Gatekeeping is such an ugly word. It is an ugly word for an ugly act. And yet, we are faced with it in various forms throughout fandom. Gatekeeping exists in such inherent and sinister ways that so often the gatekeeping individuals don’t even realise that they’re gatekeeping. This is especially prevalent to me, a woman, who reads comics. Many of my friends are guys, most of the staff on this website are guys, and we have had heated discussions about why things worked, or didn’t, and have argued about taste.
The problem is that so often these arguments are presented as ‘here’s why you’re wrong’ or have had the tone of shaming for liking something that the other perceived as bad – and that argument doesn’t come from me.
These are the most insidious forms of gatekeeping, especially in the comics world, where everyone has their own clearly defined tastes, and preferences, and not every book is for every reader. The wording of these arguments is never a direct fuck you, but is rather a that opinion is bad and you should feel bad that is so often used passively, or passive-aggressively, to shame women out of geek spaces.
You don’t like the same things that I like You don’t enjoy consuming this media in the same way that I do. You don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of this very convoluted and often retconned canon and continuity. You haven’t been involved with this fandom for as long as I have. You only like this franchise because of the movies. All of the above, therefore, you can’t possibly be a real fan.
The worst part of it is when you have a difference of opinions, and you are wrong in the eyes of the other party, therefore you cannot possibly be a fan. You cannot dissent. You cannot criticize. You cannot ask for diversity unless it fits in a specific narrow window of acceptable diversity. (God forbid I ask that Iron Fist be less Irish…) You must fall in line and worship at the altar of the top-selling creators and you must love the correct movies or else you are wrong, You are shamed. You are made an example of.
It is toxic. It is infuriating. It makes it so difficult to have a discussion about anything that you enjoy because you are somehow inherently wrong. Even the most genuine and respectful people that I know have fallen into this trap. It’s never just “let people enjoy what they enjoy” it’s always you must enjoy everything I enjoy and in the way that I enjoy it or else you’re wrong and here is an hour diatribe of why you’re wrong and not a fan. And I know that so many people (of all genders, honestly) do this argument. We all want to defend our love for something. Or our dislike for something. But constantly arguing and shaming people for what they love is just another way to say that you don’t belong here.
And that’s gatekeeping. And it has to stop.