However unlikely, 2017 was the Year of the Woman

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Geek Goddess interview series will return next Wednesday. Until then, I offer some thoughts in honor of the new year.

Image result for womens march 2017

For me and many other women, the beginning of 2017 was marked by a profound feeling of defeat.

We were still reeling from Bill Cosby, Brock Turner, and a series of nasty shocks that only served to highlight America’s festering rape culture.

An admitted – nay, even proud — sexual harasser was about to be sworn into the nation’s highest office.

He and his party achieved this victory by waging a divisive campaign of mistrust and misogyny against his opponent, who might have otherwise become America’s first female president. To add insult to injury, a large percentage of women voters helped put this man in the White House.

A disconcerting feminist backlash was brewing (if you doubt it, consider that so many people were confused about what exactly feminism is or questioned its legitimacy enough that the word was one of Merriam-Webster’s most searched-for terms in 2017).

My reaction to these events was utter despair.

I developed an unhealthy social media attachment, fearing that somehow if I put down my phone or looked away from the latest headline for even an instant, the world would implode.

I was angry, depressed, disillusioned. I longed to channel my outrage into productive words and action, but was at a total loss as to what I should do — paralyzed, helpless, hopeless.

I wasn’t alone in experiencing these emotions. The worldwide Women’s March, which took place on Jan. 21, was proof of this. All over America, and around the world even, women were feeling sad, furious, traumatized, triggered.

We didn’t even know then what the rest of 2017 would hold: natural disasters and catastrophes at home and abroad, violent shootings, racism rearing its ugly head, absolute political lunacy, the constant, looming threat of nuclear war, and a massive sexual harassment scandal that rocked Hollywood and corporate culture to its core.

Somehow we survived it all and here we are in 2018. Not much has changed, really, at least circumstantially but – to me, at least — the mood feels dramatically different.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that a record number of women are gearing up to run for office in 2018.

Or maybe it was Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony, in which a group of powerful women managed to completely upend one of Hollywood’s biggest nights – complete with black gowns, Oprah’s speech, and the awkward but necessary speaking of truths — and transform it into a righteous, deafening cry for an end to sexual abuse.

Of course, there are the naysayers who claim it’s all shallow industry posturing and that celebs should just shut up and stick to entertaining, but to me that night was a transcendent moment of feminism, solidarity, activism, intersectionality, and support for victims instead of shaming. It may be the start of an imperfect movement, but hopefully it’s just a tiny taste of what’s to come in 2018.

Hollywood’s fledgling Time’s Up movement is a powerful example of what can be achieved when women band together and lift each other up.

I experienced this power on a personal level throughout 2017 as I traveled a painful, rocky, and ultimately constructive path from despair back to hope. I did not travel it alone. Never before have I felt so buoyed and inspired by other women.

One of my favorite fellow bloggers and I quite literally kept up a running Facebook Messenger conversation for the entire year.

We talked about everything from our political disenchantment, to our disgust with racism and antifeminism, to our own experiences with misogyny and harassment. At times, it felt like we were just wallowing in depression, but these candid chats were a balm to my struggling soul.

When I was paralyzed by inaction and a lack of purpose, one of my dearest friends from college invited me to join her text support group and also challenged me to do what I could, despite my limitations.

She inspired me to start a prayer group, which in turn became another network of support as our small band of women gathered monthly to commiserate with and console each other while seeking spiritual solace amidst the tragedy of  2017.

Toward the end of the year, my sister, Fawn Kemble, founded a writers group inspired by the legendary Inklings. At a bookish pub in Los Angeles, we met to discuss the individual hurdles we faced as writing women.

We ended up discussing so much more, and I left inspired by the strength and spirit of these poets, screenwriters, novelists, and bloggers who are pressing forward with their calling despite the overwhelming obstacles faced by female scribes.

Ava DuVernay

I found encouragement in other places, as well. In the work, words, and example of pioneering women in pop culture, fearless warriors like comic book writer Gail Simone, “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, the late Carrie Fisher, “A Wrinkle in Time” filmmaker Ava DuVernay, and many more, who busted through barriers with grace and steely determination.

On a final note of gratitude, I was especially heartened by you, the readers of No Man’s Land, who have formed a small but smart, feisty, and devoted community of passionate geeks, both male and female. I have enjoyed our dialogues and interactions immensely since I founded the blog.

I’ve been endlessly inspired by the talented, creative, wildly intelligent, fabulously rebellious women we’ve featured so far on No Man’s Land.

Among them: geek mom and comic book guru Kristy Rivas; Harry Potter fan extraordinaire Ann-Laurel Nickel; Jill Warden, aka Faizeh, the belly-dancing queen; philosopher, feminist, and sci-fi fan Brenna Humann; cosplayer Sara Parrott; knitting wizard Dawn Branch; pumpkin carver and Pop! collector Stephanie Patterson; 501st Legionnaire Lindsay Ludvigsen; Awkward Spinster blogger Fawn Kemble; bibliophile Caitlin Hawkins; visual effects artist Elaine Wu; animator and dinosaur fiend Christine Simon; Orthodox Jewish Mandalorian Merc Corinne Finkelstein; documentary filmmaker Marisa Stotter; droid-loving Keri Bean of JPL; Shawna of; therapist and anime enthusiast Dareece Shaw; and illustrator Mai Kemble.

My top priority this year is to continue to showcase women’s voices in geek culture and celebrate even more unapologetically nerdy ladies.

The media has predicted that 2018 will be “The Year of the Woman.”

As far as I’m concerned, we’re already there.

Photos: YouTube,

Welcome to No Man’s Land

Something happened to me in June.

I’m sure certain people will scoff when I say that in June a movie changed my life. Or maybe it didn’t quite change my life, but it changed the way I saw the world and it changed the way I saw myself.

In June, I saw Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman.”

After decades in development limbo, DC’s long-awaited comic book adaptation arrived exactly when I needed it most, after months of demoralizing political and social setbacks for feminism and female wellbeing in general.

Despite what James Cameron says, “Wonder Woman” is a feat of female representation the likes of which Hollywood never seemed capable of delivering before. The fact that it also became the biggest hit of the summer, breaking records left and right, was just icing on the cake.

Left to right, Gal Gadot, director Patty Jenkins, and Chris Pine on the set of “Wonder Woman.”

Sure, “Wonder Woman” is a deftly written, wildly entertaining, gracefully executed, slickly produced big-budget comic book movie. It’s also so much more.

As star Gal Gadot charged into battle, bullets pinging off her silver gauntlets while soldiers cowered in the trenches, for perhaps the first time, little girls did not have to stretch their imaginations far to put themselves in her place. They were finally granted the same delight boys have long enjoyed, watching Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker, Batman, or any other epic hero on a hero’s journey to save the world.

For grown women, the experience was even more profound.

Starved for female cinematic role models of power, strength, courage, compassion, intelligence, and heroism, the sight of Gadot’s Amazon warrior presiding over kick-ass action, not as a sidekick or sexual object, but as a three-dimensional hero who reflects back to us all that is best about our own humanity, was revelatory and unexpectedly cathartic.

There were tears. I assure you, they were tears of joy.

Gal Gadot greets a young Wonder Woman fan at a signing.

That said, it would be foolish to assume “Wonder Woman” changes everything.

For all we know, Hollywood will  jump on the female-led action movie bandwagon for a couple years before going back to business as usual. The worlds of science fiction, fantasy, videogames, comic books, cosplay, and TV and movie fandoms will likely remain minefields for women to navigate. Girls and women will still have to fight for their voices to be heard, in fictional worlds as well as the real world.

What has changed then?

Personally, I’m feeling more hopeful about the potential for women to step up and take their place at the forefront of geek culture, to blaze trails and envision ourselves in roles we thought we might never assume.

This hope has inspired a new project, a blog dedicated to the voices of women who are passionate about fandoms of all kinds. It’s no coincidence I’m launching this endeavor the day before “Wonder Woman” is released in digital HD.

The title of the blog? No Man’s Land.  Because this project is very much in the spirit of Wonder Woman but is by no means limited to the subject of Wonder Woman.

My intention is that No Man’s Land would be an outlet for the resources and skills I’ve honed during a more than 15-year career as an entertainment editor, film critic, blogger, and freelance writer.

Most of all, though, I want to have fun, and I want you to have fun too. This will most often take the form of shameless and enthusiastic discussion of all our favorite geeky things.

So we’ll be talking about Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who, and Harry Potter, and Stranger Things, and comic books, and anime, and comic book movies, and conventions, and television shows, and books, and collectibles, and cosplay, and whatever other nerdy thing we happen to be obsessed with at the moment.

And Star Wars. Lots of Star Wars. Because it’s Star Wars!

No Man’s Land will also endeavor to highlight the stories of women who are passionate about various fandoms and express this in fascinating ways, in pioneering careers, creative pursuits, unusual hobbies, family activities, and many other avenues.

We won’t shy away from talking about feminism, politics, social issues and perhaps even subjects that are painful, complex, or controversial.

Guys, despite the blog title, this is a space where you are welcome. We’d love your thoughts and contributions because we know so many of you are on our side.

Readers, I’d love it if you would function as my lasso of truth by offering your comments, feedback, suggestions, content ideas, pitches for guest posts, or whatever is on your mind.

Let’s get out of the trenches. I’ll see you on the battlefield.

Photos: Heroic Hollywood, YouTube, CBR, DC Comics.