A comic book store in Nova Scotia is holding their first Ladies Night tomorrow; only women will be allowed in, only women will be working in the store, and a few local female cartoonists will come in to talk about their work. On the one hand, I like the idea of this, cause I know how intimidating it can be for girls to walk into a comic book store the first time. On the other hand… I wish we didn’t need things like Ladies Night to make it *not* intimidating.
To be honest, my first experiences with comic stores were pretty good. I never felt intimidated or scared to walk in, but I kind of have a feeling that was because the ones I visited in the Netherlands were aimed at a less geeky crowd. Those shops were full with the European comics and stuff like Donald Duck and Suske and Wiske, which are aimed at quite a young audience.
As a girl pursuing the more geeky pursuits though, there have been quite a few occasions where I can relate to being a bit intimidated by entering a new unknown place, be it a store, school, or networking event. The first thing that came to mind when hearing about the Ladies Night was my own experiences going to board game stores and fantasy stores. It happened so often that they were only filled with guys, all staring at me as if I was some weird alien creature that didn’t belong there… and then acting as if I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about because I was a girl.
Same goes with studying computer science at university, being 1 of 5 girls and 90 guys. There’s one encounter that still riles me up, and I wish I had said something at the time. I had just completed an assignment, one that a lot of people was struggling with and had it signed off by the student assistant. I was pretty chuffed with myself, being one of the first people to have finished it. Moments later that was ruined by the student assistant telling another (male) student: “if she can do it, you certainly can”. Most of it wasn’t that bad, especially cause I proved pretty quickly that I was smart and belonged there (but again: why did I have to prove I belonged there?).
What annoys me though is that stuff like that still happens. Since moving to London, I’ve visited the Forbidden Planet tons of times. I love the place, it’s filled with wonderful geeky delights, and if I could I’d buy everything that caught my eye. And yet… almost every single time I go there by myself I get hit on. Okay, I kind of get that (geek store, geeky girl, chances of possible perfect match increases). But half of the time they open with something along the lines of whether I “needed help in finding a present” or something else that completely neglects the fact that I might be there for myself. The thing is it almost always happens when I’m browsing the comics. If I’m at any other part of the store (like the fantasy/scifi books section or the manga section) that type of stuff doesn’t happen. It’s as if most geeks have accepted that girls are into geeky things, like fantasy and manga, but comics… then it’s suddenly “you don’t belong here”.
Seriously, guys? Why assume straightaway that a girl doesn’t belong there? I thought that by now it should be obvious for guy geeks that the geek girl does exist, but it’s moments like I’ve described above that some guys are completely oblivious to that fact. And it’s those guys that are making it difficult for new geeky girls to feel comfortable with being a geek and going to places like comic stores. I know there are tons of guys out there who do understand and don’t make stupid remarks like those above to girls, but it’s that small oblivious group that do that mess it up for everyone.
So to wrap things up: yeah, I like the idea of the Ladies Night. It’s a great way to get those girls involved who never dared stepping into a comic book store filled with mainly guys. But the mentality of some of the guy geeks out there has to change; they have to realize that girls can be into comics (and whatever other geeky pursuits), and that they have a right to be at comic stores without being stared at as some weird seven-legged two-headed panda. Until then, things like Ladies Night will have to be around to get girls who get intimidated, along to comic stores.