Geeks, Girls, and Media Misogyny: The Saga Continues
A few weeks ago, we had Ginia Bellafante’s assertion that Game of Thrones is, “Boy fiction,” tarted-up with sex to appeal to women. We got the non-apology-apology from her, and the furor died down a bit.
(My thoughts on that debacle, can be found at nerdsinbabeland)
Today, we get not one, not two, but three blog posts that are not only misogynistic even without the element of trash-talking about girls who claim to be geek, but two of them are written by women.
Filmdrunk’s piece questioning Star Wars as a, “Geeky,” thing, might have provoked an interesting discussion on the topic of cultural validation and subculture, had the author not chosen to dismiss women as geeks. Salon.com picked up on this, and Mary Elizabeth Williams proceeded to heap derision on, “Starlets,” who are somehow, “Pandering.”
I can accept that questioning a actor or actress about their geek bona fides when part of their job involves selling their project to the public, including the geeky public, and especially when it’s a geeky project may seem like a good idea, except for one thing: it’s only women whose geek cred is called into question, time and again.
The fact is, guys like Nathan Fillion aren’t called to defend their geek cred, but rather lauded for being geeky and hot, and guys who are less matinee-idol looking, aren’t going to be asked to defend their geek cred, because if Jay Baruchel says he’s a geek, people will believe him.
There are a LOT of levels of fail here. One: Assuming that geeks look a certain way is ridiculous. Your brain doesn’t determine your appearance, your genes do. So, the assumption that geek boys are skinny/fat and live in their parents basement, and don’t know how to dress, is absurd. Assuming that geek girls, therefore must be ugly/fat, is not only misogyny based on beauty standards, against even that stereotype, it also punishes women for conforming to the beauty standard, while also daring to have a brain that isn’t made of fluff, and… honestly, my brain starts to explode at the completely ridiculous line of reasoning. Example: Talulah Riley, (Miss Evangelista in Doctor Who - Silence in The Library/Forest of The Dead,) is a math, physics, engineering and economics geek, and is an attractive woman. Why is this concept so difficult for people to absorb, integrate into their worldview, and move on?
I have a theory.
There are always going to be guys who don’t like women encroaching on their territory, and we all know that. There are also a lot of women, who resent other women encroaching on their territory, and will claw at a perceived threat. There are also a lot of journalists who will do anything to increase their pageviews, in an increasingly competitive atmosphere. There’s the hipster factor, i.e., “I was doing this before it was cool and now that it’s cool, everyone else is a poseur.”
Then, there’s this: Proscriptivism.
There’s only one way to be X, because this is the tiny little box X belongs in and anyone attempting to escape the form/mode of X must be punished.
Witness the blog that sparked #boobgate : Wherein a comic shop employee blogged about @thenerdybird (Jill Pantozzi,) and wanting to punch her in the boobs, because, "Having tits and liking Spider-Man isn’t shocking anymore."
We’ve got a lot of evidence that apparently, female geeks are believed to be Unicorns, and conventionally attractive female geeks are the objects of a lot of hatred from women who maybe don’t feel like they’re that attractive, and therefore, deserve more geek cred for fitting into the tiny little box of what a geek girl is supposed to be. See @actionchick’s (Katrina Hill) report on Team Unicorn’s, “Geek and Gamer Girls,” from last summer.
I see this a lot in, activist culture, particularly in the Feminist realm. First-wavers don’t like Second-Wavers, don’t like Third-Wavers and everybody’s still trying to figure out what the Fourth-wavers are. It’s like vegans who hate lacto-ovo or pescetarians, even more than they hate meat-eating, leather-wearing barbarians.
My theory is this: People keep thinking everything’s a hierarchy, even as they try to break the hierarchy that’s telling them they aren’t as worthy as everybody else, and that’s just ridiculous.
Star Wars will always be geek. Dressing in a Slave Leia outfit doesn’t make a hot girl less of a geek, and I am proposing that bringing that up in a conversation about geek girls should now be a corrollary of Godwin’s Law. It’s a lazy extreme designed to shut down a conversation, and it is an invalid argument. Anyone using it should be ashamed of themselves.
Women who are geeks should not be threatened by a larger pool of female geeks. Just because someone is considered hot by mainstream standards, doesn’t mean they’re not a geek, be they male or female. Geek is a way of life, and the things we love. One may be a Star Wars or Firefly Geek, a Star Trek Geek, a genre Geek (horror, fantasy, noir,) a Gamer Geek, a Hitchhiker’s Geek, a Doctor Who Geek, a Theatre Geek, a Physics Geek… I think I’ve made my point, there. Moving on.
Being passionate and knowledgeable is what makes a geek, a geek. Being creative in the expression of that passion is what makes a geek, a geek. Sharing that passion, is what makes a geek, a geek. Know what has nothing to do with whether or not you’re a geek? What’s between your legs, and how attractive you are/aren’t/think or don’t think you are.
Geeks are, by and large, a pretty accepting group, (yes, we know about the fandom wars, but that’s a completely different thing,) we like each other and we respect each other. Geek Girls, (women, goddesses of geek, she-geeks, however you get your lady-geek on, is awesome,) tend to stick up for each other, and band together, because we’ve had to fight to break stereotypes of being women, AND of being geek. We have to fight for our right to geek, even now. We have to fight the assumption that if we don’t fit the beauty standard, we’re pandering to boys because no one could otherwise find us attractive, and if we are conventionally attractive, we’re pandering for other reasons.
When the media perpetuates this, especially when women in the media perpetuate it, it feeds into a misogynistic attitude that we’re trying to shake because we’re women, AND geeks.
The bottom line is this: We’re not unicorns, we never were, we’ve always been here. The only thing that’s changed is we’re not willing to sit down, shut up, and pretend we’re not, to avoid the confrontation.