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Feminspire | April 23, 2014

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Call Me a Fake Geek Girl? You Can Shove Your Controller Up Your Ass

Call Me a Fake Geek Girl? You Can Shove Your Controller Up Your Ass

I was in the wilderness, far from civilization, electricity, and wireless, when the world of geek feminism exploded. When I got back and caught myself up on the enormity of the issue, I was shocked — although in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have been. Essentially, some male nerds had been incredibly misogynistic in very public forums. It’s happened before (though not so vividly), and it will probably happen again.

It did. I mean, it has. Many times since then. Google “fake geek girl,” and the search returns over 11 million hits.

So it’s popular, for sure. And it’s sexist — anyone can spot that. But why is it a problem? What does it say about geek culture? About sexism? Who does it implicate? How can we fight it? Below is the tip of the iceberg of the Fake Geek Girl:

The summer started out on an individual bashing note. Aisha Tyler received insane backlash after she hosted the E3 press conference. She defended herself and her lifelong love of gaming. This was only one instance of the increasingly visible misogyny in gaming culture. Anita Sarkesian received an incredible amount of horrible hate — or, as she calls it, image-based harassment and visual misogyny (serious SERIOUS trigger warning– the images are very hateful and disgusting). And then Felicia Day was denigrated as a “booth babe” on Twitter because she didn’t make any serious contribution to nerd culture.

But those personal attacks were just the beginning. It got broader, much broader, with “Booth Babes Need Not Apply” by Joe Peacock, in which he misused the hugely visible platform of CNN’s Geek Out! blog to denigrate women who have “no interest or history in gaming taking nearly naked photos of themselves with game controllers draped all over their bodies just to play at being a ‘model.’” In one breath, he heaps admiration on those women he deems “real geeks” (ironically defending Felicia Day), while slamming those who he considers “booth babes,” saying that, “they’re poachers. They’re a pox on our culture.” He accuses these “fake geek girls” of being the reason that “real geek girls” like Felicia Day get attacked.

There are, of course, a hundred horrible assumptions made right there. The first of which is that there are such things as “fake geek girls,” ie women who are not at all interested in geek fandoms who spend hundreds of dollars on costumes, hotels, and con tickets just to get a thrill from being seen as attractive for a few days by a bunch of men who inside are “13-year-old boys who like to objectify women and see them as nothing more than butts and a pair of boobs to be leered at.” (Peacock’s words, not mine.) Last I checked, most of the women who cosplay do it because… well, they like to cosplay.

So let’s be clear. There are no fake geek girls.

CosplayersWhy is that? Well, because there’s no such thing as a fake geek. John Scalzi’s excellent rebuttal “Who Gets to Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants To Be” really tackles this issue. Plus, it’s snarky, well-argued and eloquently phrased. He sweeps away everything negative that Peacock argued and starts from the ground up in a refreshingly positive way. My favorite bit will forever be this gem about nerd culture: “Many people believe geekdom is defined by a love of a thing, but I think — and my experience of geekdom bears on this thinking — that the true sign of a geek is a delight in sharing a thing.” Everyone’s geek interests, and the extent of their interests, are entirely their own.

The problem of gatekeeping is an issue I’ve had personal experience with, both positive and negative, and Scalzi’s commentary was a big part of the inspiration for a previous article of mine on the subject.

Because the Internet delivers, there are many more wonderful reactions to Peacock’s post. Daniel Nye Griffiths tells us how How Geek Gate-Keeping is Bad for Business. Amanda Marcotte points out how Peacock conflated cosplayers with women who are paid to dress skimpily at cons to sell products (and there’s nothing wrong with those women, either). Genevieve Dempre argues that this whole conversation pretty much assumes that women are at cons solely for the enjoyment of men. Dr. Nerdlove busts the idea of nerd cred and phonies.

All the passionate defenses of women, female nerds, and the openness of geekdom make me feel quite proud. But the Internet delivers the negative goods, too. And one of those things has taken the form of the Fake Geek Girl meme. It takes all the denigration of Peacock’s piece and puts it into casual, funny, complacently misogynistic terms of a typical meme.

And then in November, comics artist Tony Harris was somehow possessed to post a truly immature, obnoxious, sexist, and horribly ungrammatically correct rant on Facebook about how much he hates fake geek girls. Guess what? It’s worse than Peacock’s post. He defines the trope as the majority of women who cosplay, who know nothing about their character, who are merely “con hot,” and who do it merely to prey on poor nerd boys. After a huge outcry, he refused to apologize, denied that he was sexist, and said he loved his wife and daughters (which is somewhat like saying “I have friends who are black” when you’re accused of being racist).

Foz Meadows brings up a number of points: one, that women in comics, which Mr. Harris draws, are usually drawn in heavily sexualized and objectified positions, not to mention highly revealing outfits designed for the male gaze. Two, that when women dress as those characters (regardless of whether Tony Harris has personally drawn/created them), they are slut-shamed. Three, they are being slut-shamed for wearing the very outfits that were created by men for their pleasure. And fourth, those outfits can be used by women for their own purposes. Women do not exist merely as the objects for men.

It’s easy to say this issue doesn’t matter. That we geek girls should just ignore it, that the men writing these articles shouldn’t influence our community, that we shouldn’t let them bother us. But guess what? They do. They bother me immensely. Jon Peacock and Tony Harris are popular, as a commentator and creator, respectively. Double the danger.

The Mary SueGeekdom is my home, and the home of many other women, and men, and trans* identified individuals. It should be–and it needs to be–an inclusive place, with no boundaries, no fences, no gates. And anyone–no matter how famous, no matter how obscure–who tries to police that culture on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, orientation, or knowledge, is a threat. It doesn’t matter that it’s a falsified trope, as The Mary Sue points out. Remember, “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” And for whatever reason, this is a powerful lie.

So let’s fight back. When someone brings up the issue of fake geek girls, or less real nerds, or half-assed fans, let them know they’re getting it wrong. Geeks are meant to share their interests with anyone else who shares them. If you don’t like the way someone is expressing their interests, kindly take your opinion elsewhere. There is no standard to live up to, and in spite of TBS, there is no such thing as King of the Nerds. When we find out about someone else’s interests, our reaction should be less like the comic above, and more like xkcd’s approach.

Keep fighting, keep geeking, and keep cosplaying. I know I will.

Written by Laura Koroski
Follow her geeky critiques on her blog, Challenge By Geek!

Comic courtesy of The Mary Sue

  • Zzzzero

    I think we need to start making the distinction that when people refer to fake geekery they aren’t talking about YOU, but people who in fact, indulge in fake geekery.

    To be honest, i dunno why you aren’t as annoyed with fake geeks as men are. Women and men who use fandom of any kind as a fashion statement rather than a real hobby give off a bad image, and before you know it people have coined a term for it due to how irritated they have gotten.

    I honestly have to question your “cred” if seeing a hipster sporting the logo for a game or system s/he has never played doesn’t get under your skin.

    • Laura

      Why does my “geek cred” matter? Why does anyone’s geek cred matter? The idea of geek cred, and that some people have it while others don’t, is a problem. By nature, it is exclusionary, and we are better than that.

      I am not irritated with people who might have a more casual interest in the fandoms I love, nor am I threatened by them. There is no such thing as a “fake” geek. Being a geek means that you can indulge in the fandom that you love however much or little as you like.

      The title of John Scalzi’s post, which I highlighted and linked above, is “Who gets to be a geek? Whoever wants to be.” I suggest you read it.

      • Zzzzero

        Someone’s “cred” as a geek doesn’t matter to me, which is why I put it in quotes. It seems to matter to you, however, which is why I brought it up.

        Anyway, I’m not talking about people who indulge in something casually, I’m talking about people who don’t indulge in something at all but use the image of doing so as fashion statement or a means of gaining attention. You know, the guy with the NES controller belt buckle that has never played an NES or the girl with the pictures of herself licking controllers on facebook.

        It would be like going to a group of early literature scholars and trying to be like one of them because I saw that Beowulf CG movie from a few years ago.

        • Litost

          This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read in my life. You know who obsesses with “posers”? Children. 12 year olds. People who haven’t yet realized they are the same worth as everyone else regardless. “omg I wore that tie before Avrillll she isnt real punx” cool do you want a prize? You are not a
          beautiful unique snowflake and your taste in video games and movies does not define who you are. There isn’t a following of people struggling to be as cool as you by pretending to like something they don’t actually like.

          “Some hipster wearing a videogame shirt that he’s never played”
          NEWSFLASH: NO ONE DOES THAT. You haven’t reached some level of cool that other people are struggling to obtain. It’s in your head. Please grow up and try again.

        • malkavian

          It doesn’t matter to you because people aren’t practically holding up signs in red letters saying ‘YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE.’ Besides, newbs and casual fans don’t detract from my enjoyment.

          Also, your analogy sucks. Any middle english lit scholar who loves what they do wouldn’t be like ‘Pfft, poser.’ They’d recommend a stack of texts and go ‘Here, read these, they’re awesome’. I daresay any true geek should do the same. ‘Oh, you like playing X with your brother? Have you tried Y? You totally should, it’s awesome!’ After all, there is great joy to be found in sharing what you love. There isn’t much joy in being bitter and resentful about other people’s experience of your fandom.

    • Anon

      Hey, you know what? Let’s check your wardrobe. Take a photo of every shirt you have, every pants you have. WHAT? YOU OWN A PAIR OF JEANS, BUT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE WHOLE HISTORY OF JEANS? HOW DARE YOU! This shirt has a logo of a thing you don’t even watch or read : FAKE! POSER! You own an iphone, but didn’t own all of the others? You don’t have a mac? YOU’RE RUINING APPLE FOR ALL OF US! You fake bastard! Go and use your little “windows” and stop complaining!
      And wait, what did I say? YOU’RE USING A PHONE? You weren’t even BORN when phones were invented! HOW DARE YOU USE MY CULTURE YOU FAKE!
      I honestly have to question your intelligence, because every person in the world wears or uses without knowing everything about it. I bet you even started using the internet to be like everyone else, ugh.
      Seriously, fuck you. I’ll wear a Batman shirt anytime I want even if I haven’t seen ALL the movies that were made since it was created. I’ll go in every fandom I want to and I’ll just learn about things. I mean, fuck off man. Just imagine : you start reading a freaking book, and everyone is here telling you “you’re only doing this to be popular, to look nerdy, we all know you only do this for attention, get your hands off our book” etc? Because THIS IS WHAT’S HAPPENING. AND THIS IS SO FREAKING ANNOYING.

      • dlz

        I bet if you tried, you could form a coherent thought without letting your emotions betray you.

        Great, you like Batman. I’m not talking about you. You’re telling me that someone comes up to you in a Batman shirt and laughs at you when you ask him what his favorite movie is wouldn’t annoy you?

        Because if you’re telling me that, I’m calling you a liar. You sit here so pissed of at the very possibility of it that you are showing your ass in public in order to rage at me.

        • Litost

          Please read my above reply to zero because it applies to this too.

        • Anon

          Obviously sarcasm is too mainstream for you. Leave it to the grown-ups.

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  • Jordan

    The second half of this article’s title is misleading. It is in fact impossible for most people to insert an entire video game controller into their anus. Unless you are referring to the Playstation Move, but I don’t think that’s what you meant.

    • Chris Sherwood

      My conscience is desperately pleading with me not to answer this, butt… .

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