Wiscon Report 2013!
|May 29, 2013||Posted by Jess under Adventures in Real Life, Comics, Ladytexts|
How was everyone’s Memorial Day weekend? (Or regular weekend, if you’re not from the States.) I spent mine at Wiscon, where I once again had a lovely time, learned a lot, met a bunch of awesome people, and explored new and exciting iterations of cheese.
I was only on one panel this year1: Is Every Kickass Character a Mary Sue? Our conclusion: no, obviously, and also, does it really matter if they are? I am pretty pro-Mary Sues, whether we’re talking about young girls inserting their OCs into fanfiction to tell stories about how they’re the best (AWESOME) or original fiction about women who are really really good at stuff (ALSO AWESOME). As it stands, “Mary Sue” is just a phrase thrown around to suppress women’s writing and female characters. I have no time for that bullshit, and neither did anyone on the panel or in the audience. Good times.
Other panels I attended:
Queering the Text – The Infinite Possibilities of Slash and Other Forms of Fanfic: I missed the beginning of this, but during the part that I caught the panelists talked about how most slashfic is still pretty heteronormative, which…yeah, regrettably so. They pointed out that the vast majority of slashfic doesn’t take into account a queer community in any way, which I’m a bit ashamed to say I never really thought about. Points were made about what I call “The Psych Problem,” otherwise known as “There is an obvious slash pairing available but one of the potential members is a PoC, so let’s pair the white dude with a less obvious/important white dude instead.”
(Frustratingly, there were a couple of infuriating questions/comments from the audience: “I write slash because there aren’t any good female characters” (one of the fandoms mentioned in this comment was movieverse Avengers, at which point half the room screamed “EXPLAIN HAWKEYE THEN” in tones of deepest disgust, which: hee2) and “But what if we just like to write about male sexual agency?” There is nothing wrong with writing exclusively dude-on-dude slash, but own it. In general I felt like there was a lot of cookie-seeking from audiences this year, which was irritating. Dude with the longwinded, rambly comment in the Fake Geek Girls panel about how you’re not like those other guys, no one is impressed by you.)
Betty Boop: The Original Slut-Walker?: This was less of a panel so much as it was a bunch of people sitting in a room watching a bunch of Betty Boop cartoons, but I super love vintage cartoons (I know, you never would have guessed), so I enjoyed it. I wish I still had the tape of Betty Boop cartoons I had growing up. They were bizarre.
The Female Soldier in Science Fiction and Fantasy: I was pretty exhausted at this point, so I didn’t stay through this whole panel, but what I managed to stay awake for was really interesting! (This is the best con report ever, huh?)
Strong Female Character vs. Kickass Babe: I’m sorry, you guys. I remember really enjoying this panel but cannot recall very much about it at all – too many panels and too little brain. I do remember the panelists interrogating what it means to be a Kickass Babe, and…oh! Oh yeah! One panelist asserted that men’s stories are about saving the world and women’s are about saving their boyfriend, and I went incandescent with rage.3 He claimed that a Wonder Woman movie couldn’t get made because they were focusing on her saving Steve Trevor, whereas Superman doesn’t save the world for Lois, she’s incidental. Which, a) way to undervalue Lois, b) way to willfully misunderstand why a Wonder Woman movie can’t get made (spoiler: it’s because she’s a girl and Hollywood is sexist), c) make a sweeping generalization about storytelling that is wildly inaccurate, because I can’t think of very many stories about women saving their boyfriends but I can think of a ton about men saving their girlfriends, and d) way to overlook a key storytelling rule, which is: Saving a person gives us someone to care about, while saving the world is unrelatable and thus boring. Lois functions as a fully-rounded character in her own right,4 but also as a metaphor for the human race. By saving her, Superman saves everyone. And, as I said in the panel, I would rather watch Sarah Conner save her son than James Bond save the world any day of the week.
It’s Not For Girls II: Attack of the “Fake Geek Girl”: Well, y’all know how I feel about Fake Geek Girls. So yeah, more of that. One panelist was really focused on trying to find the origin of the Fake Geek Girl, but as panelist and BFF Becky pointed out, we can spend hours trying to figure out what women were geeky about first, but this was the 37th Wiscon, so it’s not like geeky women are a new development. Another excellent point that was made is that the whole thing is predicated on fitting a certain arbitrary beauty standard: if you’re conventionally attractive (according to the random dude passing judgment), you can’t be geeky, and if you’re not, you can’t be a girl. The only solution is to DISMANTLE THE PATRIARCHY, which: I’m down!
(I asked if there’s a difference between the Fake Geek Girl and Idiot Nerd Girl, or any significance to the fact that the former swallowed the latter. Another audience member suggested that while the Idiot Nerd Girl just doesn’t know anything, the Fake Geek Girl is performing some sort of “weird girl espionage,” which I just love. Thanks, fellow audience member!)
Creating a Religion 201 and Realistic and Unrealistic Sex in Fiction: I popped into these for about 20 minutes each, but I was reaching panel saturation at that point and could not focus. Creating a Religion was more theoretical and abstract than I would have liked, as opposed to the workshop I was hoping for. I think I missed the funny part of Realistic and Unrealistic Sex in Fiction, i.e. awkward word choices and so on. Bummer!
Women Who Love Comics: I almost didn’t go to this, which is weird, because I’m Jess. But Wiscon can sometimes get a little “Well, in my day things were better and I just don’t know why you whippersnappers are getting sexisted at so much,” and based on the program description I feared that’s what this would be. But no, it was just a lovefest for comics, and who doesn’t enjoy that?5
Gendered Communication Styles in the Workplace: This panel was…well, it was fine. There were some good anecdotes. But there was also some unchallenged sexism and homophobia going on, and in general it was a 101 when I was looking for a 201 – more “gendered communication exists” and less “okay, so how do we negotiate that?” Oh well.
How We Write: Evolving Technology: Guys, I was so fried at this panel, and I was way in the back, and I came in late. I bet there was some really cool stuff being shown, but I could not for the life of me process any product names. You must be so glad I’m writing all this down, huh?
How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things: AWESOME panel, with a group of panelists who took no crap, and an audience who let out a hilariously sad/angry/knowing groan when any canon/creator (Sherlock, Supernatural, Firefly, Orson Scott Card, etc.) was mentioned. Frustratingly there were definitely people in the audience looking for cookies (“But I just want to squee, how can I make the people pointing out problems go away?”) but they were mostly ignored. Also someone mentioned being unable to find squee over Elementary and the room erupted with indignation. Let me tell you, person, Wiscon is the place to go for squee over Elementary and the shining beacon of wonderment that is Joan Watson. I don’t think I was at a single panel that didn’t mention how great she is. Maybe Evolving Tech. Maybe.
COUSIN OF RETURN OF SIBLING OF REVENGE OF NOT ANOTHER F*CKING RACE PANEL: Writers of color talking about anything other than race. Game show-style and absolutely hilarious. I go every year and it’s always great.
How and Why We Use Tumblr: Discussion of what Tumblr does well, the many ways in which it is broken, how to build a community there, and what social justice looks like on Tumblr. A smart and energetic panel, which is impressive considering how late in the con it was and how tired everyone was.
Anyway. I feel like that was super incoherent, but I’m still pretty wiped and wanted to get it all down before I forgot it entirely. Expect a follow-up post on how well DC and Marvel marketed to Wiscon, like last year. And if I saw you at Wiscon, or forgot something in my writeups, say hi and let me know!
- I was banking on being in the two I’d proposed on Piers Anthony and Disney Princesses respectively, but neither panel made it into the final program. This was a double bummer, since I super wanted to talk about those things, and, uh, super wanted to talk in general. ↩
- I have no problem with Hawkeye or fic that features him, but claiming that only well-developed characters get fic written about them when Natasha was AWESOME AND COMPLEX in multiple movies while Clint just likes to be up high is profound bullshit. ↩
- To his credit, he was saying that that is a thing that is sexist. Which it would be, if it was true. Except not even, because a focus on relationships is not a bad thing just because it’s historically been associated with women. ↩
- And how many Superman stories have him giving up on superheroing after her death? He very frequently saves the world because of her. ↩
- I mean, besides DC. HEYO! ↩