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On the “Fake” Geek Girl

Today in things that make us scream incoherently

A little while ago we posted a video making a joke out of the stereotypical but not universally true awkwardness of male geeks, particularly around women, and the comments on the post exploded. For every guy who came in to say, reasonably if perhaps with little humor, that all dudes aren’t like that; there was a guy there to tell every woman who’d commented to say she’d known guys like that once that her personal experience and anything she’d ever done based on it was wrong. It was a clusterfuck of anecdotal experience and gendered slurs, and the only thing it really made me want to do was get all the commenters in a room and say, loudly and clearly:

“I’ll make a deal with all you dudes who are angry because this is how your demographic is portrayed. You let me have this one video making this one joke, and I will let you have the entire “fake geek girl” meme, comprising hundreds of jokes, many of them misogynist, that perpetuate the idea that women never do anything you like unless it is to “get attention” and then betray you when they get it. This should seem more than fair.”

Because that’s what the idea of the “fake geek girl” is all about, right? “Oh, she’s just doing that for the attention.” Which, by the way, is also a thing said when women claim they’ve been raped, or beaten by people close to them; it’s one of the foundational assumptions behind the reasoning that women lie or will lie about being raped to get abortions; it is the idea that excuses the behavior of a society that minimizes the concerns of women.

Tara Tiger Brown blames the acceptance of geek culture into the mainstream for the rise in the Fake Geek Girl phenomenon in her post Dear Fake Geek Girls, Please Go Away, yet another article that (like Patton Oswalt‘s) wallows in a get-off-my-lawn view of changing geek culture, and laments the fact that celebrities are coming out as geeks.

She says:

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.

And I wish, I really wish, that we as a society were capable of honestly evaluating this sort of thing when it comes to women expressing themselves, and expressing themselves in the internet and other male-dominated arenas. But we’re not. We’re not, when we call Sandra Fluke a slut for talking about birth control. We’re not, when we assume that Megan Fox was just being “sensitive” when she quit the Transformers movies because she felt Michael Bay treated her like a prop. We’re not, when it’s practically a Reddit meme to tell any woman who posts a picture of an object of interest that includes her in the frame that she’s “karmawhoring.”

I hate the idea of the “fake geek girl.” And I hate it the most because it is so pervasive and subtle I personally find it very difficult to keep it out of my interactions with other geeks.

The Fake Geek Girl has been with me ever since I was eleven and found that I really liked Batman: The Animated Series, when my fear of being labeled a fake geek girl said that if I didn’t become an expert on Batman, the moment I made some kind of mistake or omission I’d be branded as “fake” by the person I was interacting with. Not a novice, a learner, someone who was worth teaching and bringing into the community, but a fake, a poser, somebody who deserved to be kicked out. Where was the “geeks in the mainstream” discussion fifteen years ago when I was getting into Batman? Right, it wasn’t there, because geeks were not getting into the mainstream at that time. But the Fake Geek Girl idea was there.

These days, the idea of geek cred is so prominent in my mind that I have to consciously force myself to not instinctively dismiss outright the opinion of the person who gets my Cylon jokes but doesn’t pick up on the Portal ones. The person who runs several table top games but says things like “Didn’t they already make The Avengers? It had Uma Thurman in it.” For the record, both of those real-life examples are dudes.

So yes, I understand the desire to weed the “posers” out of your personal life and interactions. But I have never, actually, in the flesh, met a “fake” geek girl. Or guy. I don’t think those people actually exist outside of painful daytime news segments, the occasional job interview (where, in this economy, I’ll excuse anybody for trying to be a little bit of something they’re not), and internet memes. But I understand.

But who are you to say that a stranger, someone you’re never likely to meet, is not genuinely interested in the thing they appear to be interested in? Who are you? I just… what? I’m rendered incoherent. Here at the Mary Sue, when an actress goes on a talk show and describes her personal affection and involvement and enjoyment and FANDOM for geek properties, we take it at face value. Why? Because we don’t actually have a reason not to. Because the alternative breeds a closed community of paranoid, elitist jerks who lash out at anyone new.

The proper response to someone who says they like comics and has only read Scott Pilgrim is to recommend some more comics for them. The proper response to someone who appears to be faking enthusiasm is to ignore them and not project their actions on an entire gender or community. The proper response to someone who appears to want to be a part of your community is to welcome them in. End of story.

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