Monday, December 3, 2012

Battling with Monsters: the non-existence of "Fake Geek Girls" and the human disease

So how did this whole "Fake Geek Girls" business begin? Well basically some jerk in the comics industry posted some rant complaining about how people of the female persuasion were apparently infiltrating geek culture in order to get attention from people of the male persuasion. Apparently the main offenders were girls in costumes of various degrees of skimpiness who were allegedly parading for the attention of drooling male geeks who didn't know any better. Basically there are a lot of assumptions about both men and women floating around here. Then some people who didn't think very much of this accusation at all got wind of it and a lot of remarks were thrown about and all in all there was a general to-do on the internet around this whole idea of the female presence in what I hesitatingly call "geek culture".
Now anyone who's read this blog, who knows me or has ever been anywhere near me when I'm in a conversation with someone who likes stuff such as the modern misinterpretations of Doctor Who, Star Trek or Sherlock Holmes will know that I think geek culture as it currently exists is going down the tubes and needs to be violently destroyed, but that's got nothing to do with women, it's because it's all turning into exploitative mass-market populist trash which diverts original, intelligent concepts towards sentimentality and spectacle. But I digress. My point is that any problems that geek culture has are nothing whatsoever to do with gender or sex, if I may use such a horrendously inappropriate term in its most scientifically clinical and categorical manner. They possibly involve modern media pursuing various demographics in various exploitative ways, but that's arguably a problem with the nature of corporate media and modern creative types being intellectually lazy self-congratulatory nincompoops; and given the roughly equal nature of the gender divide I think it's fair to say that there are probably an equal number of fatuous easily-exploited people on both sides of the reproductive-organ-possessing fence.
What I'm trying to say in my charmingly incompetent way is that "fake geek girls" simply don't exist, or if they do they're such an infinitesimally small minority as to be totally negligible. Not everyone likes everything for the same reasons, of course. You only have to go to a "pop culture convention" as they're so blandly named here in Australia at least for that. Now I'm the kind of incredibly charismatic individual who scours stall bargain bins looking for rare, overpriced action figures out of a kind of self-destructive obsession and dresses up like a complete tit, usually as a famous comic book supervillain of some description. If anyone likes getting attention at cons, it's me. Surprisingly, there are few more satisfying ways to spend the time at these events than being stopped every thirty seconds so someone can take your photograph. But the majority of the time these are families with small children or very enthusiastic devotees of the works the costume represents. It has nothing to do with trying to somehow grab the attention of impressionable people of the opposite sex.
So it is with this idea of "fake geek girls". I cannot for the life of me say with anything even remotely approaching confidence that I've ever met anyone of the female extraction at a convention who was openly or otherwise dressing up in order to attract the attention of the kind of desperate, lonely people that we male convention goers are often presented as being. Believe me that this isn't just due to a dearth of numbers; like men, women are at conventions and being geeky in droves, and many of the people with whom I have spent the most time at these events are of the gynecic disposition. Naturally many of the biggest enthusiasts at conventions, both male and female, are there to meet the actors from shows which are important to them. Personally I'm not hugely interested in meeting actors because I think they're just the puppets and it's the directors and writers who could really answer the big creative questions but are seemingly rarely invited or just uninterested, at least as far as television and cinema are concerned. It tends to be another matter with comic book artists and, to an extent, novellists. But I digress again. The point is, people are there for various reasons: shopping for merchandise, meeting celebrities, socialising with friends, a whole gamut of enjoyable activities. As far as I'm aware "attention seeking" is not one of them.
"Geek girls" certainly do exist, although I think we should more properly say "geeks", or just "people", because the problem of people shoehorning themselves into categories in an effort to conform is a whole other can of worms, but "fake geek girls" do not. Men and women are, by and large, as far as I can tell from personal experience involved in the culture for the same reasons - they enjoy the relevant media. There's been a lot of confusion about what's meant by "geek" in this regard but I'm going to play by the relatively straightforward but surprisingly overlooked definition of anyone who really likes some of the following things: video games, science fiction, fantasy and related genres in the mediums of television, film and literature, and comic books and related cartoons (of both the Eastern and Western variety). I'm sure that's not definitive but in terms of the "pop culture" side of things it's about as good as I think it's going to get. I'm not using "geek" to refer to people with an eclectic taste in music or who slavishly buy every Apple product upon release. You can, but in this context it's totally irrelevant and misleading. But then again the term "geek" is misleading. We're all just people for goodness' sake, it's when we start putting ourselves in boxes that problems occur.
But gender or (gasp) "sex" is one such box that people apparently love to put themselves into with great expedition. To neatly assume one of my many roles as an armchair psychologist, I think it's fair to say that most of this "fake geek girls" paranoia comes from simple bloody-minded territorial anxiety, which has been described elsewhere as a puerile "no girls in the treehouse" attitude. The depiction of geek culture as dominated by lonely, socially maladjusted males is on its last legs in terms of relevance, but is seemingly upheld with a kind of unironic and not fully self-aware pride by some. Sure, many of the males are no doubt just as lonely and socially maladjusted as they've always been, but the point is that they're just one pocket in the trousers of state of the geek nation. Not that I encourage the use of the term "geek nation", that sounds totally self-aggrandising and ridiculous, but I thought it was a nice turn of phrase, albeit one possibly ripped off from somewhere. Regardless, those who resist a female presence in geek culture are definitely on a sinking ship; even if it was a problem, it'd be too late anyway. Geek culture is inhabited by both men and women and that's the way it is.
Getting back to my earlier claim, however, the simple fact of the matter is that these are a small minority of men who feel threatened. These men apparently do exist because they keep putting rants about women on the internet and making people angry, but at the same time they're probably pretty negligible themselves, much like the actual "fake geek girls" would be if they existed at all. At least these men would be negligible if they didn't keep saying stupid things about it online and offending people. Given that I'm a borderline involuntary solipsist who is always kind of surprised to learn that other people still exist when I'm not looking at them however I'm not the best person to ask when it comes to numbers for these misguided male march-wardens of geekery. I do get the impression from time to time however of girls at conventions being bothered by men who resent their costumes or mere presence and interrogate them to see if they're actually as committed to the cause as they themselves are, because to them geekdom is a sort of cross between a cult worshipping a pantheon headed by overrated hacks like Joss Whedon and Steven Moffat and a jingoistic Cold War scenario where indistinguishable faceless entities like DC and Marvel and Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are made to mindlessly fight each other, and that leads me to believe that these men do exist. I've certainly more evidence for that than I've ever found for girls who go to these things for attention.
Because I mean seriously, why would anyone do that? Why would anyone derive value from that kind of attention? Firstly it'd involve far too much effort, and secondly it's just insane. The attention of male geeks, who stereotypically perceive women as objects of tremulous worship at (arguable) best and as some kind of alien species to be destroyed with precision laser fire at worst has surely got to be on a pretty low rung on the attention ladder. But even putting aside for the moment how stupidly this perceives women's intentions, it's pretty damn ignorant about most men as well. I'm not saying that men don't exist who fulfil this stereotype to a greater or lesser extent but stereotypes are by their nature exaggerated: there are plenty of men who are, relatively speaking, fairly balanced, and aren't sitting around at conventions like combed-over businessmen in a 1930s cartoon cabaret trying desperately to conceal their bulging erections with their fedoras and vases of flowers placed on those convenient side-tables everyone had back then and so on.
But even if it wasn't regarded as the utter nadir of desperation, or perpetuating utterly ludicrous stereotypes about both women and men, the very idea that anyone would bother is just nonsense. People have far more complex reasons for dressing up and attending conventions, like their curiously obsessive relationships with popular culture, escapist world-resentment and desire to assume fictional identities, than anything so basic as attention. I think sometimes said women receive a lot of attention, generally quite unwanted, from tiresome men who do get a pervy kick out of that sort of thing, many of whom are actually far less "geeky" (if such a thing can be measured) than the women, but it's far from the intention of these women, it's reasonable to say that in our enlightened modern age women shouldn't have to "expect" it or accept it as the price for doing what men do with impunity, and I can say with weary conviction that I've encountered far more men who perceive conventions as some kind of hunting ground for scantily-clad girls than I have girls who go for attention, which is to say more than zero. I mean for all I know complete strangers regard me running around like an idiot dressed as Magneto in my foam helmet and spandex with toe-curling lust but at least they have the decency to keep it to themselves.

This fury expressed towards women, however, that these men aren't keeping to themselves might lie in a projection of repressed sexual guilt deriving from traditional patriarchal gender roles, but I couldn't be bothered getting into that right now. Basically if men are so annoyed at these alleged female attention seekers, which is to say they're annoyed at themselves for finding women in general attractive (and not because they're geeks or because of their costumes but simply because that's what I'm afraid to say does happen from time to time between men and women), then they have no one else to blame but themselves either. I mean, you see gentlemen of athletic build at these things often lacking in the shirt department and women don't seem to be up in arms about "fake geek guys" seeking attention. This is a dilemma the patriarchy has created for itself through a tradition of trying to get men to be heartless steel monsters. When they realise that they find people attractive, when they realise that they feel anything, they panic. Anyway, where was I?

So of course the problem lies with those men who are threatened by women invading their culture, because by feeling like an "Other" in the eyes of mainstream society all their lives they've formed a kind of solidarity around that and feel like women represent the outside world pulling down the fences of the playpen. And of course the fences are coming down, but women aren't doing it, they're certainly not doing it with some kind of agenda, and of course many of them have been right there in the pen for the whole time with the men, doing the same things but apparently going unnoticed. Maybe more "conventionally normal" people are present, if I may use the term, than there used to be, and the female element of that has made the female presence in general more noticeable, but that would be a complete guess on my part. Of course female geeks will be slow to emerge when they're constantly under male scrutiny and male gaze. Really, it's just fear of the exclusive club being "open to the public" and the associated threats to the identity of those who are voicing this stupefying argument.
I'm the kind of person who at the end of the day believes that gender politics is a big load of arbitrary rubbish we're indoctrinated to accept as natural by a fundamentally psychologically disturbed society with disorders so ingrained they're no longer noticed, and no more than anywhere is that obvious than when I see these kinds of issues. As far as I'm aware it's supportable that, on a psychological level, men and women are inherently more similar than they are different, and that in the final analysis we're humans before we're male or female. Many of our problems arise from our overwhelming desire to categorise ourselves because of our desperate need for a sense of identity and a feeling of belonging. We want to be put into sets because it seems like we're less alone in a vast, empty and meaningless universe and that there is some purpose to our short and uneventful lives. Categories make it seem more like there is an order, a system, a plan. But we are a conflicted creature, and so our categories must be "defended" because if they collapse we'll be forced to gaze unshielded into the abyss. That's the fear that lies at the heart of this absurd, privileged problem, reeking of contemporary entitlement, which has recently raised itself through this culture as one head of the Hydra of gender issues.
There are a few other points to mention. One is the inclusion in this "fake geek girls" nonsense of so-called "booth babes", ie girls who for promotional purposes dress up in outfits of various levels of appeal to advertise a product. What the hell does that have to do with these imaginary attention-seeking convention attending ladies? These are just women doing a job. Do some of them probably not give a damn about the Sinestro Corps Oath or how many models of the Enterprise there have been? Quite possibly, but they're not there to get attention, they're there to do their job and they're advertising for a business, not seeking some egocentric satisfaction. Beyond the obvious and lamentable cultural exploitation of the female image inherent to that they're quite irrelevant. But the confusion of this concept with that of imaginary females infiltrating geek culture for attention powerfully emphasises that these "fake geek girls" simply don't exist and that it's just a handful of men who desperately want something to get angry about. If they do exist they must be lurking in some secluded place which would significantly obstruct all that attention seeking they're meant to be getting up to, because I've never seen them.
Of course I've read the response also that this kind of exclusionary policy on the part of this handful of frustrated men is wrong because being a geek is about sharing your passions with other people who share said passions. It's not. Part of this whole problem lies in assuming that just because you and I like the same stuff that somehow that means our personalities are compatible as well. Sure, I might meet someone who is a die-hard Tolkien enthusiast who can name all of the High Kings of the Noldor in order or give an account of the metaphysics of Ring-lore in regards to Morgoth's lingering presence in Arda as corroborated by the Professor's most final account of the matter but that doesn't mean we're going to be friends. If being a geek was all about sharing and was inherently a social experience then presumably there wouldn't be these confrontational men who quite possibly project their feelings of entitlement onto women in geek culture because they feel that this corroboration of hobbies should spontaneously give rise to friendship or, worse still, romance. In this regard it's not just about the existential dread which derives from the categories being broken down but frustration with the disappointments of the socialisation of the geek experience. If we perceive and portray geek culture as a community a priori then we're inevitably going to be let down when we discover that geeks can be just as hostile, unwelcoming and unfriendly as anyone else, because we may be geeks, or men, or women, but at the end of the day as I've said we're all humans and I'm not sure if you're aware of this but humans are jerks. We may have reached the evolutionary stagnation point by having achieved the intelligence to be better at staying alive than other animals as well as causing other animals to not be alive any more and to be served up deliciously, but that doesn't mean we're perfect, or even especially good. I could recommend that someone who enjoys Batman films read a selection of notable comics featuring the Caped Crusader, but unless they're already my friend and have asked for my advice I'm unlikely to bother. Who cares if they read it or not? In this amateur's view it's not common interests but compatible personalities which are the basis for successful human relationships of all kinds.
I don't wish this to turn into some kind of misanthropic diatribe but we can't assume that "sharing" means that everything's going to be happy and wonderful between everyone, or that people are going to love or even like each other based on such trivial commonalities, because that's an extremely reckless assumption. If the psychoanalysis is accurate, which for all I know it isn't, the frustrations of this angry minority is born of exactly this kind of thinking. If we take the hypothesis that one of the reasons these men are so upset is because, secretly, they're resentful that they cannot possess these attractive women entering their circle, then we must be wary of the sociality of geekdom, because this kind of immaturity does exist, like the whole spectrum of both positive and negative behaviours. I'm not saying that there shouldn't be communities, but rather that representing geekdom in its totality as some kind of automatic friendship pass is only going to bring about problems because people aren't collectively all that naturally compatible. Being human is, by the mixing of our emotional and rational natures, all about dealing in compromises, and it's when we try to force absolutes that things go wrong. As long as humans are human that's the way things will be.
What it all comes down to in my opinion is that, really, identity is overrated, or at least a collective identity. When people reach the point where the mere presence of the opposite sex in their subculture leads to them hurling baseless accusations of fakery and attention-seeking all we see are scared people who don't want to face the hard facts of existence. It's these people who need to realise that their categories don't matter or mean anything, and are not nearly so important as to be under attack from an imagined enemy which could only ever be the product of a delusion. I'm not saying we should all just sit around thinking about entropy and death, just to maintain a little perspective, and to remember that really it's not culture, or gender, or any other little box like religion or politics which makes people "bad" or "good", but rather that one big box we're all stumbling around in - being human.

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