The “Fake Geek Girl” Nonsense

I misunderstood what was going on when I first heard about the so-called “fake geek girl” claims. I thought it was male high tech nerds accusing women attending tech conferences and SF cons of faking their knowledge of cyber matters. Of course, I also thought it was nonsense propelled by the fear of some men in the tech world that women were getting girl cooties on their reality.

But after reading Seanan McGuire’s piece on assholes checking geek cred at ComicCon, I realized that whole thing was some guys claiming the right to decide whether women were sufficiently knowledgeable to be considered fans.

A cred check for fandom? Are you kidding me?

If anyone ever tries to cred check my geekiness at a con, here’s the look he’s gonna get:

Steely Gaze

photo by Josh Lukin

So first of all, who died and made these guys arbiters of all things fannish? What makes the memorization of trivia about a book or comic or movie or other media the criteria for a true fan? How can there be some kind of test on whether you like something enough to be a member of the club?

And, more importantly, why should anyone care what these self-appointed cred-checkers think? Especially since this is obviously just the latest way to insult women who go to science fiction conventions. Even though women have been an active part of the SF/F culture for a long time, a few guys seem to still be looking for ways to declare some parts of it a boys’ club.

It’s time for them to get over it.

I’ve spent a good chunk of my life pushing my way into segments of the world that were labeled “Men Only.” I went to law school when few women did. I’ve studied martial arts for over 30 years. I’ve been patted on the head and told I didn’t belong. I kept going back anyway.

Back when I studied karate, one of the guys asked me and my friend Sue why we trained. And we said, “Why do you train?” Because our reasons for being there were the same as his: martial arts training is an excellent form of self development. (People do take up martial arts for self defense or because they want to be “tough,” but no one stays in it for more than a year or two without starting to do it for more philosophical reasons.)

News flash for the cred checkers of the world: Women do things that interest them for pretty much the same reasons men do. We’re human beings. We get interested in things.

I’m a fan of many things, some of which clearly qualify on the geek-o-meter. I re-read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy every semester during law school finals (I am not making this up). I can quote from both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly at will. (Nobody can make television like Joss Whedon, and his movies are pretty damn good, too.) I’m pretty good at Doctor Who, though best on the Tom Baker years.

I’m also a huge fan of the Flatlanders, both individually and together. Oh, wait a minute. That’s Texas music geekery. Not SF.

But I reserve my strongest fandom for feminist science fiction — the classics from the 1970s, the older stories that managed to get published, the Tiptree winners. Not just science fiction by women authors, but science fiction that gets at the heart of gender and the great divide. Joanna Russ. Suzy Charnas. Vonda N. McIntyre. Gwyneth Jones. L. Timmel Duchamp. And, of course, James Tiptree Jr. Plus quite a few other people (and I’m deliberately not listing Ursula K. Le Guin because she’s the one women SF writer who has addressed issues of gender that everyone has heard of and even read).

What’s that you say? Feminist science fiction doesn’t count?

Like hell it doesn’t.

Listen up, all you self-appointed guardians of geekery: Women aren’t just coming, they’re here. And they’re getting girl cooties all over your stuff. They’re even changing it. And you can’t do a damn thing to stop it no matter how many women you insult.

We’ve got a cred check for you: What did Robert Silverberg say about James Tiptree? Explain Pamela Zoline’s story “The Heat Death of the Universe.” Who is in the Secret Feminist Cabal?

Don’t know the answer to that last one? Maybe you better find out. It wouldn’t be wise to cred check anyone from the Secret Feminist Cabal.



The “Fake Geek Girl” Nonsense — 33 Comments

  1. Nancy Jane Moore, who the heck are you. Never heard of you. You throw a few old creds out there, but so what. Even you didn’t have any creds, but were interested in SF or Fantasy, you should be welcome in fandom.

    There’s always been a few trolls out there who played the “I’m geekier than you” game, but fandom has always been inclusive and even back in the 70’s when I started into it, women were convention chairs. Women in fandom definitely is nothing new, despite the imaginations of some. My thought is that since some parts of fandom, especially the Comic-Con and media areas, are becoming more mainstream that some of these trolls are becoming even more defensive.

    • That’s my point, Dale: If you’re interested, you should be welcome. These various things some men come up with to try to cut women out of their “club” are ridiculous.

      And I’ve been writing SF/F and going to cons for a long time now. (You can find my books here on Book View Cafe.) I go to WisCon every year and also go to Armadillocon, Capclave, and World Fantasy fairly often. We’ll probably run into each other somewhere sometime. It’s not that big a community.

      • But apparently you need to be cred-checked here, on your own blog, to verify that you’re qualified to comment on cred-checking.

  2. Many young Readers of Science Fiction are Women, Myself included raised in Houston’s technical boom , Fathers worked at NASA, Brown n Root, and Texas Instruments, where the space race was formed, apple personal computers were made, as well as Drilling and oil technology. If Fans are fans its a matter of Desire to be a Dreamer, exploration of space is science so is technology and geology many sciences are found and loved through Science Fiction.

    aka Su Ling Song

  3. I think there’s a certain amount of “if you’re a pretty girl, you can’t possibly have suffered for your dorkiness the way I have suffered so you aren’t really a geek” going on there, too.

    That is, there’s an idea that “pretty people” or those who would appear to fit into mainstream society just fine on the surface, can’t possibly know what it’s like to be socially isolated and lonely. So they’re seen as taking all the good bits without having to deal with the bad bits. The resulting frustration (“Why should I have to deal with the bad bits if I could’ve gotten the good bits without all that?”) then gets predominantly directed at young-ish women who are seen as not only claiming an identity they haven’t “earned” but also being the source of the isolation and loneliness… Because that’s the kind of society we live in. Yep.

    I can kind of understand that since I felt much the same way when everybody and their aunt started declaring themselves “weird”. “Man, if you people are weird then I must be normal. We got nothin’ in common at all.” But it’s the kind of thinking that comes straight out of middle school. I like to imagine that I’m beyond that now. (Ha!)

  4. I remember once reading a memoir by Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder), a noted libertarian. Almanzo and Laura moved to the Ozarks in Missouri, and it was extremely rural at the time. Rose wrote of always being the outsider. I remember reading that and thinking, And so? EVERYBODY feels that way. We are ALL abnormal. It is normal.

    • It is always a surprise when someone who looks like the consummate insider says that. I think the difference might be between those who did what was necessary to fit into their environment — even though they felt like outsiders — and those who never could figure out the secret handshake that let you fit in (i.e., people like me).

    • I’m not sure everybody does feel that way. At least not all the time. I think everybody HAS felt like an outsider* at some point in their lives because it’s a normal part of development, but that’s not quite the same thing.

      Likewise, everybody has felt isolated and lonely at various points in their lives, but not all of us make an identity out of it. Probably the more sensible of us don’t make an identity out of it. Really, it’s kind of a silly thing to build your identity around. Which makes it typically human. So maybe it is normal after all. Never mind.

      *Although I always thought that phrase “on the outside looking in” was stupid. I was “on the outside looking someplace else entirely because frankly you guys are boring”. No wonder my classmates didn’t like me. 😉

  5. Perhaps a point of difference is that many of us who have been on the outside looking in (IE never could figure out the handshake) do not look for someone to blame for that fact. We may get p***** bout it occasionally, or sad, but we find a way, make our lives, and deal with the fact that a huge part of humanity looks at things one way and shouts about it…and that then there are other ways. Maybe we can’t be a certain type of artist without that one step sideways.

    I kept trying to do the things my family and class raised me to do and be. But whether it was a combination of my Myers-Briggs, IQ, artistic bent or what, it didn’t take, and I never was a part of the gang. Finally I went looking for another gang. To a certain extent, meeting other writers was that gang. They could not be everything for me, and a Star Trek convention wasn’t what I was looking for, but it was close enough to enjoy talking about some similar ideas.

    A lot of people still enjoy approaching fandom that way. Then there are the trollish ones. I wish to let them know that this behavior is Not Acceptable.

  6. I would certainly add Octavia Butler and Mira Grant/Seanan Mcguire and Lois McMaster Bujold and Sheri Tepper and Andre Norton and Anne McCaffrey to the list of women writers. And especially Suzette Haden Elgin. When I first read Native Tongue, I was blown away. Feminist linguistic science fiction? How could someone have written a book just for me?

    • Thanks for adding more writers. I should note that there are some male writers who have contributed wonderful and complex feminist fiction to the canon as well — John Kessel comes to mind immediately.

  7. Oh lord, if they hit me with trivia questions I’ll lose every time. I’ve watched all the episodes of Warehouse 13 but never remember the character names much less what gadget released the evil bee. But I loved (in a slow and wrenching sort of way) Heat Death of the Universe. I read things and watch things once because there’s not enough time for everything I want to read.

  8. “Listen up, all you self-appointed guardians of geekery: Women aren’t just coming, they’re here. And they’re getting girl cooties all over your stuff. They’re even changing it. And you can’t do a damn thing to stop it no matter how many women you insult.” – I’m not surprised. This is not the first time women hijack things that men create. Men were geeks before it was cool to be one. As usual, women are unable to create their own culture, and as parasites do best, they leech on the work done by men.

    Everything from the comic-con to the geek fandom was built by men who couldn’t get laid. They were hated, disgusting, and uncool. Now the women have gotten their girl cooties all over it, as they do with everything. After all, the only way you can hijack something is with your cooties, no? Lol

  9. You want to get laid? So do all other men; geeks are nothing new that way. You want to actually succeed? Not difficult (advice easily found on line), but it boils down to treating women nicely. Insulting them is, surprise! repellent, and never leads to sex. Ever. So, you want to get laid, what should you do? Let’s put on our thinking caps here…

  10. Wow, I honestly had no idea that this attitude even existed. I’ve been an anime, video game, and fantasy fan for years, and I never encountered this POV online. It’s downright insulting. Fandom is not a “safe space” for male geeks. It’s supposed to unite people, not divide them! Why can’t we all just geek out over the same shows? Life is too short to scowl and sneer and build up walls of hatred and division and vitriol. Enjoy your life! Don’t let someone else’s opinions destroy you. Geek out and LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!

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