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Melinda’s Brew: The Force of Female Fandom [2]

Melinda’s Brew: The Force of Female Fandom [2]

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Aside from the fact I never have been a huge fan of using such a vague word as “thing[s]”, I always have been rather amazed at the truth behind this simple adage. Shouldn’t it stand to reason that change brings about … well, change … thus “things” don’t stay the same? Isn’t that what change is all about?

Yet, we’re all human. Since that is the case, human nature, emotions, preferences come into play, and each of those facets of our beings will affect how adaptable – or resistant to change – we are. Getting philosophical on you I seem to be but this line of thinking popped into my head – quite naturally – when I sat down to write the second installment in my series about Star Wars’ female fan base. From a certain point of view, change has occurred. Female fans of Star Wars have been recognized – finally – as part of the franchise’s fan base … even though we have been part of Star Wars since 1977. However, how much change has there really been? When last we met, I told you about some of my experiences in the classroom – specifically among primary grade students – and being told [in such a sweet way 🙂 ] that I could not possibly be a Star Wars fan because I am a girl, that “Star Wars is for boys.” These youngsters, at such an impressionable age, had it so wrong. This was not occurring in the early years of Star Wars, but rather as we headed into the second decade of the 21st Century. My own two girls grew up on Star Wars, dove right into the magical world George Lucas created, and unabashedly sported their Star Wars clothing. My youngest even toted her books to and from school each day in a Star Wars-themed book bag. Truthfully, I do not recall either of them mentioning they were teased or ostracized for being both a fan of Star Wars and a girl. [To this day, both girls will don a Star Wars t-shirt or other article of clothing, although it’s only their mom, now, who totes a SW book bag on her shoulder. 😉 ]

Still… a few years have passed since my encounters with those little boys. Has thinking changed? Surely it has, I mused – until arguments arose citing a lack of acknowledgment of Star Wars’ female fan base when it came to clothing and toy offerings – even with the advent of the newest trilogy, Star Wars Rebels, and even, to a certain extent, Rogue One. Why was this argument still being waged? To help determine whether Star Wars’ female fan base was being ignored – still – I decided to embark on a little fact finding mission. From a female’s point of view – for we all know Obi-Wan’s sage advice to Luke in ROTJ rings true in everything we do – are we women still being ignored, do we still/occasionally encounter ridicule because we like this space fantasy franchise, do traditional stereotypes exist in Star Wars? To find out, I contacted a cadre of friends, both new and “old” [meaning I’ve known them for many years] and my niece. They range in age from 15 to 64, come from different walks of life, and live in different parts of the country. All are avid SW fans. Read for yourself what they had to say…

Two Princesses. At CIV, Bethany Hamilton Clearfield gets the chance to meet none other than Carrie Fisher, who played one of Bethany’s favorite Star Wars characters.

“I feel like I did experience some flack from classmates when I was younger,” says 32-year-old Bethany Hamilton Clearfield of Chicago, Illinois. “During teenage years, anything is game. Teens can find absolutely anything to tease one about, and perhaps Star Wars was an easy target. Much easier than womp rats, I guess. I think there is an understanding at my age that people can like and do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.” Bethany adds that she remembers being hurt by some comments hurled her way, but that her true friends didn’t care that she liked Star Wars: “They realized it was something that made me happy and therefore made them happy.”

Although 17 years Bethany’s junior, 15-year-old Lizzy Perales has found herself in pretty much the same boat as the freelance singer and teacher from Chicago did when she was a youth. Although the situation has improved since Lizzy got to high school, she recalls she was the only girl in her elementary school who liked Star Wars. In middle school, in particular, other students would make fun of her. “It was annoying when people would say ‘Star Wars is for boys,’ ” the California teen remarks. It especially helps now that Lizzy has found a kindred spirit in Zoe Hinton, of Pennsylvania. Zoe, who turns 16 this month, and Lizzy forged a strong friendship, and the two fans co-host a weekly podcast, Star Wars Geek Girl. There definitely is something to be said for finding others who are like you, who like the same things you do that it makes it easier to deal with negative comments or behaviors. Says Zoe, “Boys seemed more surprised I knew so much about Star Wars. There seemed to be this subtle impression that Star Wars is for boys. At school, I’m now the Star Wars person. If you want to know something, I’m the person to ask.”

Peas In A Pod. Lizzy (left) and Zoe finally had the chance to meet in person at Celebration Orlando this past April.

What sometimes can irk Zoe is when an assumption is made about her fandom. While she likes and has a great deal of respect for Princess/General Leia Organa – “She gets saved, but then she saves herself and everyone else! She comes up with the plans. [In ANH], she straight up lies to the person capable of killing her. She’s absolutely self-confident!” – Zoe gets bothered when someone automatically thinks her favorite character must be Leia because she, Zoe, and the character, Leia, both are female. “Oh, you like Leia, right?” Zoe cites as a question posed to her when she reveals she is a Star Wars fan. “I do, but that’s a wrong assumption. No one asks a boy something like that, right?”

Lily, from Florida, has a little different take on being a female Star Wars fan. From her point of view, it can be troublesome that some people give her flack for her fandom – mostly because of her age. At 64, Lily states, “Most people believe people or women my age should only be fans of our grandchildren!” While Lily certainly is a “fan” of her grandchildren, she also revels in being a Star Wars fan. “I will not allow anyone to spoil my fandom or fun when it comes to Star Wars, nor will I let them belittle me because of it.” Even though Lily says she has been the recipient of negative feedback from some individuals, one positive outcome has been sharing her fandom with her 14-year-old granddaughter. “She loves it just as I do because she has given me the time to express and explain my feelings and thoughts on Star Wars. She accompanied me to see The Force Awakens, and fell in love with it. After seeing that movie she needed to see the whole saga with me.” Which Lily was only too happy to oblige, she quips.

Jay Krebs, from Fredericksburg, Ohio, has had a bit of a different take on being a female Star Wars fan, too. “Either I’m naive, or maybe I’ve always been blindly and blissfully proud of my fandom, [but] seriously, I’ve never felt like I was less of a fan just because I’m a woman/girl/female. Maybe I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with the ‘right’ people?” the high school teacher poses. Jay, who lives in a male-dominated household [she is the only female in a family of four], admits she is very lucky to be surrounded by men who support her fandom. It helps, too, that they all like Star Wars [although not quite to her level of fandom]. “My hubby encourages me – because we both have different hobbies,” she explains. “Mine is Star Wars; his is antique tractor pulling. We support each other even though we may not be ‘into’ each other’s hobby. [My boys] have never known Mom without Star Wars. It would be like taking away part of my personality!”

Nineteen-year-old Vanessa Reese [my niece 🙂 ] from Chicago says she has many friends – both male and female – who are Star Wars fans, and gender never has entered into the picture when they’re talking about Star Wars. “It doesn’t stop us from showing the same excitement for these movies, [either],” the college sophomore shares, adding that she never has been on the receiving end of any barbs. “Whether male or female, [we’re] just excited for the new movies and to see their connections to the older films. I think that it’s just fun to be able to talk with another person who shares the same enthusiasm for these movies.”

That is the one thing we all – whether female or male – have in common … as Vanessa put it: our passion for these movies. It is the one common denominator, the invisible thread that connects us all. Forty years have passed since Star Wars burst on the scene, and I must admit that while I have seen many opinions change – especially with regard to female fans – I do find it … intriguing … that, to a certain extent, some biases linger, at least in some corners of the country. The upside is female Star Wars fans don’t let these biases stop them from being devotees. I hope you’ll join me next time when I continue this conversation with this great group of women. If you’d like to share your own experiences, please either leave a comment in a box below, or drop me an email at melindaw@coffeewithkenobi.com. I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

MTFBWY 🙂

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