Charlie Jane Anders, Wendy Xu, and More Talk Intersectional Feminism Across Genres

The key theme of Women in [Everything]: Intersectional Feminism Across Genres, one of the first panels at NYCC, was listening: Susana Polo, Comics Editor at Polygon and founder of The Mary Sue, reflected that the first time that she identified as an intersectional feminist was when she realized that “I better start listening” to queer women (at the time, she identified as straight), to women who didn’t pass as white, and other groups. Comics artist Wendy Xu (Mooncakes) chimed in that “[t]he main thing to do is just listen to people who are different from you, who have different life experiences. Practice active listening.”

We were glad to listen to this panel, which also included io9 Deputy Editor Jill Pantozzi, The City in the Middle of the Night author Charlie Jane Anders, cartoonist Christina “Steenz” Stewart (Archival Quality), and moderator Sam Maggs (Girl Squads). Discussion ranged from the panelists’ favorite female characters in SFF currently (the Doctor and Sabrina Spellman, both with big presences at NYCC, got shout-outs) to grappling with representation issues like the Avengers’ Black Widow problem.

We livetweeted the entire panel, but here’s one standout moment, in response to an audience question of should I write a diverse character into my story even if that identity is not my own?

“It all has to come from a place of deep sincerity,” Xu said, adding, “When I’m thinking about marginalized characters who are not my identity, I think of my friends who are not my identity, and I try to honor my friends by putting characters like them in my stories.”

“As a white creator,” Anders chimed in, “I have a real responsibility to represent everybody—to represent the real world around me, which includes POC, different sexualities, different genders, different backgrounds, different experiences. There need to be more people of color writing their experience in YA; we’re just at the start of that being a thing. We need more queer people writing YA, we need more disabled people writing YA.” As a white creator, she said, it comes down to “[do] your homework, do the research, talk to people, ask questions. If you’re going to include someone whose experience is not your own, you have to do the work and get it right. Don’t be lazy. Do the fucking work.”

For the rest of the panel, including questions about whether or not a female character needs a romantic subplot, check out the entire thread:

Happy first day of ! We’re at Women in [Everything]: Intersectional Feminism Across Genres with

Some of the panelists’ favorite women in SFF/horror/etc. right now: The Doctor! Claudia from ! Sailor Scouts! Sabrina Spellman!

On the first time they identified as intersectional feminists: For it was the realization that “I better start listening” to queer women, to women who don’t pass as white, etc. For , recognizing layers of oppression for trans WOC + other marginalized groups

“The main thing to do is just listen to people who are different from you, who have different life experiences,” says: “Practice active listening.”

“I knew I was an intersectional feminist when I read the definition of a feminist. Everyone is different, everyone has different experiences, and we should all be treated with the same level of respect.” –

Audience question: When you have superhero movies with Black Widow or Wonder Woman doing the emotional labor of calming down the rest of the Avengers, Justice League, etc., “are they just throwing me a bone by putting a female or light-skinned black woman there” (1/2)

“not really serving justice or holding their own, what role do they play in an environment that’s only male superheroes?” (2/2)

It depends on the medium, says , citing her closeness to Hawkgirl from the Justice League animated series, “because she was NOT like that.”

From : “We just need MORE women in things because right now when you have always the one female character, it means that we are presented with all these different ways to be a man, and then the one woman has to represent all women of all types in all ways.”

Audience question: Can a character be well-rounded without their story requiring a romance plot?

: “There’s no rules. You don’t have to have romance. […] Every character, to be interesting, has to have relationships full of conflict, they have to not understand the people in their lives […] Relationships have to change, but it doesn’t have to be romance.”

: “There is space for many kinds of stories, but a compelling story has to have change, and change in character growth, and development and mindset, whatever way you slice it. Whether they regress, whether they progress, there has to be some sort of change.”

Like Moana’s relationship with her grandmother! Unanimous “aww” from the panel.

All this said, the panel agrees, romance novels FTW! Or if not romance, then fanfiction.

Audience question: Should I write a diverse character into my story even if that identity is not my own?

: “It all has to come from a place of deep sincerity … When I’m thinking about marginalized characters who are not my identity, I think of my friends who are not my identity, and I try to honor my friends by putting characters like them in my stories.”

: “As a white creator, I have a real responsibility to represent everybody–to represent the real world around me, which includes POC, different sexualities, different genders, different backgrounds, different experiences.” (1/3)

“There need to be more POC writing their experience in YA; we’re just at the start of that being a thing. We need more queer people writing YA, we need more disabled people writing YA.” – (2/3)

As a white creator: “Do your homework, do the research, talk to people, ask questions. If you’re going to include someone whose experience is not your own, you have to do the work and get it right. Don’t be lazy. Do the fucking work.” – (3/3)

That wraps up Women in [Everything]: Intersectional Feminism Across Genres!

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