While browsing around the internet, I came upon this article on CNN deriding women who Cosplay as sexy comic book characters for not being “real” geeks. It annoyed me, because as a female geek/gamer, it feels as if one has to constantly prove their worth or competence as a nerd.
Note that for the purpose of this post, I’m using the words “geek” and “nerd” interchangeably. Yes, there’s a difference, but it’s very subtle and at this point relatively irrelevant to the discussion.
There are a couple dynamics at play that give me mixed feelings about Joe Peacock’s article.
One of the most important is the popularization of geek culture in the mainstream. Note that I believe that CNN’s GeekOut blog that Peacock is writing for plays into this phenomenon. There’s a lot of resentment from the folks that got picked on in high school for their interests who now see those same interests becoming popular with the in-crowd. With that in-crowd comes hot girls. The thing is, if you have tits and are a geek, guy geeks tend to automatically assume that you’re a poser and just there for sex appeal or following a trend unless you prove otherwise, even though outward appearance has nothing to do with geekiness. This stereotype is then further reinforced at conventions when companies hire hot models to promote their products. Everything gets blown out of proportion and a gender-based mistrust is built.
I’ve noticed this when gaming. While playing WoW, sometimes it’s inevitable to use voice chat with people who aren’t in-game friends, and the reaction is generally the same. The moment you speak and people hear that you’re a girl, the conversation goes silent. Then there are a few minutes where everyone is kind of like “Oh my god, a girl… shit. We should censor ourselves. *recalls everything that might have been offensive that’s been said in the previous five minutes*,” at which point I reassure everyone that I’m not easily offended and to carry on as if I’m just a normal player. Because I am. And then everyone assumes that you’re not competent until they see the meters, at which point you can finally start being accepted, although at least one person in the group is still likely to hit on you. Mind you, I refuse to speak in voice chat unless I’m sure that my character can out-heal or out-dps nearly everyone else’s, because under no circumstances do I want to be seen as a poser or an attention whore. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but it is. Sometimes I’d even pretend that my microphone was broken to avoid having to deal with it altogether.
At the same time, there is a very real phenomenon of girls trying to use geek culture for attention. There are plenty of times when I’ve been in a group with some people trying to kill dragons/demons/zombies when some chick has to be all like “I’m a girl. I bet you wanna see pics.” etc. If you’re playing a game and nobody can hear your voice, your real life gender is 100% irrelevant, and bringing it up is pointless. Nobody cares if you’re a girl/guy/something-in-between. It annoys me when girls do beg for attention like that, and it makes those of us with an actual interest in playing games more likely to be looked down on by the community at large. The “I’m a girl gamer” types get on people’s nerves because it’s completely unnecessary to point it out. You’re a gamer. Part of the reason why I’m torn by the article is that the annoying attention seekers do exist, and as much as the sexism in gaming culture is annoying, it’s not like Peacock’s observations are coming out of nowhere. In fact, such sentiments can be found in many gaming and internet communities.
I suppose it’s too simple to want everyone to just treat everyone like people, but when geeks start being suspicious of other geeks and expecting them to conform to certain nebulous standards of geekiness in order to be considered authentic, then we’ve got a real problem. There are many different types of geeks, and geek culture is wide enough and inclusive enough that everyone who wants to should be able to find their niche. You shouldn’t have to have every single issue of every iteration of Batman memorized to be able to wear a Batman shirt at Comic-Con, and you should be able to play CoD but not Mass Effect if you want to.
And before I go, here are a couple other responses/reactions:
If you have any other reactions you think I should add, let me know and I’ll link them.