The scenarios I am about to describe have occurred multiple times in my time on the comic con circuit.
Scenario Example 1: The “You Go Ahead and Buy Lady Things.”
A woman and her male companion, I will not assume their relationship, approach my table. With one look at my products and then a glance at me, he is ready to go. She on the other hand is determined to stay. He turns to her and laments, “Let me guess, you’re going to support the FEMALE creator.” She responds enthusiastically with, “Hell yeah I am!” He rolls his and eyes and walks off. She buys a copy of Warshiner after I woo her with my “if you like sci-fi and alcohol…” sales pitch. After this exchange I have a flurry of thoughts.
- Thank you wonderful woman! Clearly you have a record of supporting female creators at cons and that’s awesome!
- Bro, you couldn’t even listen to my sales pitch? Are you scared if you pick up my books you’ll start menstruating and crying into your boobs?
- Do I smell?
- For some reason that lovely woman is stuck with that a-hole, I would love to find her better con buddies. Shit, I wanna be ONE of them!
This specific scenario has occurred at almost every con I have worked. Which means there are a slew of women hanging out with jerks, WE MUST SAVE THEM!
Scenario Example 2: The “What table? I don’t see a table.”
I see men who will look at EVERY male run table in artist’s alley, creators, prints, whatever, you can tell they don’t wanna miss anything. However when they get to me, something interesting happens, I apparently disappear. I’ll smile, say “hello” and nothing, must have slipped into another dimension. To ensure I’m not just being paranoid I invited Warshiner’s digital editor Carmen Aida to hang at the booth with me for an entire con. Her response after only a couple hours behind the table was “WOW! It’s not a joke, it’s like we’re not here! Where did we go?!” Now I understand social awkwardness can play a role in this, which is understandable. However, considering the frequency of this behavior it does start to feel like my lack of a lower horn is to blame here. Also on the witness list is Warshiner artist Kate Rodriguez and Shero and Vex artist Erika Swanson. Fun fact, when I’ve had male friends sitting at my table with me, lots of men assume that he is the creator and will start talking to him. As soon as he points out the table is actually mine, it’s bye bye baby.
Scenario Example 3: The “Oh look honey, this is for YOU!”
Couples will walk down my way and a great many men will take one look at me and point to me saying something along the lines of “LOOK! ANOTHER WOMAN! You should check that out!” The woman in this scenario almost always has no interest in comics and it’s written all over her face. He then proceeds elsewhere leaving me and this poor woman to regard one another, creating a vortex of awkward. Really dude? You think I’m gonna be the one to turn your wife or girlfriend to the dark side? If you couldn’t do it, that’s your failure, please don’t make it my plight. So there we are, just staring at one another. If she looks particularly miserable I will direct her to the nearest booze dispensary. Otherwise I just smile as best I can until she feels she’s looked enough to humor me and then walks away.
A special note to the man that does this: YOU’RE A DICK!
After encountering these scenarios over and over again I cannot help but feel there is a gender stigma here. It all says to me that when certain convention goers see a woman behind the table, the product is automatically not worth acknowledging or just meant for women. Seeing this mentality manifest itself in real time before my eyes has been very illuminating. I have begun to understand why executives for games, comics and movies cater to this demographic. It is pretty damn present, and these people do spend money, as long as they feel catered to. However I would say to these executives that this mentality is by no means the majority. I have had great success accruing male fans for both of my comic titles. These men don’t squirm because there’s purple or pink tones involved. They are not shocked that I am the creator and not the girlfriend or wife of the creator. These guys are awesome, just like all my female customers. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only one to suffer these kinds of interactions at cons. I imagine minority creators deal with a slew of similar and possibly worse encounters. Bottom line, who or what a creator is has no automatic relation to the demographic they are trying to reach.