In continuation of my last two articles, in which I have presented criticism of how women are treated within nerd culture by not being taken seriously or by being totally idealized, it is important to note that there are many aspects of nerd culture that are appreciative of women without being objectifying, and depict women as something more than love interests or sexy villains.
One of the biggest leaps women have recently made within nerd culture has been at Comic Con 2012. While I wasn’t able to attend (and Australia lacks an equivalent), I’ve been keeping up with the action from my laptop and was surprised and excited to find that there was a panel this year comprised entirely of women that play powerful females in various forms of nerd media and pop culture. The panel featured Kristin Bauer van Straten, otherwise known as Pam from True Blood; Sarah Wayne Callies of Walking Dead fame; Kristin Kreuk from Smallville; Twilight‘s Nikki Reed, (who plays the least problematic character in the entire series); Lucy Lawless, the one and only Xena; and Anna Torv, fellow Australian, who plays Olivia Dunham on Fringe.
Just to provide an example of the calibre of these actresses and their alter-egos, the character Pam in True Blood is one of the most fascinating. She is easily one of the most entertaining performers on the show, and outshines almost every other actor in whatever scenes she’s in. Pam demonstrates time and time again that she is powerful, intelligent and hugely charismatic – even without the help of her vampire-enabled glamouring. She has never played the victim, and with the exception of worrying about her maker, Eric, is never seen pining over or lusting after men. This is despite the fact that she presents herself in an unabashedly and unapologetically sexual way. It’s so refreshing to see a female character that is openly sexual without the writers explaining it away as a deep desire for male affection, or a result of some kind of past trauma. Additionally, she has no problem taking leadership positions, and in the current television canon runs the vampire bar Fangtasia entirely on her own.
The actual content of this panel was no less inspiring than the women featured within it. When asked about how they felt, as women playing roles within pop culture, the responses were thought provoking.
Sarah Wayne Callies in particular made a great point: “It’s difficult for women in this business, I think we are often taught that we are competition for one another, and that we ought to not be friends, we oughta be thinner and younger and prettier.”
Similarly, Kristin Bauer van Straten suggested that perhaps more media produced by women would help solve the current culture of inequality: “I spent the first part of my career with nobody believing that I could be smart, or tough, and so it feels to me as if it is changing, but I also feel like it’s really important for us to, if we can, create our own projects and do as much as we can to be pro-active in that area. What we want to see, to try in our own way to create that.”
It goes without saying that this sudden focus on kick ass women is a huge stride forward for women who participate in nerd culture, or might find themselves wanting to. Creating a culture in which women can be equally as respected and appreciated as their male counterparts is one of the biggest aims for anyone who participates in both feminism and nerdiness, and it’s exciting and almost revolutionary to see a convention as large as Comic Con embrace this.
Written by Jessica Bagnall
Jessica is an 18-year-old student from Brisbane, Australia and Feminspire staff contributor
Opinions stated in our editorials do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Feminspire and its staff as a whole, but instead reflect the opinions of the writer.