You know, it may be hard to believe, but I don’t always want to talk about feminism in the geek community. I don’t seek out fights with angry misogynists. I’d be perfectly happy to talk about Episode VII, and why I’m looking forward to it even though I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to suck.
But then shit like this happens.
For those of you not clicking through on that link, it’s a post on John Scalzi’s blog about Tony Harris, former artist on (among other things) ‘Starman’, and his misogynist, semi-literate, possibly (hell, hopefully) drunken Facebook rant about girls “preying” on male geeks by showing up at conventions in costume while being attractive, and not always knowing that much about the character they’re portraying. Because somehow, this is predatory behavior. (Presumably, he bases this off of the African veldt, where lionesses are known to dress up as Wonder Woman to attract the attention of antelopes even though spotty distribution and poor literacy rates in the region mean that they’ve never even read a single issue.)
Naturally, Scalzi eviscerates this stupidity with ease, because even though he is wrong wrong wrong on which Star Wars movie is the best (hint: it’s the original) he is almost never wrong on matters of real consequence and is excellent at expressing himself. And because he is confident in the rightness of his opinions and is willing to defend them, he has a comments section. Said comments section, for those of you not willing to read several hundred comments, is filled with women saying, “Hell yes. I am sick and fucking tired of having to prove my geek cred to every fucking man at the convention, one by one, simply because I’m a woman who is moderately attractive. I’ve been active in fandom my whole life and legitimately enjoy geeky things, and the sexist disbelief I experience is obnoxious almost past the point of endurance.”
This is promptly followed by someone clueless saying, “Oh, we weren’t talking about you! I totally believe that you’re a real geek girl. We were talking about all those other girls out there, the real poseurs who are just impersonating geeks in order to gain that all-important cachet of social acceptance from the now-dominant geek sub-culture. Those are the real enemies out there, as I’m sure you’ll agree. They’re the ones who are just trying to ‘belong’, and don’t really ‘get it’. They’re mainstream people who think they’re geeky even though they’ve never seen an episode of the original Battlestar Galactica!” Usually, this is where they bring up ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and use the phrase “nerdface” unironically.
Here’s the thing, everyone who insists that while each individual incident of rampant misogyny and asshatted stupidity is obviously terrible and should be condemned, there’s still a principle that’s worth defending here and you’re going to defend it…it is not your principle that everyone is arguing. It is your facts. Because there are no women out there who do this. Women do not treat science fiction conventions as some sort of four-day singles bar, where they can pick up a guy for only the price of having to dress up in a random skimpy outfit that they found on the Internet and pretend to be interested in boring shit about elves. It does not happen. When you think it is happening, you are either a) imposing your own frame of geekery onto the woman in question, or b) confused and imagining that your lack of social skills, your sexism, and your unfortunate history with women in high school is somehow the fault of the person you are talking to.
Being a geek does not automatically mean “being into everything you are into and having an encyclopedic memory for trivia.” Many cosplayers are costume geeks. They have as much interest and obsession with the details and minutiae of costume-making as you do for Star Trek, or (slightly more accurately) as rocketry geeks do for rockets. They may very well be choosing that costume based on its aesthetic appeal and challenge, not because of an attachment to the character. Does that mean they’re not real geeks? No, it means they’re geeks about something you don’t care about and instead of taking the time and effort to get involved in their fandom, you’re berating them for not getting involved in yours. This is not defending a principle. This is being a jackass.
Which is the other important thing. A lot of the time you’re just being a jackass. The woman who’s dressed as Death, but doesn’t respond when you say to her, “Chim-Chim-Cheree!” It’s not that she’s a fake geek girl who didn’t even read the character’s first appearance; it’s that she’s at the convention to have fun, not to participate in a fucking trivia contest…especially not one where the prize is you looking down her shirt for the next six hours. When she nods politely at your comments about ‘American Gods’ and walks away, it’s because she has someplace to be, not because she’s secretly one of the cheerleaders who turned you down for a date in high school and she doesn’t really love Neil and she’s laughing at you when you’re not looking.
If your response to this incident, or any of the other incidents like it, is to say, “Yes, but the principle of keeping out the poseurs because they’re really just bullying real geeks with their condescension, that needs to be defended,” then remember this: It is not the principle that the other side is arguing. It is the data. If you claim that squirrels are secretly stealing your underwear, the question involved is not whether or not theft is wrong. That question is moot, because there are no underwear-stealing squirrels in your home. And even if you find a YouTube video out there of someone sitting at a park bench with their gym bag partially unzipped, and a squirrel runs up to the bag and pulls out an item of clothing and runs off with it to use it to line their nest, that does not make you right. The plural of anecdote is not data. The existence of this video does not make pointing at random squirrels and shouting, “Stop stealing my boxer shorts, you bitch!” any less insane. Please, just let this ‘fake girl geek’ bullshit go. Because you’re not doing yourself any favors when you defend it.