It’s been going on for decades, but since the origin of the, "Fake Geek Girl," or, "Idiot Nerd Girl," around 2009/10, and particularly with the exponential speed of women’s vocal presence in geek subculture, the walls between what we think of as the Geek Community and culture at large are breaking down rapidly. Add in the presence of black nerds, LGBTQIA nerds, PoC nerds, Nerds with disabilities, you know: PEOPLE, much like we have in society at large, who aren’t white, cishet dudes and who don’t DEFER to white cishet dudes, and we’re reaching the point where being a geek isn’t automatic entry to the sacred man-cave of douchebro-ness. TW: links for rape culture, misogyny, racism.
Yet, we’re still surprised when bad things happen. Why? SDCC has refused to institute a comprehensive and explicit code of conduct and anti-harassment policy, and we’re now shocked by the brutal assault of a young woman because… ?
The fact is, that rapists and men who commit violence against women are everywhere that people are. The geek community is not exempt from this, regardless of whether we cast ourselves as the outcasts from society or better than society at large. That is a subcultural narrative that the mainstream buys into and perpetuates, as though we as geeks are still the bullied underdogs. While many of us may have grown up being bullied as nerds, (male and female) we are the driving force of popular culture and need to stop buying into a narrative where we are not capable of behavior that is violent or antisocial as much as the mainstream needs to stop painting us as deviants from the norm. The Isla Vista shooting was barely two months ago and yet we have already forgotten that the profound attitude of entitlement wherein Elliot Rodger expected to have love and sex dumped on him by women he never spoke to, as well as racist rage at other men who were receiving what he deemed his due, were the root of the massacre.
The, “Cat-calling,” groping, upskirting, etc., that cosplayers experience is not special, women experience street harassment every day regardless of how we’re dressed. It’s easier to victim-blame because of course men are going to be gross about women in, “Slutty,” costumes. We’re “Self-objectifying,” and therefore are responsible for abuses we receive, when we wear revealing clothing, whether as cosplayers or in life. The rape culture narrative being perpetuated by media, law-enforcement, wherein everyone BUT the attacker/abuser is responsible for preventing assault is reinforced daily, even by organizations like RAINN.
Personally, I can look at this situation and feel horror and empathy for this young woman while hoping that law enforcement in San Diego does the job of investigating and pursuing justice for her while she recovers. I also know that the victim-blaming began the moment people saw a photo of her in costume and it has continued. (Do me a solid and go read the #WhatIwaswearing tag before you even think of attributing this assault to a costume.)
But I keep coming back to the basic question: Why are we shocked by this? Assaults and harassment have been an omnipresent problem at cons as they have been in mundane life and this assault is likely not the only one that happened at SDCC ‘14.
Maybe it’s time we deal with rape culture, harassment, and the fact that being a geek doesn’t make any of us as special as we think it does if it means we exempt ourselves from responsibility in dealing with social problems we carry with us as members of society at large.
We can talk about violent “Trolls” and not feeding them all we want, we can talk about prominent members of the geek community receiving rape threats all we want, we can talk about it until the scruffy nerfherders come home but until we DO something about it, nothing changes.
That something has to include vigilance and policy, and policing ourselves in order to make sure people who think that being bigots and misogynists is acceptable behavior have actual consequences to their actions instead of having it swept under the rug. Being a geek may be a hobby or a lifestyle, or an occupation, but however much we’d like to think we don’t have to address the actual social problems we dive into geekdom to escape, we do and it has to be more than lip-service.
It’s not enough to create inclusive spaces, we have to make safe spaces. It’s not enough to speak from a nominal point of view, we have to pursue an agenda.
We can either embrace the ideals of the Federation (TOS/TNG/DS9, plz. Reboot is sketch,) or we can prop up the Sith lords and the Empire.
What we can’t do, is bury our heads in the sand and pretend that we are separate from the yucky world. We never have been.