There are a lot of issues out there for anime fans to devote their awareness to. We’re trying to help post-tsunami Japan, get voice actor Greg Ayres the dental treatment he couldn’t afford and combat copyright infringement.
However, sometimes the problems we face have simple, inexpensive solutions. I’m talking about reducing gender inequality at conventions simply by diversifying t-shirt sizes. As I wrote more briefly on Tumblr, it’s an easy fix that will go a long way toward making otaku women feel welcome.
A couple days ago, I was reading Geek Feminism’s wiki about tech conference t-shirts. Usually, these only come in men’s sizes. That was no surprise to me. Tech is still an overwhelmingly male field, and women who enter it face gender bias. In fact, I just spoke to a blind woman in tech support who said she once faced discrimination in the workplace, not for her disability but simply because her supervisor didn’t think a woman could handle the job. That’s terrible, and it shows equality in tech is still a ways away.
However, my point is about anime conventions. Unlike tech conferences, we’ve already reached equality. In fact, at Anime USA which I staff, we have more female than male attendees (54 percent to 46 percent)! Trust me, I graphed the statistics.
Yet even with the numbers to prove that men are not even half our audiences, we still cater to the male body. This causes problems for a woman, like:
- Her ill-fitting shirt makes her look sloppy and unprofessional. She is less likely to be asked for assistance by the attendees she’s there to help. As a result, she may be less likely to get promoted to a higher position.
- Since none of the shirts flatter her, she could get the idea that it’s a problem with her body, not with the shirt. This lowers her self esteem and she isn’t performing at her best. And who’s to say people around her won’t criticize her appearance?
- But if she wears another shirt, she isn’t showing solidarity with the convention. She won’t be seen as a team player.
You might say, “Well, t-shirts in women’s sizes are a great idea, Lauren, but who’s going to deal with the extra hassle and price?”
I’m glad you asked, Non Person, because I do have experience ordering convention t-shirts for Anime USA. We usually get ours through Reston Shirt in order to support local business. Not surprisingly, women’s shirts cost the same as men’s — there would be no extra cost. Plus, being that our convention already orders shirts from size S to size XXXXXL (yes, really), Reston Shirt is used to getting diverse size requests from us. I can’t imagine adding women’s S through XL would trip them up.
This doesn’t need to happen by tomorrow, but it’s something we should all be aware of. Until today it never even occurred to me that while I agonize over trying to look my best in an unflattering baggy t-shirt for the weekend, my fellow male staffers dress the same as they always do.
Women make up half of anime con attendance. It’s time we stop pretending the male body is the only body type convention t-shirts are meant to cover.