Comic book convention attendees often are stereotyped as young to middle-aged males; female fans and their contributions to fandom often are overlooked. Because of that, genre merchandise sold at conventions is typically designed for men.
Actress Ashley Eckstein hasn't broken that stereotype yet, but she says she is very quickly chipping away at it. Eckstein's company, Her Universe, markets t-shirts and other accessories for female genre fans.
"The stereotype is still there, but we've been around for a year-and-a-half and I feel we are making a huge difference," Eckstein said in a face-to-face interview at the New York Comic Con. "I encourage people to go to a convention and see how many women are there."
The influx of female science fiction fans
Eckstein said that Her Universe averaged out the attendance at the top conventions across the country. "An average of 45 percent of all convention-goers---sci-fi convention goers---are women. If you walk these halls, you will feel like you are seeing just as many women as men," she said.
The stereotype is coming down, Eckstein said, and more people are encouraged to speak up about their love of science fiction. An accomplished film and television actress, Eckstein has established her own sci-fi credentials as the voice of Ahsoka Tano on "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."
Eckstein sees that more and more people are showing a love for sci-fi.
"If you haven't read 'Twilight,' you are the odd man out. For the kids on the playground, if you aren't watching 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars,' you are the odd man out. It's kind of like the water cooler show of the kids nowadays," she said.
Merchandise for the female fan
Eckstein, who is married to Major League Baseball player David Eckstein, said that as a "Star Wars" fan, she selfishly wanted more merchandise for female fans. She also said she was tired of being told to be happy with a men's size small.
"I only had one t-shirt that was made for a girl. I was tired of having one shirt; I wanted more. In my husband's closet, he has like 10. I saw so many complaints online from girls who wanted more merchandise, just like I did. There actually was a petition on Facebook from other female fans who wanted more merchandise," she said.
After forming Her Universe, Eckstein used her "Star Wars" connections to approach Lucasfilm. "I said I wanted to be an official licensee, just like everyone else. No special treatment, but let me design your female merchandise," she said. "I have to give Lucasfilm credit because they were the first company to give us a shot."
Eckstein, who was wearing one of her company's "Battlestar Gallactica" shirts, said this is not, however, just as simple as putting new product on the shelves.
"This is almost like a movement of female fans to convince people that this merchandise belongs on the shelves. Some people feel that it doesn't belong, that girls are not going to buy it. Lucasfilm has been behind us every step of the way."
And for guys who like the Her Universe style?
"I would say the rest of the convention floor is 'His Universe,'" Eckstein said with a smile.
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- Ashley Eckstein