I’ve now been to about twenty conventions. Comic book conventions, lots of gaming conventions, an anime convention, and a couple of conventions that defied categorization in a way that I wouldn’t consider complimentary. (“Are those Pokemon yiffing in the lobby?”)
I’ve watched conversations rage around me about whether DC or Marvel heroes would win in a fight or if the Enterprise could defeat a Super Star Destroyer. My own Facebook was the site of a 250+ comment thread on whether or not Darth Vader by himself could win against a Star Destroyer taken over by an Alien queen with a two week head start. (That’s…huh. I gotta think about that. -Ed) I’ve seen friendships strain over the wording of a +1 strike bonus for an elf using a long bow while hanging by its knees from a tree. (“It doesn’t say long bow! There’s no way you can use a long bow upside down like that.” “It says bow. The long bow is a bow!” “It’s just a +1.” “Then don’t make a big deal about it.”) I’ve seen people talking about the merits of sword types in different military theaters and I’ve seen a conversation about whether a samurai or a medieval knight would win in a fight that I honestly thought was going to end in a live, to-the-death, demonstration. There’s even a group out there still saying “frell” instead of “gorram” or “frack.”
And here’s the deep dark truth. I smile and nod a lot.
I mean, I smile and nod a LOT.
I like most geek things, but I don’t like them enough to delve into the obsession that is a bit of a defining characteristic of the sub-culture. I watch the main movies or read the main books, and call it a day. I can’t quote Game of Thrones. I’ve only read the first two Dresden books. I don’t know the extensive backstories of every Avenger (Iron Man is an alcoholic, right?) I don’t have a definitive vitriolic opinion on Disney’s gutting of the Star Wars extended universe because I don’t know it. (The Old Republic was cool….mostly…right?) I’ve seen the X-Men movies, but I don’t really read comic books. (There’s a new timeline now, or something, isn’t there?) I’m vaguely aware that Superman died a few years back. (Oh that was in that one Youtube….with Elijah Woods!)
~whispers~ I haven’t even seen all of Doctor Who.
Frankly put. I am a FAKE GEEK GUY. I admit it. I like geek stuff, but I don’t love geek stuff. Not the way most geeks do. I’m an interloper on the geek scene. I’ve seen the movies, but I don’t know the canon. I am not a true fan.
All those things about not really loving the source material and “just watching the movies” or only reading the one book that everyone has read. That–all of that–applies to me.
|No one will ever suspect how cool I really am–
that I’m really a rock star, a gigolo, an actor, an astronaut, and James Dean!
But here are some things that have never happened to me. I have never been quizzed about who Data’s evil brother is to prove I like Star Trek. I have never had to justify my place in a midnight line to see Spider-man II by knowing who took up the mantle of Spider-man after Peter Parker’s death. (Peter Parker dies? Really? That’s so sad!) I have never had to explain who Nightwing is in order to participate in a conversation about Batman. (Nightwing is like….Robin on steroids, right?) I have never been asked how battle meditation works in order to voice my opinion that Enterprise shields would probably make a fight with Star Wars technology one sided. (Battle meditation is something that was in that Jedi role playing game, wasn’t it?) I have never had to beat everybody in the room (twice) at Mario Kart to prove I liked video games. I have never had my gender “honorarily” changed by having enough geek interests to be accepted (“you’re one of the guys now”). No one has ever insisted I tell them the difference between a tank and DPS in an MMORPG before allowing me to discuss raiding Molten Core. I have never been dismissed as a faker at a prequel screening because I didn’t know which admiral came out of light speed too close to the planet’s surface in The Empire Strikes Back. I have never been quizzed about Armor Class in order to get past someone who was blocking my path to the back of a game store where my friends were waiting at the tables. I have never been told I’m not a real fan. I have never been shamed for coming to a convention despite my lack of esoteric knowledge. And I have never, ever, EVER been invited to leave a fandom because I didn’t like [whatever it was] enough.
Every one of the things I have listed, I have personally witnessed happen. To women.
That’s not elitism. That’s sexism.
Rank, blatant, “no girls allowed,” women-should-stay-at-home-and-watch-their-soaps-while-I-go-do-geek-stuff, flagrant, shameless sexism.
Elitism is arrogant. It’s obnoxious. It makes people look like pompous, pretentious, smug assholes who deserve to die alone. And so everything about the “fake geek” movement needs to be called out, ridiculed, peed on, fed belladonna, hit over the head with a shovel, cut into pieces, dunked in organic acid, and buried in the back yard. (You get to complain that your fandom is misunderstood OR be a raging asshole about people who are just starting to be curious about it. Pick one.) So it’s kind of telling that the best thing people can claim when they’re spewing their “fake geek girl” bullshit is that they’re being elitist.
But real elitism, for all it’s haughty, conceited snobbery, is at least egalitarian and universally applied. Real elitism is haughty bullshit that sees no gender.
The “fake geek girl” movement isn’t actually about elitism at all. Elitism is just the ostensible mask it wears to have a somewhat socially acceptable face. (“Oh it’s just about how much we love this thing! We don’t want people who don’t really love it mucking up our squee!”) Everyone knows sexism is bad, but being a jerk about your fandom is…sort of okay.
Except for the fact that every single manifesto or online rant or bloviating geek or asshole calling out a woman… Every single one of them who blusters about how how FGG’s don’t “love or appreciate [whatever] enough” or “aren’t real fans” or “don’t really know what they are talking about” or “shouldn’t be cosplaying” or “don’t have the right to be geeking out” belies their sexism when they they fail to deliver the exact same bullshit (with equal fervor and frequency) to men.
And they do not.
These sexist dill-holes don’t care about their fandom. (I mean they might, but that’s not what this is really about.) They care about keeping the club boys only. If they cared about their fandom, they wouldn’t stand as gatekeepers to purity only when it comes to one gender while letting the other pass without comment.
It’s fine to be a girl as long as you’re one of the guys. Oh and by the way, we won’t be testing the guys.
If you only give your incredibly difficult voting literacy tests to blacks, but not whites, that makes you a total fucking racist, and when we look back on Jim Crow history, we can see that particular forest for the trees without ever being fooled that it was really about critical thinking skills. So let’s not be obtuse because this is happening in real time and a few people have discovered how to couch their bigotry in some kind of halfway relatable legitimate fuckwadery instead of the blatant sexist kind.
These people are getting a pass on being unbelievably misogynistic, because we can maybe kind of imagine a world where obsessive geeks obsess a little too much about their fandom. We tend to only call out their ridiculous elitism and leave the pink elephant alone.
Simply put, this makes us complicit in the system that is only overly loyal and purist when it comes to women, and it’s time we called this sexism out for what it is. We’re doing a grave disservice to the reputations of our fandoms and ourselves by not calling this behavior out in the starkest terms possible. The reason geek culture is being labeled as a den of misogyny is that we’ve said, “Now now, let’s be inclusive,” when we see the elitism, but meanwhile, we’ve let the sexism slide.
If you only give your asshole, elistist, geek cross-examinations, quizzes, and “prove you’re one of us” tests to women, you’re not just an elitist doucherocket. If it’s invisible sexism, we need to check it, because it’s sexism. If we don’t check it, then we’re reprehensible misogynist assholes.
[Chris Brecheen maintains his own blog at Writing About Writing, and if you get done reading geeky articles, he wouldn’t mind it if you stopped by.]