I absolutely hate the entire concept of Mary Sue, which I regard as an incredibly sexist device for trying to slam female writers of fan or published fiction, and very ignorant when applied to published authors in understanding how they work. (And no, don’t bother to bring up Gary Stu; nobody cares about that and they came up with it as a sop to critics that Mary Sue was too unfair. It’s a sexist knockdown and always has been.)
So as such, I was not entirely comfortable with the name of the feminist website The Mary Sue, even though they were in a sense knocking the sexism of the term. Their tagline was “A Guide to Geek Girl Culture,” however, and they covered geek culture from a female slant and focused on women’s voices and participation in that culture which is a good thing. I did read articles from there that sounded interesting that people made me aware of, and I did link to some of their articles, finding them interesting and useful and with good info about upcoming geek releases. Above all, for many female fans, The Mary Sue was a safe space where they could talk about geek culture and be heard without being attacked, sneered at and having their conversations derailed by the usual troll attitudes.
However, The Mary Sue is owned by a media company and that company decided to A) merge the successful Mary Sue site with a less successful general geek site on their slate; B) strip off all the woman stuff to make the site more “inclusive,”; C) bring in male editor/writers who have no clue how to do PR with feminist readers and let them shoot their mouths off; and D) bring along a bevy of troll comment makers to whine about the annoying women-folk.
Abrams Media is owned by Dan Abrams, a lawyer and news commentator and general feminist supporter. So why he and his staff decided to gender wash The Mary Sue when it was one of their most successful operations is anybody’s guess. Perhaps the advertisers, as advertisers so often do, demanded the change. But the reality is that once a site does this, it’s probably not coming back. The female Editor-in-Chief is already pleading that she has orders coming down from on high and that really, they aren’t going to ditch the ladies, but you know, inclusion and changes, etc. Odds are, she may not get to stay in that position long.
So it’s a shame, but hopefully other sites will fill in the new gap, as well as existing sites. Here’s the deal: sites that focus on feminist issues, women characters and female creators in geek culture are “inclusive” precisely because they are doing that — they are making sure areas that usually get excluded, excised and ignored because they are about women are included in the conversation, and doing so with the understanding that those conversations are actually of interest to all genders. Having to dump feminist content to be “inclusive” is an argument that means you want to exclude that very vibrant and vital part of geek culture from the conversation and stick to the social default — male issues, characters and voices. If that’s how you explain what it is you are doing, then you’ve already hoisted your flag that not only are you not women friendly, you feel more comfortable with them shut out, especially when any topic involving marginalization occurs.
As soon as The Mary Sue dumped its tagline, it was dead on arrival. It seems unlikely a really strong phoenix version will rise from its ashes, given the statements they’ve made so far. So rest in peace, The Mary Sue. Let’s hope your writers can find other venues.