The Fake Nerd Girl Myth.

Here we go again.

While I was off enjoying my honeymoon, the whole fake nerd girl issue roared back to life with a vengeance. This is not to say that it ever went away, but the day I flew out to Disneyland to build some memories to last a lifetime with my wife, veteran comic book artist Tony Harris decided to let loose on the subject.

I’m not going to quote him verbatim, if you want to read exactly what he said go here. What I took from his rant is this: women who cos-play at conventions are just attention whores with no love and appreciation of geek culture and should just accept that their sole purpose is to be lusted after and it is their fault if men act badly around them.

I feel dirty even writing that previous paragraph.

Tony Harris is one of the best artists working in comics today. As an artist I am always going to be a fan of his work. However, after reading his rant it is clear that he has some issues that clearly need to be addressed. And he is not alone, not by a longshot.  It has been going on long enough to spawn a meme and to have become a catchphrase.

What the hell? How did this happen?

It’s a complex question and a lot of people have been discussing this for a while now. As a simple male geek who loves his subculture while at times wanting to throttle it, I will now give my two cents worth.

To start with we have to understand the idea of gatekeeper behavior. This is where someone in a particular social group decides it’s up to them to protect the group by determining what is and isn’t appropriate for that group and attempting to purge that which they deem inappropriate. Pick any type of group that a person could be in, political, religious, social, or professional and you will find people who act as gatekeepers for that group.

By their very nature a gatekeeper is going to be a conservative member of that community as they want to keep it pure.

Now how do we apply this to geek culture?  You have to remember that as we have said before the various subsets that make up geek culture have traditionally been male dominated industries that cater to a male dominate fan base. But smart business owners know that it is good to expand your consumer base and the best way to do that is to appeal to as broad a market as possible. For a male dominated market this means trying to bring in the rest of the human race, in other words females.

While this seems simple on the surface, there is a catch. That catch is that while someone new may enjoy something, they way they enjoy it may be different than how you do.

I think I need to illustrate that last point.

My sister and I, despite both being very geeky, are very different in how we approach it. Both of us love Horror, Disney, and roleplaying. However she is not a comic book fan and I am not into fanfiction. This is not to say that either of us hasn’t read comics or fanfiction, but there are subcultures to both and those are ones that she and I do not share.

So when the Avengers movie came out, as I comics fan I was stoked. What I was not aware of was that the fanfiction community also embraced it. Due to this my sister is now a huge Avengers fan, She loves the movie just as much as I do, but for different reasons. She will never know who D-man and Rage are, and I will never get Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers as a married couple.

Now a gatekeeper is going to say that she is wrong. She needs to appreciate the Avengers for its appeal to the comic fans and that legacy and enjoying stories about Tony and Steve adopting Peter Parker is wrong and should be shunned.

So this is where we have the origin of the issue. Maybe that Cos-player dressing as the Black Widow was inspired by the movie. Her interest is in putting together the costume and after all that hard work she wants to show it off. The best place to do that is at a convention. Does this mean she knows the entire backstory of the character? Who knows? The point is that this is how she has chosen to enjoy the culture. This is fine, and she should be allowed to do so. However the gatekeepers go into hyperventilation. This is the root of the fake nerd girl. The claim that she is a trespasser in our community that needs to be put in her place.

Another part of Harris’ rant was that ok, you have chosen to be here dressed like that, accept that you are going to be treated as an object, not a person.

No, just no. this is not even a little ok. In fact go back and read my article on misogyny in geek culture. Or any article on this subject.

So basically what we have an issue where people are feeling threaten because other people are doing things differently.

And if you scratch beneath the surface you will find it is not just the fake nerd girl meme at play here. I have heard from a friend that right after Harris posted. He had friends of his say that they hate it when people are at an anime convention and their cos-play is not anime specific, and how they want those people banned. I have also heard of a steampunk convention where a member of the convention committee went through the dealer’s hall and kicked out any dealers who they felt did not have merchandise that was “steampunk” enough.

And the worst part is that for every idiot who spews this nonsense, they will have people backing them up. If you read the comments from Harris’ post a lot of people thanked him.

That right there is why I am writing this and why others need to keep at it. We have to point out that this behavior is not right and cannot be condoned. And right now we really need to keep at it as this meme has got legs. This next image is from an ad you can find in DC comic books.

Yes, this got approved by an editor somewhere.

I’m sure I will be writing more about this in the future. In the meantime please keep this issue in mind and let’s do what we can to combat it.


14 thoughts on “The Fake Nerd Girl Myth.

  1. Yeah… quite frankly I think it's POSSIBLE that there are one or two 'fake nerds', but if this hypothetical is true

    1. They come in both genders. Guys looking for the big boob girls, and girls looking for guys. I'm really tempted to say you'd actually find more guys than girls, but it's possible that it's the other way around. Possible.

    2. They are NOT the norm. That's pretty much obvious to anyone who has ever been to a con.

    3. Why should we CARE? We can have fun at cons ANYWAY, whether or not some of the people there are 'fakes'.

    4. Even if they did detract VERY SLIGHTLY from our con experience – what's the solution? Give a comic-quiz to EVERY SINGLE PERSON AT THE CON, including crashers? How would you come up with such a quiz which was specific enough to root out the 'fakes', but broad enough to allow for people's different tastes in comics?

    Also, not sure if you were aware – that magazine cover is from CollegeHumor, who were almost certainly making a similar point to yours. Check out their video on female armor if you haven't.

  2. Thank you very much for this. As a female, I do get some of the odd stares from guys when I go into comic book stores, but overall, I get ignored. That's fine with me because I love comics and manga, fanfiction, the lot. And not because I want anyone's attention. Sadly, there are females who pretend to like comics to get attention because we are raised to feel like we have to make ourselves into what guys think we should be. But that is happening with sports and anything else that can be considered male dominant. Those females are the minority though. Any female who is willing to put time, effort, money, into a cosplay aren't going to be doing it to be a veritable walking blow-up doll. It's because she is dedicated to her interest. Females seem to identify on a deeper level with the personalities, especially with female characters. We are finally getting more chicks who can kick ass, not just Wonder Woman, who is still great. And a lot of these characters have been around for a long time, but are now getting more attention or more developed into full fledged characters. I really appreciate your post. I love that you didn't put anyone down, stated how you felt with respect, and were to point. I am grateful there are people who don't want to cast me out for being female and writing me off because I can't possibly be a real fan. It is awesome that you understand there are many levels of fandom. Thank you again.

  3. Nice article. I'd say that I used to be this type of jerk who thinks that geek ppl should be """really""" geek. Thankfully I've got ridden of this shit. Like the person above said, "why should we care?" and "there are also guys like that". And certainly in my country's conventions, specially anime ones, there are a lot of guys who appear to be there only for the boobs/asses etc. – Which bothers me for the blatant sexism rather than the "measurement of their geekness". Its also interesting to notice that this kind of thing is somewhat similar to classism. Rich people usually hates when something "classy" goes "popular" (like what happened to instagram) – its very classist and disgusting (and egocentric) because this idea supports that only a bunch of privileged people CAN and SHOULD HAVE/ARE ENTITLED to have access to that specific product/culture. I think its the same with geek culture: a bunch of egocentric classist people (mostly men) think they are entitled to decide who can also have access to that culture based on their own criteria, and when they cant control it (once its impossible) they work to delegitimate it.

  4. I cannot count the number of times I have been ignored, patronized , disregarded and/or rudely brushed off at cons or in game/comic book stores because I am female. And worse, when I get upset about it, I'm consistently told to ignore it and to accept that that sort of thing is going to happen by both my male and female nerd friends. I've also noticed that female nerds who have 'passed' the nerd test and are accepted by their male peers tend do the same thing to other 'unproven' women.

    Recently, I visited a new game shop that had opened near me looking to possibly purchase some board games and inquire about event space as I help run a role-playing/board game club at my university. Despite an introduction explaining this, I was given noncommittal answers and was recommended easy to play card games like Fluxx even though I was looking for things like Battletech resources. The entire conversation the man was sitting behind the counter, clicking away playing Diablo III and not making eye contact with me and so, giving him the benefit of the doubt I attributed it to poor social skills like women are trained to do. Silly me.

    So I went and retrieved my boyfriend who is also an officer in our uni's game club and had him talk to the clerk (who I later found out was the owner of the small store chain in my area). Well the boyfriend gave the fellow basically the same spiel I had and immediately the clerk turned off his monitor, came around the counter and became incredibly conversant and helpful. Needless to say, I was infuriated and I wish more members of the subculture (and not just this one) wouldn't be so quick to jump to elitist conclusions based off of something so petty as gender.

  5. As much as I loathe to admit it, I have known a few girls like this. To me, you are not a gamer if you play nothing but Farmville, WoW, or Super Mario Bros.

    • Or. How about there is not correct way to be a nerd ever? If a person only plays Mario Bros to the exclusion of all others, then I would argue they are in fact Mario Bros Nerds. Deal with it. You can also be incredibly nerdy about something without also having to know every single detail about it as well. Christ. I love the new Marvel Avengers movie series with the individual movies and the group movies, I am aware there's a whole lot of comic canon out there but I am currently very freaking busy and thus choose not to devote my time to 'catching up' enough to not offend you or people like you who insist on quantifying nerdness. However that doesn't mean I probably don't know an awful lot more than your average bear about the plots, characters, bios, backgrounds and production information.

      • You seem to be confusing my use of the word "gamer" with "nerd". Someone can be a nerd about dirt for all I care. However, "gamer", at least to me, implies that a person plays multiple video or table games. They don't have to be great, know every bit of lore, or devote as much of their time to them as other people I know. I just think that applying that label when you only play -one- game is a tad misleading, and to me it comes off as desperation to categorize oneself, or to fit in. It's something I saw a lot in college.

        And I identify with your Avengers example. It's like how I've only watched the new series of Dr. Who. (Granted, I don't really claim to be a Whovian. I just like Dr. Who.)

  6. I think another issue that comes up with women in nerdom is their credibility based on how hot they are. This isn't an attempt to belabor how persecuted beautiful people are. I think it's just another product of societal expectations for females in general. But generally speaking people find it easier to believe a girl is nerdy if she's not conventionally attractive. If she's hot and she decided she wanted to go to Comic Con as Black Cat (a fairly conservative costume compared to some other comic book heroines to be honest) then she's only there for attention and is asking to be objectified.

    This is an actual thing that happened and the woman in question wrote a fantastic response to some very rude behavior direct at her:

    Obviously the truth is that anyone can be a poser in any cultural subset. It's not really gender specific. There are girls who just go for the attention. There's guys who fake their way through it too. The larger problem at play is the fact that women can be excluded from any number of male dominated fandoms from sports to comic books simply based on them owning a vagina.

  7. As a female geek, I can't even count the amount of times I've been to an EB to buy something for myself, and I am asked "Is that for your boyfriend?" or "Is that for your dad?" I have been gaming since I was extremely young and know more about video games than most people I've ever met in my life, but I wouldn't lord that over anyone. I'm just excited to meet other people with similar interests. But it doesn't go both ways, I've realized.

    Another one is when you walk into a comic book store or game store and the guy behind the counter comes out and keeps following you around to ask if you need help, over and over. Is it so impossible to believe that I know my stuff?

    And part of this comes from the fact that I choose to take good care of myself. That might sound bizarre, but when I worked at a comic book company, the other girls dressed like "typical geeks" and wore no makeup, geeky shirts and jeans, and they were accepted. I on the other hand prefer to wear makeup, paint my nails, dress fashionably, etc. and I was looked at as a poser, or being quizzed all the time to test if I really knew my stuff. I have no problem with anyone dressing however makes them comfortable, but again, this doesn't go both ways either. I accept them, but they won't accept me.

    This kind of thing really needs to continue to be addressed. It's almost 2013, yet the misogyny in this subculture is as if we're still in the 1950s.

    Thanks so much for writing this, it means a lot to me to hear a guy writing about this. Whenever women write about this we're just laughed at and ignored.

    • This is a little late, but I´m uncomfortable with your comment. You see, I´m with you that accepting should be going both ways. But, while you, as you say, accept the geek dressing and not making up of the other females, you yourself made something different; you described this as "taking good care of yourself". This defines the approach of the others as "not taking good care of themselves". How much effort is to made to take good care of her- or hisself (and how much of this effort has to be seen from any other person) is totally up to individual definition. Maybe in this little difference of definition of acceptance lies the root of the suspicion of the others; because you actually don´t accept the other approach, you merely tolerate it, and this is something one can be very sensitive about: to get the impression you´re in some way inferior but tolerated and not accepted as different but equal.

      I´m convinced that you don´t want to give this impression, but, if you ever read this, think about it for a moment. Since English is not my first language, my comment may sound more harsh (and less understandable) than I wanted it to be, for that I want to apologize.

  8. There is no such thing as a girl nerd (unless she is hideously ugly and obese.) Even a very plain girl can have sex any time she wants. And that precludes being a nerd.

  9. Pingback: Because Boobs | NerdGlaze

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