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Geek Ladies: Papers, Please

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, July 26, 2012 10:04 EDT
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A word of advice to dudes preparing to weigh in on an issue of what you believe women should do or be: If at some point, you find yourself writing, preemptively, “Now hold your horses before you get all riled up, little ladies,” or any variations thereof, take a moment. Walk around the block. Meditate a little. And then go delete everything you wrote, empty your trash folder so you’re not tempted to bring it back, and write something else. This advice is an important first step in not being an asshole. Because, if you found yourself drawn to preemptively accusing your hypothetical critics of hysteria, you know both that what you wrote is sexist and that you resorted to sexism to justify your sexism—and all before you hit “publish”! Why would you want to do something like that?

Why would you want to do it in a piece where your clear intention is to be perceived as non-sexist? Because bizarrely. that seems to be what Joe Peacock wants with this CNN piece where he decries the “booth babe” phenomenon. His article is really a classic in the genre of people stabbing near a good idea, but then missing the mark wildly, destroying what little good they actually had to say. The glimmer of a good idea is this quote:

As a guy, I find it repugnant that, due to my interests in comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and role playing games, video games and toys, I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It’s insulting.

A piece written about this would be awesome, especially if he analyzed it honestly from a male perspective. After all, while he feels this way, clearly there’s a lot of men who don’t, or else there wouldn’t be such angry defenses of the practice of hiring booth babes at gaming conventions. In fact, there really wouldn’t be booth babes at gaming conventions, if there weren’t men who were happy to spend more money because ladies in skimpy clothes are pretending to like them for pay. These are all valuable things to talk about, and Peacock could have, man-t0-man, explained why dudes should find it insulting and, instead of supporting this practice, should denounce it. Then, instead of “hold your horses, ladies” language, he could have worked with women for a better understanding of how objectification of women only helps corporate profits, but is a disservice to fans both male and female.

Instead, his piece was basically a long screed dividing women into two categories “real geeks” and “conniving bitches”. The weirdest part was that he spent a long part of it accusing ordinary women of only pretending to be geeks so they could get attention. You know, since getting the attention of geeks when you’re not even remotely interested in geeks is just such a common thing:

San Diego Comic-Con is the largest vehicle, but it’s hardly the only convention populated with “hot chicks” wearing skimpy outfits simply to get a bunch of gawking geeks’ heads to turn, just to satisfy their hollow egos……

What I’m talking about is the girls who have no interest or history in gaming taking nearly naked photos of themselves with game controllers draped all over their body just to play at being a “model.”  I get sick of wannabes who couldn’t make it as car show eye candy slapping on a Batman shirt and strutting around comic book conventions instead.

I’m talking about an attention addict trying to satisfy her ego and feel pretty by infiltrating a community to seek the attention of guys she wouldn’t give the time of day on the street.

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″.

But lest he think that he’s accusing every Slave Leia of this, he rushes to assure you he’s not:

And be it known that I am good friends with several stunningly beautiful women who cosplay as stunningly beautiful characters from comics, sci-fi, fantasy and other genres of fandom. They are, each of them, bone fide geeks. They belong with us. Being beautiful is not a crime.

So how can he tell from looking at strange women at cons that they aren’t like his authentic friends? How does he know that the women in costumes at San Diego Comic Con are just pretenders trying to get some of that hot, hot geek attention? He doesn’t say. It seems that the difference between whether or not you get to be a girl in a skimpy outfit who is a Real Geek and one who is just pretending is whether or not you talk to Peacock, though. I have an alternate theory of what’s going on here. Some women who cosplay at cons don’t pay attention to Peacock. Instead of being chill about it and understanding that not everyone is going to want to bone you immediately because she likes the same comic book as you, he instead retreats to accusing them of being cock teases who only do this for attention.

I’ve noticed that embittered dudes like this way overrate how much women want to be seen as hot. I mean, yeah, it’s really important to a lot of women. I like to look good myself. But this fantasy that there’s legions of women who are so calculating about fulfilling this need that they buy or make a costume referencing something they have no interest in, go into spaces that are bewildering for outsiders, and preen around for guys that they have no interest in, for no other reason than to get a rise out of rejecting them? That’s grade A paranoia. That’s black-helicopters-are-coming-for-you paranoia. Peacock and all the people who ate up his article would be better served by repeating to themselves, “Not everyone has to want to fuck you just because they share your interests.” There’s no reason to construct an elaborate fantasy that the cosplaying woman who isn’t into you deliberately set out to fuck with you. It’s okay if not everyone wants to fuck you or even be your friend.

Peacock doesn’t have an actual evidence of this phenomenon of women dressing like geek characters for no other reason than to rile the geeks up, so he conflates them with women who are paid to be sexy.

But then, you have these models-cum-geeks like Olivia Munn and practically every FragDoll. These chicks? Not geeks. I think that their rise is due to the fact that corporations are figuring out that geeks have money, and they want it. But they can’t abide putting a typically geeky face on camera, so they hire models to act quirky and sell this marketable geekdom.

You have to read the whole piece to understand how much he’s conflating paid models and spokeswomen with these imaginary women who aren’t “real” geeks but cosplay all the same.* But this is just garbled nonsense. First of all, the existence of sexy women who are paid to be sexy to get men to open up their wallets is hardly something marketers came up with to exploit poor, hapless geeks. Sadly, this is a widespread phenomenon. I mean, duh, sports. Sports fans are hit from many angles from skimpily dressed women who are being paid to be there. A lot of bars have beer girls that show up wearing hot pants and trying to get customers to try new products. I even saw this go on at a super-hip bar during SXSW. (And yes, it worked on some dudes, killing the notion that this is about exploiting the unique hard-up-ness of geeks.) Entire restaurant chains like Hooters  have made this their entire business model. That’s why it’s especially weird to have women who are clearly being paid to be sexy conflated with women who happen to be sexy and are there of their own accord, or women who are sexy but are there as expert spokesmen, like Aisha Tyler. We all have a lot of practice spotting the paid-to-be-sexy types. There’s not a lot of mystery there.

But Peacock uses the phenomenon to excuse men who are just frankly sexist assholes:

So, I can understand why someone completely ignorant could look at Felicia Day and see a pretty woman who is making one heck of a career starring in roles celebrating fandom, and mentally file them along with the fake geek G4 hostesses.

Nope. The fact of the matter is the guy who went on a rampage against Felicia Day is just a sexist who doesn’t accept that woman have anything to offer other than their bodies, full stop. No need to make excuses for him. Again, that type exists in all sorts of fandoms, and not just geek ones. Female sports fans can tell you all about men who will look for any reason to dismiss their opinions and contributions as fans for no other reason than that they’re women. As someone who spends a lot of time in the indie music world, I’ve also met my fair share of dudes who were eager to assume that I wasn’t a real fan. There’s a lot of men out there who think because all they want from women is sex, then women must have no interests outside of getting male attention. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard men say that women only listen to music in order to be more appealing to male music fans. I honestly don’t know what guys like this think women do with all our spare time that we’re not working, fucking someone, or trying to get fucked. As Perez’s non-apology showed, dudes who believe this of women are usually impervious to the piles of evidence that exist that show we have internal lives and actual interests outside of being as fuckable as we can be. Gosh, some of us even have interests that our boyfriends don’t share, and we pursue them anyway! Mind-boggling, I’m sure.

Peacock puts pretty much all the blame on women for confusing men about who is there because she’s paid, who’s there because she’s a geek, and who’s there because she’s a conniving bitch who has no interests outside of creating elaborate, time-consuming scenarios where men give her attention and she has a reason to live. (Hint: This last group doesn’t exist.) Because of this, the inevitable conclusion you get from reading his piece is that he believes that geek culture is rightfully owned by men, but he thinks he’s a big hero because he’ll let women in on a case-by-case basis, and only if they prove themselves in ways that men aren’t expected to do. Sorry, but cookie not granted. Women want in because they have a right to be there. They don’t have to prove themselves to you or anyone.

As for women hired to be hot and sell stuff, well, he does have an argument against that buried in the piece: It makes women feel unwelcome and it insults men’s intelligence, and corporations need to stop the practice of hiring women for their looks instead of their expertise. Why can’t we just leave it at that, instead of suggesting some male tribunal needs to be established to determine who is and isn’t a “real” geek amongst the volunteers?

*Seriously, I can’t believe he thinks this. I have to imagine that non-geek women that are really vain and want a lot of sexual attention from men would avoid cosplay like it was battery acid. Why? Because the guys they want—non-geeks—would think they’re geeks, duh. I don’t see why this is so  hard to grasp.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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