When you were a little kid, did you play dress up?
Ever wear your Halloween costume on a day it wasn’t Halloween?
Ever run around in a cape and Superman underoos?
Ever slip your tiny child feet into your dad’s shoes and stomp around the house declaring yourself a very famous rock star and could someone please bring you a bowl of brown M & Ms?
Congratulations, my friend: you were, for that moment in time at least, behaving like a geek! Because playing dress up is a geeky thing to do.
I would have thought that was obvious. If a “geek” is someone who displays a lot of enthusiasm about a particular fandom (or many fandoms, or fandom in general), dressing up as someone/something from a fandom should be a pretty good indicator of geekery. If a Green Lantern t-shirt is a sign that you like Green Lantern, a Green Lantern costume is a giant billboard with arrows and flashing lights and choirs of angels. For the record (again), I hate the term “cosplay.” It has undertones of half-assed performance art and it makes me cringe. BUT! it’s the generally accepted term amongst fandom circles, so let’s use it here. Let me be perfectly clear: costuming, cosplay, dress up, whatever you want to call it, is just as geeky as more long-accepted pursuits. And, I would posit, unlike many of those pursuits, it’s actually difficult. I will see your several thousand dollars in carefully organized back issues of DC and raise you the time and energy to learn an actual skill.
Again, I would have thought that was obvious, but sometimes I expect too much of people. I’m a little late commenting on this, but apparently there are people–men, mostly–in the geek community who are just so, so mad at cosplayers. Female cosplayers, specifically.
The argument being posited again and again is that women dressing up at cons aren’t “real geeks,” but rather attention-hungry posers looking to prey on hapless geeks, who are assumed/outright stated to be men and boys. How dare those bitches come in and be interested in geek stuff! They’re ruining everything! SOON THERE WILL BE BOOBS* EVERYWHERE WHAT DO WE DO.
Sane people were like “dudes, WTF, your misogyny is showing,” to which the dudes replied “nuh-uh I do TONS of shit to help women” (paraphrased only slightly). “Fake geeks,” they and many of their commenters keep insisting, are a real problem! And most of them just happen to be girls! Which makes those girls ATTENTION WHORES, because wanting attention for something awesome you made is totally not ok. Which is why all directors, writers, comic book artists, and actors are anonymous–oh. Wait.
You know how many “fake geeks” I have met in my life? I have met people who were paid to be at geek conventions, and I have met people whose geeky interests were different from mine, and I knew people who were new to their particular interest, and I have met people who snuck into geek conventions just to look, but I have never ever ever met a person who had paid money to go to a goddamned geek convention without any interest whatsoever in the geeky goings on. Has this happened? I’m sure it has! There are jillions of people who go to cons, and doubtless some of them are just curious. I doubt very much that those people are cosplaying, though. And even if they are–so what? Everyone has to start somewhere. Geekdom isn’t a society of elites–it’s a club for people who like shit.
On the surface, a lot of the complaints are about promotion models–aka “booth babes”–who are usually pretty women hired by corporations to drive interest in their product. I don’t particularly relish this form of marketing at cons, because it turns women into a commodity and ignores the presence of straight women** in the geek community. That being said, do I think it’s appropriate to attack the models? WHY, NO. Women have to earn a living just like men, and models/actors just as much as engineers. If a particular marketing strategy is offensive to you, the reasonable thing to do is not spend money on the product being advertised. Slandering the employees with misogynistic insults is not reasonable.
But they’re not just talking about promotion models. The Idiot Nerd Girl meme (look it up, I’m not linking to it) is not about booth babes; it’s about people without sufficient “geek cred,” whatever the fuck that means. Geekery, apparently, is an elite society that you have to prove yourself worthy to join. Naturally, since ladies are the carriers of Original Sin and all, the bulk of this proving falls to women.
Click for source, and follow, b/c it’s hilarious
The root of this problem is a hard thing to address because it’s upsetting. It makes me angry, and sad, and it hurts and I hate it, but it’s true: geek culture is chockablock full of misogyny.
Kind of like that, only not cute
Cons, ren faires, gaming, TV, movies; all geekdom. All of it. Not all the geek people have been misogynistic jerkbags, but all of the geeky pursuits I’ve been involved in have had misogynistic jerkbags in them. And some of my geeky pursuits have been In this way, geekdom is a lot like mainstream society. As much as we would like to think/hope it is, geekdom isn’t a safe space for everyone. For every girl who’s found a finally found a place full of other people who are really into Mon Calamari ballet, there’s a girl getting harassed in a con elevator. Sometimes it’s the same girl. And that’s fucking horrible, but it’s par for the course in a culture that doesn’t respect women.
Because…no. Geekdom, at large, does not respect women. We’ve made enormous strides away from our intensely misogynistic roots, but we’re still treating Gor like it’s anything other than the fantasies of a mouthbreathing 15 year old. We’re still making fun of Twilight because it’s got sparkly vampires and not because it glorifies an abusive, controlling, relationship***. We’re still looking sideways at many other fandoms enjoyed mostly by women (at least until the dudes get into it, or the creator of the fandom wins a bunch of awards, and if the source material is anti-woman, well, so much the better!). And we’re still debating whether cosplay is a legit form of geekery, or just something that “attention whores” do. That’s why if you’re dressed as the Scarlet Witch, you had better know everything about her (including the seven million times she’s gone crazy) because some dude is going to demand you recount it before he introduces himself–which he will never do. Just, ya know, for example.
Cosplay, costuming, dressing up–whatever you want to call it, this shit is geeky. And it is awesome. There is so much amazing work being done by cosplayers, costumers, and other professional/semi-professional dresser uppers. The Friday Night Costume Contest, in which awards are based on technique, is one of the highlights of Dragon*Con! The passion, talent, time, and money being spent on costuming in geekdom, to astounding results, should be celebrated, not discredited. But these are women-dominated pursuits, and to acknowledge that they are worthwhile, we might have to acknowledge that women are worthwhile as more than decoration. Aye, there’s the rub. Female geeks exist, and are, in fact, human beings, and deserve to be welcomed and respected. Just like male geeks.
Other people who have said this better than me:
The Mary Sue: On the “Fake” Geek Girl – “The Fake Geek Girl has been with me ever since I was eleven and found that I really liked Batman: The Animated Series, when my fear of being labeled a fake geek girl said that if I didn’t become an expert on Batman, the moment I made some kind of mistake or omission I’d be branded as “fake” by the person I was interacting with. Not a novice, a learner, someone who was worth teaching and bringing into the community, but a fake, a poser, somebody who deserved to be kicked out. Where was the “geeks in the mainstream” discussion fifteen years ago when I was getting into Batman? Right, it wasn’t there, because geeks were not getting into the mainstream at that time. But the Fake Geek Girl idea was there.” AND! “But who are you to say that a stranger, someone you’re never likely to meet, is not genuinely interested in the thing they appear to be interested in? Who are you? I just… what? I’m rendered incoherent. Here at the Mary Sue, when an actress goes on a talk show and describes her personal affection and involvement and enjoyment and FANDOM for geek properties, we take it at face value. Why? Because we don’t actually have a reason not to. Because the alternative breeds a closed community of paranoid, elitist jerks who lash out at anyone new.”
Who Gets To Ge A Geek? Anyone Who Wants To Be – “Geekdom is a nation with open borders.”
Nerds: Stop Hating Women, Please – “But the views Harris expresses aren’t just held by virulent misogynists – instead, they are depressingly common in “geek culture”. Too many nerds have basically internalised the stereotype of themselves as ugly, friendless losers and decided that anyone who doesn’t fit that stereotype – particularlywomen – is a “fake geek”, taking advantage of the fact that being a geek is now ‘cool’.”
The Great Geek Cosplay Debate – “We were all young and clueless once. It’s likely we’re all young and clueless now, compared to our future selves. Just because the person dressed as a lumberjack in front of you can’t quote any Monty Python aside from that one song doesn’t mean they have any less passion than you.”
Tiger Thighs Studio: My Two Cents on the Cosplay debate – “New fans bring new fandoms, and fresh blood to what would be an otherwise dying medium.”
*for the record, I hate this word. Especially when it’s used in Breast cancer research marketing.
**I’m torn on whether this erases the presence of gay/bi women. My instinct is that these companies are not hiring gorgeous ladies to bring in the lesbian market, because they don’t really acknowledge its existence. I’d love feedback.
***Twilight is bad. I won’t argue it’s not. But so is the original Battlestar Galactica, and a lot of trade paperback sci-fi/fantasy, and those are acceptable fandoms.
****Fuck you, Tony Harris