Imperial world. Imperial Girl.

Postscript to “I’m THAT kind of Freak”

I love being a geek mentor.  The moral of this story is, don’t get so busy that you don’t go back and check the notes on your old Tumblr posts.

A couple of my friends liked my "Freak" post—about being a geek and having pride in knowing that in spite of people never really understanding it, you’re doing good work—but you always expect your friends to like your stuff.  They’re your friends.

Today I caught this in the notes of the post, from im-no-jedi:

"I literally started crying while reading this.  Words cannot even describe just how grateful I am that there are people like this out in the world.  Each and every single person involved in this is a true hero in my eyes, even if they’re dressed up as a villain.  Thank you to everyone involved.  You guys are amazing." 

And she tagged it:  “my dream job now is become a member of the 501st”  and “I will make this happen”

A 23-year-old redhead geek, now inspired to go out in the world and do charity geek work, because of something she saw that *I* wrote and threw out into the universe.  This is geek mentoring as it should be, kids.  The simple fact remains that, be it in the tech industry or geekdom or law or the 501st Legion, there just still aren’t as many girls as there are guys.  It doesn’t matter why.  It just is.

Girl geek hate has been a hot and highly debated topic, and it makes me crazy.  To all those out there that want to slam the door shut to anyone else trying to get into the “club”, I shake my head in wonder at how regrettably short-sighted and petty their insistence on exclusivity continues to be. 

If you don’t let anyone new into the club, when you and your friends die off, who will be left to carry on the standard?

Look, I got in to the 501st as Mara Jade.  She is a fantastic character, incredibly dynamic, female empowerment and badassery at its finest.  I have had groups of teenagers come up to me and a bunch of my friends in Stormtrooper gear with the intent of stealing pieces of my friends’ armor since the visibility out of those helmets is nigh on zero.  I crossed my arms over my chest, tilted my chin down, and in my knee-length cloak, boots, shin guards, black catsuit, gunslinger-style holster, lightsaber hilt attached to my hip, merely gave them a good long stare.

They changed their minds.

Note however, the catsuit.  People, makeup can do lots of things, and Spanx are my friend, but I am *not* going to be stomping around in that thing into my 50s.  I’m just not.  Some things will need to be left for the younger ladies as the years pass.

In business, they call this having a continuity plan.  Hello, Geekdom?  You might want to give this a bit of a thought.  Instead of the few women that are out there digging their heels in and howling about “They don’t love comics like *I* love comics!” and running off all the pretty girls, how about mentoring them?  How about teaching them about the best of what *you* love in your favorite realms?  If you had to only read three graphic novels for the rest of your life, which would they be?  What comic character speaks the most to your heart, and why?  What story arc have you most loved in your life?  What turned you into a comic fan?  Have you read Sarah Kuhn’s book?  

You have the option of doing like The League of Extraordinary Ladies has done and assembling the finest in female fandom.  You can look at people like Terri Hodges,   Consetta Parker, Andrea “ArkhamAsylumDoc”, Nicole Wakelin, Katrina Hill and Jessica Mills and so many others that say, “Hey, I love this stuff, and I would love to share what I love with you.”  You want the best ever?  Try the Geek Girls Book Club.

So maybe the people who got beaten up and bullied all through high school don’t want the “cool kids” to suddenly start wanting to wear a Captain America costume and thinking they understand the Super Soldier program.  I get that.  I was a band geek, you wouldn’t have exactly called me “socially adept” either.  Two things I got from that experience, though, were: “We take care of our own”, and “If someone wants somewhere to go, we accept them”.

Is that so hard?

Oh, and when im-no-jedi saw that I followed her today, she wrote, “OMFG, I’m not worthy!”  That’s just cute.  Maybe she’ll watch what I do and go out and do something to make the world a better place.  In any case, she will know that there’s another redhead girl out there that manages to be a fully-functioning professional, and mom, and geek.  You can grow up and do all the grownup things, as a woman, and you don’t have to give up the things you love. 

My work here is done.

I’m THAT kind of freak.

Fiesta Bowl

I was at a social gathering yesterday, one wherein I was expected to interact with a large group of people I did not know.  It was semi-professional in nature … a very dear lady for whom I’d done some work last year was retiring, and she and I had been through the wars on some deeply contentious things that were very important to her personally.  We became close, and it was important to her that I be there for her retirement party.  I would know a couple of others there on an “acquaintance” level, but not well.  It didn’t matter.  She wanted me there, so I went.

I got to talking to a guy there who was somewhat close to my age.  We chatted as strangers do, about the party, the food, the weather.  How do you know the hostess?  What do you do?  He seemed fairly nonthreatening, so when I explained the [true] story of how I’d been hired via one of my friends in my charity Star Wars costuming group, he looked at me uncomprehendingly for a minute.  Then I said, “We dress up like the bad guys from Star Wars.  For charity.”  He took a moment, then smiled knowingly.

"Oh.  You’re THAT kind of freak."

Freak. 

Right.

I thought about it as I drove home… about what kind of freak I am. 

I’m a longtime member of the 501st Legion. 

Before I was a member, I was just a run-of-the-mill geek.  Mom, lawyer. Employable.  I liked comics and cars and video games and sci-fi, and when I was little, my brother and I played hours upon hours upon hours of Star Wars figures in, under, and around my dining room table. I left John’s Lobot figure inside the chandelier, and the back of his bald head melted to the flame-shaped light bulb inside.  It was a mortal wound, but we always had someone to take the blaster bolts for the team from there on out.

I am too tall, gawky, graceless, and, occasionally, socially awkward.  I am a recently-divorced mom trying to make a life for my kids that will give them the platform to reach high and strive.

Now …

I am a member of the 501st Legion. 

Yes, we dress up as the bad guys.  Yes, we do it in public.  Yes, we face a degree of ridicule from people who observe us doing it.  To outsiders, it’s a matter of being so obsessed with a character or a movie that we have to be that character or person.  

It’s not that.

Joining the Legion is a matter of being dropped into this group of people who share your passion for the movies and the greater Star Wars universe.  People spend hours and hours and hours researching what kind of costume what speaks to their hearts most, down inside, as people.  What suits each body style.  What they’ll be comfortable wearing for long periods of time, both indoors and out—stomping around conventions, or strolling around hospitals.  Dozens, if not hundreds, of meticulous hours go into the research before one even makes a sketch or contacts a vendor.  You have to decide on things like armor, what type of adhesive to use, fabrics, shoes.

Collect all the pieces.

Start building.

Hope nothing breaks or tears or has to be rebuilt.

Fit it to yourself.

Once the armor fits, get the extra accessories. 

The whole process can take a year.  You must do it right.  The acceptance standards are high.

Once you’re a member, you are part of an extended family that you will come to love and for whom you will go to the ends of the earth.  Well, some of them.  Some of them will not jibe with you, and that’s okay too.  Regardless, we all work together.

These people take these costumes they’ve worked so hard on, drive somewhere, and for no personal compensation, run around for hours in their gear, just to put a smile on some faces.  Sometimes we get water provided, sometimes we get a room to stash our street clothes and wallets and things, sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes the adults control the kids and force them to treat us with respect and courtesy.  Sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes the people who asked us to come are not the people who actually have us there, and the ones who are there treat us like an imposition. 

But we go.  We gear up and talk to the kids and take as many pictures as they want, stay until the last kid (large or small) who wants a picture goes home with one.  We get up before dawn to drive to some town we’ve never heard of because there’s a sick child whose wish is to see Darth Vader and some Stormtroopers.  Then we drive home well after dark, exhausted, to our own families.  We keep spending endless money in gas and travel and food, not to mention the costumes and the upkeep, and the constant striving to have the best costumes and the highest-possible-quality gear.  The peer pressure raises it to a moral imperative.

We raised $6 million for charities last year.

So as “that kind of freak”, I’ve done the following:

1.  Made a whole new set of friends (in the middle of my life) in the state to which I moved after moving from my home state.

2.  Found people who were willing to go way out of their way to help people less fortunate—even to the point of wearing white plastic in public.  Good, kind people.

3.  Gotten up before dawn, driven through the night … thousands upon thousands of miles to troop.  Flew many more.  To troop.

3.  Learned leadership skills, public relations skills, management skills,massive multistate event planning skills,  political skills, armor building and prop weapon building skills, corporate interaction skills, corporate licensing and trademark oversight skills, and personal skills at overcoming adversity.

4.  I’ve talked to sick and dying children and their parents and watched their pain struggle with the relief of having something else to think about.  I’ve watched the pure joy of a new toy wipe everything else from the face of a desperately ill child.

5.  I’ve been in situations with happy, healthy children who were just thrilled to see me.  I uniformly tell them to be good to their moms and dads, study hard and do well in school, and grow up to be good, loyal Imperial citizen.  They smile, and say they will.

I have been blessed.

The Legion was a touchstone into me spreading my wings, out into the greater Internet, seeing what there was to find, and who.  I have made so many friends.  There is as much kindness and compassion and genuine love out there as there are people who are hateful and stupid and worthless.  The Legion has given me costumer friends, which led me to other costumer friends in other genres, which led me to geeks of other forms … comics, Star Trek, BSG, “geek girls”, whatever.  There’s a network.  We check in with each other.  We care for each other.  We inspire each other and keep each other going.  We have the Bloggess.  We inform and educate each other. 

I got to help start a group of women who dress up like Sci-Fi pinup girls.  They’re now in the Star Wars universe.

So circling back around to the beginning … and the idea at hand.

“You’re THAT kind of freak?”

Yes, as it turns out. 

I am THAT kind of freak. 

ISO Original

Care package for soldier in Afghanistan…

The Republic Service Organization has lots of fun associated with it, but THIS is why I really do it.

His quote on Facebook says this:

When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world - “No, you move.” - Captain America

This is what’s important.  This is why I search out other Geek Girls and get them to come dress up with me, so that ultimately we have the bond together to do these things.  At some point I want to see about getting the organization involved with Operation: Wounded Warrior as well. 

This is what I am.

How @filmdrunk could have avoided the Wrath of the Geekazons…

… not that he asked for my help.

I write this fully realizing that I am Monday Morning Quarterbacking the hell out of this thing, and I admit that.  It’s hard to be consistently funny and remain true to your own voice.  But I’m going to take a shot here at what I *think* he was trying to say, and see how making the argument a different way could have turned out.

_____________________________________________

We’re used to actresses having to do whatever they can to make themselves more marketable—breast implants, liposuction, nose, chin, hair, teeth, skin, speech, sure.  Plastic surgeons get paid a lot of money because it works.

A warning, though, to actresses (or actors, for that matter) who might be considering trying on the current popularity of “geek culture” for size, just to increase their marketability?  Beware. 

Late-night interviews with talk show hosts and “just happening” to get caught on Melrose in an Iron Man t-shirt might seem like a simple way to suck in a huge segment of the population that are passionate fans of comic genre movies and such, but be warned, these people know from geek.  They have beautiful, whip-smart, funny women in their ranks like Bonnie Burton and Amy Ratcliffe and Jenna Busch and Katie Lucas.  Sarah Kuhn.  The League of Extraordinary Ladies.  If you aren’t for real, the geeks will see you coming and call you out.  Believe it.  They are perceptive, intelligent, and very well-connected, and can blow up Twitter and Facebook and make whole worlds of trouble in very short periods of time. 

The geek culture has also seen its share of people come in, use it to get hugely popular, then talk smack about “The Fanboys” later.  It’s cheap and classless, and they are tired of it.  My advice?  If you’re looking for a quick way to up your IMDb hits, upgrade your implants.  Don’t just show up at San Diego Comic-Con in a Slave Leia costume.  While amusing for the moment, the eventual backlash to claiming to be a “geek” if you really *aren’t* sitting at home playing Warcraft at night will be much worse than you can imagine.

_________________________________________________


So there, as they say, is that.

Irritating postscript.

The New York Times woman ranted back after all the crap she’s been taking this week for her “Game of Thrones” review.  And she … didn’t apologize.  And didn’t act humble or really seem to think she’d done anything wrong.

Fantastic.

I want to teach Girl Child and Boy Child that it’s okay to make mistakes, and that when you do that, you should acknowledge the error. This means really believing in your mind that you made the mistake, not just saying the words because you think it’s what your listener wants to hear, or to make your audience not be mad at you any more.  Accept responsibility, genuinely.  Then ask to be forgiven.  

The secret is *not* to turn the glare of the spotlight back on the wronged party and make it somehow their fault for being hurt/upset/wronged in the first place.  Gently (or not-so-gently) explaining to that person why they had no right to be unhappy with you in the first place is not an apology. 

Then again, when someone is concentrating so hard on the next thing that they’re going to say that they don’t hear what anyone else is saying to them?  They miss things. 

They miss a lot of things … like the whole point of what the entire #geekgirlnation was trying to say.  The point of the #GeekGirlBookClub.  The judgment that she passed with her words, whether she did it intentionally or through neglect.

Aunt Nancy said you can’t get blood from a stone, you can’t fix stupid, and she’d probably say, you can’t explain anything to anyone who just isn’t listening.

Off to read The Hobbit. 

Letter to the Editor.

To: The Editor of the New York Times

From: A Representative of the Geek Girl Nation

Date:  April 16, 2011

Re:  Review of “Game of Thrones”

In the interest of brevity, I will simply suggest the following:  When assigning reviews for television shows like “Game of Thrones”, it might be beneficial for such a well-respected publication as the Times to avoid engaging the services of writers who will mindlessly perpetuate overbroad generalizations and gender stereotypes, alienating and angering millions of thoughtful, intelligent, and articulate people in the process.  If what the Times wants, however, is to reinforce its reputation as being elitist, slightly misogynistic, and completely out of touch with the societal norms of anyone except the 0.05% of the population who are pseudointellectual media/politicians/celebrities—necessarily mocking and despising everyone else—then you have succeeded quite brilliantly.

You might also want to mention to your staff of writers that women comprise a huge segment of Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre fandom these days, and bear that in mind as editors look at the work they put out.  Editors do still look at the work that writers put out, don’t they?  Looking at the “Game of Thrones” review, I was left wondering.  Perhaps when next a Sci-Fi, Comic Book or Fantasy-related assignment comes along, your editorial staff will consider a writer who has seen the inside of a Comic-Con sometime in their lives, or at least cares enough to find out that there are as many women there as there are men.

Sincerely,

J.La

Phoenix, AZ Fangirl

Attorney/Author/Charity Costumer/Comic Book Geek

 

New blog, kids. And on “Geek Girls”… really?

Because it’s a new phase, doing new stuff.  I want to write more.  Sometimes things happen and I need to reflect.

Things like this New York Times “Geek Girl” review debacle.

Look, anyone who knows me will tell you that I wear the accomplishment of “Geek” with no small amount of pride.  I accepted it gradually through pubescence, embraced it through high school and college, and now celebrate all my joyous geeknesses. 

I was a band geek—heck, I was the ringleader.  PAC-10 College, but the Anti-sorority girl.  I’m a book geek.  I’m a comics geek.  I want to be Batgirl.  Or Dark Phoenix.  Or Mara Jade.  Or Ysanne Isard.  Wonder Woman.  She-Hulk.

I dress up like a Stormtrooper for charity.

I am a lawyer, and instead of making ridiculous money being a gun for hire, I’m home raising two geeks-in-training and picking up odd jobs here and there.

GEEK.

The older G-I-T is Girl Child, beautiful, 12.  I have very carefully raised her to like whatever she wants.  Anything.  I expose her to my likes—Star Wars, DC, Marvel; NFL football, classic movies, whatever.  She reads a broad base of topics, tends to like some things more than others, as many 6th graders do, but told me this the other night:

"I don’t know, Mom, I just like Fantasy stuff the best.  Dragons.  Elves.  Faerie warriors.  I don’t know why they categorize Sci-Fi with Fantasy because they’re such totally different genres."

Ultimately, the reviewer in the New York Times just showed an incredible amount of ignorance—as did the editor for assigning someone who clearly has never set foot in a comics convention. 

Here’s a newsflash, just to bring you into 2011:  It’s not all Fanboys anymore.  Sitting up in some ivory tower in New York City and passing judgment on “Game of Thrones” and mixing in snide and demeaning inferences about female readers?  We’re going to catch those.  And it’s going to piss us off quite a bit.

Consider yourself warned.