Reflecting on “Fake Geek Girls”

A look back on the theme of the week by Gamers Against Bigotry’s Founder & Director, Sam Killermann

We just wrapped up a week of discussing the fabled “Fake Geek Girl” — the third thus far of our weekly themes that are going better than we could have anticipated. I want to take a moment to reflect on the week, focusing on some articles we shared and some of my favorite responses from you.

Several years ago a dear friend of mine, an anything-but-fake geek girl, shared an experience with me that is fuel for a lot of my sentiments on this subject. She told me of her experience trying to buy comics as a young girl. This was not an isolated instance, mind you, but “experience” (singular) is the best way to describe it because every iteration played out in a near-scripted fashion.

“Why are you here?”

“You don’t like Green Lantern.”

“Are you buying those for your boyfriend?”

“If you’re looking for attention, you’re in the wrong place. Go back to cheerleading.”

This was over ten years ago. Long before this fake geek girl existed, its roots were already planted in our community. And it has since blossomed into one ugly, stinky, and surprisingly loud flower. Probably the loudest flower around, to be honest.

Why is it a thing?

We started the week off by asking you why you think the “Fake Geek Girl” thing is even a thing. We got a lot of solid answers, but one stood out:

The “fake geek girl” is a scarecrow put up for the purposes of separating the in-group from the out-group. Anytime an established subculture starts to get major buy-in from the “mainstream” or broader culture, you get longtime subcultural participantswho’s reaction is not “Great! More people are getting into what I’m into!” but rather “Oh no! People are liking the things I like for the *wrong reasons*.” They then seek to draw a line between the “real” members and those who are just jumping on the bandwagon because it’s trending.

In the case of geek subculture, it’s been so heavily identified with a certain brand of masculinity and masculine pursuits, that women trying to join in those pursuits make convenient targets as those who don’t “fit in.” On top of that, geekdom being a “boy’s club” has lots of benefits for men, such as getting to see sexy, barely-clothed women everywhere, that might go away if women are accepted as full participants.

Yep. Nailed it. Seth, you win 1,000 internets for that response.

But maybe there’s an ulterior motive.

We shared a fantastically humorous and all-around spot on critique of the whole issue. You can watch it below.

If you’re not up to watching the entire video, here’s the message in a blockquote:

Maybe there is no fake geek girl. Maybe it’s just a product of the deeply-rooted sexism in geek culture. Maybe she’s just a manifestation of the insecurities about the opposite sex. I mean, why else on God’s green Earth would anyone pretend to read Aqua Man comics?

But seriously. Why? WHY?! TELL ME, YOU FOOLS!

So what’s the reason for the reason?

Seth’s quote above does a great job of providing a reason for why the “Fake Geek Girl” thing is a thing, but what’s the reason for that reason. I mean, why are we so concerned about outsiders sneaking into our insideness?

This article, “Fear of the Unknown is Still Dividing the Planet: It’s Time to Let Others Just Be,” is a decent place to start looking for the reason’s reason. The idea of a person who is a girl who is a geek (particularly a pretty one ohmagosh) is certainly unknown to a lot of young guys. Hell, I could have left it at “a girl” and that sentence works.

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The author does a great job discussing the idea of being afraid of the unknown, but also provides a thoughtful explanation for this sentiment:

Negative reactions to the unknown instills a sense of weakness in our character, specifically a lack of strength in our own convictions. When people have the need to strongly chastise others for their opinions and information they present, it shows a genuine deficit of attributes related to confidence about our own belief systems, morals and values.

Are the people yelling the loudest about “Fake Geek Girls” perhaps hinting at some personal insecurities they don’t know how else to cope with? Are we, as a community, predisposed to insecurities, particularly those of a social or interpersonal nature? Is every instance of geeks challenging and dismissing other geeks’ geekness really just people knocking other people down to make themselves seem taller? Am I done writing in rhetorical question form?

Yes.

What’s a real geek girl look like?

Coincidentally, Other Sam (as I refer to him in my head, and now, in blog posts), has been cooking up a photo campaign that we’re all really excited about, and had particular relevance given the theme of this week. More on the campaign later, but for now I am just excited to reshare this fantastic photo of gamer he made.

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How great is that? That’s a real person, who happens to be a gamer, who happens to be a woman. But a person, first and foremost.

The photo has been hands down the most popular thing we’ve ever shared on Facebook (or Twitter, for that matter). Keep making it awesome, folks. If it makes its way to over 25,000 people, James, our Director of PR, has to buy me champagne. And I, like any other respectable adult, love bubbles. So let’s make that happen.

And then we learned our President might be a “Fake Geek Girl”

The Mary Sue published an article that came at the whole “Jedi Mind Meld” #nerdgate gaffe from a different angle. They made the suggestion that Obama might actually be a “Fake Geek Girl.” At least, based on the criteria that the only geeks we test and pass/fail (and who fail) are Fake Geek Girls, and we definitely have tested and failed Obama for his misquote.

We appreciated it. Heck, really, we just appreciate the Mary Sue.

Also, we learned that we should probably stop sharing Presidentially-satired things on the Facebook page. So far, we’re 0 for 2 in the “not upsetting a good portion of our community” department. We apologize for that. We’ll be better. Make it so, we will.

So, do “Fake Geek Girls” exist?

It depends.

The whole “Fake Geek Girl” thing is a rooted in the idea that there are girls who are exploiting geek guys for attention by pretending to be geeks. Do I believe those girls exist?

No, I don’t. I’m sorry. I just don’t.

Why? Because why would a girl who isn’t into video games play video games? Why would a girl who isn’t into comics read them? Why would a girl who isn’t a geek spend countless hours creating a costume, attending a con, and wearing that costume and playing that character throughout the entire effing con? 

Because she’s so desperate for your attention? Sorry to type-kick you in your mind-shins, but I don’t think you’re worth that much effort. I’d be willing to bet that same girl could put forth WAY less effort to get JUST as much attention in about a THOUSAND other realms, all of which she’d probably hate doing way less.

It simply doesn’t compute.

Are there geeks who happen to be girls who happen to seek guys’ attention? Absolutely. But they’re not fake geek girls. They’re geek girls who want geek guys’ attention. A lot of geek guys do the same thing. But it’s a problem when geek girls do it because…?

Oh, that’s right: the whole sexist, borderline misogynistic, our-culture-not-yours, boys club, afraid of the unknown aspect of our culture. That’s why it’s a problem.

Moving forward.

The main takeaway from this entire week can be perfectly summed up in my favorite Facebook comment of the week. This one, posted in response to our original question about why the “Fake Geek Girl” issue exists by Bill Door, is just perfect:

“Fake” geek girls? It’s bollocks. If you’re a geek then it’s first and foremost about what’s between your ears, not what’s between your legs.

If you’re going to criticize a person for not being geek enough for you or your group/clan/con/party/table, fine. I don’t agree with you questioning that person, because I think we’d all be better off if we invited people to learn more instead of chastising them for not knowing enough, but fine. But question what’s between their ears, not what’s between their legs.

That’s all for now.

Looking forward to the weeks to come.

GLHF,

Sam Killermann
Founder & Director of Gamers Against Bigotry
Third-Degree Jedi Mind Meld Master
Fake Geek Girl Non-Believer

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-King/1257412973 James King

    Hell, I could have left it at “a girl” and that sentence works.

    You’re clearly no better. It’s okay to believe this stereotype but those guys who dislike the fake geek girls – or the real ones – well, it must be because they’re virgins scared of the opposite sex.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9628525 Karolyn Chowning

      Good point James! Really shows how easy it is for all of us to quip our way into reinforcing stereotypes.

    • http://samuelkillermann.com/ Samuel Killermann

      The “stereotype” that girls are an unknown to many young guys? Not sure I’m following. Maybe we went to different middle schools, but at mine there wasn’t much intermingling between the boys and the girls.

  • Ana Casanova

    I can think of a reason to “pretend to be a geek”, but it’s more of a nuance. Some girls decide they want to look geeky because they want to feel different. Specially when they are teenagers, some feel the need to rebel against what is mainstream, like, say, being a cheerleader or reading Cosmopolitan or whatever. So they lean towards geeky (like others lean towards anything else, like sporty or metalhead) and they start with the most shallow aspects to it, and they do brag about it, because they’re teenagers and they want attention (or, as they would see it, to make friends. Probably we should see it like that as well). They can be annoying but we’ve all been teenagers, so we could try to show them things they don’t know and might like, instead of despising them. Maybe it turns out that they do like some specific fandoms and not others, or maybe they decide they’re no geeks and leave the fandom, either way is fine.

    On a side note, I’m from Spain and have been a geek for all my life and I’ve never had this kind of feedback, so I’m always surprised that this feels so important on the other side of the Atlantic. Maybe young men here have this Mediterranean background and want more to attract and please girls than bash them.

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