You’ve heard about Fake Geek Girls, right? Terrible, conniving women who spend time and money on costumes and merch, studying a fandom, not to mention paying for hotels and convention memberships, all so they can PRETEND TO BE FANS, to LURE INNOCENT YOUNG GEEK MEN into their TRAP. Said trap being, as far as I can tell, that they don’t want to have sex with the men who desire yet hate them.
Yeah, I don’t get it either. But the idea is out there — not just being perpetuated by actualfax journalists and industry professionals, but lurking on Tumblr, Reddit and 4Chan. There are no female geeks. They’re just pretending. Women are cheerleaders, which is the female equivalent of the jock, and the jock is evil. Also, high school: never actually ended.
(I’m not the only one who has that nightmare, right? I’ve had so many dreams where I somehow forgot to complete my science class that I have trouble remembering that not only did I finish science, but I came fourth in my grade. Which isn’t all that impressive, because it was multistrand science, and also I missed, like, a term due to illness that I never made up, so actually, it wasn’t so much that I was good at it, as I was just in a really average grade.)
Now, I’m a Real Geek Girl. I even have the business cards to prove it!
(…Well, minicards. I felt like a wanker as I ordered them, but every time I go to a con, I find myself wishing I had something to hand out with my Twitter and blog addresses on it. And you can also put text on the back. So I have Real Geek Girl cards. Or I will when they arrive.)
I’ve been a Trekkie since I was ten. I have childhood memories of Doctor Who. I started my first fan fiction when I was 12. I’m helping to run a science fiction convention, for heaven’s sake!
Doth the lady protest too much?
I love Voyager, the wrong version of Star Trek. (It’s full of women, you know.) As a child, it was Sylvester McCoy’s era of Doctor Who that I watched (it was full of women, you know), and as an adult, it was New Who (it marginalises men!) that made me fall in love with the series and seek out Classic Who again. Just like my subconscious thinks I’m a fake high school graduate, my jerkbrain thinks I’m an imposter.
Fandom loves a hierarchy, especially if it can put women close to the bottom. (Along with other marginalised groups, of course, and I don’t mean to dismiss or erase the experiences of genderqueer fans and fans of colour. But at the same time, I can’t talk about their experiences either.)
She’s not really a fan. She’s fannish, but she shouldn’t be. She’s a fan, but look what she’s into.
A few years ago, when I worked at Borders, a customer annoyed me so much that I turned our exchange into a crude comic.
(Actual fact: there is a rare flower that blooms whenever the “City of Death” score is played.)
(Incidentally, I actually do have a chin.)
This isn’t just the fannish patriarchy. The female-dominated end of fandom has its own internal hierarchy, with fic writers, vidders and cosplayers at the top, artists in the middle (“Anyone can draw!”) and lurkers — consumers, our own audience — at the bottom.
(For some ranting on the subject, come to the Lurker Panel at Continuum this year! And if you’re wondering if it was a challenge to round up a panel’s worth of lurkers and persuade them to speak in public, you’d be quite correct.)
And crossing gender barriers is the idea that you’re not a “real” fan if you only like one era, or one spin-off, or you got into it because you like an actor. There’s a reason Laura Mead’s essay in Chicks Unravel Time, “David Tennant’s Bum”, got so much attention from reviewers — she was proudly proclaiming that she was the Wrong Type Of Fan.
(The fact that her essay was also an exploration of the ways the Tenth Doctor represented a different kind of masculinity in his heroism seemed to go unnoticed — it’s not a new thing to say about the Doctor, but it has traditionally come bundled with baggage about asexuality, ie, he’s not a traditionally masculine hero and he wouldn’t touch anything so disgusting as a woman.)
I have this theory that, aside from the human love of constructing hierarchies, there’s a strong element of insecurity at work.
I mean, I don’t give credence to the stereotype of the nerd with no social skills, who lives with his parents in a room full of action figures, but I think a lot of us had a hard time in high school. Bullies will latch on to anything that makes a person stand out, and only the very self-confident can keep that from touching them.
(And that self-confidence is what makes those kids popular. Not that I could see it when I was a bad tempered 15 year old who hated everything and everyone but especially the popular kids. But looking back, they were just as weird and awkward as everyone else, they just pretended they didn’t care. I should have spent less time hating them and more time trying to cultivate that independence.)
When I was 11 and 12, some girls in my class used to slam me against a brick wall and shout, “BEAM ME UP SCOTTY!”
Those girls? My best friends. You know, when they weren’t bullying me, or belittling me for liking things they didn’t enjoy, or using me as the butt of their jokes…
I did eventually figure out that actually they weren’t my friends at all, but even now, I sometimes find that I tolerate poor treatment from people just because they say they’re my friend, and I get very, very defensive if people tease me about the stuff I’m into.
And it’s that defensiveness that creates these toxic hierarchies, these cultures of exclusion. If what I like becomes popular, there won’t be room for me. If there are new people coming into my fandom, I need to establish myself at the top of the peak, because what if they turn out to be really popular?
And then, sometimes, that gets tied up with the misogyny that permeates our society. It’s a mixture of fear, male entitlement, and the psychological scars of adolescence.
Or maybe I’m just extrapolating from my own experience to the entire human race, which is probably a bad idea, but I feel like there might be a grain of truthiness somewhere.