Happy Star Wars Day, geeks!
There are always a number of things you can do to celebrate this wonderfully geeky holiday. You can wear your favorite Star Wars gear (check out Her Universe, Hot Topic, and ThinkGeek for some of our favorites), you can get together with a group of friends and watch all 6 movies back to back, while arguing over which change from the new trilogy was worst (Jar Jar, is there really any question?), or walk around playing the Imperial March to intimidate people on the street. Whatever your Star Wars Day tradition, this year, we’ve got something a little different to add, and it’s aimed at helping Geek Girls everywhere.
The “Legion of Leia” is a brand new initiative, started in part by geek blogger, journalist, and Star Wars superfan, Jenna Busch, as a means of uniting lady geeks (and the men who support them) and helping to foster discussion and bring about positive change for women in science fiction. In an interview earlier this week, Jenna told me that the idea came out of the universally frustrating news that the new Star Wars cast, while exciting, only included 2 female characters, and only one of them a new addition. “When you have someone like Princess Leia, who is such a strong character, you just kind of assume that in 2014 that people are going to realize that we are the audience. We’re half the audience, we’re half the population, and we don’t have to apologize for hoping to see more than one new character,” she explains. “So this came out of that, but I didn’t want to just complain. I wanted to encourage more women in sci-fi, make sure that we’re out there, and make sure that the world knows that we exist; encouraging women to produce, and to write, and to act, and to have characters that are female, and all of it in sci-fi.”
The representation of female characters in science fiction and fantasy is a hotly debated topic amongst those of us who identify as both female and geek. Many people believe that, in a world where we do have characters like Buffy, Xena, Wonder Woman, Black Widow, Princess Leia, etc., that things aren’t nearly as dire as they seem (after all, this is a world in which, over the past few decades, both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Justice League were run by women, Maria Hill and Black Canary respectively). But then, you do the math, factoring in not only characters, but creators, and it starts getting really depressing. Despite the fact that recent studies have proven that women not only consume genre entertainment, but actually out number men in that consumption, women still only make up less than 1/3 of female SF/F television writers (according to statistics compiled last year by Culturally Disoriented). The numbers for female directors paint an even bleaker picture.
But we can’t just sit here and lament the terrible statistics. At some point we have to do something about it, and that’s what the Legion of Leia is all about. While still very much a brand new venture, they have some lofty plans for the future of the group. These include creating panels at conventions to further the discussion of women in genre entertainment, holding writing contests, teaming up with the Geena Davis Institute for Women in Media, and even hopefully getting to a point where they can contribute directly to adding women to the industry through publishing endeavors. “I’m starting to wonder how the industry doesn’t notice us,” Jenna said, after discussing a recent women in comics anthology she participated in, which got much more support than they were anticipating. “I think having a central hub, where people can talk about this, and actually have discussions about this, is really important.”
And so the question becomes: where to start? For the Legion of Leia, it begins today. They’re calling on anyone who supports the idea of women in Science Fiction to change their profile picture on Twitter (and Facebook, I suppose), to either an image of themselves dressed up as Leia, or of Leia herself. Or, if that’s not enough for you, Jenna tells me she’s hoping people will take it a step further. “I’d love people to send in stories about how Star Wars inspired them, or anything that’s sci-fi related, really, I think that’s a great start … I think that would be really cool, because I’d like to hear it, and every time I post about Star Wars people end up sending me pictures.”
If you’d like to get involved in the Legion of Leia, just follow them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook. Then, of course, change your profile picture in celebration of both Star Wars, and women, and if you’ve got a story to share, post it on their Facebook page, and read the stories of others. Remember, the Legion needs you, and you might just find that you need it too.