Friday, April 12, 2013

Fake Geek Girls, Fake Geek Problems

It is difficult to have a valid discussion on a concept that is so hotly debated. The idea of the Fake Geek Girl exists in a multitude of discussions. Do they exist at all? Does the idea of a Fake Geek Girl have a spectrum? Is one a Fake Geek Girl to the complete exclusion of being an actual geek?  Does the debate of the Fake Geek Girl expand to booth babes, or even just a geek culture naïf? What stressors over the last few years of the geek and gaming community has led to the explosion of negative energy towards the communities female participants?  When the first postings about the Fake Geek Girl hit the Internet it ushered in a flood of reactions both condemning the idea and expanding upon it.

The Fake Geek Girl has a vague definition. Articles by CNN, The Atlantic, and Forbes (several times) contributors explain that FGGs are “pretty girls pretending to be geeks for attention”. One article even drew the FGG infiltration as parallel to the Communist sleeper agent uncertainty of the 1950s. Jokes are cracked and comics and advertisements are drawn about how these FGGs are here to prey on the male geeks as unfeeling huntresses. These comics or short films, while made in jest as a manner to dismiss the FGG, can actually get across some important points. One short film has a humorous depiction of the FGG as a murderer. In it, the detective makes a comment stating that: “Maybe there is no fake geek girl. Maybe it is just a product of the deeply rooted sexism of geek culture. Maybe she is just a manifestation of the insecurities about the opposite sex”.  This is the only somewhat serious part of the film, and it is quickly laughed off and forgotten. Yet, Dr. Andrea Letamendi, who writes for The Mary Sue, explains that this may be the case as well as several other factors.
Pulp Scifi style seems perfect for the silly idea.
Dr. Letamendi explains the situation on both sides: why the male geek population reacted to viciously, and why the female geek population reacted so defensively. She lays it out in three very clear lines. Geeks are afraid of imposters and false infiltrators because: 1) There is a false notion of limited resources within the community, 2) The community has a misinterpreted sense of ownership, and 3) There is resentment for the change that ‘geek’ culture is undergoing. These negative ideas are supported by the fact that, every once in a blue moon, there is a girl just looking to get some attention in a skimpy cosplay, there are still booth babes in many conventions, and fledgling geeks are not given enough positive reinforcement to pursue the culture before being turned away.

Dr. Letamendi also states that female ‘geeks’ become defensive at the idea of the FGG because of long-seated “insults, indignities, and demeaning messages from other members of the comics community”.  She brings up the subtle ways in which female members of the community are belittled, stating the use of microaggressions, to plant a disparaging seed in the female geek’s mind. She also elaborates on the ways women are made to feel invisible within the community, as well as pointing out that female geeks are constantly told that they cannot keep up intellectually with their male counterparts.

There may be a little more to it though.  The introduction of the idea of the FGG to the popular community mindset led to the creation of a new wall.  This barrier, arbitrary in its subject or depth, has to be hurdled every time a female geek wants to participate in the community’s conversations. Every time the wall is faced, the qualifications to be an ‘authentic geek’ changes. Many of the articles about FGGs written by females who consider themselves part of the community start their articles with their geek justifications; a list of how and why they can be considered part of the community. They have to prove themselves, establish their geek credentials, in fear of not being taken seriously.

The itching idea of attractive female non-geeks invading the geek-space for attention without an actual interest in the geek subset of cultural material has been growing for a while. Bans on the use of Booth Babes (another term for a promotional model), female models hired to attract attention to products and product tables at conventions, has been on the scene for a while.  But for them it is different, while they may be at the con for the attention, they are also there for the money, for them it is a job. But the main worry is that this condescending attitude towards ‘pretty invaders’ is now being applied to attractive female geek community members who have, for a long time, felt like a part of the community and are now faced with requests of justification.


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