I got embroiled in a big Twitter to-do this morning on the subject of fake geeks, cultural gatekeeping and the mainstreaming of subcultures. I'm going to hold off on writing more on that because I feel really, really passionate about it and I want to do my stance some justice. I have a semi-exclusionary point of view on the whole thing, and I'd like to present it right.
But I do want to tackle the subject that began the whole debate: Fake Geek Girls. They're the bogeywoman of certain folks in the nerd world lately, and a message from comic artist Tony Harris began the whole argument this morning. Harris' Facebook post reads:
I cant remember if Ive said this before, but Im gonna say it anyway. I dont give a crap.I appreciate a pretty Gal as much as the next Hetero Male. Sometimes I even go in for some racy type stuff ( keeping the comments PG for my Ladies sake) but dammit, dammit, dammit I am so sick and tired of the whole COSPLAY-Chiks. I know a few who are actually pretty cool-and BIG Shocker, love and read Comics.So as in all things, they are the exception to the rule. Heres the statement I wanna make, based on THE RULE: “Hey! Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girl, you are more pathetic than the REAL Nerds, who YOU secretly think are REALLY PATHETIC. But we are onto you. Some of us are aware that you are ever so average on an everyday basis. But you have a couple of things going your way. You are willing to become almost completely Naked in public, and yer either skinny( Well, some or most of you, THINK you are ) or you have Big Boobies. Notice I didnt say GREAT Boobies? You are what I refer to as “CON-HOT”. Well not by my estimation, but according to a LOT of average Comic Book Fans who either RARELY speak to, or NEVER speak to girls. Some Virgins, ALL unconfident when it comes to girls, and the ONE thing they all have in common? The are being preyed on by YOU. You have this really awful need for attention, for people to tell you your pretty, or Hot, and the thought of guys pleasuring themselves to the memory of you hanging on them with your glossy open lips, promising them the Moon and the Stars of pleasure, just makes your head vibrate. After many years of watching this shit go down every 3 seconds around or in front of my booth or table at ANY given Con in the country, I put this together. Well not just me. We are LEGION. And here it is, THE REASON WHY ALL THAT, sickens us: BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW SHIT ABOUT COMICS, BEYOND WHATEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH YOU DID TO GET REF ON THE MOST MAINSTREAM CHARACTER WITH THE MOST REVEALING COSTUME EVER. And also, if ANY of these guys that you hang on tried to talk to you out of that Con? You wouldnt give them the fucking time of day. Shut up you damned liar, no you would not. Lying, Liar Face. Yer not Comics. Your just the thing that all the Comic Book, AND mainstream press flock to at Cons. And the real reason for the Con, and the damned costumes yer parading around in? That would be Comic Book Artists, and Comic Book Writers who make all that shit up.
Setting aside spelling and baffling capitalizations, Harris gets to the heart of the Fake Geek Girl argument. It's a pretty succint summation. I think he's essentially wrong.
Look, anybody who dresses up in a costume and goes to a convention is looking for attention. Let's not argue this point. I'm making a value-free statement here: if you show up at an event in a costume, you're not trying to melt into the crowd. The less you're wearing in that costume the less you're trying to be incognito. I think we can acknowledge this without being sexist or crass.
As for whether these cosplayers have knowledge of their costumes: impossible to say. Harris is painting with too broad of a brush here. I've met cosplayers who have no knowledge of their characters, and I've met cosplayers who are so precise in their knowledge they feel bad when they have a seam out of place. I know women cosplayers who dress up as characters so obscure I don't know who they are. I think it's weird when people try to hang out at enthusiast-based events without the enthusiasm, but that's not a gendered thing. That's a poseur thing.
And yes, there are poseurs in the nerd world. It's big enough, profitable enough, driving enough page hits and YouTube views, that carpetbaggers have made their way in. We can argue another time about whether this is good or not, about whether the doors should be open to everybody or if being a niche is preferable. Today, let's make one thing clear:
Going on about Fake Geek Girls is stupidly sexist, pointless and divisive. Beyond the base sexism (and a lot of what Harris writes above is, without a doubt, sexist. From 'keeping it PG' for his 'Ladies sake' to the idea of scantily clad women 'preying' on dweebs to commenting on the women's looks, it's textbook He-Man Woman Hating Club stuff), it's wrong. I think we can have a good discussion about the appropriatness of mostly-nude costumes, but this isn't a gender issue.
The gender issue in nerddom is deeper than women dressed like Emma Frost. There are many more dangerous poseurs in the nerd community, many of whom have risen to the tops of our favorite properties and franchises. Phoniness abounds. There are fake geek girls and there are fake geek boys. But this sexism has to stop.
So instead of worrying about Fake Geek Girls, let's celebrate Real Geek Girls. Let's tell comic creators that we want female characters who are more than just excuses for cheesecake. That we want female comic characters who are rounded beyond their breasts and butts, who aren't spin-offs or namesakes or girlfriends of existing male heroes. And when comic creators provide these characters, support them with your dollars.
Make Real Geek Girls comfortable in our world by not being a bunch of sexist drooling pigs all the time. I can't even imagine being a woman at a con, where most of the women depicted in display art are highly sexualized at best, dehumanized and objectified at worst. I think the 'sexy' cosplayers add to the ugly anti-female atmosphere at cons, but that atmosphere existed before the 'sexy' cosplayers. They're an offshoot, a growth from, that pre-existing slime.
And it's sad that I even have to say this, but here goes: engage with Real Geek Girls as people. I have seen so many fat, dorky dudes ignore or breeze past smart, engaged, passionate geek women because the dorky dudes didn't see the women as properly fuckable (which, by the way, translates to OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE, FATASS). It's funny, because Harris says:
And also, if ANY of these guys that you hang on tried to talk to you out of that Con? You wouldnt give them the fucking time of day. Shut up you damned liar, no you would not. Lying, Liar Face.
which I could turn around on comics geeks any day of the week. This is sort of the part that sickens me; I'm okay with being exclusionary and having gate keepers and keeping the subculture sub, but this is gross. Real Geek Girls are just like you and me, guys - probably awkward, weird, passionately into strange stuff and not quite socially normal. They just happen to have a different set of genitals. Otherwise they're JUST LIKE US. The cognitive dissonance is staggering - the guys bitching about Fake Geek Girls are the guys who are swarming the 'sexy' cosplayers in the aisles of the con, delusionally thinking they'll get some. The larger media feeds this, with pictures of lingerie models in glasses touted as 'sexy geeks' while the normal, every day, true geek girls get ignored and sidelined.
There's no such thing as Fake Geek Girls. There are fake geeks, for sure (I call them tourists), but this Fake Geek Girl is the Willie Horton of the geek world: overblown, drawing attention away from the real problems that impact our community, and a smoke screen for bigotry. Worst of all, people spend all this time complaining about Fake Geek Girls, ignoring all the awesome Real Geek Girls around them.
Go hug a Real Geek Girl, and then get into an argument about her about who's the best Star Trek captain.