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Jan 03 2013

All the Real (Geek) Girls

Sometimes you “walk” into another part of the internet, look around, and relax just a little.

My friends Lynne and Michael Thomas would probably give me squinty looks if I said that about Apex Magazine in person. Lynne is the editor-in-chief and Michael the managing editor, and both consider it at least partly their jobs to poke the internet with a stick. If the work they’re publishing doesn’t challenge people in some way, they haven’t done what they want to do.

That’s a big part of the reason I feature as many stories from Apex in Saturday Storytime as I do. It isn’t just that Apex has a great track record of publishing new authors and authors new to the magazine. It isn’t just that I like dark fantasy that doesn’t rely on body horror for its darkness. The stories often make me a little uncomfortable in ways I think I should pay attention to.

So saying I relaxed there is a little funny. Saying I relaxed on reading an essay about the “fake geek girl” stupidity is even funnier. Still, it’s all true.

I don’t identify with the biographical details of Sarah Kuhn’s growing up geek story. It wasn’t geek discussions guys wanted me excluded from, maybe because I listened more than talked. It was physics where I was one of a tiny group of girls waiting for things to get better, probably because they couldn’t talk over problem sets and tests.

The rest of the essay, though? That looking around at sheer, mind-numbingly obtuse sexism that thinks it’s clever? Yeah, that I get, in spades.

The more you stare at this ad, the dumber it gets. And the more it actually kind of takes down the “fake geek girl” myth it’s trying to spread.

First of all, why can’t this girl be a nerd about LOLcats? Geeky interests run the gamut: if fezes can be nerdy, so can animal-based internet memes. Maybe she’s obsessed with them. Maybe she has a blog dissecting all the different pensive kitty expressions and various font sizes in great and excruciating detail. Maybe she’s taken it to the next level and photographs her own cats in LOL-worthy poses and is about to start a new meme. Or maybe she doesn’t do any of that—maybe she’s just a casual enjoyer of LOLcats and is trying to share that with you. But no one but her should get to decide how she defines herself and how she interacts with her own fandom.

Second: in addition to her bow and arrows, this girl also sports some pretty intense archery gloves. She’s obviously put a lot of effort into this get-up. If I can momentarily declare myself a random arbiter of geekiness, I’d say her dedication to authentic Katniss-type gear makes her way nerdier than the person sitting on his ass typing up yet another lazy “fake geek girl” proclamation.

Finally, if she is a “fake”—and I’d maintain that there’s really no such thing, see the above point about no one else getting to decide how she defines herself—who cares? In all of the arguments against “fake geek girls,” I have never been able to glean what, exactly, their nefarious endgame plan is.

At the end of a year in which I’ve caught myself saying more times than I can count, “Are you even listening to yourself?!”, it’s incredibly nice to have other people pointing out the self-refuting stupidity of it all.

The niceness doesn’t end there, however. This is one of Apex’s more commented upon essays, particularly for being two days old, and the comments are mostly reasonable and appreciative. There is, of course, the one guy who insists that Kuhn would get it if she just understood how people are motivated by sex and the other guy who just wants to “play devil’s advocate” to put forth a theory that explains nothing except how this is not really a gendered problem.

The vast majority, however, are not just supportive of both casual fandom and “geek girls”. They know women in fandom have always been around and always making fandom what it is (see the interesting information about early Star Trek fandom). They like it that way, and they know the only problem that actually needs to be solved is the presence and prominence of the sexist assholes.

That too, after the past year, is astoundingly–yes, I said it, Michael and Lynne–relaxing.

6 comments

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  1. 1
    NinetyEight

    Ah, physics. Decades ago at the beginning of a semester of senior lab I could not yet start my experiment for some forgotten reason and so wandered next door to chat with classmates there. I, male, was conversing with the female student I found there, whose lab partner was absent for another forgotten reason, when the professor in charge walked in and began to discuss the experiment with me. Not with us but specifically with me without even looking at her. I first tried simply including her in my responses to subtly remind him that there was another student present and then directly informed him that I was, in fact, going to run an entirely different experiment down the hall and she was going to run this one. Nothing had any effect. I finally excused myself to run that other experiment in the hopes that he would finally talk to her when she was the only student left in the room. I am pretty sure that I followed up with her to find out what happened but no longer recall. I am just left with that gobsmacked memory of watching a person be determinedly ignored.

  2. 2
    Amanda

    The Star Trek comment wasn’t there when I first read the piece but I had exactly the same thought, when you read the history of Trek fand its fandom it really jumps out how it was so often women pushing it and running it, entirely on their own initiative and inventing something new, which is the template for all that geek culture today.

  3. 3
    A. Theo Bromine

    @NinetyEight – decades ago when I was an engineering student, and later an engineer in the working world, that sort of behaviour was common. What annoys, worries, and often angers me is when I see it still, just as bad (and occasionally, astonishingly, worse) than it was before the turn of the century.

  4. 4
    Anonymous Atheist

    In all of the arguments against “fake geek girls,” I have never been able to glean what, exactly, their nefarious endgame plan is.

    Trying to make themselves more appealing to the highly desirable ‘real’ geek guys for whom life is like an Axe commercial, of course. ;-) (And geek guys who have or had wives/girlfriends who not only don’t fake interest in the guy’s geeky interests but actively dislike them, wonder why anyone would complain about that…)

  5. 5
    theobromine

    Further to Anonymous Atheist:

    1) Men who do not want to be challenged to see women as equals will attempt to discredit anything that threatens their position.

    2) Men who think that every woman’s ultimate goal is to get a man, so she can control him and take his money are trying to protect their bros from these deceitful females, who once they have succeeded in getting a man in their talons will drop all their pretenses of being geeky, and head off to the mall.

  6. 6
    Kelseigh

    Regarding early Trek fandom, I’m always amused by the people who think modern “slash” fandom is largely an outgrowth of anime becoming popular in the West. The fact is, the term “slash” actually comes from the primarily female-penned Kirk/Spock fanfics back in the 70′s.

    But then, every generation thinks they invented all the stuff they like.

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