The “fake geek girl” outrage

Some people in fandom are outraged by the notion that there can be a “fake geek girl.” I recently got into a discussion on this and decided to see where the issue had come from. The first hit in my web search was an article by Tara Tiger Brown from last March, which may be what sparked the objections, although I haven’t seen it (or any other substantive statement) mentioned by the people complaining.

The point she makes is a reasonable one. Being a “geek” now has class. Science fiction and fantasy have gone mainstream. Whenever something becomes popular, it attracts hangers-on. These lines may have particularly provoked outrage:

Pretentious females who have labeled themselves as a “geek girl” figured out that guys will pay a lot of attention to them if they proclaim they are reading comics or playing video games. Celebrities are dressing up as geeks to reach a larger audience. Richard Branson labeled himself a geek for crying out loud.

How do we separate the geeks from the muck?

This does smack of fannish elitism to a certain point. The fear of others coming in and ruining what “we” have is a common one. Sometimes it’s justified, but sometimes it’s just fear of change.

That article, though, apparently sparked some serious insecurities, both male and female. Women are afraid that they’re being regarded as the “muck,” perhaps that all women are (even though the charge is coming from a woman). Men are afraid that any interest which a woman shows them might just be because they have well-paying jobs and are part of an attention-getting culture. (I’m reminded of an episode of Bones in which the bidding at a con auction for a movie sword went up to half a million dollars. Somebody thinks we have money!) Sometimes both fears are true.

Another article in Forbes by Daniel Nye Griffiths offers nuanced criticism of Brown’s article, noting the dangers of trying to be a gatekeeper. I’m particularly struck by this point:

The underlying premise here is that male geeks are so unattractive, indeed so collectively repulsive, that there is a 50% gap between what they will find attractive and the attractiveness standards of any given other human being.

He’s talking there about the premise held by people who are afraid of FGG’s, but it looks like the premise on both sides of the debate. In the email discussion I mentioned, a well-known female fan asked, “Does anybody but me find hilarious the concept that someone would pretend to be a nerd for the benefits?”

Fake feminism has found its way into the mix. It’s the old idea that all women are fragile and pure, dusted off and put into feminist language, even though it’s antithetical to actual respect for women. In this view, the notion that any women could be phonies is an attack on all women.The pedestal had its comforts, and some women want to get back up on it.

Throw together male geek insecurity about women and female geek insecurity about being excluded from a male community, mix in a teapot, and you have a highly exothermic reaction.

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