Fanboys, wait…

A recent blog post on ClubJade.net has stirred the voices of fangirls across the internet and raised the backs of a few fanboys. When I first read Erika’s Back off, guys: It’s our turn, I felt a deep empathy for her opinion. Having been a fangirl since 1977, I am well aware of the passive cold shoulder given to female fans by the industry – and the sometimes much more aggressive dismissal aimed our way by a specific subset of fanboys who don’t like the ladies playing in their sandbox. The trail of comments on Facebook, Club Jade, and elsewhere after Erika’s blog brought to light further opinions, most very supportive of Ashley Eckstein’s budding business, but some more critical.

In a follow-up blog on her site, Ashley did an exceptional job of addressing concerns aired by some of the female fans, and used the immediate attention to enlighten all of us about the many variables affecting cost and supply for her product line. Hopefully some of the female fans who were critical of Her Universe’s products will be more understanding now that they’ve had a glimpse behind the business curtain. In responding to a male fan who felt a bit put off by the attitude reflected in the ClubJade.net blog, Erika clarified she was directing her response to men who have said ““now we need something like that for guys!” when referring to the HU clothing line.”

Being a fangirl, I’d like to offer a differing point of view – my opinion that I think we fangirls need to reconsider whether it’s in our best interest to tell the fanboys to back off.

Reading Erika’s blog and related comments, and comparing them with opinions I’ve heard expressed by other women, I think it’s clear that as a fangirl community we share a common vision: easily accessible, quality merchandise that caters to our feminine tastes at an affordable price.  To achieve that goal, first and foremost we need Her Universe to succeed, because if Her Universe fails the longtime naysayers who have refused to step into this market will simply take it as proof that they’ve been right all along, that there’s no profit to be made serving fangirl demand.

Given that, my own personal opinion is that engaging the fanboys is far more likely to help us achieve all parts of that goal. I’ve worked in the corporate world for twenty years now, and I have a pretty good understanding of marketing and overhead costs. These principles are pretty standard no matter what industry you look at; it’s the reason the CEO of a paper company can move on to run an automotive parts company. Her Universe has stepped into the market with some savvy branding choices aimed at a previously unfilled market. The company and its goals are relayed to the customers with unique identifiers such as color choices, softer font types, a female friendly website, and feminine product offerings.

Just like any business, though, those upfront marketing tools come at a cost – graphic designers, webmasters, sales staff, and so on.  Those are hard, fixed overhead costs which have to be spread across all product offerings in order to be recouped. Each particular shirt has an embedded cost to create it, too. Take for instance the “Fettish” tank previewed earlier this month. Her Universe had to pay for graphic design plus manhour costs for all involved in bringing that design to fruition. There are large numbers of fans – men and women – who love the design.

So here’s why we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the fanboys. The artwork and design of each shirt is done and paid for once it hits the stores. Taking notice of the reaction across the entire Star Wars fanbase to specific designs, whether it be the Boba Fettish motif or any other one, in Ashley’s shoes it would be smart as a businesswoman to at least consider on occasion producing a matching man’s version and broadening the market for that particular product. The irony shouldn’t be lost on anyone that the newest product revealed amid last week’s blog discussions imitates young men’s underwear and that there was initial confusion over whether it was meant for men or women.

There are distinct business advantages to placing certain popular designs on both female and male apparel, which actually might drive us further toward the common fangirl vision I noted above. First, it helps Her Universe succeed; second, it helps spread out the initial production costs between male and female consumers, which in turn should help reduce the price of both products.

Granted there are always branding choices for any company, and Ashley and Her Universe may decide that choice conflicts with their corporate vision, or they may simply be restricted by licensing agreements. We fangirls are lucky because no matter what, Her Universe has a very clear vision of their niche and who their base market is. But consider this: bringing men into the online store for a masculine version of something along the lines of a man’s Fettish shirt may end up with that fanboy, much like Erika has done for her man, walking out not just with his tank but also something else for his fangirl. And so the market churns and the snowball rolls… Most importantly, we all move one step closer to that shared fangirl vision.

Yes, we fangirls have gotten the short end of the stick for a while. Storylines in the movies, books, and comics have been more geared toward men, clothing has been designed with masculine sensibilities, and a certain section of fanboys continue to be reactive and mean-spirited in their reception of our shared enjoyment. Times are changing, though. As discussed in my Heiress to the Throne blog, female-centric plotlines have been received well and more are coming in The Clone Wars. Likewise, the Legacy comics have earned a hard-core set of female fans largely based on the wonderful storytelling by Jan Duursema and John Ostrander. What I see as the greatest achievement for these successes is that they are not exclusive to fangirl or fanboy enjoyment, but rather that we’ve all been able to enjoy them together.

For that reason, I am reluctant to shake my fist at my fellow fans. Without a doubt we fangirls know how that feels. Haven’t we been saying for years, there is room for everyone?  I quite look forward to the possibility of seeing two fans – one boy, one girl – posing side by side in their awesome matching Star Wars shirts, especially if it would help Her Universe succeed.

May the Force be with us all.

17 comments to Fanboys, wait…

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Amy Bates / PoopSama, Fangirl. Fangirl said: Should fangirls really be telling fanboys to back off? – http://fangirlblog.com/2010/11/fanboys-wait/ […]

  • astronaught

    Hello Fangirl. I am that particular fanboy who you said “felt a bit put off” by the article. :) I apologized on Her Universe for my reaction and I joined the Her Universe forums. I have been in favor of Her Universe since before I read the article. I feel like I’m walking on thin ice by commenting here, so I want to get something straight for anyone reading this. I am NOT trying to restart the fire that I just put out. No argumants here.

    Now, having said that I also feel relatively safe to comment here because I feel like you will listen. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT saying that Her Universe needs to make products for fanboys. What I do agree with is that we need to get along in order for equality to be attained. And that’s all I was trying to say on HU.

    One comment that I read in response to my comments said something to the affect that I should remember before I get “upset” about the article that “men” have treated “women” like that for a long time. This comment kind of had a feeling of “I don’t even want to hear it from you.”

    What I was trying to get at is that I am not “men” and YOU are not “women.” In the same way that she did not deserve mistreatment, neither did I. Why? We are individuals, not to be condemned for what others have done. It felt like to me, at the time, that I was really the only one supporting true equality. I do see the dangers of talking to people like that. It’s like this. I’m not one of those “anti-girl” fanboys. But I could be. How? By being told by the girls to pretty much piss off. It felt like I was reaching out to shake their hands, and they were reaching out to break mine.

    Please keep in mind that this is simply an explanation of how I FELT. I am CURRENTLY NOT upset by anything. I apologize if this arouses offense to anyone. I do not want it to be that way. And again, I do NOT believe that the male fans need any products from Her Universe. However, thank you Fangirl for expressing your fair ideas of equality by genuinely avoiding “shaking our fists” at any other fans. On another note, I am usually a very good writer, and I’m sorry if this is difficult to understand. :)

    astronaught

  • Hello! I’m the author of the article at ClubJade. Firstly, thank you for reading it and feeling inspired enough to write a response. I’m very happy Ashley was so proactive in her approach to fan concerns and immediately took to addressing those.

    I do want to say, however, that my article was never intended to tell guys off (the title is about the only part where this is mentioned, albeit facetiously; later in the article I specifically say I don’t want to have that attitude toward male fans). It was a plea to engage more support from guys. The phrase I mentioned (which has been seen everywhere, not just Twitter and Facebook) is just indicative of a small percentage of males who no doubt are a bit tone deaf to the cause, but as I mention: I know their hearts are in the right places. I even end the article relating it back to them (how we can now wear product that flatters us and stand next to them), which would not be the case if I was dismissing fanboys.

    • @astronaught: I’m glad you liked my closing line. I wouldn’t stress too much; it’s apparent you’re rooting for HU and fangirls everywhere.

      @Erika: Thanks for stopping by. I think it’s really great that you managed to bring female fans together and generated some input for Her Universe so Ashley can continue to improve her product. Free shipping this week! It’s incentive enough for me to get another Star Wars t-shirt. Not sure if I want the Burnout or the Padmé Nouveau.

      I understand that you were trying to be facetious in some of the remarks you directed at male fans in your original post at Club Jade. However, as a woman who grew up in a world that often feels skewed to heavily favor our male counterparts, I don’t think that tone was the most effective way to convey a request for supportiveness. For example, I have a hard time with seeing “mansplain” thrown out, even for a tongue-in-cheek plea. It’s just one of those really heavyweight words that if someone feels the need to use it in any situation, she might be better to walk off and sit on its implications for a moment. The word connotes negative judgment, and people who see words that project judgment, no matter how they were intended, are much harder to engage constructively.

      As I stated in my blog, I empathize with your frustrations as a female fan. I understand why you needed to explain how some fanboys were making you feel. By way of my blog, I’m simply proposing another way to engage more support from the men.

  • astronaught

    Erika (Jawas Read, Too)

    Please tell me that the fire has not been rekindled. I was just tryng to explain what was going through my head at the time. I have a great deal of respect for Ashley Eckstein as well as Her Universe, and I am not trying to start any new issues.

  • astronaught, I didn’t even see your comment until mine had already been posted. I’m not responding to you, just clarifying my article since I felt “Fangirl” interpreted it in a way I did not intend.

  • astronaught

    Alright, I want to address something else now. I just want to say that it’s really not fair for Mrs. Ashley Eckstein to become the victim of too much criticism. She is simply trying to bring something to female Star Wars and scifi fans that they previously did not have. Everything I’ve seen from her is positive. Maybe I should’ve kept my mouth shut. I did NOT intend to be critical of Ashley Eckstein or of Her Universe. She sees a way to spread the benefits of fandom to the female gender. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. After being ignored, they deserve it. Her business is very young. She needs support. It’s not like she’s trying to say “Ladies, let’s take over everything.” If any criticism was geared towards Her Universe providing female fans with clothing and accessories, these criticisms are unjust. Maybe i just need to be careful about how I word things. But I do not wish to be a part of a crowd that makes a reformer with a good cause and a young business feel uneasy about the success of her venture. Her cause is worhty of respect and she is worthy of respect for doing something that other businesses may have been afraid to do (market Star Wars and scifi products to female fans). I am 100% a fan of her cause. It wouldn’t be bad for a fanboy to meet a girl who loved the same thing as him, would it? I have actually noticed that she said that her intentions are not to say that Star Wars is just for girls or boys either way. She said it’s for everyone. She just desires to allow female fans to express their enthusiasm for Star Wars and scifi along with the male fans. I think that she deserves support and respect. Fangirl, I’m not trying to sound mean, I’m just defending her, Her Universe, and, in a sense, myself from any notion that she is running a sexist line or that I am saying that she is running a sexist line. She’s not running any such line and I’m not saying that she is. Sharing the fandom is what it’s all about. That’s what Ashley Eckstein is saying, that’s what Erika (Jawas Read, Too) is saying, and that’s what the her Universe supporters are saying. I understand that some of the criticism was about prices or oter things maybe, but I’m simply not addressing those because they don’t apply to me. Again, I’m not trying to lash out. I’m just trying to clarify my position on the matter since I was referred to in this article. Fangirl, in your awesome words, “May the force be with us all.”

  • I think these are great comments, and thanks for raising them. I know it’s been hashed back and forth but my interpretation of “back off” was just to let fangirls own this one and not act as if we guys were being left out. “Star Wars shirts” are pretty much “Star Wars shirts for guys” by default; therefore Her Universe needs to emphasize the female aspect in order to stand out.

    Astronaught, I wouldn’t be worried about your comments at all — I’ve been lucky to work a little bit with Ashley and I can say that she’s 100% committed to getting real, honest feedback, and that it’s always better to have an open conversation.

  • astronaught

    Yeah, to be perfectly honest it wasn’t the message of Erika’s article that provoked me to comment, it was the phrasing. “Excuse me” and “Get the @#$% out of my way” can mean essentially the same thing, but will get two totally different responses. Same basic principle. Maybe I was misunderstood on HU. I wasn’t saying that female fans didn’t deserve their own clothing line, I was just reacting to “agressive” wording, so to speak. FANgirl, you put the thoughts that I had such difficulty expressing into words in explaining the negativity that can be interpreted in the use of such heavy wording and phrasing. I was even accused of this “mansplaining.” You want to be nice to people when you try to gain their support, or even their understanding. :) It’s not always entirely about what you say, it’s largely about how you say it. I’m willing to listen to ideas as long as I’m approached respectfully. I applaud you, FANgirl, for being fair enough to see that. Dan, thank you for the reassurance. Erika, I applaud your your ability to keep an open mind here. :)

  • astronaught

    Grr. I need to let go of certain experiences. The article misunderstanding is over.

  • Chris B.

    Very good read. Especially after the very female-centric ep of Clone Wars tonight (Which I hope you blog about!), this seems very well timed.

    The first time I commented here, I was a weeee bit afraid that fanboys would be frowned upon as ensconcing on a Blog for girls by girls, but you made me feel welcome for my comments, so reading this was very cool to see. I agree that both fanboys and fangirls getting along is probably the best way to do things, but also to make sure that girls get an equal amount of attention and merch – though as Ashley herself said in her blog, that will be very difficult to achieve, it’s certainly something we can work towards.

    Something else I wanted to mention… and not to be negative at all, but to speak to existent human nature – despite claims that we now live in a fully homogenized society now, I’m sure if you’ve worked in the corporate world for as long as you have (I’m only at 6 years myself) you’ve seen there’s still a lot of inequality going on, to say nothing of government, and I see it in fanboys even now. It’s stupid, it sucks, but there seems to be some inherent thing in fanboys where they feel like girl’s won’t get it – and it’s just false. I think they’re afraid of giving up the ‘territory’ they’ve held on for years.

    But when I see progressive blogs like yours, sites like Ashley’s, and I’m confident that things will change very, very quickly. We live in a more well-connected society than ever before, where more and more women rightfully have more power than they’ve had before (that I’m aware of). I also know several women on Twitter that are very high in the corporate world (one of which has blue hair which she maintains while working at the corp, which is *really* cool) and they’re kicking butt and taking names as well.

    I’m honored to know you all, and look forward to reading your site for years to come!

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