Fanboy vs. Fangirl Bullying – It’s NOT A New Phenomenon

An alternate title for this post is Why I Hid My Star Wars Geekery for Over 30 Years.
Shadow LeiaNote: Posting on this topic scares me. I’ve wanted to write about this for months, but I kept putting it off. What if I insult someone who endured terrible bullying, beyond anything I’ve ever experienced? What if I attract trolls? But oh well, I’ve decided to ignore my fears and get on with it. This is the first article in a planned series.

There’s been quite a few articles, online discussions and Twitter campaigns over the past few years about the “recent” proliferation of geek bullies. If you’re not familiar with this situation, then I highly recommend reading We Are The Trouble With Nerds by Rob Kaiju. (Fair warning, it is not easy to read and there’s some profanity.) In a twist that is both sad and hilarious, a nasty troll showed up to spew some hate in the comments, pretty much reinforcing Rob’s article.

Most of the geek vs. geek hatred appears to be directed at female cosplayers. Noah Berlatsky does a great job of discussing this in his article Why Comic-Book Guys Are Afraid of Cosplay for The Atlantic. I’m not a serious cosplayer, but I’ve always envied those folks a wee bit (and I certainly love any excuse for wearing a fun costume). Learning that those girls are subjected to such blatant attacks really ticks me off!

As far as I can tell, the underlying themes of all geek bullying seem to be a toxic brew of misogyny, homophobia and the absolute belief that personal pain + freedom of speech = a divine calling to hurl the worst possible insults at others.

Or, said another way:

Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they.

  • Yoda

While there’s no doubt that the rise of social media has brought this crap to the forefront, I would like to point out that it is not a new thing. Geek and nerd culture has never been this open, warm, welcoming place…at least not in my experience. From my point of view, declaring my love for Star Wars has always been a tricky situation.

Fanboys vs. Fangirls

Way back in 1980, I was a sensitive 9-year-old girl so dazzled by The Empire Strikes Back that I could hardly think about anything else. Other kids in my neighborhood, both boys and girls, were happy to act out new Star Wars adventures with me, but I walked around with this absolute certainty that none of them could possibly love that other world as much as I did. I was obsessed. Day and night, my brain was filled with visions of Jedi, stormtroopers, droids, exotic aliens and…all the possibilities of living in a galaxy far, far away. I tried to describe this dreamy bubble of Star Wars-fueled fantasy through the eyes of my main character in Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away:

Two days have gone by. Nothing seems real to me. My head is in the stars….The chores fly by in a blur. The vacuum cleaner is my own little droid. The handle of our ancient lawn mower is the steering mechanism for a supersonic space cruiser. Even the feather duster becomes an exotic alien pet that carries secret messages between spies. I name it Fizzwicky.”

Back to the real world, circa 1981…when my bubble burst. It wasn’t one dramatic moment. Most kids had moved on to other interests but my obsession with Star Wars was still going strong. Then I had several small skirmishes with fanboys who needed to put me in my place. It wasn’t a gang; they didn’t jump out and attack me with plastic lightsabers on my way to school. Quizzing and ridicule were the main weapons of choice.

I would declare myself a huge Star Wars fan and a boy would narrow his eyes and start quizzing me. Not simple questions pulled from the movie scripts, oh no! Really obscure bits of trivia related to the exact name/model of a certain character’s blaster (I could draw a picture of it) or the chemical biology of Mynocks (um, they like to chew on power cables?). If I failed the test, which I usually did, they would laugh at me &/or tell me to go play with dolls.

Slowly, I started to believe that boys equated fandom with facts, statistics, and a nearly encyclopedic inventory of knowledge. My kind of fandom – fantasies in which I dreamed up totally new characters, planets and stories – were considered silly girlish nonsense. So I stopped telling most people I was a Star Wars fan.

Now let me say right now that there were plenty of young boys who enjoyed the same sort of fandom that I enjoyed…I think one of them may be named J. J. Abrams. And I know for a fact that there are geek girls out there who can answer just about any piece of obscure trivia you can dig up on Wookieepedia. I’m not trying to be sexist. That said, I still think there is a predominantly male tendency to quiz, judge and exclude others from being a “true fan.”

This is not just a sci-fi geek thing. You want to see this same behavior out with the “cool kids?” Watch a pretty girl walk into a bar wearing an LA Dodgers baseball hat. 9 out of 10 times, some dude is going to ask her questions about the baseball team. And if she can’t answer those questions or, (*gulp*) looks him right in the eye and says she just likes the hat? There’s a high probability that he’ll make rude comments about how she should not be “allowed” to wear that hat.

What is that all about? Seriously! Can anyone explain it to me?

(This is a true story/scenario that I’ve witnessed several times. The girl in question thought those interactions were funny, but they always gave me a bad feeling. There was an underlying current of aggression.)

Just last year at the Decatur Book Festival, I was wearing my favorite piece of fangirl couture – this Millennium Falcon a-line dress – and enjoying the day. Some snotty little boy marched up to me and shouted, “Hey, why are you wearing that? You should not be wearing that. You’re a girl!” I mean the little toad was truly outraged and his parents just stood there laughing. At first, I smiled and laughed too. I mean, little toady boys don’t scare me any more. But then I remembered how it felt when I was younger. I thought about how intimidating he would have been to a grade-school girl, especially a child like Katie the Star Wars girl. Then I took the opportunity to give him a little Jedi lesson in manners. When his parents pulled him away, he was still thoroughly disgusted with me.

One more thing…I love The Big Bang Theory and was really looking forward to their May the 4th episode last year, but I was so disappointed. Sure, Bob Newhart was brilliant. But did anyone else notice the not so subtle message of “Star Wars is for boys” in that episode? Amy and Bernadette hide away to bake a Death Star cake for the guys so they won’t be forced to watch the movie marathon…only to discover that they’ll be forced to watch all six movies anyway. Oh the horror!

Et tu, Big Bang Theory?

Anyway, I’ve gotten a little off topic here. Not shocking, but I need to bring this post to a close with a few final thoughts.

Bullying plays an important role in my first novel because it’s such an important topic to me. I never experienced the terrible sort of bullying that’s depicted in the novel. I was a chubby, loud, overly sensitive little girl with low self-esteem and a desperate need to please. Some days I’m still that girl. Growing up, there were a few ugly incidents that still make me cringe and want to curl up in a ball, but they had nothing to do with Star Wars geekery. My bad experiences were very minor compared to some of the other things I’ve seen and read on this topic.

I hope that no one who has experienced bullying will read this and think that I am trying to trivialize the problem. At the same time, I really don’t think this bashing behavior is a new thing. And I think its roots are deeply embedded in our entire culture, not just geek culture.

photo credit: Traitor via photopin (license)

Dahlonega Library Book Signing Event Tomorrow (5/17)

Stormtrooper Loves Libraries

WHAT?    Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away Book Signing Event
WHERE? Lumpkin County Library
WHEN?   Saturday 5/17/14 – 11:30 am – 1:30 pm
WHY?      Because I’m giving away free Millennium Falcon soaps to anyone who buys my book…and to anyone who bought my book or eBook in the past…and to anyone who can beat me at a Star Wars trivia duel.

Note: The library is also hosting “Touch-A-Truck Family Day” and a Genealogy Workshop on Saturday around the same time, so there’s something for everyone at the Library tomorrow.

Also….(drumroll, please) it’s the Mountain Flower Art Festival in Dahlonega this weekend. So it’s a great weekend for non-locals to visit Dahlonega (and a great excuse for Locals to get away from the traffic on the square to visit the library).Stormtrooper in Libraryphoto credits: ALA – The American Library Association via photopin cc & Clearwater Public Library System Photos via photopin cc

May the 4th Be With You – eBook Promotion

2Troopers_This is the fangirl novel you're looking for_CropThe great and wise Jedi Masters over at Deeds Publishing have slashed the eBook price for Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away by 70% for the first 4 days of May to celebrate Star Wars Day. The temporary low price of $2.99 is currently available in all 3 of the major eBook formats:

But act quickly. The price is going back up on Monday May 5.

And speaking of the merry, merry month of May…it is shaping up to be a great and glorious month for Star Wars fangirling. The community is still buzzing over the Star Wars: Episode VII cast announcement on April 29th. Look at this picture:

star-wars-episode-7-cast-announce*SIGH* If this picture makes you go “SQEEE!” like a tween unwrapping her first iPhone, you just might be a true, original, lifelong, R2-D2 Underoos-wearing Star Wars fanatic. (Ummm…but could someone please get Artoo out of the crate?)

Today is 5/01st Legion Day to celebrate The World’s Definitive Imperial Costuming Organization, especially their charity work. (Check out @501stLegion & #BadGuysDoingGood on Twitter to learn more). As previously mentioned, May the 4th is Star Wars Day. And, lest we forget, May 25th will be the 37th anniversary for the 1977 theatrical release of the first Star Wars movie.

Woo hoo! The Twitterverse and Pinterest are exploding with fabulous, fun, time-sucking Star Wars content. And I’m going to let myself wallow in it for 4 days. Then back to my previously scheduled writing goals. 

Note: If you see a particularly amusing #StarWars, #StarWarsDay, &/or #Maythe4thBeWithYou item that you want to share, please Tweet it to @SlaytheWriter, post the link in the comments below or post it to my Facebook. I am on all Star Wars all the time mode until Cinco De Mayo.

Star Wars – Not Your Typical Ghost Story

Hello everybody. I had a wee tiny little mental health breakdown that required a short vacation from the internet and blogging. Nothing serious. Don’t be concerned. Just a small bout of the writerly working girl blues. It happens. But I’m MUCH better now.

So let’s get back to Haunted October! And Star Wars!
Ghost Peeps and StormtroopersHuh? Ghosts and Star Wars? The original Star Wars trilogy has been called many things – the most elaborate, most expensive, most beautiful movie serial ever made (The New York Times), a spectacular intergalactic joyride (The Washington Post), the greatest space fantasy of all! (Marvel Comics) – but I don’t believe anyone ever refers to the original trilogy as a ghost story.

Well I’m here to change that. Remember this guy?
Ghost of ObiWan on Hoth

“You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

-Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ah, Obi-Wan! My favorite fictional ghost of all time. Who could not love the crazy old wizard who turns out to be a wise and fearless Jedi master; calmly accepting death so that others may live? [Sigh] And yet, even death could not stop Obi-Wan from mentoring and encouraging the callow youth destined to save the galaxy. Obi-Wan is so awesome in ghostly form, he even has a ghostly action figure.

Ghost Obi Wan Action FigureBut seriously, Obi-Wan’s ghost gave me my first glimpse of a deceased person who CHOSE to hang around in ghostly form to do some good. Aside from the Holy Spirit, I had never heard of a good ghost. I’d never even imagined a ghostly mentor willing to show up with just the right advice at just the right times. Think about it. Most fictional ghosts are depicted as vengeful victims (Hamlet’s father), or wretched penitents (Jacob Marley), or dangerous entities unleashed by evil deeds (Poltergeist) or pathetic lost souls who can’t seem to find The Light (any episode of Ghost Whisperer).

Obi-Wan depicted a hopeful, powerful, enlightened, comforting ghostly image. And this was very important to me. VERY important.

Grandpa Eldon died in March of 1980. He was the only man I ever called Daddy, my best friend and the light of my life. (Sorry, Mom. I know that makes you cry, but it’s true.) He suffered a massive heart attack in the middle of the night and I was not allowed to visit him in the hospital during the final days of his life. We didn’t have the chance to say goodbye.

Or so I thought.

Three months later, my grandmother took me to see The Empire Strikes Back. There were many reasons why that movie changed my life. Among those reasons, Obi-Wan’s ghost along with Yoda’s teachings (“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”) were far greater comfort to me than any of the Biblical passages that were muttered over the cold, square hole in the ground when we buried my Grandpa.

Not long after seeing ESB, my beloved grandfather came to see me in my dreams. That first night, he walked me through our house. Each room was decorated for a different holiday; it was Christmas in the front room, Halloween in the TV room, Thanksgiving in the kitchen and Easter in the front yard where he had hidden a rainbow of plastic eggs for me to find. Overjoyed to see him, I asked my Grandpa why everyone had lied to me and told me he was dead. He just smiled and told me he would always be with me. Always. Through every season and every holiday.

OK – all you skeptics and amateur psychologists out there might be tempted to point out that Grandpa Eldon’s message echoes Obi-Wan’s final line in A New Hope and that might lead you to the conclusion that this deeply spiritual and powerful experience from my childhood was just a case of wishful thinking. To you I say, pthththththth! It was real.

Grandpa continued to visit me in my dreams as I grew up. When my dog Pom Pom died, she started scampering through those dreams. In my late 20’s, after many years of not seeing him, Grandpa brought my recently departed kitty Charlie to say goodbye. Even though Charlie was very ill and suffering when I made the decision to let him go, I was plagued with debilitating grief and self-loathing for days after the vet carried him away. Grandpa assured me I’d done the right thing, taken the most compassionate action, and he was proud of me. Charlie was free from all pain and suffering now. I woke up after that dream, locked myself in the bathroom and cried. Oh how I cried! But it was a really good cry.

Whether anyone other than me believes that these dreams were real visitations doesn’t matter to me one wit. I don’t believe, I KNOW. My grandfather helped raise me from beyond the grave. Just like Obi-Wan helped train Luke from beyond the grave.

Recently, a sudden realization hit me; an epiphany of sorts.

I believe that the fictional depiction of Obi-Wan in ghostly form opened a door in my mind…a door that my grandfather walked through. And so, for me, my love of Star Wars and my fascination with ghost stories will always be intertwined. And perhaps I’m not the only one…

Ghost & Fett PumpkinsWhat about you? Have you ever had a loved one guide and comfort you from beyond the grave? Would you welcome a ghostly mentor? Or, like Scrooge, would you try to dismiss the encounter as “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato”?

photo credit: ShellyS via photopin cc, JD Hancock via photopin cc, thepollen via photopin cc & Simon Davison via photopin cc

Dragon*Con Dilemma (Part 1)

18 days, 16 hours and 30-ish minutes until Dragon*Con
Vader with FemTroopersand I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to wear. I need to come up with three clever, comfortable, Star Wars-y outfits in less than 3 weeks. Zoinks!

I’m looking for suggestions. Anyone?

Thing is, I love costumes. I do. But I just don’t have the time, talent, energy, resources or inclination to create the sort of incredible costumes that the superstars of cosplay create before they flock to Dragon*Con to flaunt their fabulous work. On the flip side, I don’t want to look like the complete and total outsider that I actually am. Also, I tend to feel a little more bold and brave when I wear wigs, masks &/or face painting…and I’m going to need all the bravery I can muster this year.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of Project Runway. (I have a secret fantasy that Tim Gunn will agree to adopt me someday.) In my heart of hearts, I feel like I should be able to come up with 3 easy to wear, fashion forward looks inspired by Star Wars…even though I cannot pattern, sew or drape to save my life.

Here’s the challenge:

  • I want to wear something that clearly shows I’m a Star Wars fan, but more attractive and clever than a Star Wars t-shirt
  • I need to be reasonably comfortable because I’m going to be taking the Metro to Peachtree Center station and walking, walking, walking several miles each day.
  • I’m not exactly in love with my body-type right now, so no jumpsuits, clingy white dresses, metal bikinis or midriff baring of any type.

Actually, I sorta, kinda have a plan for what I’m going to wear on Saturday – a loose white t-shirt dress with a blue graphic pattern that evokes R2-D2’s dome from above (click here for inspiration). Pair that with some silver flats. Maybe wear a sleek, white bob wig with blue streaks and paint my face like this.

For another day, I thought about wearing a brown knit dress with a bandolier strap Chewbacca style.

And that’s about all I’ve got. My friend Thomas sent me this link as an inspiration, but I tried re-creating Yoda Grunge look last year and it didn’t really work. It was a cute outfit, but it didn’t clearly communicate, I am a Star Wars fangirl.

So….that’s my first dilemma in preparing for this crazy thing called Dragon*Con. Any suggestions?

photo credit: megadem via photopin cc

Why I Don’t Hate Jar Jar or the Prequels (@The Book Bag)

Uh oh…I’m a little afraid of the backlash I might get from this guest post. I’m actually defending Jar Jar and the SW Prequel Trilogy (gulp). But, as you know, a Jedi has no business giving in to fear or to hate. So please check out my latest guest post by clicking here.

Note: Not only is there a chance to win my novel, The Book Bag is also hosting a Kindle Fire HD 7″ Giveaway.

Jar Jar Saucer in sand

photo credit: pigpogm via photopin cc

The Spirituality of Star Wars (@ A Writer’s Life)

Is it possible to be a Jedi out here in the real world? There are at least 8 Jedi churches in the United States and Canada. Jediism is the most popular “alternate faith” in the U.K (according to the 2012 census). Most people think the idea is ridiculous, but I’m not so sure.

Today, I’m making a guest appearance over at A Writer’s Life. My topic is the Spirituality of Star Wars. Click here to check it out.

Real People with Lightsabersphoto credit: Zeetz Jones via photopin cc