By: T. Olajide
The life of the average nerd is pretty intense, but the life of the average female nerd is excruciatingly difficult and at times disappointing. Women not only have to navigate hyper-sexualisation, unprovoked online abuse, degradation but also an unsavoury amount of problematic tropes. Throw some intersections in there and we’ve got something crazy.
Being a black woman, I have faced a lot of difficulty in attempting to reconcile my love for this culture with my philosophical code. It is never easy having to step away from something that you love so much because of its dignity-stripping fibre. It’s frustrating knowing that the vast majority of people who consume this art won’t ever experience this battle of ethics, because this culture that you love, ultimately was not made for your delight.
Over the past few weeks, Chelsea Cain the head writer for Mockingbird has opened up about online abuse surrounding the 8th issue of the bestselling comic which features Mockingbird wearing a T-Shirt that reads ‘Ask me about my Feminist agenda’. Supposed “fans” of the comic book are up in arms over this cover and have made their distaste clear by distributing think-pieces of the dangers of feminism and of course by subjecting Cain to unfounded online abuse. This is yet another clear case of separating the wheat from the chaff i.e. distinguishing those who actually read these comics from those who just seek an opportunity to attack women on social media. Marvel’s underpinning liberal values have been known to ruffle feathers, but in this instance this hasn’t stirred me or for lack of a better phrase ‘rubbed me the wrong way’ because now I realise that the roots of hyper masculinity and misogyny are not rooted in insecurity or the fear of misandry; they aren’t rooted in anything at all. There is no logic or reason to this backlash. The abuse both Marvel and the entire Mockingbird team has faced just goes to show who is actually reading comics and really appreciating the message that comics like Mockingbird, the All New Avengers and A-Force have championed from the very start.
Mockingbird has always been feminist.
The wave of anti-feminist rhetoric this cover has ‘inspired’ from predominantly white, male readers is meaty. There is so much to unpack in this nonsensical act of brashness. For starters, it’s clear that in nerd culture women are once again just expected to be hyper-charged sex dolls who have very little to offer to a narrative other than being kidnapped — or I don’t know, wooed by a school jock. But this realisation doesn’t sadden me, not one bit. Instead I now have a better understanding of how the nerd community is very much like every other space, but in some ways worse. The rampant racism, misogyny and bigotry in this social pocket is often thinly veiled with this tragic narrative of comradery — ‘societies most scorned unite!’ This space promotes the same regurgitated ideals within mainstream media, we are force fed tired tropes and worst of all we are expected to be grateful for poorly executed and culturally insensitive live-action adaptations.
But then I think — maybe I’m approaching this wrong, if these bigoted ideals stem from mainstream culture perhaps the issue is not one exclusive to this community? Perhaps. But one thing remains evident, there is something sinister about the way bigotry and male entitlement is addressed within this community. There is something incredibly dangerous with this culture of faux outrage that silences writers who stand for anything besides the status quo.
I’ll leave you with an excerpt from Inverse as food for thought on the abrasive backlash of Mockingbird; “Authors like Cain are being introduced to the comic book medium because of its growing popularity, but the reactions of those who politicize comics without actually reading them (this includes journalists and fans of certain iterations of superheroes) are so deafening that it threatens to chase creators back into novels and classic print fiction. As Marvel has seen on titles like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay’s Black Panther and World of Wakanda , making an organic connection between existing titles and non-comics authors whose sensibilities fit can create quality, marketable comic texts.”
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a neuroscience nerd turned Creative Consultant and Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on TikTok or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels. From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.