We went to Penguicon this past weekend. I like ConFusion, the other SF/F convention we go to yearly, better, but there was a lot of fun stuff in this one. I didn't get to see half of it because Eric slept during my Chloe-free time (I let him because he had an upset tummy), but for example, one of the panels was on real-life superheroes and legal and ethical issues attending them. Intriguing and great fun. There was one on humor in SF/F, and one on DIY blogs, and lots of things I missed. (I did have a good time, don't get me wrong. I'm just not used to not being able to do most of what I want to do at a con.)
One of the panels I attended was "The Emergence of the Female Superhero." It was fun, though it started and ended with a discussion of whose superhero costume was the best. The discussion progressed through "what is a superhero" kickass women who are too self-conscious (as in, trying too hard to say "I'm a girl and I kick ass"--the panel's example was Buffy) and kickass women who aren't (Zoe from Firefly) and the Bechdel-Wallace test and so on.
At one point, one of the participants said something about "I'm going to ask a controversial question: are we making too much of the difference between men and women and focusing too much attention on women?" He didn't say it nearly that directly, but that was how I interpreted it. Nobody else on the panel appeared to pay much attention. Later in response to a question I don't remember, he said, "Well, maybe the feminists in the room think so, but..." Nobody, panel or audience, appeared to notice, and that was the last thing he said. He sat for the rest of the panel with his mouth closed, looking angry.
When I told Eric about the "maybe the feminists" comment later he said, "And he walked out of there with his balls?", which amused me, but kind of made me sad because there was never a chance of him (the panelist) being confronted about his pretty apparently antifeminist mindset. It wouldn't have been polite, and it would have ruined a mostly enjoyable conversation about women in media (not totally, since a lot of it was about Castle, which I've only seen one episode of, and when the Bechdel-Wallace test was mentioned one of the male panelists instantly said, "But women never talk about anything other than men," which irritated me since that sort of joke is part of the problem). The discussion itself was never really about female superheroes, more about how women are portrayed in (fiction) media, which was still interesting; but I'd been hoping for a more positive perspective than a rehashing of all the stories in which women must be isolated or freaks in order to be featured as major characters.
I suppose I'm glad the panelist didn't attempt to derail the discussion by talking about how the problem of women in the media was vastly overblown and if people would just be sensible it would all go away and we'd realize there's really no problem. I hope he knew it wouldn't be well received. And I'm glad it wasn't my last panel of the con, or I'd have gone away more depressed than I did. As it was I went to the DIY blogs one and was pretty entertained, and newly interested in writing up my quilting patterns.