One of the things that I was really heartened to see at NYCC this year was the abundance of panels on and about women. “Women of Color in Comics,” “Women in Queer Comics,” “#yesallgeeks,” “Women in Geek Media”…the list goes on and on, those panels were just the four I attended. It’s awesome that the programmers have gotten the message that Geek Girls exist and we should be a target demographic. Along with the “Cosplay Is Not Consent” signs displayed prominently throughout Javits, the numerous panels for women went a long way toward making me feel like my thoughts and opinions about comics and geek culture mattered to the powers that be.
So what were the panels like? Well, as I’ve said before, many of the panels that I attended were stacked back to back, so I didn’t get to stay for the Q&As because I had to queue for the next panel. I know that some people aren’t fans of the Q&As, and I’ve witnessed a few painful ones myself, but sometimes great stuff comes out during them and I’m sorry I had to miss these.
The first panel I attended, “Women of Color in Comics,” made me give a little inward cheer when I sat down and realized there was not a single white face on the panel. You might be thinking “of course there were no white people,” to which I would reply “how many panels have you been to?” Our own Nancy Joyce was at a panel that was ostensibly about diversity at NYCC that featured only one person who wasn’t white. Panels are hard to put together, I’m not saying they’re not, but all too often the only perspective onstage is the white one. To have a completely non-white panel was a refreshing change of pace, especially when the comic-creating world is “white guy, white guy, white guy, maybe Jim Lee” as one of the panelists said. When asked if they were ever made to feel smaller because they were women of color, Alitha Martinez mentioned that she was never credited as an artist for Iron Man, which shocked everyone in the room. Another panelist pointed out that if comics are supposed to be stories about the future, women of color have to make sure they’re in it because they were already written out of the past and can’t afford to be written out of the future. There was some difference of opinion in how this should be done, with some advocating for aspiring comic artists to submit to the big publishers and change the business from within while others believed they should grow their audiences within their cultures and attack it from outside. They hadn’t come to a consensus by the time I left this panel, but I felt really energized by the discussion and ready to take on the world. I hope others in attendance felt the same.
Then I headed to the “Women in Queer Comics” panel down the hall. Some of these panelists were older and colored in some of the history of the genre, which I thought was great. There is such an emphasis on the future in comics that we often forget who and what came before the present generation. One of the biggest topics of conversation was the connection between the creator of a piece and their audience, and many panel members spoke about how important the internet was in helping them make this connection and retain it as they moved from project to project. Some of the veterans had started out writing only for LGBTQ communities but had found themselves unwittingly in the role of educators to larger straight audiences over the years. They stressed that their works are not to be taken as a textbook on being LGBTQ, but seemed pleased that the work connected with people on multiple levels. I would love to see more of these comics hit the mainstream for a reason that was cited in the “Women of Color” panel: it would be opening them to a new way of life and a new way of looking at the world, which could in turn make a change in society’s attitudes towards the LGBTQ community.
On Saturday, I was very excited to hit the “#yesallgeeks” panel about harassment in fandoms. While harassment is not limited to women, it often happens to us, particularly in traditionally masculine spaces. While all the panels I attended had a diverse group of panelists, I really appreciated the presence of a nurse practitioner on this panel because he provided a medical standpoint on the issue and contextualized it as a public health issue. I also liked the way numerous panel members stressed that the victim should always be believed, as there is way too much victim blaming in our culture. There were good suggestions made about how to help victims and how to eliminate harassment from cons, and it was clear that NYCC is following many of them. I hope that as it becomes more clear that there’s a zero tolerance policy for harassment at these events that we see fewer incidences.
I loved every one of these panels, and I’m hoping that NYCC will continue to expand their offerings for next year. Every one of the “women’s” panels I went to was well-attended, so there is a demand for this kind of programming. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but I would like it if they were a little more spread out next year so I didn’t have to hop around so much and could see the entire panel. And because so many of the panels ended up going right to the buzzer or over, it might be an idea for NYCC to think about longer panels: maybe a solid hour instead of forty-five minutes. But these are minor details. The important thing is that there were some really great panels about issues near and dear to Geek Girl hearts this year, which means that someone is listening to what we ask for. Keep it up, NYCC. Keep it up.