The Fault In Our Star Wars: Women In Fandom Are Tired, and Men Aren’t Listening

Women in the workplace often have to work harder to win creative opportunities. It happens in fandom spaces, too.

In which I spend 800–1500 words complaining about how much I hate men and wish they’d all get out of my Star Wars.

I’m kidding, of course. Fs in the chat to those who don’t read past the first line. I look forward to your embarrassing (for you) Twitter DMs.

The truth? Star Wars wouldn’t exist without men. Or women. Just because a woman pushes back against an infuriating long-standing gender disparity doesn’t mean she hates those who share a gender with many who happen to be responsible for it.

To say that women have to fight harder to win the same creative opportunities as men in any context isn’t news to anyone reading this … hopefully.

It’s the same story in fandom. The podcasting, YouTube, and web publishing spaces in particular are male-dominated, forcing women who want to establish themselves in these spaces to dedicate dangerous amounts of effort and time to doing so.

Here’s what you might not know:

Not all women fighting this fight want to keep fight this hard.

We’re making progress, and that’s great. Project Stardust is just one example of a group of Star Wars fans standing up to toxicity and making magic out of chaos.

But at what cost?

Women are getting louder. We’re fighting harder. We’re learning more and more how to support each other from across different parts of the world.

As a result, many of us are constantly cycling through periods of intense hustle followed by even more intense periods of burnout.

We might not always talk about it. But it’s happening.

The problem is, often when we do try to talk about this, the ones (at least partially) at fault aren’t hearing us.

We don’t want men to “go away.” We want men to listen. To watch. To make an active attempt to understand what’s going on here and do something about it.

Many of them won’t. But some will.

For years men have been the ones in Star Wars to try it all — pitch the ideas, write the screenplays, outline the books, edit the trailers.

There have been plenty of women along the way who have made Star Wars and its surrounding fandom a safer, more inclusive place to be. The Marcia Lucases and Karen Travisses can and shall never be forgotten.

But it’s 2021 now, and we’re no longer asking men to get out of the way so we can have our turn — we’ll push you, if we have to. But we shouldn’t have to.

We’re asking that as we shoot for the stars, men simply … let us.

Support us, cheer us on, amplify our voices and our work — sure, if you want.

But we’re tired of the constant resistance. We’re tired of the hate. And we’re tired of having to overcompensate just to have the chance to, at the very least, stand in the back of the room.

Nerd culture isn’t dangerous in its inactive, isolated form — there are always going to be men who don't believe women can (or should) do … anything. Most of them aren’t ever going to change their minds.

Nerd culture becomes toxic when (a) men make an effort to stop women from thriving creatively in fandom (b) women support (or fail to dismiss) men who make an effort to stop women from thriving creatively in fandom.

Yes — this falls on certain women, too. As much as I despise calling the Fandom Menace by its name, the poisonous entity consists of just as many women as there are men. This is not a “fanboy” problem. It’s a toxic fandom problem.

I shouldn’t have to mute hundreds of Twitter accounts and report a dozen embarrassing (for them) NSFW photos in my DMs and mentions every time I tweet about female creators needing more space to thrive in Star Wars.

I shouldn’t have to hastily coach 30 people through how to preserve their personal information the night before we launch a fan site because enough accounts have spewed hatred at them to justify the possibility of death threats…or worse.

I shouldn’t ever have to answer dozens of messages from strangers asking if I’m OK because oops I’m a female Star Wars fan advocating for other female Star Wars fans and a bored dude on the internet didn’t like that.

I shouldn’t have to. But I have, and chances are, I will again. Many, many times over.

There’s no point in asking why men are so resistant to gender equality, especially in fandom — if you don’t know the answer by now, I’m not going to take the time to explain it here just yet.

Instead, I ask the following:

What can men in the Star Wars fandom do to set a better example for other men in the Star Wars fandom — all in an effort to make this a better community for all?

(What can women do? I’m doing it right now. I’m speaking — writing — what you might not want to hear. This isn’t about me.)

Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Don’t dismiss us when we tell you there’s a problem. Don’t roll your eyes, don’t assume we’re “overreacting.” Ask us how you can help us fix the problem. Literally be part of the solution. We can work together. We want to.
  2. Talk less when women are in the room. I’d love to say that all of us have the courage to speak up and make ourselves heard, but some women have spent years — decades — being led to believe they will be silenced, ridiculed, or ignored every time they speak. It takes a long time to un-learn that.
  3. Don’t just give women the microphone — take the microphone away from other men. Even the best of you don’t always realize you’re not giving women a chance to speak. Help each other notice it. Also … you can be civil about it. This isn’t about screaming at each other to “do better.” It only happens collectively.
  4. Create more opportunities for female creators in fandom. Yes, we can do plenty of that ourselves, and we are. We’re trying. But the more effort you — yes, you — put into making that a little less difficult for us, the better. If you have the influence to make it happen, make it happen.

I’ve included this last one because — I’ve been plenty real with you up to this point, so I might as well keep going — I’m exhausted.

It’s hard for men to “get” why I’m so exhausted because this is a brand of wariness reserved only for anyone who isn’t a white cisgender male-identifying human who has rarely, if ever, been slammed with any kind of prejudice or discrimination for being a certain gender — in the workplace, in their community, in fandom … anywhere.

Opportunities to thrive creatively don’t often magically appear in front of our faces the way they might for you. And even when they do, many women feel they have to work twice as hard — or harder — as their male competition to have even a chance of being chosen for a gig, a job, an audition … even just a meeting.

We always spend a little more time making sure our resumes are spotless.

We always sit up a little straighter. Speak a little clearer (not too softly, not too loudly — either can be perceived negatively).

We always walk into a room (log onto a Zoom call?) knowing we’re already at a disadvantage because we’re women.

Even the men I would trust with my life aren’t perfect. And I still often find myself pushing a little harder to get my point across even among my guy friends. Not because I’m afraid they’re judging me, but instead because I can’t just turn off a natural reflex. I’ve been conditioned to fight.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I want to see more podcasts, YouTube channels, fan sites, and other creative projects actively recruit more women to join their teams when creating Star Wars content. Not because women can’t or don’t want to seek these opportunities out or create them themselves, but because many of them lose out on these opportunities to men when they try.

It’s not necessarily a purposeful outcome. It’s just often the way things go. You can still put in the effort to make a difference.

I never want to hear “I’ll hire the best person for the job” again. If you want to be part of the effort to involve more women in fandom, you should seek to hire the best woman for the job. Not many creators are doing that. You have the power to lay a foundation.

Men (generally) are great. But you’ve had plenty of chances. You’ll always have more chances because of who you are.

Let us earn some of those chances — and stop making it so difficult for us to keep them.

Don’t harass us, don’t intimidate us, don’t shut us down before we’ve even had the chance to contribute. Don’t whisper about how annoying we are when we’re not in the room just for having what we’ve worked so hard to achieve. Don’t expect us to stop fighting even when we win. We won’t. We can’t.

I don’t speak for all women. But I can speak on behalf of every female Star Wars fan who is just so … so, so tired.

We’re going to keep writing, and making art, and sharing our opinions. We’re going to keep talking and tweeting and yes, sometimes even yelling. No amount of active or passive resistance is going to stop us.

But if you’re out there, and you hear a woman talking about her struggle, or you see one of us being mistreated as we’re trying to celebrate our fandom through our work … say something. Do something. Clear a path. Don’t drown out our noise.

And please, for the love of God … don’t assume we automatically hate you just because you’re a dude.

Men and women can and need to exist in the same fandom, create in the same spaces, and all have the same opportunities to thrive. It’s going to take all of us working together to get closer toward any sense of equality in our lifetimes.

Don’t make us do all the work. Work with us, not against us. That’s all we ask.

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Project Stardust, celebrating underrepresented voices in the Star Wars fandom. Writer, photographer, podcaster. She/her.