Monday, April 6, 2015

Open letter to the lady geeks out there

Hello, ladies. Jason Richards, here.

You may know me from my blog that is just being updated for the first time in 366 days, or from my allegedly "best-selling" RPG, Breachworld, or from my long association with Palladium Books. I'm more likely just an Internet stranger, but that's cool as well. We can still all talk about this. All that really matters is that I'm a dude who is in the smallest of ways responsible for contributing to the global geek conversation as a creator and purveyor of nerdy goods. Pleased to meet you.

I'm taking a break from crafting said contributions to talk about a lingering issue in our geeky zeitgeist, which is the portrayal of women within nerd culture.

I was lured out of blogging semi-retirement to make a comment or two about women in geekery by Sam Maggs's article about the new Frank Cho Spider-Gwen cover, over on The Mary Sue. In this short, but precise bit of journalism, Ms. Maggs notes the obvious nod to a previous controversial cover of Spider-Woman by Milo Manara and calls Mr. Cho's apparent joke "reductive."

I'm not writing to become embroiled in the ongoing debate (or flame war) surrounding women's issues in comics, gaming, and the media at large. It's just that Mr. Cho's attempt at a joke felt totally opposite of something that I just wrote to a new prospective artist, who happens to be female, so I felt compelled to highlight it.

In asking this young woman to illustrate a female character, I said:
One note on illustrating female characters, is that it makes sense for them to be attractive, or even "hot," but don't feel like they need to be super thin with insanely long legs and a huge chest. Breachworld is a setting of survival and hardship, like the Walking Dead in a way. It's appropriate for women to be rough around the edges and not running around in chainmail bikinis and high-heeled boots! I'm not interested in that male fantasy stuff for Breachworld, and I don't want to alienate my female players/fans.
Reading it again now, I might even wish to take back the "hot" comment, though I think it's fair to include as a descriptor of most female characters in geek media. But, I said it, so it's in there. I'm not looking for a medal or a prize. I can be as pig-headed as any other slug carrying around his Y chromosome and deserve no quarter in the battle of the sexes. However, I do think that this message is very much counter to what we see demonstrated by many male creators, and that has to be worth something.

In closing, and seriously burying my lead, I just wanted to express the following: My geeky sisters, we dudes in the biz are not all jerks. Many of us love and appreciate strong women in our lives and in our fiction. Even more importantly, we recognize how our chauvinism can hurt you, personally, if we let it run away with us. The work of people like the gals at The Mary Sue has made us more aware and conscientious, and hopefully has helped us to mature, and to create better products in the end.

It just seems that stories like those surrounding Mr. Cho are all that we hear. Hopefully stories like mine help to restore some of the faith that has been lost.