Saturday, July 28, 2012

On being considered a Fake Geek Girl

I have never really considered myself a geek. But, to be fair, I have never really considered myself anything, not jock, not giftie.  Not even drama geek, which of all labels I think would be most apt. 

There is what I do for a living: act/write/produce/direct.

There are my interests: movies, TV, theatre, food, Shakespeare, Steampunk, cute cat pictures, photoshop, working out, singing etc.

There is my background: only child, from Toronto, Canada, half Danish.

There are the people I hang out with: too many to name and all beyond awesome.

But who I am? 

That would be Adrienne.

I have never really labeled myself.  I have never had just one particular group that I associated best with.  In highschool and beyond I hung out with everyone.  With jocks, with artsy people, with the gifties, etc etc and so forth.

This isn't to say that I look down on people labeling themselves.  On the contrary, I fully understand why humans seek out groups, a place to fit in, a place to find people who support them and want to share their passions.  And I have been welcomed by many different groups and have been very moved to have their support and to count myself amongst their ranks.  But to say I am all one thing or all another just doesn't work for me.  For me.  And what works for me, won't work for someone else. 

I am also aware there are many others like me.  Just as there are many others who are not.

I needed to preface this blog post with the above, because I think it is very important in explaining how I approach the geek world.  As I do with everything else that interests me, with respect and excitement, but not as immersively as others might.

So:  My Geek History

When Jonathan Llyr started and asked me to participate, my response to him was, "But . . . I'm not really a nerd."  He gave me this look, then said, "The way you go on about Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, trust me, you are."

And I thought that was cool.  I hadn't said what I had to protest, simply because I thought it wasn't true.  But as he pointed it out, I thought more on it.  Okay, I didn't read comics or play video games, but I loved movies and TV.   And I loved geek movies and geek TV (as I also enjoyed not geek movies and not geek TV).  I am a fan of the original Star Trek, and think DS9 is the best of all the subsequent Star Trek series. 

Heck, I even have a very small part in shaping the SF/Fantasy culture in that I am author in said genre. 

Okay, sure, I have geekish tendencies.  This can work.  :)

My first con was a literary one, Ad Astra to be precise.  I spend time with other authors.  It felt perfectly natural.  Then I attended FanExpo with HcN.  And wow, THAT was different.  That was like the cons I'd seen on TV, people in costume, thousands of fans, amazing stalls selling stuff you wouldn't see anywhere else.  And actors that I had a great deal of respect for.  I felt like a fish out of water, but a very happy fish. 

I have since been to many more cons, and have become more involved with the Steampunk community as well due to my latest book.  And it's all been a really lovely time.  I enjoy the people, I love doing panels, and I really love how supportive in general people are of each other.

But I am still on the fringes.  Not fully integrated into the culture.  Again not because I think there's anything remotely wrong with being so, but because I also want to spend time with my other passions that interest me as much as (not more) my geek pursuits do. 

What's my point with all this?

This is my point:  I really really resent anyone in any group, but in this case geekdom, presuming to place me or any other person with similar interests as lesser.  As a fraud.  As someone who doesn't belong and should get out.  I am referring of course to some recent articles that have been going around the net about Fake Geek Girls.  And I know I know.  Evidently these girls who are seeking attention really do exist (to which I say, so what?  Let them do what they want to do, how do they harm you?), though I have never met one. 

But see here's my question: how do you know?  How do you know who is a "real" geek and who isn't?  How on earth can you tell just from looking? 

Now people will say, "Well Adrienne this doesn't apply to you, we get it, we know you belong in your own way."

And I will say, "Oh yeah?"

Because I've had people look at me and tell me I didn't.

Case in point:

So there are some online saying that they find it super annoying that some girl will just buy a geek T Shirt and wear it to a con: "Well what about those girls who just buy a geek T-Shirt so they can fit in??" they asked full of righteous indignation. 

You know what?  I was one of those girls.  Not because I didn't feel I belonged, but because until I bought a T-Shirt no one ELSE thought I belonged.  I remember it distinctly.  I was at FanExpo with HcN, again, let me reiterate this was a geek website I helped found, and was passing out cards and advertising it.  I was in my normal clothes.  A skirt and a tank top.  I'd thought, "Well I'm not the kind of person who wears geek T Shirts, in fact I don't own any, so why should I pretend otherwise?  I still share interests with the people there." 

Every person I gave a card to (male and female) and explained about the site looked at me funny.  Some even said, "But not you, you aren't actually part of the site right?"  Finally I got so tired of being treated with such skepticism that I passed my cards over to someone else, stormed over to the T Shirt area, and bought a Harry Potter T Shirt.  From that moment on, no one doubted I belonged.  It was then that I realised that in a place where I am supposed to just be myself, I actually couldn't be. 

But I wasn't too upset by it.  After all, I like Harry Potter.  I also got a Family Guy shirt.  But I never wear them except to cons.  Does that make me a fraud? 

Another experience:

I was at Anime North this year and had an AMAZING time.  I was terrified to go, the crowds daunted me.  But I was there as an author guest so had a nice schedule that helped me contend with the awesome crazy, and the panels I sat on were fantastic. Each of them sparked some wonderful back and forth between the panelists and the audience.  I was riding high. 

Now I was dressed in my Steampunk-lite outfit.  I have a couple, and I rather like them.  I'm not interested in cosplaying myself, though I do adore seeing the creations of others (there was this dragon puppet there that was AWESOME), and this is my attempt to do a bit of cool Steampunk without it being too huge an effort for me.  My author friend JM Frey (who was not cosplaying that day, but is a cosplayer herself) and I were walking towards the main convention centre when some kids attending the con yelled out at us something to the effect of, "Hi normals!"  It was said pleasantly, it was them enjoying being all dressed up and being not normal.  But they clearly thought we weren't part of the event and wanted to drive that point home.

And immediately I didn't feel a part of the experience.  Again.  Because I wasn't wearing the correct uniform.  Even though I was technically dressed up and proud of my outfit (let's not address the time someone once said to me, "Next time you'll try harder" about an outfit I was super excited I had managed to put together).

Again, not too upsetting.  I know I belong.  I don't need validation.  But still, a demonstration of being judged.  And I've got a good healthy ego.  Not every person out there does.  What if the person you dissed really tried hard, was really scared to go to a con but finally got the courage, and was worried what if no one likes my costume, and then . . . she's dissed.  You think that's going to make her want to come out next year?  I know of people who have stopped cosplaying because they couldn't handle the way people would tear into them for not doing it properly.  Nice work people, nice work.

So it's all well and good to make a sweeping claim that there are women who attend cons who are just doing it for attention and that for some reason this is a bad thing (because men never do the same thing, btw, it's just women).  But exactly what do you want to accomplish in making this statement is my question?  What are you trying to do?  Shame those women into not coming?  Well, that's kind of mean I think, maybe they weren't there for the reasons you wanted them to be there, but they were there.  They were having fun.  They also paid to be there, so contributed to the profit made by the con, heck maybe they even bought some stuff, even if it was just more tight leather bustiers or something (you think the sellers minded their presence?). 

I guess that's my ultimate point.  I really don't get what you are doing.  All I see you doing is perpetuating hate.  Making more misguided souls who share your attitude feel justified in making people like me feel unwelcome.  Making women, who are there dressed how they want to, feel like they don't belong because they aren't behaving to your standards.  Quite frankly it's just another example of men dictating how women should behave and what they should wear.


And yet I've been thought to be a fake girl.  So yes, those articles are talking about me. There is nothing actually fake about me, but I suffer as a direct result of articles like these.  My friends suffer too.  In fact I'd venture to say most women suffer from articles like these because it perpetuates the stereotype that ultimately women are still the other, even at cons. 

I get it.  You're annoyed.  By . . . something . . . that doesn't really have a direct effect on you at all.  Aside from making you annoyed.  So you're in turn going to write something that has a direct result in making me feel unwelcome.  Sweet.  Thanks for that. 

Not nice, man, not nice.


J.M. Frey said...

*Standing ovation*

Lisa Shafer said...

You know, I spent years and years as a folk dancer, going to festivals all over the world (22 countries, anyway), and meeting people from places I've not yet made it to in person. And it was okay that there were people at these festivals who were not musicians or dancers. And it was okay if they bought an Austrian hat to "fit in" or if they had too many beers and ended up trying to dance in front of the stage. We used to appreciate their enthusiasm. No one ever called them "fake folk dancers" who just wanted to get attention.
Maybe the geeks could learn something from a folk festival. :)

Nice post.

Saumya said...

Amen, sister!

Ed said...

Sorry to hear stuff like that even happens. Guess I've been lucky, whether in costume or out, to never be reproached by a hater. When I used to be big into the punk scene in the 80s everyone was worried all the time about being called a poseur. That sucked.

I wear a 70s Battlestar Galactica outfit and it's a weird thing at the cons when people start talking to me about specific episode numbers but I really have no clue what they're on about. Makes me feel like a poseur.

My friend and I got a quick tease by some Stormtroopers at FanExpo once 'cause we were wearing Star Trek "Enterprise" jumpsuits. I flipped 'em the bird and asked, "Have you looked in the mirror and thought about this? Seriously?!"

Anyway, as long as you're having fun, screw 'em all.

Rob St.Martin said...

Hear, hear.

Although, and not to sound like a geek apologist or anything beyond mere devil's advocacy, there's a reason some people are geeks. Socially maladroit people are drawn to geekdom because geekdom tends to celebrate diversity; that said, it doesn't cure social maladroitism. There are what I choose to call high-functioning geeks, the ones (like you) who can get along pretty much anywhere and with pretty much anyone. And there are the geeks who fall closer into the baseline of the media stereotype.

That doesn't excuse their behaviour, for making you feel excluded (as an aside, let me say I too felt excluded at Anime North). I'm always surprised that a group that tends to identify themselves as outsiders and picked-on will themselves be so exclusionary and belittling.

For years I would categorize people as geeks, geek-lite, geek-friendly, or muggles. I realize now that it's a false division. All geeks are geeks. And everyone geeks about something.

Thanks for your post. Good things to think about.

Adrienne said...

Lisa - Maybe they could! :)

Edward - I agree, and it is best to just ignore the naysayers as I do. But I think it's not always easy, and articles such as the ones causing controversy at present only help create an unpleasant environment. It's important to call such people out, I think, to point to the fact that what they think they are doing (ie somehow writing something that helps the geek community), is actually hurting not helping.

Rob - as you say, it's no excuse. And anyway it seems to me that the ones who write the articles deriding Fake Geek Girls etc are already pretty high functioning in society as it is. But yes, it's always been stunning to me that a group that prides itself on inclusiveness can at the same time sometimes be incredibly excluding when they want to be.

Geraud Staton said...

Great article! And what Rob said is so true. We call them "The Elitest Fringe." Just a name we came up with with people in any group that tend to be stereo-typical outcasts or non-social groups, but who turn into judging primadonnas. For me, it was the artist outcast. I was one of the kids who drew comics in class and didn't have a lot of friends in grade school. But, I got in with like-minded people and felt accepted. But that wasn't enough. So, if some kid wanted to talk to us about art but we felt they hadn't been excluded enough, they couldn't be on our team. Silly looking back on it. Then again, we were twelve. We grew out of that crap pretty quickly. Some people haven't. :-)

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