually makes her case look worse seeing as how she should know better.”
Simone then replied, “Dude, between the two of us, which one has actually written The Punisher, do you think?” Cases like these are infamous and coincide with the internet coined phrase “fake geek girl”—a term used to describe women involved in nerd media as people who are not truly interested in nerd media, but rather faking their involvement for male attention. If there’s any true label for what is happening here, it is “gatekeeping.”
Even beloved female actresses get the short end of the stick, clearly apparent in interviews. Take Scarlett Johansson for example, who plays Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She often calls out interviewer’s sexist questions, while making it a point that her male counterparts do not receive the same disrespect. From receiving questions about Black Widow’s “fashion elements” (to which she responds, “I got the fashion question?” continuing with, “I wear a leather unitard for most of this film and I have been for the last ten years,”) to outright being asked if she’s able to wear undergarments with her Black Widow costume, despite most male characters having to wear just as skin-tight costuming.
As more women push for equality in all aspects of society, I am excited and hopeful that this fight will bring forth major reform in nerd culture to create a space where everyone feels safe and represented.