Tuesday, 18 February 2014

An Open Letter

I fairly recently got into reading graphic novels, having been lead there (predictably enough) by Neil Gaimen. Under guidance from friends, I've ploughed though a few classics of the genre and am starting to develop my own tastes. A colleague - rather an aficionado - told me to check out the London Comic Mart, so that's where I went yesterday.

The fact that most of my fellow attendees were men was not a surprise. Their reaction to my presence amongst them was.
The staring.
My goodness, the staring.

Do you have any idea how intimidating that is?
I actually went to the loos to check that I didn't have my skirt tucked into my pants. No, I didn't - I looked pretty much like I always do - headscarf, coat, black tights, heels. There were six other female comic-fans walking around the crowded rooms, compared to whom I was maybe a bit over done.... but, compared to the majority of female characters in the available reading material, I looked like a nun.
Yet, I had eyes trailing me as if I was suspected of shoplifting. Under such scrutiny, I became hyper-aware of my every movement and facial expression - my usual background level of awkward became massively magnified. Could that really all because I had visible legs?

Combine the incessant need to stare at my back with a complete aversion to interacting with my face, and a weird, scary atmosphere is created. Salesmen who were trying to chat up every other passer-by became suddenly engrossed in paperwork while I browsed their wares. When I actually tried to make a purchase, the attendant was so surprised that he visibly jumped. I swear, he'd have been less shocked had my cat expressed an interest in volume 3 of Fables. Apparently unable to rise to the challenge of asking if such an aberration as I needed a carrier bag, he wordlessly ran away to find someone else who could serve me. 

Now, maybe I'm reading too much into it - maybe it's not my double x chromosome that caused such a reaction. I was too upset and intent on getting out to try to gauge how the other women were being treated. But I can't think what else it could be. Please, if my unfamiliarity with some detail of etiquette was the cause of the hostility,  tell me - I'm shy, but friendly, so you can approach me to let me know. I'm new to this world and would be happy to learn it's ways.

I know that, individually, none of you meant harm - but collectively, you were really very unwelcoming.
I'll be coming back - there were interesting books at good prices, and I'm goddamn stubborn. So, I'd really appreciate it if next time you'd treat me like just-another-human (even if I'm part of the 50% with differently shaped genitals to yours), rather than like a rhinoceros who should be re-captured by the zoo.


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