You may read the foreword to this series, As Always, it Started With Star Trek: A Study On Geek Girls and the first part which offers an overview of this series and of the methodology used in this project.
In my quest to better understand the fake geek girl debate, I analysed 6 rants and over 40 responses*. The first of the six rants, the Idiot Nerd Girl meme, was created in 2010. Originally used to mock girls self-identifying as nerds but considered as ignorant and idiotic, it exists in hundreds of variations, which generally draw a comparison between a girl’s claim to be a geek or nerd and her alleged lack of knowledge on a specific topic, her lack of involvement in geek spaces and activities, or her physical appearance.
The meme was reverse engineered to contest the original intent behind its creation. In 2012 Rachel Edidin, a Dark Horse Comics editor, created a tumblr page listing thousands of new variations of this meme with the help of friends and Twitter followers. Through this process, Edidin wished to highlight what she considered an entrenched misogyny in geek culture. Several of these new memes suggest that women’s limited participation in geek spaces and activities may be due to men’s creepy or aggressive attitudes towards them.
Examples of this meme will presented in this series, but will not be discussed directly. Nor will I discuss the debates related to College Humor’s The Six Supervillains of Nerd Culture series, which represented a girl as ”The Imposter”. You may consult the Mind42 chart I created for more references on the debates linked to both rants. In the interest of keeping this series relatively short, I will focus on these 4 rants :
1. A Forbes online article written by Tara Tiger Brown, a Forbes contributor and technology advisor and entrepreneur. Published on March 26th, 2012, the article is titled Dear Fake Geek Girls, Please Go Away.
2. The second is a blog post titled Booth Babes Need not apply, which was published on the CNN Geek Out! blog by Joe Peacock on July 24th, 2012. Peacock is a web designer, an author and he owns the largest collection of Akira production art in the world.
3. The third is an image shared on Facebook by Dick Manning on November 10th 2012, and the discussion that ensued between Manning and Jennifer De Guzman, author and PR and marketing director at Image Comics. Manning is a comic book artist and a contributor to various blogs.
4. Lastly, a comment Tony Harris shared on his Facebook page on November 13th, 2012. Harris is a comic book artist who has worked on Iron Man and Starman.
These rants express various ideas and their form, tone and length differ greatly. For instance, Brown’s article is very different from the other rants as she makes no mention of women’s physical appearance. Instead, she says that women who are truly geeky are humble and do not seek attention. In what comes across as a manifesto of geek girl virtues, she insists on the value of humility and hard work.
Girls who genuinely like their hobby or interest and document what they are doing to help others, not garner attention, are true geeks. The ones who think about how to get attention and then work on a project in order to maximize their klout, are exhibitionists. –Brown
Her article echoes Patton Oswalts’ 2010 article Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to die, as she expresses nostalgia for the geek culture she used to know. She compares what, in her opinion, being a geek used to mean (real devotion, humility and hard-work) to what it now entails (being trendy and asking for attention). She and Harris both mention that the Internet allows anyone to ”pose” as a geek.
Peacock and Harris’s rants, despite their very different forms and length, are both closely related to women’s physical appearance. They rant about pretty girls, but also describe them as not actually being hot, but only con-hot: that is hot enough to work or cosplay at conventions, but not enough to work as ”real” models. Here’s a quote for all the Star Trek fans out there:
I call these girls “6 of 9”. They have a superpower: In the real world, they’re beauty-obsessed, frustrated wannabe models who can’t get work. (…)
They decide to put on a “hot” costume, parade around a group of boys notorious for being outcasts that don’t get attention from girls, and feel like a celebrity. They’re a “6” in the “real world”, but when they put on a Batman shirt and head to the local fandom convention du jour, they instantly become a “9”.–Peacock **
Both Harris and Peacock state that these women wouldn’t actually give nerdy or geeky men any attention outside of conventions, and that deep down, they think nerd men are pathetic.
And also, if ANY of these guys that you hang on tried to talk to you out of that Con? You wouldnt give them the fucking time of day. Shut up you damned liar, no you would not. Lying, Liar Face. – Harris
Harris further insists on this idea, describing nerdy men as the prey of the women he talks about :
Well not by my estimation, but according to a LOT of average Comic Book Fans who either RARELY speak to, or NEVER speak to girls. Some Virgins, ALL unconfident when it comes to girls, and the ONE thing they all have in common? The are being preyed on by YOU. – Harris
Peacock, Manning and Harris all denigrate women who choose to wear sexy apparel and express their sexuality. They accuse them of wearing ”skimpy outfits”, of having hollow egos and no substance, and call them ”whores”, shameless and ”gross”.
Despite these differences, Brown, Peacock, Manning and Harris seem to agree on four main notions.
1. They think the women they target are pretending to be nerds/geeks to obtain the attention of men, and that this needs to be denounced and addressed.
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. -Brown
2. They think the women they are referring to fake their geekiness and do not actually have any credibility as geeks.
And here it is, THE REASON WHY ALL THAT, sickens us: BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW SHIT ABOUT COMICS, BEYOND WHATEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH YOU DID TO GET REF ON THE MOST MAINSTREAM CHARACTER WITH THE MOST REVEALING COSTUME EVER.- Harris
3. All authors seem to agree that fake geek girls are a threat of one form or another either to geeks and/or geek culture. Peacock states that women who pretend to be geeks make the life of real geek girls harder: real geek girls not only need to create a place for themselves in a male dominated-culture, but also need to prove they are not posers like ”these other women”.
Manning thinks women who pose as nerds reinforce negatives stereotypes about nerdy men as socially inapt and unable to talk to women, while reinforcing a type of objectification of their own body. Brown and Harris think women who pretend to be geeks take away the attention from those who deserve it.
That still seems to be the case, but the once coveted term is now being used as a marketing gimmick, and those who truly deserve the label are lost in the noise. –Brown
Yer not Comics. Your just the thing that all the Comic Book, AND mainstream press flock to at Cons. And the real reason for the Con, and the damned costumes yer parading around in? That would be Comic Book Artists, and Comic Book Writers who make all that shit up. – Harris
4. The four ”ranters” state that there are some women who are truly geeky, and list some of their characteristics (humility, knowledge, real passion, hard work, forgoing attention, etc.).
Brown provides her own example and mention other girls she considers as true geeks to create a comparison with those she calls Fake Geeks. Peacock, Manning and Harris state that they do know some women who are real geeks. Peacock also states that he considers women’s participation in geek culture to be very positive, and that ʺbeing beautiful is not a crimeʺ, as he knows ʺseveral stunningly beautiful women who cosplayʺ and who are ʺbona fide geeksʺ.
And that’s totally fine! However, you *OBVIOUSLY* weren’t the target there, either. I have lots of “nerd girl” friends…- Manning
Now, before every single woman reading this explodes, let me disambiguate a bit. I absolutely do not believe that every girl who attends conventions and likes “Doctor Who” is pretending to be a geek. –Peacock
Harris, however, indicates that these women are the exception to the rule.
I know a few who are actually pretty cool-and BIG Shocker, love and read Comics. So as in all things, they are the exception to the rule. – Harris
Thus, the authors express what they perceive as criteria of geek credibility, more specifically female geek credibility. Indeed, all these rants focus specifically on women.
Peacock does briefly mention that he simply hates poachers and that some men can also profit from geek culture without respecting it. However, all the other rants, as most of Peacock’s own intervention, are strictly about women. Interestingly, Tara Tiger Brown speaks broadly about what it means to be a geek, but when talking about posers and geek virtues, she speak specifically about women.
This and many others elements were the object of much discussion in the responses the rants elicited. I will discuss these in the next piece which will be published next Sunday.
What do you think of these opinions? Do you think fake geek girls exist? Let us know in the comments below!
* You may consult this Mind42 chart to read the rants and responses analysed in this project.
** In a blog post published after his article on CNN’s Geek Out blog, Peacock stated: ”It was a Star Trek reference, specifically about Jeri Ryan who knew nothing at all about Star Trek before taking the role as 7 of 9 in Voyager. She’s pretty, she took a very geeky role, and now is a geek celeb — and she’s not particularly interested in the culture.”