Digital Changeling

March 31, 2013

The Phantom of the Fake Geek Girl: Why do Geek Women Believe in Her?

Filed under: Comics,Costuming,Feminism,Games,Mythos,Programming,Steampunk — Eva @ 11:01 am

The storm of “fake geek girl” articles seems to have abated but in the heat of that I got into an interesting conversation with @koboldstyle I want to write about.

 Why do geek women attack other geek women?

To answer that question, I have to back way up to when you joined a geeky hobby for the first time (sorry, this does presuppose geeks are reading this).

What makes you identify as a geek? Do you love a particular subject like anime, comics, or tabletop RPGs? Have you spent weekends at conventions or reading fan sites? How about long evenings glued to your computer learning the intricacies of a programming language or discovering the possibilities of open source projects for the first time? When did you first realize that particular part of geekdom was a part of you?

When you started out learning about and loving the geeky things you love, did anyone tease you because you were new? Maybe because you didn’t quite know everything yet or got something wrong? Did anyone assume that you weren’t a geek because of how you looked or talked or the username you wore?

Not everyone experiences this kind of hazing when they join a geek community, but a lot of people do. Many parts of the geek community are defined by knowledge and when you’re perceived as not knowing, people can be vicious.

Now imagine the knowledge tests and teasing didn’t stop when you proved your knowledge the first time. Imagine that every time you met new geeks they assumed you were an outsider. So you prove yourself and prove yourself… and prove yourself… and there’s just no end to it. Your old friends understand you, but every time you meet someone new you have to start all over again.

Gentlemen, this feeling is familiar for a lot of geek women. It happens to them, over and over and over. I know you’re thinking, “I would never do that to a fellow geek,” but what if you didn’t see them as a geek to start with? What if they’re “just a girlfriend that tagged along” or “just hanging around because they want to date that one guy”? Are you sure your internal geek-identifier isn’t ignoring people it should give the benefit of the doubt to?

Back to the ladies. You’ve spent your time proving again and again that no, you aren’t “a pretty face trying to snag a boyfriend” and no, you aren’t “a girlfriend who tags along.” Where do these stereotypes come from and why do you have to deal with them? You start to think, are there women out there who are “a girlfriend who tags along”? Did they create that stereotype?

And then you get mad. “What the f**k!,” you think, “Why do I have to deal with the fallout from what those stupid posers do?” “Why can’t they get the hell out of geekdom so I don’t have to deal with this stereotype anymore?!?”

 You’ve walked into a trap. Are there any posers out there? Probably a few. Are there enough of them to justify the stereotypes? Not a chance in hell. But you’ve accepted that the stereotype must be true. If so many people assume it’s true about you, how can it not have a basis in fact, right?

Not all geek women go down that route of logic, but a few do and that’s how we end up in a place where women write articles about how fake-geek-women are ruining geekdom and how the posers should all get out. That’s is how we end up with women devaluing other women based on how they entered hobbies (so what if you’re the girlfriend of a geek? how does that make your interest in something geeky invalid?).

I’m not blaming anyone for believing what they’ve been told over and over. If you’re told anything often enough you’ll believe it. But right now women are accepting second class citizenship in many parts of geekdom. That’s not where I want to be.

Men, don’t do this to geek women in your life. Assume we’re inside the club instead of constantly making us prove ourselves. Women, don’t do this to other women either. Question the things that geekdom tells you about yourself and your gender.

 


 

If you’re wondering what the whole “fake geek girl” kerfuffle is, here’s some reading material.

 

Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away

The Girlfriend and The Geek

 Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be

Confession: I’ve been a girlfriend

“Oh, You Sexy Geek!”: “Geek Girls” and the Problem of Self-Objectification

The Girl Geek Community is Hidden, Ever Wondered Why?

January 16, 2012

Racism, Costuming, and Our History of Oppression Means I Can’t Cosplay Who I Want

Filed under: Costuming — Eva @ 1:13 am

One of my hobbies, albiet not one I talk about a lot on this blog, is costuming. I sometimes dress up as existing characters from shows, games, or movies at conventions. There are a lot of characters I love who I’d love to dress as. Sometimes those characters are very different from me.

It’s acknowledged in the costuming community that people don’t need to be exactly the same as the characters they dress as. You don’t need colored contacts to perfectly match eye colors and it’s ok to dress as characters with body shapes or even genders that are different than your own. There are a lot of tricks the community accepts to make these costumes flattering: padding, control undergarments like corsets, chest binding, makeup, etc.

The one think you can’t do is paint your skin darker to portray a dark skinned person.

I can’t say that I instinctively understood why this is hurtful. I understood why it could hurt someone in theory, because there is such an enormous history of white people in dark makeup mocking dark skinned people. That was more than enough to stop me from doing it, even before I saw some of the really horrifying Victorian costuming magazines with “Negro” costume suggestions for the kids.*

For a long time there weren’t a whole lot of dark skinned characters that I wanted to dress as. I think this had less to do with my taste and more to do with the deplorable state of media in general. But in the last 5 years, I’ve started to see characters like Katara and Kyra. I started to want to cosplay as them.

The previous “no skin darkening” rule stopped me, but I was more confused and unsure about cosplaying without makeup. It wasn’t until more recently when a friend linked to this article that talks about Paizo’s race and gender sexualizing choices that I started to realize there was another issue, that was more than just a second issue.

There’s a history in the USA and in Hollywood of whitewashing characters. This came up when Avatar: the Last Airbender was made into a movie. I was not so thrilled about it at the time, because Katara was cast as a skinny blond girl, nothing like her original design. It seemed very unnecessary, just excluding for the sake of excluding.

When I read the post about Paizo and saw the part about the costume contest advertising using a white woman dressed as one of their darker characters, it clicked for me. Even though I can’t change my race, if I dress as a character who normally has dark skin, there are going to be people out there who don’t see a white woman who loves a dark skinned character, they’ll see the character being whitewashed.

This is worse, because I can’t paint my skin darker to portray the character more accurately without some people seeing it as mocking. There’s no way for me to express my love for Katara or Kyra through costuming without hurting someone.

I can’t tell the rest of fandom how much I want more characters like Katara by representing her at a con and that makes me really sad. If the world wasn’t full of systemic racism against non-white people, I might be able to, but the world is broken. It would be stupid to get mad at other people for being hurt by a broken world, so instead I’m going to be mad at the broken world for denying me what I want and hurting everyone.

I hope that people who can portray these characters without hurting others do. I want to see more Kataras and Kyras, and any number of other characters who aren’t white. I desperately want the costuming community to do them justice.

I wish there was more I could do to help.

 

 

* I need to scan these at some point so you get the full horror of them. The Victorians stop being so romantic and quaint when you remember how nauseatingly racist they were.

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