Life After Conventions

Hey, folks. It’s a bit short and rambly today, and this is another episode that might be a bit of a downer. Here’s the thing… I don’t like what anime conventions have become. I won’t go to any more conventions, at least, not until something changes. Here’s why:

I didn’t really plan out what I was going to say beforehand, and as I played the recording back to myself (you know, checking for background noise and overuse of “Umm”), I was kind of surprised at my own words. I seemed to be advocating starting an alternate space as opposed to trying to hold onto a mainstream space where people like us are clearly unwelcome. Of course, that’s understandable – who wants to make more enemies? But, I’ve also heard other people say that sort of thing, and I thought “that’s quitter talk.”

Let’s just take for example, a non-Eurocentric version of history. I think it puts schoolkids at a disadvantage to not learn the version of history that everyone else in the world is learning. Not to mention, defining your group based on its not being welcome by the mainstream is also kinda feeding into THEIR marginalization of YOU. So, is that not self-defeating? Yes and no. Yes, because it forever defines you and your group as “not normal,” but it’s also just as ridiculous to wholly embrace the idea of a limited version of history. You know what groups were involved in history? All of them. So, rather than breaking off and forming your own version of things, why not push for inclusion in the mainstream? Why does history have to be only about Europe and the US? Shouldn’t it be about ALL of the world? (Answer: yes, it should. If we’re going to understand anything about how history was shaped, then everyone’s story is important).

Back in the day, I kind of saw the “let’s ditch the mainstream and make a space where we can be ourselves and not get kicked in the face over it” as negative self-branding and quitter talk. And yet… I totally empathize with it. Conventions are too busy protecting horny neckbeards from being held responsible for groping cosplayers, so damned if they’re going to protect cosplayers from being groped. What we have here is a predicament. Some people are never going to learn to behave themselves because they define themselves around misbehaving. The terms “Freedom of Speech” or “censorship” will come up.

If Person A defines themself around not fitting in and Person B does the same, then how can there ever be a stable version of a culture that accepts them both? And, really, who wants to be in the “other” category for the rest of their life? Sure, there’s pride about not fitting into the mainstream – let us recognize our uniqueness. But, does it have to be a victim story? Does it have to be something negative? We should build our space through positivity, and a love of our positive traits – that’s the only way to build a healthy and safe community. …But that isn’t what “geekery” means anymore.

So what do we do?

Well, maybe conventions are just one part of geekery. If we have to give up conventions, are we giving up geekery as a whole? Hell no! Geekery is who we are. It’s our pastime, our education, our skillset, our passion. It’s how we met our best friends. It’s how we built ourselves and how we understand ourselves – and a part of that is that we ARE NOT victims. Are the X-men just a bunch of freaks whom no one likes? Or are they also superheroes?! Geekery is for the misunderstood, and when those who misunderstand us take over our space, we will pick up and go elsewhere… and do you know what that means? If we’re the geeks, then when we migrate, WE TAKE THE GEEKERY WITH US! If we are who we are, then it doesn’t matter where we go. Let’s ditch the label but keep the passion and tradition. Let the testosterone-fueled macho men and the mouthbreathing neckbeards and the snarking militant-atheist anarchists “I-didn’t-wear-underwear-because-sheeple-wear-underwear” folks have the old campground. We’re moving on. Let them flaunt their fedoras and T-shirts with rape jokes. We’re going where we don’t need to see that. We’re moving on to whatever comes next, and we will talk about mythology and we will knit and we will read. We will have cosplay tea parties and game nights and trivia quizzes. We will write novels and poems and fanfics, and we will understand when someone is too busy writing to come to an event, and we will critique and promote each others’ creations. Why?

Because we’re us. We may not be “geeks” anymore, but dammit, we understand each other and what we want for ourselves out of life. Contrary to popular belief, we have pride and self-respect, and that includes refusing to lay down and be targets and work our lives around people who don’t accept us – even if those people are using our former name.

So let’s move on together. This is for the cosplayers and the filk musicians. This is for the coders and the writers and the artists and the inventors. This is for the girls who like spaceships and the boys who like baking cupcakes and the people who read books even though a teacher never assigned it to them. This is for the explorers and nurturers and creators and believers. This is for us and for the people like us in the future. Trends come and go and words change their meaning, but we cannot be kicked out of being who we are.

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