Our Fangirl Foremothers

Yesterday was Helen Magnus’s 279th birthday.  As an avid Sanctuary fan I celebrated the day with an obligatory Facebook status noting the importance of the day. As well, I shared one of the many Helen Magnus fan videos I’ve created over the past few years. Seriously, sometimes I don’t know what my normal friends would do if I didn’t bring so much culture into their lives.  They should really appreciate my efforts far more than they do. Later, I engaged in typical fangirl speculation with my friends regarding what gifts the rest of The Five yes they are still alive. This is MY game. would be giving Helen for her birthday this year (Nikola’s gift would be an expensive bottle of wine that he’d then drink two-thirds of).

helen

279 years old and still slaying

I have been a fangirl since the first time I realized there were people on television worth fangirling over. I’ve been an avid Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember.  I am named after a Star Trek character. I remember when Star Trek VI came out and my parents pulled  my brothers and me out of school early to go see it.  The first time I picked up a package of hair dye, it was because I wanted my hair color to match Angela Chase’s from My So Called Life. I was already rocking the Dana Scully hair bob. When my son was five, I dragged him to our first convention. I made the seven hour trip to Philadelphia twice in three weeks in order to see Mary McDonnell’s play The Cherry Orchard.  I have written academic papers on Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Sanctuary, and Star Trek Voyager. I was even on a panel at San Diego Comic Con last year! At the time of posting this, I am actively stalking an upcoming convention’s website to find out which day one of my faves is going to be there (If you could get on that, Creation, you could save my poor brain a lot of stress).  Very few people would question my fangirl credentials.

Thanks mostly to the internet, I live in a world that accepts – even if it still doesn’t understand – geek culture. While the acceptance of geeks has been on the upswing since the turn of the century, it wasn’t always so easy for those of us who loved science-fiction, superheroes, fantasy or other less “mainstream” entertainment.

When I was in high school, I was the only person I knew who watched Star Trek. When friends would find out that I watched Voyager religiously, they would say things like “I never would have thought that,” or “Really? You like Star Trek?” My personal favorite was always “You don’t look like a Star Trek fan.” Nearly two decades later I’m still not sure what a Star Trek fan is supposed to look like. I never hid the fact that I was a Trekkie (I recently found an old Spanish assignment in which I’d talked about Kate Mulgrew).  But I  did not embrace it in the way that I do now.

Part of this is due to the fact that when I turned 30 I stopped giving a frak about what other people thought of me. But part of it is also due to the changing perception of what it means to be a fan. Even still, female fans have always had to contend with a double standard that male fans have not. Many female fans have to pass litmus tests or be deemed fake geek girls by fanboys. If you find yourself in this situation I have one piece of advice.  Tell those fanboys to go to hell because you should never have to prove your right to enjoy fandom  to anybody. Here’s one of my favorite responses to the “fake geek girl” myth.

While I don’t want to get into the sexist internal aspects of fandom, because that will derail my post, I will point out that it’s still much more acceptable for a man to be obsessed with a television show, comic book, or video game than it is for a woman. In recent years, women have become more vocal about fighting back and defending their right to exist within the world of fandom.  But there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

All of this is bringing me to a point, I promise.  Yesterday afternoon I was having lunch with my mom. After I told her that it was Helen’s birthday, she delightfully made a Facebook post of her own noting the significance of the day.  She’d told me earlier this week that she missed Sanctuary. Earlier this year I’d convinced her to watch.  Right now she’s making her way through Stargate SG-1. And when she gets through that I’ll introduce her to the love of my life, Laura Roslin.

She told me about a game she plays, and how she modeled her world after Chulak…complete with pyramids, a sarcophagus, and implied Goa’uld technology. At this point, my son interrupted her and told her that she was ridiculous. And I watched all of the joy fade out of her face. My son and I had a small come to Jesus moment about how insulting other people’s interests is rude and uncalled for. Then we talked about how everybody geeks out to something. My mom said that she gets that same response whenever she expresses something she likes….people tell her that her interest is weird.

Now, I’ve seen my share of ridicule and attempts at shaming over my fangirling.  But I also have a devoted, strong group of fangirl friends and you’ve not seen supportive, until you’ve had fangirl friends! Between our Situations and Feels Emergencies, we support each other fully, remind each other that our fangirl interests are valid, and above all else we remind each other that “normals” are just jealous of how committed and passionate we are. Ok, that last one might be a stretch.

Seriously though, my mom grew up in a time when she was taught to be embarrassed by her fangirl tendencies. She was scorned or ridiculed because she dared to enjoy things fully.  She was denied the ability to reach her full fangirl potential because it wasn’t socially acceptable. She wasn’t given the opportunity to connect with dozens of other girls or women across the world who liked the same things that she did.

What’s a modern fangirl to do when presented with such a dilemma?

First and foremost I made her aware of John Barrowman’s beautiful statement on being a geek. John Barrowman summarizes my “Frak the haters!” sentiment in a much more eloquent manner.

3db463e96976f3e46c1ba922c4293f64

As fangirls, we have an obligation to support our fangirl foremothers – those who were never able to experience the community that we now enjoy.

The next time that you find yourself laughing at the Tumblr user over 30 (Get off my lawn kids!  We were in fandom while you were still in diapers!!), or asking yourself at what age you have to stop liking “trivial” things, or  just having fun in general, just remember that fangirling has no expiration date.

Modern fangirls have a responsibility to those who came before us.  We should fully appreciate our opportunities to express our love of all things sci-fi, superhero, or whatever your particular interest happens to be.

Always remember John Barrowman’s words.  Never become the “asshole”.  Life is hard enough.  Let people enjoy whatever helps them get through it.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s