July 25, 2012

Pretty and Calls Herself a Geek? Attention Whore!

Feature, geek 1 Comment

booth babes need not apply?

“There is a growing chorus of frustration in the geek community with — and there’s no other way to put this — pretty girls pretending to be geeks for attention.” So begins the column on CNN’s GeekOut blog by Joe Peacock. They are not real geeks, he whines. Not that he’s against women geeks, mind you. He has a lot of very attractive female geek friends (See? I am not racist! I have black friends!) and he believes their contributions make geek culture better. It’s those other girls who are the problem:

What I’m talking about is the girls who have no interest or history in gaming taking nearly naked photos of themselves with game controllers draped all over their body just to play at being a “model.” I get sick of wannabes who couldn’t make it as car show eye candy slapping on a Batman shirt and strutting around comic book conventions instead.

There is nothing original Peacock’s commentary. The title of “poser” has always been thrown around within subcultures and communities; surely, in-group bias creates strong bonds among those in the in-group. The problem in the geek community is that this judgment is almost always leveled specifically against women and frequently involves threats and harassment.

Even Peacock, who doubtlessly tried to be careful voicing his views, betrays geek culture’s endemic misogyny. Look at his example of the guy who buys comic books just to create scarcity and drive a profit for himself (an example clearly thrown in to assure readers that this is not an “attack on women”). This type of guy doesn’t contribute to the community, Peacock says, adding that he hates poachers. The women on the other hand? They’re “gross.” They’re “a pox.” They want “attention.” They have “hollow egos.”

“Don’t be shocked when they send you XBox Live messages with ASCII penises,” he says to them. He doesn’t say it outright, but you know that he thinks that they deserve it. And you know that he knows that it’s not just little ASCII penises, either. He linked the site Fat Ugly or Slutty himself, where one of the most recent posts threatened “I’m going to shoot you in you’re [sic] fucking cunt.”

Nobody deserves harassment and threats of violence or abuse. Unfortunately, Peacock’s line of thinking feeds the problem instead of doing anything to fight it (making his assertions that women in the community lead to better things sound rather, well, hollow). If you are a woman, you might be given a chance to prove yourself in this community. Since there is no standard definition of what a “geek” is and it will vary from one judge to the next anyway, chances of failing are high (cake and grief counseling will be available after the conclusion of the test!).

If you somehow manage to succeed, you’ll be tested again and again by anyone who encounters you until you manage to establish yourself like, say, Peacock’s example, Felicia Day. But even then, you’ll be questioned — as he himself noted: “You’ve no doubt heard about a young journalist named Ryan Perez who did something stupid. Really, really stupid. He ‘called out’ Felicia Day on Twitter, asking if she really contributes anything to geek culture other than being a celebrity.” Perez didn’t do his homework, Peacock says.

It’s easy to explain that episode away as shoddy journalism. It’s not shoddy journalism. It’s predominant ideology. As Shawn Burns pointed out in a thread discussing this on Google+:

In the Felicia Day example, it’s laughable to write off the criticism as “bad journalism” in the face of the reaction her “Gamer Girl” video provoked from the culture literally just days before. It’s not just a mistake to question her credentials, and so something that can be explained by being bad at one’s job; it’s routine to question her credentials, and so something that can only be explained by an endemic attitude about women engaging with geek culture at all. The comments on that YouTube video are grotesque. The reaction to her is the best example of a problem in geek culture, not an anomalous example that a writer like Peacock should be explaining away, apologetically, with hand-waving at “some of my best friends are hot geek girls” defenses of his attitude.

As a woman, your whole existence within the geek community will be nothing but a series of tests — if you’re lucky. If you aren’t lucky, you’ll be harassed and threatened and those within the culture will tacitly agree that you deserve it.

This is precisely why I correct anyone who calls me a geek. “Geek” was never as gross or offensive to me growing up as it is now. This is precisely why I will never attend any of these conferences no matter how much I like the panels and products and wish I could interact with their creators. This is why I rarely talk about the games, fantasy books, anime and graphic novels I love outside of the safe confines of self-selected groups of people. This is why my usernames on Steam and Battlenet are gender-ambiguous. Why I never post on gaming forums or join game network groups. Have you ever tried to count the number of groups that have offensive insults toward women as titles on gaming networks? Don’t. There are not enough FPS in the world to help you release all the rage.

Privilege is not absolute, so I can’t say Peacock has never experienced the brutality of outright rejection at the hands of a community he recognizes as true to him in a way he’s never recognized any other. As a geek, I imagine he probably has experienced rejection by non-geek subgroups. In this particular case, however, he’s very privileged. Here, he will never have to prove himself constantly. Here, he will never be threatened with rape or violence because he has the audacity to do or mention something he loves. Good for him. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I just wish he set a better example.

What’s a better example? Do what you do and love what you love and surround yourself with people you relate to. If there are posers standing around, teach them something cool. Who knows, they just might turn out to be die-hards with some guidance. They might have the skill set to offer something amazing to the community. We’re not born geeks. If my father had been any other man, would I have watched Akira when I was six? Grown up on Galaxy 999 the way my peers were growing up with Sesame Street? Snowball’s chance in hell.

Stop dividing and perpetuating the abuse and focus on sharing what you love.

AV Flox

Your humble editrix-in-command.

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Pretty and Calls Herself a Geek? Attention Whore!

If you are a woman, you might be given a chance to prove yourself in this community. Since there is no standard definition of what a “geek” is and it will vary from one judge to the next anyway, chances of failing are high (cake and grief counseling will be available after the conclusion of the test!). If you somehow manage to succeed, you’ll be tested again and again by anyone who encounters you until you manage to establish yourself like, say, Felicia Day. But even then, you’ll be questioned. As a woman, your whole existence within the geek community will be nothing but a series of tests — if you’re lucky. If you aren’t lucky, you’ll be harassed and threatened and those within the culture will tacitly agree that you deserve it.

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