November 13, 2012

I hope I never have to hear the phrase "fake geek girl" again

I've been meaning to post about this ad that is appearing in DC Comics for almost a month:
From Club Jade
Here's the full comic as seen on College Humor:

Do you hear that sound? That's my head hitting the desk.
Granted, College Humor doesn't just pick on girls. There are comics for several stereotypes. I don't find any of them particularly funny, but The Imposter one got under my skin. Just the clothing choice alone! I love Star Wars. I like Hunger Games. This girl could be me.

I saw it online and then a few days later, I spotted it in the back of a DC Comic. Specifically, in the back of a Wonder Woman comic. After reading about a strong heroine, this ad felt like a slap in the face.

I know it's a parody. I know it's meant to be amusing, but the "fake geek girl" joke isn't funny anymore. This ad sends the message that girls aren't wanted. I feel it also perpetuates the belief that we must question geek girls. If you want to be really extreme, you could say this comic encourages people to stop girls who are wearing Star Wars shirts and quiz them about the movies to ensure they've earned the right to wear it.

This shouldn't be a thing. But it is. This very discussion comes up semi-regularly, and it's disheartening. It seems that there are still enough people whose knee jerk reaction to meeting a geek girl is to question her "cred." I experienced a couple of instances this summer that speak to that.

At Star Wars Celebration VI, I rushed into a screening of the season five premiere of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I was covering the red carpet and sent my boyfriend in early and asked him to save me a seat. That seat ended up being beside a guy who looked at the Rebel Alliance tattoo on my shoulder and asked if I got it because of my boyfriend. He wasn't kidding. He wasn't being mean, he was really just that clueless. I set him straight, but he didn't seem to get a hint. Even after I had to inform him which characters the voice actors on stage were, he made comments as we were leaving about how it was nice for me to come to the convention for my boyfriend. I looked at him and in a not polite tone of voice said, "Actually, he's here because of me. Not the other way around."

Then at Baltimore Comic Con, my boyfriend was introducing me to another male creator - the guy said hello, looked at my Avengers t-shirt, and asked if my boyfriend made me wear it.

He was joking, but I wasn't laughing.

It gets old. I know male geeks have their own stereotypes to deal with, but I don't think they are made to feel unwelcome or excluded on a regular basis.

Along that line, female cosplayers have had to put up with a few ridiculous situations in the past month. MONTH. Not weeks, not years - four discussions in a month. First, Mandy Caruso detailed how she was harassed by press at New York Comic Con. She was wearing a Black Cat costume that revealed cleavage, and the male interviewer asked her to spank him and asked what her cup size was. Then, cosplayer Molly McIsaac posted about how people wearing costumes doesn't mean you can treat them like pieces of walking meat. And finally, just over the weekend, there was arguing about a faux nerd girl meme that used the word "whore." Intense discussion surrounded all of these posts - from all sides.

Today's incident takes the prize though. Artist Tony Harris (Ex Machina, Starman) posted the following on his Facebook page:

Click to Enlarge -  image from Jill Pantozzi
Once you've digested that  rant and the usage of the word "yer", take a look at the comments.
This is one of my favorites:

Seriously.
Apparently men know everything and don't have to take the exam. Nope, just us ladies are the ones who have to prove our knowledge and our geekdom. Oh, and we wear costumes to taunt men. Yep. We just pander. Don't mind me, I'm over here dressing like Amethyst and pandering.
Harris isn't calling out all women cosplayers, but I feel like he's saying the majority of cosplayers are fakers.

I know people - men and women - who have dressed up as characters they didn't know inside and out so that they could participate in a group cosplay. Does it matter? No. If anyone is cosplaying a character just because he or she likes the outfit design, that doesn't matter either. I don't get how that harms anyone. Poison Ivy was the first costume I wore at a convention. I mostly knew her from cartoons, television, and movies and not so much from the comics. I liked her attitude and style. And thankfully no one stopped me to past judgment. If anyone would have, I might have been put off cosplaying. I have a thicker skin now, but back then, it wouldn't have taken much to discourage me from playing dress up at conventions.

And it would be bad enough if this was just about cosplayers in general, but no - he targets women in the tackiest possible fashion. It's a difficult conversation and point to make, sure. But approaching it in such a vitriolic manner is not the way. It just pisses people off. He's commented on the post since and said that he should have included men in his statement. Uh-huh.

It's all exhausting. I don't want to fight hard. I like stuff. I love stuff. It'd be cool if I could carry on without being questioned or having people think I'm doing it for the boys.



Side note:
A positive thing has come from the Tony Harris business. Gail Simone started a #CosplayAppreciationDay tag on Twitter, and it's trending right now. A lot of us take pride in what we do and looking at that feed will make you smile - which you probably need after reading the above.

50 comments:

  1. Amy - thank you for this. It's a topic that has been beaten to death, but unfortunately douchebags like Tony Harris make us continue to talk about it. Keep on keepin' on - the more we talk about it, the more it gets to the forefront of people's minds and makes them check themselves.

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  2. Great points. It's a well worn stereotype. The Slave Leia's don't help though.

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    1. How? Slave Leia is canon. If a woman wants to dress up and feel sexy as an iconic character in geek culture, that's her right.

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    2. Why? Leia is a strong character and kills Jabba while wearing that costume. I do see a LOT of Slave Leias, but I don't see how they are "bad."

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  3. I am amazed that this is a thing. This is a great articulation of why it's wrong to single out women and girls of any age for enjoying something they like while giving men and boys of any age a free pass for enjoying the same thing.
    I'd also like to add, please: if I could go back & tell the teen version of me that one day women would so embrace superheroes, video games and Tolkien to the point they'd want to dress up as their favourite characters and line up long in advance to see a movie based on The Hobbit, I'd like to know how I would ever manage to convince teen me that it was true. That women are part of this culture the way they are now is phenomenal, and only adds to it -- it takes nothing away from the misogynists railing against it.

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  4. It happens everywhere. When I go to pick up parts for my motorbike, the guys behind the counter assume it's for my boyfriend's motorcycle. When I go to GameStop, they assume I'm picking up something for a guy. If my boyfriend is actually with me, they'll talk to him but not even look at me. Boyfriend doesn't even notice because, of course, it doesn't happen to him. It burns me up every time, though.

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  5. I actually, unfortunately, have seen this among women. I love the fact that anyone is coming to a convention and it pains me when I had one Rebel Legion member tell me my costume in a youtube vid I did was not "Regel Legion Credible". I also had to listen to one girl rant about girls who go to the costume store and pick up any old costume and go to a convention to be "cool". How dare she not have a legit costume??
    Both these comments were from women, and it makes me angry/sad. I like to look at it as...you're at a convention and enjoying it. Good for you. Who cares what you wear, how much you know, etc.
    Because of the judgement, it took me years to work up the courage to ask the Legion how to make my own costume and participate with them. It throws off people who are there for their first time. We should be encouraging, not throwing down more judgement then there already is.

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    1. The geek world is off putting and intimidating at first to all outsiders, but once you're in the door the flow of information and encouragement is endless. But the geek world is pretty judgmental. Almost like ritual fire walking before you can get to the door. If I see that at my lcs or card games, I say something... not sure if it helps.

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    2. That is incredibly frustrating, and I've definitely encountered some unwelcoming ladies in geek world too. :/

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  6. *clapping* I love that he railed at what the press flocks to when in fact the artists' marketing people started the whole sexy cosplay in the first place. Sex sells. I'm done being upset when people try to objectify me for a job or hobby. When I cosplay, I do it for love or money. I don't do it for some inner need for attention or a self-esteem boost. How does Tony Harris expect to attract new readers with his loathing estimation of an entire segment of the con population? A "fake" geek girl shows up in a sexy costume? Welcome her to your table and try to hook her on your product. Dumbass deserves to starve.

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  7. Perhaps the female species should create a written exam for the men. I would imagine that it would help all of us enjoy our nocturnal encounters more if we could require men to fill out a written exam on female anatomy followed by a before and after comparison, one in their "date" mode and the other NOT at their best but in their normal, average looking slob clothes.

    Then again you could just ask them where the clitoris is....I imagine they'd all fail.

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  8. Good to see more ladies take up this subject!!! Excellent post and reaction.
    Stuff like this makes me FUME with anger. Why the effing crap should I have to explain myself or prove I have "credibility as a geek?" what the hell is up with that? Because I'm a woman? What the hell happened to havig fun and enjoying creating a costume and then kicking ass wearing it?
    I identify with all the linked rants from the ladies you posted, the things some men say and do... Why am I suddenly an object and why in the name of Odin does wearing a costume equal the sudden absence of decency regarding physical contact and/or verbal abuse? And I sure as hell don't walk around naked!!

    I can rant about this for hours, it happened to me too many times. And I hate it and wish it could be about fun and making cool stuff that *I* love again, that people like Mr. Generalisation Harris could get over their supriority complex and let people do what *they* want to do, if he approves it or not - and be it wearing a Star Wars tee or their "normal boring clothes". Huff!

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    1. It's incredibly frustrating that we have to be on the defensive somewhat regularly. :(

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  9. You are describing a classic technique of belittling women and their interests. Good job! Put the troll out in the sun enough times and it might turn to stone and crack in the end.

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    1. I love the troll and sun comment. I know posting stuff like this gives people like Harris attention, but it also hopefully contributes to awareness.

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  10. Thanks for posting this -- I knew about the DC comics ad, but oh man, that Tony Harris rant was a seriously unpleasant discovery. I've definitely had experiences in a similar vein; when we went to SDCC a couple years ago *I* was the one who dragged husband into the D&D room, not the other way around, but people just make assumptions. When I first started getting into cosplay, there were a lot of cool costumes I wanted to try, but then I realized that I didn't know enough about the character, and I worried about if people would quiz me about nitty gritty details. Looks like I was right to worry, unfortunately. *sigh* Let's hope that the more we talk about these things, the more people realize that this kind of attitude and behavior is NOT okay.

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  11. Brilliant article Amy...It's this sort of passion that yourself and Molly and many, many others have that make people like me look up to people like you with every kind of admiration and respect under the sun.

    I can't stand this 'fake geek' inequality against women. Personally, the only cosplayers I know are female, one of whom is very close to me. But even if I didn't know them, I'd still be all too aware of the amazing women who cosplay around the world and I'd still get that they, like the men, put their hearts and souls into their passions.

    Like many things, it's unfortunate that equality *still* has to be fought for, but until there's no more need, keep fightin' the good fight! ^^

    AM

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for the kind words!

      I will always keep swinging. ;)

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    2. *Thumbs up* Hopefully I can get to conventions and more gatherings to show respects in person (if that makes sense :P...I know it makes it sound like I treat it like a religion, but arguably it could sometimes be quite an appropriate comparison)!

      Haha, well I wouldn't have put it exactly like that (!), but yay! ^^

      AM

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  12. The whole point of being a Nerd or Geek is being passionate about something you love and that can be anything from comics and computer games to sports and celebrities. It shouldn't something that needs to be tested as you have already validated it yourself!!

    You are well within your rights to be angry at these folk and you should bring a hammer to the next con. Not for cosplay purposes but for breaking their fingers!!!

    Gods this annoys me, I'm off to go look at kittens being cute!! :D

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    1. Yes! I don't want to feel like I need to prove that I'm passionate about something. It gets old. :/

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  13. Great article and i agree wholeheartedly! As a girl nerd with a giant Star trek (tos) tattoo i get weird looks like "god i hope she doesn't have that to be cool". But i wanted to just point out a small editing problem Tony Harris did the art for Ex Machina (not ex machine). I am sure it was just like an auto correct or something but i wanted you to know! xx

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  14. I think I missed the boat on this by a bit, but I felt I should speak nonetheless.

    You've mentioned a valid point, it is certainly a boys club and some members of this venerable community are legendarily insecure, and as a result, quick to be threatened by and be judgmental of others. That being said, I have met young ladies who fit the bill of this "pretender girl" before.

    Being a nerd, geek, or what have you, isn't necessarily something one is proud of. It is generally a distinction made by others as a way to note one's having been ostracized from "regular folks." Very few people strive to be nerds, much more often they simply like what they like, and as a result, are thought less of by their peers. That is why your line saying that you didn't think men are made to feel excluded on a regular basis is so absolutely baseless. That feeling of exclusion is exactly what defines these men's lives, and what created the nerd community. Thus, some of us can be a bit sensitive about the topic of who does and doesn't get included.

    That brings us back to these women. The thing that is so terribly irksome is their dire need to declare the extent of their nerdery. Never have I even once uttered the phrase, "oh my god, I'm just such a nerd, right?" It has never crossed my mind that it would be a good idea, as I've learned from experience the type of reaction nerdy comments engender. Instead I will tactfully let out a bit of my nerdier preferences in easy to digest portions, from time to time, so that instead of being repulsive, it might instead be endearing.

    I'll make my final point by saying if you are a nerd in your heart, you have nothing to fear about the judgement of male or any nerds. We know you are the real deal because you walk the walk and talk the talk. Most most importantly of all, you were there with us when shit was real. You didn't opt to become a nerd one day and announce it to all, you simply are one. I can understand your frustration as there does seem to be an element of sexism involved: there isn't really a male equivalent of the stereotype, and it does seem to born from an unfair assumption that all women are desperate for attention. To be realistic, everyone wants attention; what feels better than knowing your comrades value your thoughts? But that said, there is no easier mark than the nerd community, as most of us are willing to give infinite attention an adorable girl.

    tl;dr You have nothing to prove to anyone. Also, anyone who feels the need to advertise how much a nerd they are is (a.) completely missing the point, and (b.) fantastically annoying, regardless of gender.

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    1. Maybe you've met someone who's embellished their knowledge of something, but this is not a definitive quality of women or geeks. You assume that someone would do this embellishing to "trick" a man, somehow. Have you never considered that people who've been repeatedly rejected would want to try even harder to fit in? Who are you to judge if someone has been ostracized before? I'm fairly attractive and female and I was Carrie-style bullied ALL through school. I began to embrace the nerd/geek label and identify that way because I realized it was a culture I could be accepted into. Of course, that turned out not to be true because a lot of male geeks are completely against having a female friend. Thankfully, that isn't true of all male geeks and now I have my little group. You rail against women who identify as "geek" but you identify that way yourself! Why should you get special treatment, be allowed to like anything you want and call yourself anything but when I do it, it's wrong?

      "Most of us (meaning the "real" male nerds) are willing to give infinite attention an adorable girl."

      Oh, I see. Now it makes sense. I waste my logic.

      Delete
  15. Sometimes it makes me sad. Sometimes it makes me mad. Never does it make me feel amused. Sigh.

    Thanks, Amy. You said some smart things here.

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  16. Thank you so much for posting this. I work with a bunch of tech guys who think I only watch my 'nerdy' Tv shows/movies because of the 'attractive men.' (True this is a plus...)

    I don't think I should have to prove my love for Star Wars/Lord of the Rings/ Doctor Who/Etc just because I don't own EVERY single piece of merchandise (etc) ever created.

    That being said, most of the people I've meet at Cons have been epically awesome. And overall the community is super positive and supportive.

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  17. http://geekyjessica.tumblr.com/post/36144333478/captainraz-pretty-sure-ive-reblogged-this

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  19. Trust me, not all dudes feel this way about cosplay. I am happy to accept ALL nerds into my nerdhurd. :)

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  20. What you said.

    And in case you didn't know this, John Scalzi - whose typeface I am unworthy to set - has got your back; http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/07/26/who-gets-to-be-a-geek-anyone-who-wants-to-be/

    Sadly, there are a fair number of guys who feel this way, and it's not just fen. I find it in my other passion - soccer - where the Lads get all huffy when a gal shows up in a scarf and understands the offside rule.

    Fortunately, you're too good at being a fan to let them get you down. But for what it's worth - I love what you do here, and here's my support for you and your being a hardcore geek.

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  21. Hmm...sounds like my life every day.

    I would love to go to conventions, a comic book store, or a game gathering and not be questioned every time about my "geek cred." It's exhausting.

    This seems to be bash on women year. Hopefully this new "fake geek girl" fad goes away.

    Thanks for posting this, and all of your comments. I'm glad to know I'm not alone on thinking these things. Sometimes, it feels like I'm the only one.

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  22. I just wanted to chip in. I'm not a "comic nerd" myself, never been to a con before, so I'm not familiar with this particular issue, but it looks to me like the issue with pretty much every other stereotype.

    Think about the average "D&D geeks are fat and unkempt virgins" stereotype. Is it true, even in half the cases? I don't know, but probably not. The thing, however, is that the people that DO fit the stereotype are very very obvious and often unpleasant to be around. The stereotype won't cease to exist until there are people who fit into it. I can't mention that I play Dungeons & Dragons at my workplace without drawing weird looks. Do I like this attitude? Sure as hell I don't, but I understand WHY people have it, considering that I did bump into my share of the people who fit it.

    Now think about it. Can you honestly tell me that people who fit the "fake geek" stereotype don't exist? From what I know, "geek" is a growing market, there is money to be made there, and there are plenty of models and personalities who want to dip into it. Think Olivia Munn.

    Perhaps people who actually REPRESENT the stereotype are doing more harm than people who believe in it because they don't know better?

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    1. So, nerds are judged by non-nerds so male nerds have the right to judge female nerds? I'm having a hard time following that logic.

      Ok, I'll bite, what did Olive Munn do to deserve your "Fake Geek Girl" label? Just so I can know, could you please let me know if I'm a "Fake Geek", since you seem to be the one handing out titles?

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  23. I don't know what it is, but for whatever reason I've been really lucky to have not to come across this problem for me, yet. Other than a few odd looks from guy when I go into my favorite comic book stores. Though I am a little nervous about the next time I go to either one of those or my next con.

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    1. I'm glad you've never run into any issues! :)

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    2. Me too! I'm sorry you have. :(

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  24. When I was in 5th grade, I was drawing a picture of Spider-Man in class and a group of guys announced in front of the whole class that the only reason I liked Spider-Man and was interested in shows and movies marketed "for boys" was because I thought the actors were "cute." I was bothered by what they said for a long time, especially because it made me feel like I was awkward for liking things "made" for the boys.

    What stood out to me in this post, however, was the comment from FaceBook that said women should have to take a test to cosplay. Excuse me? That's not even right for him to say. I've talked to men at conventions and other male Star Wars fans both my age and older who claimed to be diehard fans, who didn't know Ahsoka from Aayla, Jawas from Wampas. There are men out there who claim to be diehard fans, but just buy the tee because it's cool, then turn around and say I don't know anything about the characters on the shirt I'm wearing or the character I'm cosplaying as. What's it going to take for us to prove ourselves? I believe we shouldn't have to prove our sic-fi knowledge!

    Great post I really enjoyed it!! :-)
    Lillian Skye ~ Fangirls in the Force

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    1. Oh, the Spider-Man incident is frustrating!

      Thanks for reading. :)

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  25. Personally, I think that there really are SOME "fake" nerds, who either fake their nerdism because they think male nerds could be better partners then the douches they usually date (which is wrong, many nerds are douchebags too) or just try to be something they just are not, because they haven't found out yet what they actually want to be.
    But those are few, and I'm not to judge them. I wouldn't want a nerd girlfriend anyway - though it's good to have some things in common, it shouldn't be too much, I mean, in a good relationship, both partners have time for themselves and that's good.
    Also, I think most female nerds are "true" nerds. But it's the same thing as with muslims, foreigners and other stereotyped groups: The few stand out, and suddenly they define the whole group. Thus, a stereotype is born. In the 80's, this happened to male nerds, now male nerds are doing it with female nerds. It seems as if we didn't learn anything from our own suffering, or it just made us full of grief. Anyway: I ask you female nerds to forgive my fellow male nerds. And if you see any parody or picture like that, don't think bad of us. Like I said: SOME out there are like that, and we're parodying THEM, not YOU. That the stereotype is female, makes it bad, I know. Many of us are sexist bastards. I mean: Look at how women are depicted in many comics. Anyway: If you are a true nerd, you should try to not feel offended.

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  26. I think the worst part of this for me is that her "crime" is enjoying the Big Bang Theory, cause nerds now get to to look down on things we don't like.

    The whole point of the movement is that we're fans of things the "normals" don't like. but more importantly, it's just as lame Assuming Pretty girls can't be really nerds

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  27. You know, I do agree with the gist of that comic (I really am sick of people - of either gender really - who say they're 'geeks' when they really mean 'smart and non-mainstream' in a way that doesn't make them look overtly conceited), but it does suck that people are at this point.
    As far as I see it, you can sort of tell when they're bee-essing, but honestly, who even cares? I'm not a huge comic guru or a gamer, or whatever other criteria these geeky guys say I need in order to qualify (I live with my parents, does that count?
    They just don't have a basement cause we're in an apartment...guess I'm disqualified), but I'm into sciency stuff, particularly astronomy and chemistry.
    If these idiots want to turn their noses up at pretty girls because they aren't 'nerd enough', well I guess there's still Mommy's basement, a Dating Sim, and their dominant hand.

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