Editorial: Drawing a Line In the Sands of Geekdom

Earlier this week, our resident ladygeek of the ever-growing geek girl army put in her two cents about the geek gender conflict, in light of the recent furor over the CNN article that — let’s say — received mixed feelings. Amy challenged statements in that article, in light of her own experiences, and you should check it out.

There’s not much I can say about the gender conflict: my dude-itude means my geek cred has never been challenged purely on my gender, and my general unattractiveness means I’ve never been objectified. But as a proud geek/nerd, I did have a pretty big problem with Joe Peacock’s article:

It is inherently drawing subjective dividing lines where there should be none.

When I read the article, it seemed to start off well enough. There is one point I agree with: I am not a fan of the stereotypical attention whore. That was true in high school; that’s true now. But from there, it tends to fall apart. Joe assumes he knows how to spot attention whores; he assumes he is able to mentally divine the great dividing line between who’s fake and who’s real at SDCC, presumably within the minutes that you actually interact with random con-goers on the Exhibit Hall floor.

Spot the fakes.

He assumes that people — actually, no, not all people, just girls — that are a “‘6’ in the ‘real world'” will actually spend $175 on convention tickets, $1000+ on a hotel, and a few hundred more on travel expenses just to throw “on a Batman shirt… [to] instantly become a ‘9’” in the eyes of the geeks on con floor. No, they don’t actually care about any of the myriad pop culture topics that are celebrated at SDCC, and instead they are begging people to take their pictures, just getting off on the nerds that give them attention.

Do you see how this thought process could be a problem?

Guys and girls like and dislike all kinds of things. Surprise. And at a place like SDCC which celebrates many things in many genres across many different media, you’re going to find people who don’t like anything you do, but does like tons of stuff you don’t. She may not care about the “Court of Owls,” but she may be able to list of every metal’s allomantic effect. He may not be able to list off all eleven Doctors, but he has one hell of a “Magic the Gathering” deck. Oh, by the way, these two hypothetical people are super hot and enjoy cosplaying as Supergirl and Leonidas, respectively. Are these people immediately fake-geek-attention-whores because they’re sexy and they know it? Cosplay is inherently attention-grabbing, but unless one actually gets to know these people, Peacock sounds like he would rather assume these people are merely the attention-seeking “fake” geeks he considers “a pox on our culture.” (Actually, maybe not – that Leonidas cosplayer may not be fake on account of his penis.)

It’s pretty damn arrogant to think you know the dividing line.

How many times have ladies have had to prove that they’re just as passionate about comic books and video games as guys? How many are challenged to spit out some answer to prove that they belong, like an old school piracy protection scheme? And how often does it happens to guys? Why must there be such a disconnect?

And that’s not the worst part, if you can believe it. “Geek culture” started on the fringe. Comic books, video games, fantasy novels – this stuff wasn’t cool 30 years ago. “Geek” and “nerd” were pejoratives. Admitting that you played D & D was a sexual death sentence. We’re lucky enough to live in a world where geekiness is now celebrated.

Why, then, when geek culture is mainstream, do we even want to create a dividing line between “us” and “them”? Geeks know what it’s like to be excluded, so why are we excluding? Let’s assume that we have actually found an honest-to-God “fake geek girl”: shouldn’t we introduce her to Firefly instead of kicking her out of our clubhouse? Shouldn’t we show her Y: The Last Man, Scott Pilgrim, or Doctor Who?

Peacock cites Olivia Munn, the Frag Dolls, and the “fake G4 hostesses” as the exemplars of who should be kicked out of our clubhouse. Certainly not Felicia Day, though, because SHE gets it.

If you make that arbitrary distinction, the only person who gets any benefit is you — from the ego reinforcement it gives in a “it’s my world, you get to live in it” kind of way.

It’s wrong to only criticize Peacock, though — geeks all over the place are shaming our beloved culture with the same arrogance. Olivia Munn gets a ton of hatred sent in her direction for being fake and exploitative of the culture. I don’t claim to be her biggest fan, but I am of the opinion that sending hate is never a good idea. Who are you to say what’s geeky, and who meets the minimum requirements? Having read her book, I think she gets what it’s like to live on the outside of the popular kids — which means she grew up geek, even if her interests may not match yours.

The comments thrown at Anita Sarkeesian should be listed in the dictionary next to “misogyny.” Just because she wanted to draw attention to the gender conflict in gaming, she almost instantly became the pariah that embodied everything “wrong” with geek girls, making her the unfortunate target of some particularly evil people behind the veil of the internet. However, if these recent arguments are any indication, there IS actually a gender conflict in gaming… so it’s, you know, actually a thing. (Of course men are idealized in gaming too, and Sarkeesian wasn’t saying they weren’t — but that’s a topic for another day.)

Aisha Tyler, a real frag girl if there ever were one (challenge her at Halo sometime), was the next target after her time hosting the Ubisoft’s E3 press conference. It wasn’t the best presser, I’ll admit (although none at E3 were all that impressive), but I think that has more to do with the weird dude reporting from backstage. That guy brought back memories of Mr. Caffeine that should never be remembered.

These examples show that, while Peacock’s article may have brought this argument back to the forefront, geeks have been doing this for a long time without his help. And to the detriment of the culture they otherwise claim to protect because it make the rest of us look like assholes.

Ultimately, whenever we create that dividing line, whenever we try to “protect” the things we love by being necessarily exclusionary, we are doing a disservice TO that thing. It’s arrogant to proclaim yourself to be its audience curator. If you love a comic book, don’t you want it to succeed? Wouldn’t you want to invite as many people as possible to read it? What would The Avengers‘ worldwide grosses be if you could only watch it after proving you’ve read Civil War?

Chris Hardwick has said (in his book) that everyone’s a geek — there’s always at least one thing that you’re super passionate about that you know every detail of the topic’s minutiae. That could be comic books and video games, but it can also be cars, sports, knitting.

Imagine if you were on the receiving end of ostracizing from those fans. Should you then be kicked out of the New York Auto Show because you can’t open up a hood and find the alternator?

“I’d never go to the New York Auto Show, unless I liked cars,” you say. “And even if I did go, it’s because I’m interested in learning more about cars than I currently know.”

Then, isn’t it possible that a hot girl is at Comic-Con because she liked comics? And even if she doesn’t, should you kick her out, or should you help her learn the reason why we love what we love?

Written by: Dwight Tejano

Dwight is the founder of Open the Fridge, which he started in 2008 and rebooted in 2010. Due to the nature of early adopting, his bank account is normally empty. He likes to sing in world-renown choruses to forget such things.

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