Ed Catto: She Made Me Do It! Fangirls Lead The Way at San Diego!

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One of the panels I had the pleasure of moderating at San Diego Comic-Con focused on the dramatic rise of, and impact by, female fans in Pop Culture’s premiere event. Comic-Con International is the annual “reunion” where over 130,000 passionate fans, consumers and professionals take over San Diego’s convention center, media, airport and downtown. And as usual, it was eye-opening and energizing.

This panel was titled “She Made Me Do It! Fangirls Lead the Way” and my panelists included:

  • Kit Cox, of Milkfed Criminal Masterminds
  • Jamie Broadnax the podcaster and blogger who runs Black Girl Nerds
  • Rose Del Vecchio, the entrepreneurial co-founder of the new company FanMail
  • Christy Black of More Than a Geek Girl
  • Autumn Rain Glading and Portlyn, retailers and co-owners of the comic shop Brave New World and founders of the Geek Girl Society

B Fangirl PanelEach panelist shared their own background, some of the changes that they are observing first-hand and how best to address them. For example, Rose Del Velcchio explained that she found the typical “loot crate” offerings to be lacking for female fans, and thus created Fanmail to address that need. Jamie Broadnax realized there was a vacuum for women of color and promptly created BlackGirlNerds. She surprised herself how quickly it caught on. One the other hand, the retailers from Brave New World comic shop spoke about how their approach of selling to all potential customers. They explained their efforts to specifically not create a “girly section” but instead to create a retail environment welcome to all. And that has resulted in a stronger business with everyone, including more female customers.

Geek Girl Society is a supportive organization for girl nerds that I wrote about in a previous column. One of the young Geek Girl Society participants proudly attended the panel with her parents. Both the girl and her parents were enthusiastic fans eager to participate in the panel, the convention and pop culture at large.

More Than a Geek Girl ‘s Christy Black is exploring the rise of female fans, including non-traditional points of overlap. Most notable is her innovative workout and fitness program developed for “nerds.”

Kit Cox, part of the Milkfed Criminal Masterminds team that’s responsible for the engaging comic Bitch Planet, passionately spoke about the “non-compliant” characters in that comic’s narrative, and how that has so quickly and authentically connected with fans. She also talked about her own recent experiences jumping into fan culture and progressing to a professional position.

Right before the convention, Ron Salkowitz published his Eventbrite study. We analyzed it during the panel. Most fascinating was that the finding that Geek Culture has achieved gender parity across all types of fandoms and age cohorts. 48.9% female, 48.7% male, and 3.1% non-binary/other (an option added for this year’s survey).

Also of note: serious cosplayers, the fans who dress in costume to attend conventions, spend at the same levels as other fans. This has been a contentious issue over the past year as comic conventions wrestle with their explosive growth in attendance and revenue

Everyone seems to be noticing. CNBC and The New York Times ran similar stories. The Times found that the growing segment of women have passion, authenticity and buying power and proclaimed that SDCC this year seemed like the “Year of the Woman.”

After the panel, I was surprised, even though I shouldn’t have been, to find that some fans still cling to the “No girls allowed in the tree house” mentality. One fan posted his observations (after talking to several retailers) that women don’t spend money at conventions. The data clearly refutes that myth. Looking forward, it’s easy to see that the smart marketers and brands will be connecting with this important demographic.

Thanks to my friend Rob Salkowitz for his generous sharing of data and insights. You can read more here.