Now that Canada’s largest comic book and entertainment convention is returning to Toronto, some say more women are becoming part of what was once considered a male-dominated industry.
Fan Expo Canada, a space for comic book enthusiasts, TV and movie superfans and cosplayers to come together, says it expects to draw more than 125,000 fans to the Metro Toronto Convention Center over four days, from the 24th to the 27th. of August.
Cosplayer Brooke Colley has attended fan conventions in Toronto since 2001.
Colley says that over the years she has seen more women participate in all aspects of fan culture, from authors and actresses to attendees.
“It’s definitely gone from being a more male-focused fandom and things like that to being broader and encompassing any gender, whether it’s female, male or non-binary,” Colley said.
Canada’s first Fan Expo was launched in 1995 and only 1,500 people attended. Over the years, like other fan conventions like Toronto Comicon or Anime North, it has grown substantially.
SEE | Meet the women behind the growing fandom at Fan Expo:
Women represented 49% of attendees last year
Abby Yew, head of marketing for Canadian online storytelling platform Wattpad, says the rise of fandom culture has also broadened the genres people are interested in.
“Women really influence and potentially drive these fans and bring their passions to bear at these types of conventions,” Yew said.
Last year, Fan Expo reported that 49 percent of attendees identified as women.
Andrew Moyes, vice president of the exhibition, said in a statement that he is excited to welcome a diverse and enthusiastic crowd.
“As female-identifying audiences have historically been involved with the many facets of pop culture, our programming continues to reflect the diverse fabric of interests of our audience,” said Andrew Moyes.
“Our commitment to fostering inclusion gives each and every fan the opportunity to spark their excitement at our event.”
Moyes said that Wattpad provides some of the content that audiences are excited about.
Romance, science fiction and fantasy genres are on the rise
The Toronto-based self-publishing platform says it has seen firsthand a growing demand for romance novels alongside other genres like science fiction and fantasy. More than 80 percent of Wattpad users identify as female, Yew said, adding that the most popular genre is romance.
“We don’t dictate what’s popular on the platform. The users do it, our community does it,” Yew told CBC Toronto.
Yew says the growing interest can also be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People had to stay home, so more writers creating stories, more escapism. [and] It was also read more on the platform.”
As a result, Yew says that women are taking on an increasingly important role at fan conventions.
“That really shows that there’s a huge appetite for this type of content and this type of genre.”
Driven by the need for representation
Romi Moondi, Toronto-based author of romantic comedies 24 hours in Paris and 24 Hours in Italywill perform a signing at Fan Expo.
Moondi says that when she was first drawn to rom-coms, there was a lack of diversity and representation of different ethnicities in the characters. Moondi decided that she wanted to change that.
“I really wanted to see a rom-com with the main lead who looked like me and had a South Asian background, so that really motivated me,” Moondi said.
Moondi said she appreciates being able to interact with readers at fan conventions and allowing them to share that passion in person.
“I’ve definitely seen the rise of the female-led fandom… It was just great to see women [being] We’re passionate about romance books, tropes, happy endings, and sometimes even have lively debates and discussions about it.”