This culture of ours saved my life. This isn’t an exaggeration. If not for Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeleine L’Engle, Star Trek, The Wild Wild West, comic books, Isaac Asimov, and Dr. Who, I would probably be dead. I grew up in a neighborhood where the idea of dreaming outside of the concrete, glass, and busted elevators that encroached on my every day was damn near forbidden — it could also get you killed. Dreaming above your station was discouraged as you didn’t want others to think you were better than them. If they were in the shit, so were you. So in secret, I visited fantastic worlds — these worlds kickstarted my dream machinery, inviting me to see beyond what I thought were my limits.
Fiction has a way of doing that. It forces you to imagine worlds so very different than your own — and want to live there.
As I got more into SF (my catchall designation for all the outré things we love), not just as a consumer but also as a creator, I started to see just how amazing this stuff ours is. The potential for SF to affect real world change was absolutely astonishing. But the thing is, most of these changes happen only in the realm of the object. Cellular phones, teleconferencing, mobile digital health monitoring — all these things delivered on the promise of SF. These were delivered in tangible forms. What disturbed was that the human element stayed contemporarily human.
Whether it was in the comic shop, the online game, Comic-Con, or any number of geek spaces, the same negative ignorant human shit lingered. In fact, it was very much magnified. Racism, sexism, and homophobia ran (and continues to run) rampant in what was meant to be alternative spaces: temporary autonomous zones where we all explored our geek-shit without fear or embarrassment. But the fact is, I’ve been both scared and afraid not for myself, but for so many of the women who populate these spaces.
The leering at particular costumes, the questioning of a woman or girl’s “geek-cred,” the outright hostility towards women and girls who would have the gall to like the same shit as us. Not to mention that they want to revel in it alongside us. I’ve seen too many women and girl’s love for SF brutally tarnished because some asshole figured that his penis and his knowledge of X-Men trivia, somehow, gave him permission to make the women near him feel uncomfortable by detailing how he would make Storm his bitch (true story, folks).
This culture of ours is should be aspirational. Despite our too-human contemporary failings, SF primes us to think and dream ourselves out of our current circumstances. Future scenes, parallel earths, different dimensions, angelic realms, or in the digi-scapes, we all have the propensity to imagine beyond the real and true now and embrace the everwhen, the what could be, and the what we want to happen.
It is about time that we geek/nerd men step up to and embody the promise SF presents to us. It is about time we stop only reading about fighting crime or defending others and start doing so. If you see a woman being mistreated in whatever geekspace you operate in, call it out. Call it out as loud and as forcefully as you possibly can. If a woman decides to cosplay in a revealing costume, it is none of your damn business. It is her body, and she can do with it what she damn well pleases. Your… funny feelings down there… are your business.
Geek and nerd men unite. If we can rally together to save our favorite show, we damn well better use our collective energies and influence to ensure that all women and girls feel safe in our presence and in our shared cultural spaces.