Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Biased Opinion - There Are No Fake Geek Girls, Only Jerk Geek Guys

Geek girls singing.
The short version of this post is simply this: There are no fake geek girls. There are only geek girls who have to deal with jerk geek guys. What I am going to say here is not directed to any geek girl. Instead, I am directing this to the geek guys who feel the need to act like dicks whenever a woman shows up somewhere and has the temerity to express a love for comic books, science fiction, fantasy, computer games, role-playing games, or any other thing that geeks claim as "their own".

I say to these "gatekeepers" simply this: Stop acting like a dick. You're not a brave hero manning the ramparts of geekdom against the incursions of women into your beloved domain. You're a jerk acting like a jerk, and you need to stop. Now. "Geek girls" aren't the problem in nerd fandom. You are. If you are so socially maladjusted that you need to "test" any woman who shows up at a convention, or a game store, or some other place where geeks congregate and make sure that she can demonstrate her bona fides, then the nerd community is better off without you in it. Go sulk in your basement until you can grow up and act like an adult in public.

The genesis of this post is The Doubleclicks song Nothing to Prove, from their upcoming album Lasers and Feelings in which Angela sings about how she has nothing to prove to the self-appointed gatekeepers of all things nerdish and geeky. In the concert I saw them at, they wondered why anyone would be a "fake geek girl", asking if any of these guys thought that the two of them were getting "harems of men and piles of money" as a result of being a nerd folk band. And while Angela and Aubrey are completely correct that they have nothing to prove as geek girls, I would go further and say that no woman has to prove herself as a geek girl to these trollish "gatekeepers" who crop up out of the dark corners of local comic book shops to maintain the supposed purity of fandom.

The first, and simplest reason for this is that there are no fake geek girls. If a woman takes the trouble to buy a ticket for a convention, make a Batgirl costume, and then show up wearing the costume around the convention, she's a geek girl. If a woman drives to her local comic book store to buy comic books, she's a geek girl. If a woman signs up for a video game tournament, she's a geek girl. If a woman expresses a love for Doctor Who, or Battlestar Galactica, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she's a geek girl. Any woman who loves these sorts of things is a geek, and as much of a geek as any guy who loves the same or similar things. Not only do they not have to somehow "prove" that they are worthy enough to join in with a collection of nerdy guys in their shared love of lightsabers and phasers, the idea that someone might think they should is offensive in the extreme, and counterproductive to boot.

Any self-appointed "guardian of the gates" who thinks that someone is a "fake geek girl" is simply deluded. If one stops and thinks about it rationally for a second one can easily see why. The typical (although by no means the only) type of "fake geek girl" accusation is thrown out when a woman shows up cosplaying at a convention. She has decided to assemble a costume reflecting her love of Harley Quinn, Laura Croft, Kaylee Frye, or some other character and then taken the time to travel to a convention or other event so she can wear it. If such a woman wasn't actually geeky, why in the world would she do this? If she was, in fact, a "fake geek girl" what would her objective be? She would have spent a substantial amount of time, effort, and money so that she could go to a venue she isn't interested in to wear a costume she doesn't like around people she doesn't care for. No one would actually do this under those circumstances. Any woman who actually does show up to cosplay a character at an event is a geek girl. Just showing up demonstrates that. Running over to her to quiz her on Firefly trivia and playing "Gotcha!" if she doesn't know the full lyrics to the Ballad of Jayne doesn't show that she's a "poser" or a "fake geek girl". It shows that you are a dick. In a more civilized world, any guy who did this would be met with derision and summarily ejected from the event and told never to return.

And this holds true for all other expressions of geek love. If a woman wants to sign up for and play in a video game tournament, or if she wants to play in a CCG tournament, or any other kind of activity, the mere desire to participate demonstrates that she is a geek girl. It doesn't matter if she's any good at the games, or if she is the best player alive, she is just as much of a geek girl no matter where she falls on the skill spectrum. She doesn't need to pass some sort of lore test in which she recounts all of the lore behind the Halo story, or show that she knows which edition a particular game card came from, or any other "test". Once again, one has to ask what benefit a woman who was a "fake geek girl" would get out of signing up to play a game she doesn't like with a collection of people she finds uninteresting. Why would she bother? The mere fact that she is interested enough to want to participate makes her an "actual" geek girl. Those of you standing by the doorway to bar her way are nothing more than petty assholes, and I'd rather have just one of the girls you want to drive away in the geek social circle rather than all of you "gatekeepers" combined. Nerdom is better off without you, no matter how much obscure trivia about the Green Lantern Corps you happen to know.

Some of the "gatekeepers" may have confused actual cosplaying women with the "booth babes" that companies frequently hire to adorn their convention exhibits. I generally dislike the use of "booth babes", and think less of a company that resorts to using them, but no matter what costume they happen to be wearing, they are not "fake geek girls". They are actresses. They have been hired to play a part. I know that this concept may be hard for some convention-goers to grasp, but they are merely doing a job, and they could not care less what you think. This may come a surprise to some people, but Jim Parsons isn't a theoretical physicist either. if you walked up to him and tried to quiz him on the intricacies of string theory, I'm guessing that he'd probably fail miserably. But he wouldn't care. That's not his job, and whether you know more about string theory than he does is of no concern to him. And the same holds true for the actresses hired to wear Red Sonja costumes to promote the Frank Frazetta exhibit. They won't give a rats ass if you know more than them about Conan lore. The "fake geek girls" that you have quizzed don't and won't care that you bravely manned the nerd ramparts against their incursions. The only people who will care are the actually geeky girls. And you just dumped all over them. Because you're an ass.

The thing that completely perplexes me about the "fake geek girls" meme is simply how counterproductive it is. For most of my life I have heard geeky guys moaning about the fact that women don't share their interests, and as a result aren't interested in geeky men. But when a woman shows up who expresses interest in geeky things, the first response of a not inconsequential number of nerd guys is to do their very best to run them off. The problem isn't that women aren't interested in geeky guys. The problem is that so many geeky guys are complete assholes, and so many other geeky guys tolerate the assholes out of some sort of "nerd solidarity". This is simply unacceptable. When a guy acts like a dick towards women, other guys should call him out on it. He's not marginalized because of his geekdom, he's marginalized because he's a socially stunted dick, and making excuses for him is simply giving him the green light to continue to be a raging asshole.

Another question that comes to mind is this: Even if the "gatekeepers" were right, and there were actually fake geek girls out there who made elaborate costumes to go to conventions they aren't interested in to portray characters they don't like in front of a horde of men they don't like, what is accomplished by "exposing" them? A woman has shown interest in your hobby, and you've managed to . . . what? Defend the Marvel universe against having an insincere woman pretend to be Hawkgirl? Save the Jedi from having a woman possibly watch the movies with insufficient knowledge of the Expanded Universe? Made sure that women stay away from the convention in the future so that you can compare sausage with the other attendees? The "win-state" for the brave gatekeepers holding the line against "fake geek girls" is empty and hollow, and reveals that those self-appointed gatekeepers aren't anything but complete jerks.

The thing that is especially ironic about these sorts of "gatekeepers" is that if someone were to question their bona fides as geeks, they'd probably get huffy and offended. And they'd probably fail any number of the "tests" that have been directed at "fake geek girls". I'm talking about you, comic book nerd - you may know a lot about Captain America, but can you pass my test about Babylon 5 trivia? How good are you at obscure facts concerning classic science fiction novels? Trivia about pre-Star Wars science fiction movies? The rules for first edition Dungeons & Dragons? The simple fact is that I could probably take any number of these "gatekeepers" to the woodshed on any number of geeky topics and make them look silly. But I don't, because (a) I'm not a dick, and (b) I'm sure they could do the same to me on any number of geeky topics. I know a lot about written science fiction. I don't know nearly as much about Japanese animation. Put me head to head in a trivia contest with a Japanese animation fan and the topic of the contest will determine the victor, not the relative geekiness of him and me.

Geek fandom does have a problem. The problem is not the nonexistent "fake geek girl". The problem is jerk geek guys. Every time a dick tries to expose a "fake geek girl", that dick should be told to knock it off. And if he doesn't, he should be ostracized by other geeks, because he's being an ass. Geekdom doesn't need to coddle jerks out of some sort of misplaced sense of "nerd solidarity". Geekdom needs to convince these guys that being a dick simply won't be tolerated, and if they persist, they will find themselves very lonely.

There are no fake geek girls. There are only geek girls.

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  1. Well said. Anybody who really thinks another person would fake being a geek is either ridiculously self-deluded as to their own importance . . . or has somehow managed to bury their every memory of high school nerdom.

    Gatekeeper? Get over it! Seriously. Geek comes before gender every time, even in the dictionary. Really. Look it up. You've got something in common that you both value . . . a common ground on which to begin a conversation, friendship, or even a relationship.

    The only good thing about jerks is that they make everybody else look better by comparison. :)

    1. @Bob Milne: Thanks. But the real credit for this post should go to Angela and Aubrey, since they made me think about the destructive nature of the "fake geek girl" meme, why it exists, and how to stamp it out. Girls standing up to these dicks is a start, but they need to be backed up by guys who aren't afraid to take a stand in favor of decency.

  2. Preach!

    Being a geek girl myself I hear and second that. My thought on this though is not only are these guys dicks but they are sexualy fustrated dicks who think these fake geek girls are there to sexually tease them. In their minds real geek girls put out-fake geek girls aren't remotely interested in them and I thnk that's what's going on here.

    It's also a backhanded slap against all geek girls period. Traditionally pretty girls are fake and real geek girls are ugly, so it's really hatred of any woman who shows up. Too pretty, not interested in you=fake. Not pretty enough=you don't have the time of day for her.

    1. I think that's part of it, but it seems that many of the the "gatekeepers" aren't interested in the geek girls sexually, but rather just want to make sure they can prove their masculinity by keeping their hobby "pure". Remember in Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin created the club Get Rid Of Slimy GirlS (GROSS)? It was kind of cute when Calvin did it, but he was supposed to be seven or so. A lot of the "gatekeepers" seem to be like that, only its not even remotely cute when a grown man acts like Calvin.