The Right Kind of Geeky
It's okay to like Star Trek as long as you don't write fanfic
Please note: This post contains profanity.
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Another day, another article criticizing 'fake' geek girls. This one was actually written by a woman, and while not nearly as nasty as some, it still comes across as sickeningly self-righteous. Apparently, if you're not an expert in something, you have no right to call yourself a geek. And here I always thought that if you weren't an expert in something, you couldn't call yourself an expert in that thing.
It's a problematic and stupid argument on a number of levels, not the least of which is that it invites the question: Who determines whether or not someone's an expert? I know a heck of a lot more about comics than the average guy on the street, but it's not like I've read every issue of Batman. Hell, last year at SDCC an exec from DC got the answer wrong when asked "How many Robins have there been?" but no one questions his geek cred.
What really bothers me about the whole thing, though, is something deeper, something more subtle and insidious. To wit: it's (now) okay for people, especially women, to be geeky, but only in certain ways and within specific boundaries.
For example: It's okay to like Star Trek. It's actually been okay for awhile now. A lot of us grew up watching Star Trek: TNG, and even liking TOS isn't really something people feel they need to hide anymore, especially since the newest movie came out. Sure, people make jokes about "Trekkers" versus "Trekkies" and people who dress up in Starfleet uniforms to go to Star Trek conventions, but let's be honest: liking Star Trek today just doesn't carry with it any real social stigma, whether you're male or female.
Unless, of course, you write Star Trek fanfic. Especially, heaven forbid, if it's slash fanfic. Admit that, and suddenly you become one of "those" people, the weirdos, the losers, the outcasts.
You know, the geeks.
These limits on geeky behavior are particularly in evidence for women. It's fine if women want to participate in traditionally "geeky" activities, but only in ways and roles which are defined as acceptable by the (usually male) majority. So it's awesome if you want to cosplay as someone from a science fiction show, as long as your costume is really good and accurate and well-made but also as long as you're not *too* pretty or *too* sexy, because then everyone knows you're just a slut asking for attention. And it's just fine if a girl likes comic books, as long as she likes the same comic books as the guy she's talking to. If he's a Superman fan and she likes Young Justice, well, she can just GTFO, 'cause what does she know? A geek gamer girlfriend sounds awesome – until she starts kicking your ass.
When women define their own forms of geekery, they are dismissed. You can talk Tolkein until you're blue in the face, but the minute you mention that you think Orlando Bloom is pretty, that's it, you're out. It's obvious you're not a real fan. Like Superman and Batman? Great! Think they'd be hot together? For fuck's sake, what's wrong with you? (It's okay to think Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn make a good couple, though. Because that's HOT.) Real men read superhero comics, and if women want to participate they'll be grudgingly allowed to do so – just as long as they don't bring up their own interests or opinions or feelings about the characters. Draw a piece of gorgeous fanart of Batman and you'll be praised. Draw it in a sexually-suggestive way, or in a "pretty" manga style, or as a furry, and people will shit on you. Because "no one wants to see that".
It's even worse when women make up the majority of the fans of a particular work. At least Tolkein's a classic, but Harry Potter? That's nice, honey, run along and read your kids books. And Sailor Moon, only chicks read that shit, everyone knows that. You're not a "real" geek and you'll be ostracized, mocked and tossed out on your ass if you so much hint that you like Twilight to the wider geek community.
Publishing a Star Trek novel is acceptable, even cool. Publishing a novel based on Twilight is "mommy porn". Not, you know, PORN. Despite the fact that it's filled with BDSM and is presumably far more hard-core than your average issue of Penthouse. Why the need for such a derogatory distinction? Write a story about Batman and you're good, as long as you work for DC comics. Write a story about Batman and publish it on fanfiction.net? Oh. You're one of those people. You're that kind of fangirl, the kind we *don't* want to associate with.
What's fascinating about this phenomenon is that women (and some men) who express their fannishness and geekery in ways that others don't find palatable have become the ones who feel that they have to hide that part of themselves and their interests in real life. Participants in many communities on Livejournal and Dreamwidth, especially communities created to be "safe spaces" for people who participate in less widely-accepted fannish activities, are extremely protective of their true identities. Anything seen as threatening their privacy, such as Livejournal's ill-conceived attempt to get users to link their accounts to their Facebook profiles, is met with anger and a huge backlash. The very fact that people feel the need to create "safe spaces" like this is telling.
In other words, while being "geek" may be "chic", and "geek girls" may be "hot" and in-demand, there are whole underground levels of geek culture that feel the need to protect and isolate themselves, not just from the mainstream, but from the rest of geek culture. And it is here, amongst the outcasts and
the people who are forced to defend themselves because of what they enjoy or how they choose to participate in their own culture, that you will find the new geeks, the true geeks of today: the people who are dismissed, even outright bullied, simply because of what they do for fun.
Funny how that works, isn't it?
The Final Squeak
Geeks, guilty of perpetuating social elitism? Perish the thought! I hope you enjoy this graphic, used with permission. Can you find yourself on here? (Edit: the original graphic was so big it was breaking the page, so here's a link to it instead. Again, this is by the wonderful from his site here. You can also find an abridged version of the graphic there.)