Comics, Fall

Reportback from Comikaze Expo: Female Fans Matter to Everyone


By Leighman Red Eagle

In light of the boiling climate of rabid sexism in the gaming community caused by GamerGate, attending the “Why Female Fans Matter” panel at this year’s Comikaze was an inspiring and rejuvenating experience.

GamerGate, a so-called “movement” meant to protest against corruption in video game journalism, led droves of gamer enthusiasts to vilify, harass, and threaten prominent women in video games.

Misogyny has plagued the female experience in nerd culture before GamerGate laid bare the toxic undercurrent affecting women. Thus, the importance of creating safe places for women to express themselves and find camaraderie with other women is more urgent than ever.

Moderator of the “Why Female Fans Matter” panel and Editor in Chief of, Victoria Irwin, introduced the panel by briefly addressed GamerGate and announced—“Don’t worry. It will blow over.”

The majority of panelists consisted of women who have already gathered to express their individual and collective love of media on a website called The goal of the website is summarized in the following excerpt from their “About FangirlNation” page:

“We embrace all levels or fandom, nerdery, geekdom and culture, knowing that in the end we are all passionate about something. We banish the concept of “fake geek girl” knowing every woman deserves the chance to love what she loves without being questioned for her dedication.

We are Women. We are Fangirls. We are United in What We Love.

We are the FangirlNation and we want you to join us!”

The term “fake geek girl” is negative and dismissive stereotype of women who claim to be fans, or geeks as a means of gaining attention. This slur is notoriously used to bully and shut women out of the geek community by questioning their credibility.

The panel was a wonderful way for women to dispel this stereotype and to share their flourishing safe place for others to witness.  The panelist list included: Stephanie Hayslip, Jonelle Davila, Bethany Davis, Toni Adams, and A. Wrighton.

To kick off the questions, Irwin asked what their first introduction to geeky media and what got them hooked.

Bethany Davis, the craft columnist for and cosplayer, explained that she was raised in a home that celebrated genre and cult media. She added that her father used to go around the house yelling “Inconcievable!” a quote from the cult-film the Princess Bride.

Jonelle Davila, business owner of, credited her constant exposure to geeky media to her grandmother who was a rare tried and true fan of many things. Jonelle noted that her grandma even had a “Tolkien shelf” in her home.

Wrighton, an author of genre-bending fantasy and steampunk fiction, explained that she was an avid reader of genre literature and a video game player. She then joked that she would play video games to take breaks from the progress on her current novel.

The panelists were then asked: “Have you been personally attacked by others in a fandom?”

Stephanie Hayslip, a connoisseur of horror movies and the official Loki Handler and Professional Cumberbatch Lover, shared that she has been snubbed by other horror fans who wouldn’t take her seriously enough to engage in serious conversations with her. She humorously noted, “I watch Hellraiser for comfort.”

Each panelist had experiences with microaggressions, snubbing, or attacks in the geek community. Since Bethany was dressed up as a character from the comic series Thor, she recalled that someone asked her whether she liked Thor or if she was simply into Chris Hemsworth. Amidst groans, another panelist retorted: “Umm, both?”

Nevertheless, it was challenging to hear about the obstacles these women have had to overcome in order to maintain a sense of comfort and safety for simply being fans.

Irwin then asked: what is one of the best moments that the panelists have experienced in geek culture?

Wrighton said she was approached by soldiers who loved a novel of hers that they read in an army book club. This was a pleasant surprise for her.

Toni Adams, a fan and columnist for live events and reviews on, said her favorite moments happened through her coverage on fan websites. There were instances where authors reached out to thank her for her reviews of their comics.

Davila stated that she has a strong passion about conventions because being there, with her friends, is where she felt most like herself— convention culture is a part of her identity.

To conclude the panel, Irwin asked the panel: “Why do female fans matter?”

Toni Adams answered: “women have the buying power.  In order to avoid being overlooked by financial and marketing experts, Adams iterates that women should demand their attention and consideration.

Wrighton shared about her daughter, who was brimming with happiness to dress up as Elsa from the Disney film Frozen for the convention, which made it even harder for her to understand why attackers are out there when women attend conventions to have fun.

Hayslip emphasized that people, especially women, need to seriously talk more about issues of discrimination because we are all currently paving the way for the future like Wrighton’s daughter.

After the panel, I found myself walking up to a massive audience crowding the Hot Topic Main Stage during the “My Little Pony – The Full Cast Reunion” panel.

Tara Strong, a voice actress for the My Little Pony, was given a letter a male fan had written in the voices of the characters and used to ask his date to the prom. The fan then had the honor of hearing his letter read by the actual voice actors.

“Bronies” are a fandom of boys and men who enjoy the animated show designed with themes and messages of female empowerment aimed at young girls, My Little Pony. Sometimes they are casual fans but the most notable “bronies” are men who make a stand to change cultural perceptions of males, regardless of age or orientation, and enjoy a “girly” cartoon.

While this was a wonderful experience — this celebration of the rejection of gender norms — I couldn’t help but feel a sense of imbalance in venues between the My Little Pony panel and the “Why Female Fans Matter” panel in regards to scale, space and fan participation.

As a male, I adored shows labeled as “girly” like Sailor Moon, Powerpuff Girls, Totally Spies, and more. Yet, I have never been questioned or made a fool of. I have also sailed by in conventions without running into the sort of resistance that the “Why Female Fans Matter” panelists have endured.

Of all of the casual to hardcore fans that I have met at conventions since I first started attending them in 2009, I have never had my knowledge base or personal beliefs questioned.

I was also raised in a nerdy home like Bethany Davis and Jonelle Davis, actively followed nerdy internet news sites and social media, and have seen enough memes and jokes to understand many references to television shows, books, and movies that I have never personally experienced.

If there were a term for men as widespread and hurtful as “fake geek girl,” I would definitely be accused of being one.

But the problem is that I haven’t.

I have never had anyone call me out for taking pictures of Chris Hemsworth, despite not knowing a single thing about Captain America besides what is presented in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The amount of Tweets tagged with “#GamerGate” that criticized or accused men for being a part of the “corruption” of gaming journalism were nowhere near as numerous or threatening as those sent to women.

It is horrid that the public finally noticed this rampant sexism when these women journalists feared for their safety and forcibly left their homes.

Hearing the panelists at “Why Female Fans Matter” and witnessing their endless supply of jokes and laughter made me appreciate that these women have found each other and are making spaces for other women to come together and to enjoy what they love without resistance.

This discussion reinforces the importance of looking critically at how society treats women in the geek culture and how everyone can work together to make it safer for women.


Leighman Red Eagle

Leighman Red Eagle

Leighman Red Eagle is currently a fourth year undergraduate studying Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside. Currently, he is the art editor for the University’s art and literary journal, Mosaic. He born and raised in Moreno Valley, CA.

Comics, Fall

Reportback from Comikaze Expo: The Battle for Multicultural Heroes

The new Ms. Marvel, or Kamala Khan — the first Muslim and Pakistani-American superhero

By Jameson Adame

“The Battle for Multicultural Heroes” was set amid immense advertisements for Disney’s new Big Hero 6 and the intense efforts of vendors to sell the newly collected trade paperback of Ms. Marvel featuring Marvel’s first Muslim woman superhero, Kamala Khan. Knowing this, it became interesting to ponder whether the battle had not already been won, and if this panel was not an effort in futility. However; the panelists arrived all the same, ready to express their grievances with the comic book industry—the lucrative superhero subset in particular—and make it known how this problem of sectarian protagonists in comic culture was still very much a problem.

Moderating the panel was Tony Kim, whose blog site acts as a hub for news about the geek community, convention culture, and promotes an increased inclusivity in the comics industry. Next were Crystal Clark, writer, editor, and general manager of GeekPiñ, and Tamara Brooks, the writer for

As the panel began, Kim set the tone of the event by displaying a slide on the projector screen reassuring the audience that himself, Clark, and Brooks—none of whom identified as white—loved white people, and asserted that nothing in the ensuing discussion should be taken as an attack on any particular group of people.

With his humorous expression of goodwill done, Kim continued by telling the audience of his experience as an Asian-American growing up in Texas with few icons that he was able to personally identify with, stating that, “It was pretty hard like, it was literally like Sulu or Bruce Lee was pretty much what there was to choose from.”

Kim continued on, saying that because of this, he began to notice that A-list heroes didn’t look like him, leading him to struggle with identity issues, directly conflicting with the goal he thought comics facilitated of “finding [one’s] identity in a greater society”.

Tamara Brooks then explained that her familial experience and childhood in Pasadena had been very diverse, leaving her to wonder why the representations of people in the media she consumed were so narrow in scope.

She stated that while her own experiences brought her to expect a level of diversity from geek culture, the reality was limited. Additionally, she asked the question of “Where are all the tall women?” to the amusement of much of the audience.

Last was Crystal Clark, who explained that she was interested in every facet of geek-culture, finding herself watching, reading and playing, television, comics, and video games respectively. She identified as Chicana and found the lack of proper representation of other Latinos left her wanting. Clark explained that while Latinos appeared in many different media, they often fulfilled stereotypes, such as maids or nannies.

The panel’s focus shifted to an overview of representations of non-white characters in media and how they often fell back on stereotypes. Illustrating this, Kim switched slides to show the characters of Speedy Gonzalez—known for his sombrero and pidgin Spanish—as well as the lesser known but much vilified African-American stereotype hunter from the Bugs Bunny cartoon “All This and Rabbit Stew.”

The panelists then discussed superheroes, referencing The Super Friends in particular. Kim made note that the show’s attempt to add cultural diversity to its cast of white superheroes instead led to the creation of the characters Apache Chief, Samurai, Black Vulcan, and El Dorado. Though the gesture was well-intentioned, it instead propagated cultural stereotypes enhanced to the level of super powers.

The panel moved on to discuss the difference between well realized and ethnically insensitive characters of more recent media.  Kim contrasted the multi-dimensional character of Ponch as portrayed by Erik Estrada on CHiPs, with the aliens of the later released Star Wars Episode 1, fulfilling stereotypes of people who identify as Black, Asian, and/or Jewish.

He explained that while the former’s identity as a Latino man was incidental to his characterization as a good cop whose heart was in the right place, the latter showed a Hollywood-based reliance on such stereotypes in order to entertain a moviegoing audience. Clark and Brooks gave further support to this assertion, stating that while characters intended to play the fool are an acceptable trope, their implied identifications with minorities made such characters unacceptable.

Later, a member of the audience said that he was hired to write a Latina character and expressed his feeling that while so many positive changes had occurred in recent months with the announcements of the Black Panther film, the introduction of Kamala Khan, the reception of Miles Morales as Spiderman, and more, he hoped for the inclusion of entirely new heroes who were not tied to mantles of their (mostly) white predecessors and could instead have their own identities.

The panelists agreed, and the conversation prompted Kim to ask the other panelists about the use of stereotypes in popular culture — are they good, bad, and/or useful?

Clark stated that though some stereotypes are based in truth, it is important to present people of color in a variety of characters to avoid making assumptions.

Brooks made the distinction between making generalities as a means of connection (“so we’re all at a comic convention, which means that everyone here has probably read a comic book”) versus stereotypes which negative and reductive (“all black people are thugs”).

As a critic of modern day media in the geek-culture sphere, this panel served as a reminder that though progressive strides towards inclusivity are made every day, cultural exclusivity still needs to be addressed.  Films as recent as The Last Airbender featured a vast majority of white actors, though the original animation is populated with characters of color.

As a writer, the panel served as a how-to and how-not-to create characters and scenarios in which people of color are present. Understanding the flaws in past works can help pave the way for the innovation of old characters, and the genesis of entirely new heroes for the next generation.


Jameson Adame

Jameson Adame

Jameson Adame is a senior student at the University of California Riverside. He is majoring in both English and Media and Cultural Studies. He is a staff writer for the Highlander Newspaper published at UCR, and his articles may be read at