Growing up, I hung out with my brothers more than my sister - she was the oldest, I was the second youngest and we usually got along like oil and water. This meant that I was often drafted for various pick-up games. Baseball, basketball, races, soccer, golf, pool: you name it - we did it. And when we did, every so often one of them would stop and pause, make that fake crowd noise, and soak up the fake adulation. I never did; I never really understood it.
My brothers and I also played soccer from kindergarten until high school. We played other sports as well (they played more sports than I did), but soccer was the main sport for all three of us for most of our childhood. My dad was taught how to play by friends in college who were from South America and he fell in love with the game immediately. He was always one of our coaches, always a volunteer ref, and would get excited like a kid at Christmastime when the World Cup would come around and soccer would finally be on TV. Cable and then affordable satellite was a gift from the gods because with it came soccer games on Univision and then the English Premiere League (and by then, the MLS, as well).
When the World Cup finally came to the US, our parents splurged and got plenty of tickets. I was never really one for watching sports, but I was excited to finally go see people play a sport that I understood in a huge stadium with tens of thousands of screaming fans. The reality was even better than I imagined it would be; in some ways it like my first time in a stadium. I couldn't believe that everyone there loved my sport as much as I did; I was so used to it being ignored, mocked, and looked down on. I finally understood why so many guys liked watching sports so much and why they enjoyed live games in big stadiums so much. The adreneline was unlike anything I'd felt before - it was almost as good as playing a championship match myself.
When the Women's World Cup came to the US in 1999 I was dissapointed that the start of my grad program and financial situation meant that I couldn't go to any of the games, but I watched all the ones they showed on the basic cable my roomates and I could afford. Simply watching them on TV gave me the same rush I felt the first time I walked into the Rose Bowl in 1994; the world felt so full of hope and possibility.
Several months later I was in my parents front yard, getting some exercise by practising the drills I remembered from AYSO and high school. I made an especially spectacular move (for me) and was immediately startled to hear the the soft roar of a fake crowd coming out of my mouth. I was stunned. I hadn't known until then that it was in there, inside of me, just waiting for the right time to come out, but I knew right away who had put it there: Mia and her teammates. I was not silent as a child because I dared not give into the urge - I was silent because I lacked the frame of reference that the impulse required. Mia and the rest of the gang planted that picture in my head, and in the minds of thousands of other girls and women. It was as if someone had finally shown me what colors were after years of living in shades of gray. For some reason, when it came to soccer, I needed to see women succeeding in order to dream in technicolored hues.
(I remember thinking in the summer before seventh grade, as we watched the 1990 World Cup on pay-per-view, that my junior year, and the 1994 World Cup, was a really long ways away. Now it's 2006 and I'm reminscing about ditching grad school classes to watch the first Women's World Cup in the US - in 1999. My how the time flies and the world turns.)
I started writing this post back in the summer; I'd originally meant for it to be a segway into talking about soccer, sexism, the World Cup and the infamous importing of prostitutes for the most recent Cup in Germany.
I've ressurected it from the draft graveyard because of this link from When Fangirls Attack. In it Dane quotes (I don't know who)* as an example of sexism
It’s the difference between "this is written/drawn for me and it’s nice" and "this is written/drawn for me and it could have been written/drawn BY me because I can really identify with the women doing it."
*Dane - links please!
(side note: while I don't completely agree with the label, The Dane gets a whole plateful of cookies for calling it sexism, and not reverse sexism)
There's been a lot of discussion about the Minx line, female creators, and Minx's lack thereof. When it comes to real life examples like Minx, there's a lot of things that come into play when discussing they whys, wherefores, and why nots of gender disparity. I just wanted to take a step back for a moment and remind everyone (and possibly explain to those that don't understand yet) why we even care about the gender of artists, writers, and even soccer players.
It's not because we don't think men can't do a good job. In fact, it's often quite the opposite. It's because we've all had that feeling of not being connected to something we love; of doubting ourselves, despite intellectually knowing we shouldn't, simply because we belong to a group that is (practically) invisible within a community of fans or among the superstars that we aspire to be. We all know what it's like, in some way or another, to watch our brothers cheer themselves on, and wonder why they do that or what it would be like to feel the same way.
The saying that you should write what you know has some truth to it, and that's where some of the complaints come from as well. Of course, most of the great stories are about the kinds of things that everyone can relate to. So obviously, writers can write about people they empathise with, but are not exactly like, and readers can read about characters they empathise with, but are not exactly like. The entire fantasy and superhero genres wouldn't exist of this weren't true.
When entire groups of people are almost completely missing from the equation, however, this often means that even well-meaning writers and readers will overlook what should be obvious. Michele Serros, the author of Honey Blonde Chica and other YA books, remarked during a panel on YA novels at last year's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, that a professor once told her that she ought to change some of the references to various aspects of Hispanic culture from her books because the "average" reader wouldn't recognize them. Serros' logical reaction was that she and her mother had figured out all the references to east coast life that dominated the YA novels available to her as a child, why couldn't other readers do the same? Far too often though, people's reaction - both critics and readers - includes the assumption that the dominant group is the norm.
Often times this goes beyond never asking the dominant group to stretch their empathy and imagination and always asking other groups to do so - and into innacurrate and riduculous portrayals. Based on what people are saying about the Minx authors, Minx books very likely won't have all the idiotic assumptions that many of DC's other comics have.
However, it's not illogical for new readers to be wary of these authors because of their gender. It's not as if the girls who choose Dramacon or The Babysitter's Club over a Minx title never read anything created by men or are choosing not to read these particular authors because they think boys are icky (ok, well -some, maybe) or because of something they only heard or went through once or twice. When women and girls are wary of unknown male authors, it's often because of repeated bad experiences and they almost never write off male creators altogether. The same can't necessarily be said of the hypothetical "average" readers that may be confused by references to Hispanic culture in Serros' novels or people who use stereotypes about certain groups to avoid dealing with them altogether.
While unfortunately some of the end results are similar, there is a difference between picking a writer/bookseller/mechanic, who is hispanic, female, etc. because you fear being condescended to otherwise, and not picking a writer/bookseller/mechanic, etc. who is hispanic, female, etc. because you think that they are incapable of doing a good job.
I'm not happy with the situation, and I'll recommend the Minx titles (or not) based on the books themselves, not the creators gender, but I'm not going to criticise teen and tween girls if it turns out that they need that Mia Hamm moment or if they need some time to recover from the getting burned by yet another clueless attempt to relate to them as girls, teens, whatever.
After all, for all that I complain that boys need to learn some empathy and pick up a few more books that are written by women or - god forbid! - where the main character is a girl, I completely understand why so many boys who wander into the library and bookstore look at me and mostly see yet another woman trying to tell them what they should read or would like. I understand that these are completely different situations, and that part of the solution to the latter has to be making sure that it's not only women who are helping them choose their reading material. Part of helping people learn to be gender blind is making sure that no one gender dominates - especially to an absurd degree.
There is a lot to criticise about DC's choice of authors in light of DC's own comments about wanting to open up comics to more girls. As a line of books, Minx looks promising. As a line of books that's (supposedly) meant to do more than ride the manga wave, it leaves much to be desired.
In the end, it's as simple as that.
In 2001 the WUSA began it's inagural season. In 2003 play was suspeneded permanently, without my ever having gone to a game.
All kinds of people have all kinds of opinions on why the WUSA failed, and if was doomed to do so or not. Here's mine: the WUSA failed because there aren't enough girls and women who make that fake crowd noise, and for most of us that do, it was often a fleeting experience, nothing like the layers upon layers of memories that most men build up over their lifetime. But make no mistake, the WUSA will be back. The memories may be few and faded, but there are still more there than there used to be. It's just a question of how long it will take to build them up high enough.
Eventually, as with DC's attempt to tap into the vast numbers of girls and women who read comics, even the mostly clueless will be trying to get a part of the action.