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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Fake Geek Girl: Misogyny not Elitism

This is one of my Ace of Geeks articles I'm going to be moving to Writing About Writing to keep safe. While not strictly about writing, it is about SF/F fandoms and some poor behavior that overlaps heavily with those fandoms and that I've seen writers of SF/F fall into.  

I'm a fake geek guy.

I've now been to about twenty conventions. One comic book convention, lots of gaming conventions, an anime convention, a SF/F convention with household name writers, and a couple of conventions that defied categorization.

I've sat with geeks of every stripe. Star Wars fans. Trekkies. Browncoats. Role players. LARPers. Cosplayers. SCAers. Comic book lovers. Gamers. Even people who love civil war strategy games enough that that's basically WHAT THEY DO every Saturday night.

(We artists get around. There's a reason that uptight, high-class dads get REALLY wary if their kids are dating one of us.)

I've watched conversations rage around me about whether DC or Marvel heroes would win in a fight or if the Enterprise could defeat a Super Star Destroyer. My own Facebook was the site of a 250+ comment thread on whether or not Darth Vader by himself could win against a Star Destroyer taken over by an Alien queen with a two-week head start. I've seen friendships strain over the wording of a +1 strike bonus for an elf using a long bow while hanging by its knees from a tree. ("It doesn't say long bow! There's no way you can use a long bow upside down like that." "It says bow. The long bow is a bow!" "It's just a +1." "Then don't make a big deal about it.") I've seen people talking about the merits of sword types in different military theaters and I've seen a conversation about whether a samurai or a medieval knight would win in a fight that I honestly thought was going to end in a live, to-the-death, demonstration.  There's even a group out there still saying "frell" instead of "gorram" or "frack."

And here's the deep dark truth. I smile and nod a lot.

I mean, I smile and nod a LOT.

I like most geek things, but I don't like them enough to delve into the obsession that is a bit of a defining characteristic of the sub-culture. I watch the main movies or read the main books, and call it a day. I can't quote Game of Thrones. ("You know nothing about snow"? Right?) I've only read the first two Dresden books. (This seems kind of misogynistic. You SURE it gets "way better"? *doing air quotes with my fingers*) I don't know the extensive backstories of every Avenger (Iron Man is an alcoholic, right?)  I don't have a definitive vitriolic opinion on Disney's gutting of the Star Wars extended universe because I don't know it. (The Old Republic was cool....mostly...right?) I've seen the X-Men movies, but I don't really read comic books. (There's a new timeline now, or something, isn't there?)  I'm vaguely aware that Superman died a few years back. (Oh that was in that one Youtube....with Elijah Woods!)

~whispers~ I haven't even seen all of Doctor Who.

By now you've probably realized the shocking, horrifying truth. Frankly put, I am a FAKE GEEK GUY.

Secretly I'm ridiculously hot.
And cool.
And did I mention hot.
I admit it. I like geek stuff, but I don't love geek stuff. Not the way most geeks do. Not like the fandoms. I'm an interloper on the geek scene. I've seen the movies, but I don't know the canon. I am not a "true" fan.

All those things about not really loving the source material and "just watching the movies" or only reading the one book that everyone has read....that--all of that--applies to me.

But here are some things that have never happened to me: I have never been quizzed about who Data's evil brother is to prove I like Star Trek enough to be worthy of my position in line for the midnight showing of First Contact. (Oh! Oh! That one I know.) I have never had to justify my place in a sneak preview line to see Spider-Man II by knowing who took up the mantle of Spider-Man after Peter Parker's death. (Peter Parker dies? Really? That's so sad!) I have never had to explain who Nightwing is in order to participate in a conversation about Batman. (Nightwing is like....Robin on steroids, right?) I have never been asked how battle meditation works in order to voice my opinion that Enterprise shields would probably make a fight with Star Wars technology one-sided. (Battle meditation is something that was in that Jedi role-playing video game, wasn't it?) I have never had to beat everybody in the room (twice) at Mario Kart to prove I liked video games. I have never had my gender "honorarily" changed by having enough geek interests to be accepted ("you're one of the guys now"). No one has ever insisted I tell them the difference between a tank and DPS in an MMORPG before allowing me to discuss raiding Molten Core. (I still haven't seen Molten Core.) I have never been dismissed as a faker at a prequel screening because I didn't know which admiral came out of light speed too close to the planet's surface in The Empire Strikes Back. (I know this one, but only because in the days before Netflix, we had these things called VCRs, and I watched my very worn Christmas-present copies of the Star Wars movies like 250+ times when nothing else was on TV.) I have never been quizzed about Armor Class in order to get past someone who was blocking my path to the back of a game store where my friends were waiting at the tables. I have never been told I'm not a real fan. I have never been shamed for coming to a convention despite my lack of esoteric knowledge. I have never been shamed because my ridonkulously cute outfit was turning heads and that somehow made me not interested in the game I was playing. And I have never, ever, EVER, EVER been invited to leave a fandom because I didn't like [whatever it was] enough.

Every one of the things I have listed, I have personally witnessed happen.

To women.

That's not elitism. That's sexism.

Rank, blatant, "no girls allowed," women-should-stay-at-home-and-watch-their-soaps-while-I-go-do-geek-stuff, flagrant, shameless sexism.

Elitism is arrogant. It's obnoxious. It makes people look like pompous, pretentious, smug assholes who deserve to die alone. And so everything about the "fake geek" movement needs to be called out, ridiculed, peed on, fed belladonna, hit over the head with a shovel, cut into pieces, dunked in boiling sulfuric acid, and the sludge remaining buried in the backyard behind the chemical shed where the rabid badgers live. (You get to complain that your fandom is tragically misunderstood OR be a raging asshole to people who are just starting to be curious about it. Pick one.) So it's kind of telling that the best thing people can claim when they're spewing their "fake geek girl" bullshit is that they're being elitist fucknoodles.

But real elitism, for all it's haughty, conceited snobbery, is at least egalitarian and universally applied. Real elitism is haughty dillholerific bullshit that...despite all other asswaffle bullshit at least sees no gender.

Spoiler: the "fake geek girl" movement isn't actually about elitism at all. Elitism is just the ostensible mask it wears to have a somewhat socially acceptable face. ("Oh it's just about how much we love this thing! We don't want people who don't really love it mucking up our squee!") Everyone knows sexism is bad, but being a jerk about your fandom is...sort of okay. So elitism becomes the misogyny-adjacent issue seized upon for plausible deniability.

Except for the fact that every single manifesto or online rant or bloviating geek or shitcrumpet calling out a woman...  Every single one of them who blusters about how how FGG's don't "love or appreciate [whatever] enough" or "aren't real fans" or "don't really know what they are talking about" or "shouldn't be cosplaying" or "don't have the right to be geeking out" betrays their sexism when they they fail to deliver the exact same bullshit (with equal fervor and frequency) to men.

And they do not.

As a 25-year fake geek guy who has literally never been quizzed, shamed, or gatekept, I can attest to the fact that they. do. NOT.

[Might there be one or two dudes out there beyond my anecdotal observations who have given or received such quizzes? Certainly. Are SOME geeks simply frustrated that their interests––once the subject of ridicule––are now mainstream? Surely. But the presence of a few outliers does not in any way devalue the way the screaming vast majority of this is a gendered phenomenon.]

These sexist buttstrudels  don't care about their fandom. (I mean they might, but that's not what this is really about, and if they really cared, they'd want more new blood and fans, not fewer.) What they care about is keeping the club boys only. If a woman is banging one of the guys, she might be able to get by without this shit with THAT PARTICULAR GUY (and his maybe his closest), but how DARE she have geek interests yet not make herself sexually available to geeks. (And the irony here––for which a whole other article could be written––is that the way this community objectifies, criticizes, and scrutinizes women––yes, even including the entire "fake geek girl" trope––drives many away from things they would otherwise love to be a part of.) If these dudes cared about their fandom, they wouldn't stand as gatekeepers to purity only when it comes to one gender while letting the other pass without comment.

It's fine to be a girl as long as you're one of the guys. Oh and by the way, we won't be testing the guys.

If you only give your incredibly difficult voting literacy tests to blacks, but not whites, that makes you a total fucking racist, and when we look back on Jim Crow history, we can see that particular forest for the trees without ever being fooled that it was really about critical thinking skills. (Though these days there's a whole new round of "How dare you call us racist--this is about X" plausible deniability when it comes to voter suppression.) So let's not be obtuse because this is happening in real time and a few people have discovered how to couch their misogyny in some kind of halfway relatable, wanktrumpet-but-at-least-not-bigoted fuckwadery instead of the blatant sexist kind.

Geeks are getting a pass on unbelievably misogynistic behavior, because we can maybe kind of imagine a world where obsessive geeks obsess a little too much about their fandom and they tend to be bullied in school. We tend to only call out their ridiculous elitism and leave the purple elephant alone. But they are as sexist as the rest of the world, and they just found a version that fits into their subculture. And geeks who would never behave this way are looking the other way when it happens.

Simply put, ignoring this makes the entire fandom complicit in the system that is only overly loyal and purist when it comes to women, and it's time we called this misogyny out for what it is. We're doing a grave disservice to the reputations of our fandoms and ourselves by not Nazgul screaming at this shitwanker behavior in the starkest terms possible. The reason geek culture is being labeled as a den of misogyny is because the shoe fits, and letting sexism slide is the moral equivalent of asking to see the wing tips.

If you only give your asshole, elistist, geek cross-examinations, quizzes, and "prove you're one of us" tests to women, you're not just an elitist pissrocket, you're a sexist bag of dicks too. And when we see it happening, if we don't check it, then we're smiling and nodding at reprehensible misogynist assholes.


  1. Fine, if I'll see one of those groups, I'll let you know, And invite you to send those outrageous losers to hell.

  2. I love this! Especially the adjectives you use to describe the sexist dirtbags. I’ll admit, even as a woman, I felt a little protective of the Tolkien stories when the movies were made, for example, especially to those who hadn’t read the books and only seen the movies. But I realized that it’s not MINE to protect or keep secret. Same thing happened with Marvel comics. But now that I’ve seen others enjoy something that has personally impacted my life, I’m glad that with each movie, the fandom grows, the love of it is shared, and that we’re all in it together.

  3. FREAKING HELL YEAH. All of this. Exactly why I put down the first Dresden book. I will be Nazgul screaming from now on.