We’ve certainly seen the rise of female cosplay fans and geek girls at conventions such as Comic Con, Blizzcon, and others like these. In the US alone women account for 47% of video game players, which means audiences at these conventions are roughly half female. It is certainly growing, but is definitely becoming more of a welcoming place for women who no longer feel as outnumbered as they have in the past.
There is one city, however, which is totally giving western feminism and western geek culture a run for its money. Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, mostly known for its conservative Muslim culture and for being a major tourist mecca, is already miles ahead of San Diego Comic Con in terms of diversity stats.
The Middle East Film and Comic Con which was held in April, reportedly had more women present than in the US. A report by Vocativ showed why this is the case, saying that the difference in culture actually plays a major part, even though most female superhero characters are scantily-clad in comic books and video games.
“In a collision of gender and culture, women, regardless of how they’re dressed, are the majority presence at the Middle East Comic Con.”
“Middle Eastern culture, especially for women, places an emphasis on modesty. But at Dubai’s Comic Con, participants are given somewhat of a hall pass when it comes to cosplay. At this year’s convention, women were dressed in everything from Captain America-inspired headscarves to shiny spandex hot pants.”
This is evident in the video report below, where one female attendee says people have a misconception of Dubai being a strict conservative Muslim culture, but when you look around the convention hall you see a lot of diversity and variety.
There are plenty of opposing view points, one woman dressed in a tight, short, lycra outfit says she “doesn’t care” what others think, while other women say some of the costumes are too revealing and don’t represent women in the Muslim culture well. Either way, this dichotomy of personal preferences seem to exist harmoniously, and there seems to be less anxiety when it comes to the presence of women in a normally male-dominated event like Comic Con.
Marvel has shown that they too are looking to more diverse story lines in their comic books. With the inclusion of a female Thor recently announced as part of the Thor series, as well as the new incarnation of Ms. Marvel, things may be about to change even in the west. Marvel film studios need to catch up to the changing tides.
The new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, is a Pakistani Muslim teenager from New Jersey.
“We have a Muslim editor, she always felt that a lot of the books, while she was fans of them, didn’t really reflect her world,” C.B. Cebulski, the vice president of Marvel Comics, shares with Vocativ. “She had been pushing for a while to come up with a book that reflected her views and the views of Muslims around the world.”
It’s a smart way to bridge the gap between two very different cultures, in a medium that has appeal across both. And seeing that the MEFCC has only been around since 2012, they might possibly be leading the way in a few years time.
You don’t have to be remotely interested in geek culture, comic books, films or superheros to understand that this event is a major moment in modern Muslim culture. If different beliefs and view points are tolerated under one roof, then this could be the starting point of a greater cultural conversation about how women find their fit and express their views.