True Confessions of a "Fake Geek Girl"

Actually I'm probably not good-looking enough to properly qualify as a "fake geek girl," but I'm giving it a shot anyway.
Publish date:
August 14, 2012
sexism, lying, geekery, nerdery

Look, I'm holding it in my hand RIGHT NOW and STILL not reading it! DOES THAT DRIVE YOU CRAZY?

Over the past few months, we’ve seen the evolution of a new breed of human, the “fake geek girl.” Said species' existence was first proposed in a column on Forbes’ lady-specific subsection, the thoughtfully named “Forbeswoman,” back in March. The column was entitled “Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away” and it was the kind of incendiary linkbait that we’ve come to specialize in here at xoJane.

The author’s intention, it would seem, was to devise a hardline definition of what a geek is, and then to lament the co-opting of geek culture by -- girls, I guess? I’m not altogether sure what the problem is, but apparently some geeks are mad that female geeks are not meeting their strict geek standards.

Then, CNN picked up the gauntlet with its own heralding of the dark specter of fake geek girls, looming with inexplicable menace over the formerly sunny Nerd Kingdom, in a blog entitled “Booth babes need not apply:”

There is a growing chorus of frustration in the geek community with - and there's no other way to put this - pretty girls pretending to be geeks for attention. [...] I call these girls "6 of 9". They have a superpower: In the real world, they're beauty-obsessed, frustrated wannabe models who can't get work.

They decide to put on a "hot" costume, parade around a group of boys notorious for being outcasts that don't get attention from girls, and feel like a celebrity. They're a "6" in the "real world", but when they put on a Batman shirt and head to the local fandom convention du jour, they instantly become a "9".

They're poachers. They're a pox on our culture. As a guy, I find it repugnant that, due to my interests in comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and role playing games, video games and toys, I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It's insulting.

A pox indeed. While the author asserts his understanding that not all pretty girls who claim to be into geek stuff are faking it -- he even KNOWS some of them! -- the fact that he ultimately comes down to uncritically ranking women on a scale of 1 to 10 sort of undercuts his feminism a bit. Speaking of being insulting.

Unsurprisingly, there’s already been a passionate backlash to the fake geek girls concept but I’m still a little concerned about my own geek legitimacy. Like if the geek police pulled me over (unlikely, as I have a bumper sticker that reads “My other transport is the Millenium Falcon,” but it could happen) and demanded to see my credentials, could I produce the necessary proof?

OK, I’m really not concerned at all because I give exactly zero fucks as to whether anyone thinks I’m an authentic geek or not. But still, here are some red flags signaling my possible fakeness:

  • I still like Jedi best, primarily because it's the one I actually remember seeing in the theater.
  • I have never written fan fiction. I've only read it maybe twice, and only then because I was hard up for new Sherlock Holmes pastiche (Doyle, not Gatiss/Moffat).
  • I don't really get like 80% of Monty Python.
  • I enjoy it when people mess with the canon. Any canon.
  • I'm still pissed about "Farscape" being canceled, and will always prefer it to "Firefly," which I thought was kind of overrated.
  • On the same subject, I have never seen a single episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
  • I wear lipstick and dresses at cons. I wear lipstick and dresses every day, actually.
  • I pick video games based first on whether I can choose the gender and appearance of the character I play as; second on whether I can avoid shooting people.
  • I think cosplay is bananas. I don’t mean this in a judge-y negative way, but more in a I-respect-your-commitment-even-as-I-totally-don’t-understand-it way.
  • In the past year, I have called tech support. And then I paid someone (!!!) to replace the graphics card in my laptop for me.
  • I’ve never read "Watchmen," "Dune" or "Snow Crash." My husband’s copies of all of them are there, on the shelf, just a few feet away from where I sit now, and have been for a decade, but I’ve never read them.
  • I have no idea what I would do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. I’d probably eat rat poison or something.
  • Oh, and "The Dark Knight Rises" was terrible. Sorry everyone.

The most obvious problem with this ridiculous handwringing over the apparent colonization of a heretofore niche identity is not the implication that we should be developing purity tests for valid geekness, although that itself is pretty unnerving. No, the biggest hurdle for me is that these concerns are so particularly gender-specific. They warn of a feminine invasion of an arena explicitly (and often) described as "male-dominated," as though this is unusual.

Fact is, the persistence of sexism, both institutionalized and individual, ensures that MOST things in life are male-dominated, unless they are related to tampons, manicures or the Swiffer Wet Jet.

In geek culture, as in most of culture not specifically coded as of pertinence to females, women are expected to justify their presence first, often by having to meet stringent criteria applied to no one else, before they are allowed to fully participate.

Women who want to participate in “male-dominated” sports or “male-dominated” businesses or even the freaking plumbing aisle at Home Depot are suspicious outsiders -- at least until they can “prove” their value and knowledge.

Men, on the other hand, are likely to get the benefit of the doubt, based on their gender alone, and nobody demands they recite some particular code word (has anyone figured out how to say “Bow ties are cool” in Klingon yet?) in order to fit in.

The simple truth is that women don't need to hang out with geeks to get hit on, admired or fawned over. Dudes will do this no matter where they go. All this fake-geek-girl nonsense really does is make an already insulated and often sexist subculture even more so.

And you know what? It's actually not that awesome when people assume things about you, your intelligence, your priorities and your right to be in a certain place or at a certain event based exclusively on how you look and how you prefer to spend your time.

Geeks, one would think, should be able to sympathize with this.

Anyway, if geek culture doesn't want me, it's cool. I can take a hint. I'll just be over here carrying on liking the stuff that I like, geeky and otherwise, without a banner to stand under. A banner like that is going to get heavy and tiresome after awhile anyway, and if there's no room for improvisation and fun in your stodgy-ass geek universe, I'm not going to fight to be included in it.

And I'm still not reading "Watchmen." So there.

If you follow her on Twitter, you can also read Lesley's intermittent musings about who is the most annoying character on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." She probably has no idea what she's talking about though.