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Part Two (read Part One here)

Welcome to Part Two of a Very Special Mr. Belved – er… I mean, The Private Sector. In yesterday’s column, I hardly scratched the surface, hoping to present the perspective of the female members in the growing online Ghostbusters community (which I affectionately for some reason continue to refer to as The Girls in Grey). In yesterday’s column, it seemed that many of the women agree on how they were introduced to the fan community, how they participate, and how passionate they are about their fandom. But it was when I started talking about personal matters that parallel lines started skewing.

I’m not going to lie; I get nervous when a member of the opposite sex sees my bedroom. Get your mind out of the gutter (but feel free to snicker at the possible inadequacies as a lover that such a statement might initially invoke, I’ll take the cheap laugh). I’m a fanboy and it shows. We’re not talking “40-Year-Old Virgin” bad, but I’ve got Ghostbusters and Star Wars swag on the bookshelf (which also is home to stereotype inducing comic books, of course). It’s a true testament to any future proceedings with friends or potential romantic links when they find out that I’m a fanboy. But my questioning of the Girls in Grey gave a unique opportunity to hear about the shoe being on the other foot. I realized that I was conversing with ladies that had boyfriends into football, MMA, and watching people get hit in the junk on Spike… while they were in the garage perfecting the cyclotron on their replica Proton Pack.

I decided to ask the Girls in Grey how their friends and loved ones outside of the online community reacted to their fandom. Especially given the great number of proppers and costuming ladies that responded, I was curious to hear their responses. Knowing how the people in my life are either extremely receptive or immediately raise an eyebrow when they hear that I’ve built my own Proton Pack, it was enjoyable hearing the response of Traveler of Games who told me, “People either love you or hate you in costume. With friends, it’s a hit-and-miss. It’s the same with co-workers and others. Some people tease me, others don’t care, but when it comes to co-workers, the majority either love the costume or my ‘courage’ to show what I love in public.”

The majority of the Girls in Grey expressed similar sentiments, although it sounded like a good deal of them were used to a reaction of surprise when others find out about their fandom. Indeed, the term “fanboy” does indicate a specific gender. And the common misconception of fan communities is the lonely pale guy in his parents’ basement – so the response of surprise to anyone outside of that stereotype is understandable. But friends, family, significant others all seem to respond differently to the fandom of our female members.

One member, who asked to remain anonymous, informed me that her boyfriend was not only uncomfortable with her fandom, but also was uncomfortable with the fact that she was posting pictures of herself and talking with a group of fanboys. The jealous type exists no matter what the scenario or relationship, but with this particular Girl in Grey, he was jealous of Ghostbusters. “At one point, he told me he felt that I was more into Ghostbusters than I was into him.”

I didn’t think to ask the follow-up if she was still with said significant other, but what’s to be jealous of? It’s just a group of fans, all with common ground, gathering in one place to discuss and explore a franchise they hold dear to their hearts. It’s not like she was getting hit on or receiving marriage proposals… right?

Wait…

Actually, she was.

“In response to one of the photos I posted, I was told that it would ‘look better lying on the floor of (his) bedroom,” said the anonymous Girl in Grey. Another told me that when she was asking for opinions on flightsuits, a member had sent her a link to a choice ensemble from Fredericks of Hollywood. I’m sure that the latter was in jest, but obviously a bit forward. And thanks to my day job being taken over by a large corporation, sexual harassment training has told me that it doesn’t matter what your intentions are, even if it was in jest. Based upon the responses that I received, almost all of the girls (there were two exceptions, and one of which said she had been “indirectly asked if she was seeing someone”) had been hit on or the focus of flirtation at least on one occasion.

For the record I, your humble columnist, have been posting and around the community for (my God) over fifteen years… not once have I been hit on. It’s cool. Just saying.

Despite my complete lack of personal attention, for many of the Girls in Grey it sounds like it’s a frequent occurrence. “Over and over in strange ways but hey, I have to give some of the guys credit for originality,” Michelle told me. “Some private messages have come my way that were downright crude and based simply on the fact that I fall into the ‘female category.’”

While it’s unfair to say that every member on a message forum or chat room is guilty of making fandom awkward for the women trying to participate, all that it takes is one person to be overwhelming and unbearable to points that escape is the only solution. Several members told me of one particular instance where a female member had posted a picture of herself on one of the forums and received so many direct and forward private messages and comments out in the open that she eventually felt the bombardment was too uncomfortable to continue visiting and has not been back since.

Again, no love for Troy. Fifteen years. Just saying.

But despite love connections, being a minority, breaking social stereotypes, and the rare exceptions of those that have run for the hills: the Girls in Grey say that they’re here to stay. (Hey, I can make a rhyme every time… coming soon to The Private Sector, Troy’s Green Eggs to Ghostbusters analogy.) Some tell me that they enjoy the fact that they’re part of a small, tight-knit group of females and that it has made them bigger fans of the series and larger fans in general because of the friends and relationships that they’ve made through the online Ghostbusters community. Despite some of the social pressures and nuisances, every response that I received was overwhelmingly positive about the encounters they were having in this ever-growing community. While many still may look at it as “A Boys Club,” and may continue to do so well after these articles have been buried into the recesses of the internets, you can’t deny the fact that there’s a growing group of ladies out there dialing in on their 14.4 modems (that’s what the kids do nowadays, right?), ready to chat about a franchise that they’ve come to know and love and become extremely passionate about over the years.

Special thanks to all those Girls in Grey that took the time to respond to my questionnaire and to those that entrusted me with their honest thoughts and opinions. The Private Sector will be back to form with more of my semantics and gibberish next week, but as always if you have thoughts, questions, found more typos, or you want to break the fifteen year fast and ask me out to a steak dinner, leave them here in the comments section of your favorite Ghostbusters fansite or drop me an email at netsolo@aol.com!

(The Private Sector is a weekly syndicated column written by Troy Benjamin presented every Wednesday on Proton Charging, Ghostbusters.net, GBFans, and via Cross the Streams as an op-ed look at the goings on in the world of the Ghostbusters franchise. Learn more about Troy at www.troybenjamin.com)

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