Johnamarie Macias on the importance of diversity and representation. Since some people took yesterday’s big announcement as an excuse to snipe, Johnamarie takes on several common arguments seen around the Star Wars sites.
I never, ever, ever wanted to be a social justice blogger. I still don’t. But apparently it’s happened, so let’s talk a bit about Star Wars, diversity and feminism, shall we?I have been very lucky in that I did most of my fandom growing up in spaces that were heavily female, from the early ship-war days to Club Jade to the fanfic community. That’s not to say jerks don’t happen in such spaces – the Star Ladies invented Attack Pattern Clinique back in the days of AOL chat rooms for a reason – but for the most part I ‘grew up’ in fandom areas where women and their contributions were unquestioned, where the idea that Star Wars needs more women was simply a given.
When I came back into general fandom via the StarWars.com forums, it was from a position of authority. Not big authority – moderator of a message board – but there was still a certain amount of respect expected and received. I’m sure having nicknames that tend to read masculine doesn’t hurt, either.
Still, in general fandom I have, for the most part, had a good experience in dealing with male fans. It wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t see a lot of random outright hostility due to my gender, either. Until I, oddly enough, started writing more extensively about feminist concepts. Curious, no? (Not at all, actually.) But I personally haven’t received any rape threats for criticizing Star Wars, as recently happened in comic fandom, so we have that going for us, I guess.
Some quick links: The 5 dumbest arguments against gender diversity and Mike Stackpole on why diversity makes good story sense. Yes, I will have more (and less ‘controversial’) thoughts on the cast list later today or early tomorrow.
Today’s casting announcement was indeed very welcome. Finally, we have a confirmed cast, or at least the biggest part of one. We have a group of familiar faces and new actors who come with glowing recommendations, and they’re not all white guys. (Just mostly.)
But there was one bit of fallout that we have mixed feelings about.
Where are the women?We have Carrie Fisher, of course. But of the seven new cast members there’s only one other woman joining her. Granted, Daisy Ridley could very well be playing Episode VII’s main character. She could be the axis the entire film revolves around. Or, she may not be. We don’t know, and they’re probably not going to tell us any time soon. And there could be other women in the cast but again: We’re not seeing them today. In any case, this is the core cast. The leads will be drawn out of this group – or so we’re led to assume.
I’m not the only one who noticed this, or remembered the casting call for two new female roles. And may still be? Though two out of eight isn’t much better, depending on the size of both roles. Three female characters is still only hitting the bare minimum. In addition to the virtual stream of comments on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, we have pieces from Annalee Newitz, Amy Ratcliffe, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, Devin Faraci, Eliza Thompson, Julie Hammerle, Bonnie Burton, Rainbow Rowell and Tricia Barr. And, from back in February, Laura Hudson’s Leia is not enough.
But, you know, “be patient.”
We’ve had two trilogies with exactly one woman each taking the lead. We had the prequel trilogy, where, finally, there were enough women that they actually talked to each other sometimes. When their scenes weren’t cut, anyway. (Sorry, Padme’s mom and sister. Sorry, Mon Mothma.) Still, Padme talked to her handmaidens, to Shmi Skywalker, to Queen Jamillia, to Beru Whitesun. And remember: The Bechdal test is (again) the bare minimum, not any sort of ultimate measure.
Outside of the movies, we’ve embraced the addition of characters like Mara Jade, Jaina Solo, Ahsoka Tano and even newcomers Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren, whose show hasn’t even aired yet. Two women in the Rebels cast? We were enthusiastic, even if there are still some bumps in the road.
“Be patient,” they say.
They don’t seem to realize that we have been patient. We’re here. We’re fans. We’re ready. We’ve been patient for 30 years. It’s just that now, there’s enough of us visible that you can’t ignore us when we speak up.
Here’s a real question for you: Why do we keep asking? It’s not because we enjoy this outrage, I’ll tell you that much. It’s because of decades of being ignored, disrespected, and of our contributions being constantly downplayed, our concerns brushed to the side. And if we don’t ask, if we go back to being “patient?” That’ll just give them more reason to go back to the status quo, no matter how many Katnisses there are.
I’m sorry this casting announcement, this moment we’ve all been waiting nearly two years for, has been clouded by complaints. But I’m not sorry for speaking up as to why. I just wish we didn’t have to.
Alas, change does not happen overnight, at least not when you’re going up against some spectacularly stubborn fanboys. The page’s existence is still up for a vote and a complaint about Darth Culator’s behavior in light of our piece seems to be more or less ignored.
While several of us had some objections with Mike Cooper’s orignal follow-up on the piece, he does have some suggestions today on ways to ‘contribute’ to Wookieepedia’s much-touted attention to pointless detail. I’m not sure it’ll actually do any good in the long run, but it can’t exactly hurt.
In conclusion, a few points from the 2007 vote that ended in an ‘insufficient consensus’ to delete.
…Keeping this article just plays to the worst sort of fanboy stereotype and I don’t think it’s worth the hassles. – Valin Kenobi
Wookieepedia is primarily a resource for people to find out information about Star Wars, yes? If I was thinking “hmmm, who is this Baron Fel guy that everyone keeps talking about?” I could look him up on Wookieepedia. I could read the links in his article and learn all about him, what he’s associated with, and the books he appeared in. Would I ever, though, think to myself “Hmm, what are breasts? To Wookieepedia!” ? Never. – GrandAdmiralJello
As an outsider, if I came across this article, I would basically interpret this article as being evidence of this community’s lack of professionalism and um, ogling fanboyish fanwankery by some members. I can see this now popping up on Chee’s forum over at SW.com “Mr. Chee do breasts have an entry in the Holocron? Because they have an article on Wookieepedia (link).” The eyes would be rolling for the next decade or so. – Atarumaster88
To be honest, I hadn’t planned to write more about Wookieepedia’s page on breasts. I’m already on record as disapproving, twice. Outrage fatigue happens even to the outraged, and quite honestly I don’t have the temperament or patience to continue to explain Feminism 101 to this fandom.
But the page and one of the responses ended up on Tumblr – one of those areas of fandom where you do actually see female majorities in many circles – and I remembered why it’s important that we keep speaking out.
Although Brian at Tosche Station has already written a great response to the statement, and I agree with him wholeheartedly, I still feel I should address it personally.
Star Wars and the 4 ways science fiction handles race. “Star Wars encapsulates a pop-culture tradition of space operas that can easily invent spaceships and robots and aliens, but that helplessly acquiesce to old, stereotypical treatments of gender and race.”
It may have gotten lost in the flood of Adam Driver news yesterday, but Amy Ratcliffe wrote about the Rebels reveals, toys and being a woman in fandom for The Mary Sue.
While we’ve focused on the female character introductions and (lack of) toys so far, Mia Moretti at Eleven-ThirtyEight takes on the issue of character races and representation – and the fandom reactions to it.
The importance of diversity is something that Bria and Nanci at Tosche Station wrote up not so long ago, while Brian took on some of the common arguments against it. While we’re a while from seeing if Rebels can deliver diversity beyond the main cast, it’s interesting to note that these discussions weren’t happening as openly even as far back as The Clone Wars debut.
As for the issue of female action figures, Amy Ratcliffe has some numbers.