Mama Deb (mamadeb) wrote,
Mama Deb

Comic book shops and me

I'm always hearing how women *hate* going into comic book shops - they feel like they're entering a " No gurlz aloud" fanboy clubhouse, where the clerks don't look or talk to them, or if they do, it's condescending, or with the attitude that they don't know what they want, or they only want manga or something like that.

I believe them. I've seen what fanboys can be like, and it wasn't easy for me, either, when I walked into my first comic book shop with intent to buy.

And none of that happened to me. I think there are a number of reasons for that.

The first is that when I first read comic books, comic book shops didn't exist. Oh, you could get back issues in used bookstores, but for the most part, I bought my comics (DC, Harvey, Archie) from spinner racks in my local candy store under the D-line El. Sometimes I'd get an egg cream, too, if I had the money. I also got them four for a dollar, although they were 20 cents for the first couple of months. And no one noticed or cared that I bought superhero comics - why should they? It was just another item for sale, along with the candy and newspapers and the stuff at the lunch counter and the dirty books right next to the spinner racks. I'd get my allowance on Friday, and buy a couple of comics.

If there were only male names in the letter columns - I was ten. I didn't notice.

So comics never were, in my head, a male thing.

Even so, when I went back into comics, and had to go to a comic book store, I felt odd and out of place for all of two minutes. This was because the owner's mother was right there in the store, also reading the books. I was rarely, if ever, the only woman in the store. The clerks changed fairly frequently, but I had a pull list, I talked about the comics and the owner and I had a good rapport, so the clerks treated me accordingly. Eventually, and sadly, the owner had his third stroke in as many years and the shop closed and I had to go elsewhere.

And I walked in, checked out the DC racks and signed up for a pull list. And there, too, I have not felt unwelcome. Actually, I think I'm actually treated better than the other customers - certainly, with some deference. I walk in, they immediately get me this week's comics. No matter what else they're doing, or they apologize when they can't. I don't see them doing that for anyone else.

And I've finally figured out why - and it came from a conversation I had last Wednesday, where the clerk (a man about my own age) said he was lucky he remembered my name. And I countered with "How many middle-aged women in headscarves have a pull-list here?" He grinned and acknowledged that I was unique there.

It's not that I know stuff, and it's not that I'm comfortable enough to walk in and ask for things, or to just chat. It's that I'm middle-aged. For the younger clerks, I'm completely non-threatening, sexually speaking. I'm their mothers' age. They know how to treat women that age - you're polite and helpful. And the older clerks - I'm their age, not a teen-age girl. And I'm married (wedding ring) and I talk about things they remember, and again, I'm just non-threatening.

So, in an odd way, my comfort in comic book shops has more to do with sexism (the non-sexuality of middle-aged married women) than with my own feminism.
Tags: comic book shops, comics, feminism
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