This comment amused me more than the webcomic that started the thread:
okay… And here I’m going to probably be ripped apart from all sides… but…
I’ve noticed that a large number of female Comic Book Store Staff tend to veer towards these comics… … And Grant Morrison for some reason (don’t know what the connection is there!)
Perhaps because they tend to avoid the latex brigade since the old “her breasts are bigger than her head” thing…
Guys (again, in general) tend to veer TOWARDS the latex brigade for the same reason…
This is JUST A GENERALISATION! I know I’ve just kicked over the tin of worms that will lead to countless messages of “I’m a guy and I love Mouse Guard”/”I’m a girl and I love Power Girl”… “…and I’m not gay!” (Those would be thier words, I’m not implying anything…)
So carefully worded, and he goes out of his way to frame it with “Please don’t rip me apart.”
I’m going to be gentle and not rip him apart, but he did get me thinking about perceptions of female comic book store staff, and female comic book readers.
I’ve heard that old cliche that art is like holding a mirror to reality, but sometimes I wonder if it’s more like holding a magnifying glass to reality. A writer takes a person from his life, such as his sister or his best friend the girl he has a crush on, and places her in a story. Another person reads the story, reads that something amusing and recognizes something of their sister or best friend or the girl they like in that story. Sometimes they’ll write their own story and place that girl in it. And instead of simply reflecting an option of life, it starts to snowball. Suddenly a small portion of the population–such the little clique of girls who hover around the Sandman reprints in the comic book store–seems to be quite a large percentage of the female population of readers. Through the magnifying glass of fiction, that person you may have seen once seems like a person you see everywhere.
And then we get into the little habits of humans.
Such as confirmatory bias, when a person expecting something sees something that confirms it and something that contradicts it and remembers the thing that confirms it as “normal” and rationalizes the thing that contradicts it as a “weird” experience no matter what the actual math is.
Or filling in the blanks. When a person meets a person, there’s no real objectivity. You can’t truly know what’s inside that other person, so you project a bit of yourself and a bit of the stories you read as a child and a bit of your previous experiences and a bit of your expectations onto them. So you create a person in your head whenever you meet a person, and this can give the impression that a certain kind is more common than they are.
So we have that girl who wears black and hovers around the Sandman reprints and buy anything written by Gaiman. Or the girl who works in the store and likes independent books and anything written by Morrison. And we have those girls who come in and snap up Manga titles, and those girls who buy up Batman in droves or anything with Misty Knight in it. But because we see the girl who worships Gaiman and the girl who shuns anything with a superhero lead in the title in webcomics and in geek movies, and she’s presented as a fixture in those webcomics and those geek movies, she seems like eight or nine girls instead of just the one that you know. And because you so rarely see the girls who snap up Manga titles or buy Batman in droves or anything with Misty Knight in it in the geek media, when you see those girls they seem like a novelty. Even though they are everywhere.
The shop I go to has quite a large female clientele. I’ve seen the goth girl buying horror titles, yes. I’ve seen the indie girl, though I never asked if she like Grant Morrison. I’ve seen this once or twice. Most often I see women in the Manga and Anime side. I see women browsing the superhero comics with me. The women I know personally and talk to? All superhero readers, or Manga readers asking which superhero titles might be worth reading.
That’s not to say that the indie reader who shows up in the webcomics isn’t really all over the country, or that there’s not a clique of goth girls browsing the Gaiman knockoffs at your store. I’m just suggesting that perhaps they aren’t the largest part of the population. That maybe the generalization isn’t founded on anything but a geek culture magnifying glass.
And yes, all of these arguments can be used to suggest that maybe my own experience is coloring my perceptions. Here’s the thing, though. The goth girl and the indie girl? They seem to conform to a traditional standard of female behavior that the superhero-reader and the even the Manga reader–who nevertheless gets rationalized away as reading little girls books–just don’t. The indie girl and the goth girl are seeking the sort of things women are expected to read about — character and drama. Literary comics. The Manga girl is expected to be reading for cute character situations rather than the adventure in the story. But superhero fans–despite reading the culture’s most convoluted soap operas–are seeking adventure stories. They’re buying the cheap thrills that–according to the “true-geek” fiction standards set by webcomics and Kevin Smith-style movies–are generally only sought by boys. That tends to contradict the expectation of women in our society. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they get rationalized away as insignificant, even by someone who knows that he’ll be shouted down on the internet if he doesn’t concede their existence.