Just me talking about costume-y kind of stuff
The impetus for this post happened way back in 2013 a full year before I entered the 21st century and started this blog. Rob and I went to Aggiecon to see George RR Martin. It was our first comic con together and we were super excited to be there. We did our first cosplay, a hurried attempt at Steampunk, and we went to several panels, the most interesting of which was "Fake Geek Girl" presented by Dr. Nerdlove aka Harris O'Malley. He's a blogger from Austin who does a podcast where he gives dating advice to nerds. His panel was about the recent and troubling "fake geek girl" phenomenon that had been plaguing comic cons. He wanted to weigh in on it and hopefully help to stop it. As part of that discussion I stated that my first Aggiecon was way back in 1993 when it was still tiny and held on campus, and that I hadn't felt any animosity to my gender way back then and I certainly hadn't felt any today. Oh how naive I was back then.
*****Not to go out on too long of a bunny trail, but why is it that only girls are decried as FAKE? The fact that we're even having to have this discussion about how to stop the harassment of girls at cons should have been enough to clue me into the fact that my gender has always been discriminated against and is still being discriminated against even if I was previously unaware of it, but that's another post for another time. I will say one last thing about this topic of gender discrimination. Since 2013, the number of cons I have been to where there is significant and prominent signage warning attendees that "Cosplay is not consent" is very telling. All of the big cons-- Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio have this signage. *****
Anyway, after what was a great two hour long discussion among like-minded people, he handed out these hilarious bumper stickers that were designed to be a joke. I took one and immediately stuck it on my office door and it's been there ever since.
Because the discussion had riled up my social justice warrior instincts, Rob and I talked about it all the way home. I had a lot of ideas about how a woman (or anyone) could go about proving that they weren't a fake geek. I got so into the whole idea, that once I got home I wrote a whole essay about it and then like some ridiculous fangirl, I emailed it to Dr. Nerdlove! Yes, I did! Of course I didn't hear anything back from him at all, I didn't expect to, and once I'd sent it off I forgot about it until we started going to more cons and I started to become more interested in cosplay and my family wanted me to make them costumes from comic books that I hadn't read and I had to start reading comic books to push back on the nerd rage I was experiencing from my step son.
Seth has been reading comic books his whole life, like his dad. Unlike his dad, he didn't have the social skills to talk about superheroes with me without it coming off as super insulting and treating me like an idiot. Granted, he was nine years old when they moved in with me and my nine year old son didn't read comic books so all I had as reference were the movies and tv shows that I'd seen growing up. I soon learned that Superfriends was NOT at all the same thing as Justice League of America. I had SO much to learn and Seth's intellect and appetite for reading was voracious. This became the impetus for me to explore Supersuits and get Seth to help me so we could finally be on the same team instead of on opposite sides of every argument that came up. The first argument we ever had was whether or not Buffy was a superhero. That one turned bitter really quickly and I can now freely admit that I was on the wrong side of it, but it took years and 18 tons of research for the Supersuit blog in order for me to see the error of my ways. So yes, I did all this just to form a better relationship with Seth.
Flash forward to 2018 Dallas Fan Expo. Dr. Nerdlove is a vendor and we just happen to spot him as we are cruising up and down the convention floor. I stop to say hi and tell him how we saw him back at Aggiecon and I still have my Fake Geek Girl sticker. He then tells me that it's probably one of the last ones in existence and proceeds to tell me the story of what happened at the very next con he attended after Aggiecon. He had been handing the stickers out like he did before, but this time some jerk took them seriously and went around slapping them on the butts and backs of women at the con. Of course Dr. Nerdlove was furious that his art had been used to harass the very people he had made them for. He struggled with his feelings, but felt he had to quit making them so that it wouldn't happen again. The incident made the news and you can read about it here.
So why am I bringing all of this up today? I was looking for a power point I'd made back in September and I couldn't remember where I saved it. As I was searching through folders I hadn't opened in years, I happened to come across the essay that I wrote five years ago. Naturally I opened it up and read it because although I remembered the fury I'd written it in, I couldn't remember what I'd written at all. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it still feels timely and accurate so I thought I'd go ahead and publish it. You can decide for yourselves if you think I'm onto something. I still wish I had a math friend who would do a lovely Venn diagram or flow chart to accompany my essay. I just love visual aids.
PS: I've included the link to Dr. Nerdlove's website in case any of you need help in that area. He's published several books as well and he now makes T-shirts with the Fake Geek Girl artwork on them. You should totally support his work, he's awesome and smart.
Geek Matriculation: Thoughts on the Aggiecon Panel, "Fake Geek Girl"
Professor Kathleen Laundy 3/25/2013
Abstract: This paper explores the phenomenon of the Fake Geek Girl and presents a theory on how one becomes a Geek and how to measure said Geekiness in order to put to rest the “fake” epithet currently in use.
At Aggiecon this weekend I went to a panel called "Fake Geek Girl: A discussion about the fear and loathing directed towards geek girls decried as fake". Having been self-identified as a band geek since 1982 I was curious about this phenomenon where people were apparently hating on girls who did not display (to their critics' satisfaction) enough "geek cred". The 2 hour exchange of ideas really opened my eyes to an area in which I was previously unaware that bigotry and misogyny existed: at the Conventions whose sole purpose is to celebrate all things geeky. It made me really think about what it is to be a geek and how an individual became one. Here are my thoughts. There are two aspects of geekdom: how one becomes a geek and ways to identify just how geeky you are. The first aspect I call Geek Matriculation, the second measures your Level of Obsession with all things Geeky.
From the time we are born we are constantly processing information, growing, changing, and incorporating the world around us into our own personalities. The process of Geek Matriculation begins in Elementary School and continues throughout our adolescence culminating in College/University when we finally graduate from Life with our degree in Geekiness that accompanies us into the “real world” and is perhaps the only fundamentally unchangeable thing about the rest of our lives. There are two aspects to Geek Matriculation and they can be found at every level of our educational system. These are Inclusive and Exclusive traits. Let me define my terms. An inclusive trait is one that includes you in a certain group, like a skill or ability that you inherently have. An exclusive trait is something that you may or may not have control over, but that others use as a justification to exclude you from their social circles. Much like the DSM, Geekiness can be measured on a scale. If you check more boxes than not, you are probably a fully-matriculated Geek.
Here are a few examples of how Geek Matriculation looks:
Level of Obsession:
So now that we’ve discovered how one becomes a Geek, let’s take a look at just how Geeky you have become throughout your Geek Matriculation. I call this aspect Level of Obsession. If I were a Math major I would draw you either a lovely Venn diagram or at the very least a graph that would illustrate my point. In my head I imagine a simple graph showing on the left an arrow rising vertically measuring Time Spent on Obsession and another arrow travelling right horizontally measuring Percentage of Take Home Pay Spent on Obsession. The graph would include the following nine categories (much like the nine rings). I would state emphatically that it is not necessary to possess a High Level of Obsession in all nine categories to be considered a “true geek”. One may either have a moderate level of obsession in several categories or a high level of obsession in only one category or any combination thereof.
Again, if I were a Math person, I’d place various specific examples on the graph showing Low Obsession like buying one cheap Star Wars toy, taking it out of the box immediately, and playing with it… compared to an example showing High Obsession like buying 3 of the same expensive Star Wars toys so that you have one to take out and play with immediately, one for “display purposes only”, and one to NEVER open that gets put away in a dark closet so that it may remain unspoiled and therefore its value will remain undiminished for future generations.
Using my method to rate another’s Level of Obsession in these nine areas, you will find that it becomes very difficult to berate another’s “Geek Street Cred”. For example, my personal Comic book, Anime and Gaming score is so low it is non-existent, but my scores in the other 6 areas are in the moderate to freakishly high range. If the suspected “fake Geek” spent the time and money in order to attend a convention, in a costume, and is currently standing in line to meet an author, that person IS NOT A FAKE GEEK. “Not cool, dude.”
It was suggested to me by Jason Sanchez that I should do this as a panel at Epically Geeky Expo (EGX), formerly known as Geekfest, this coming May. Toward that end I am in the process of doing some more research into this topic as it is very wide ranging and complex. I want to both expose the negative as well as tout the positive. For example, I plan to explore the #gamergate controversy of 2014 and how the common portrayal of women as sex objects or damsels in distress contributes to the latent misogyny, racism, and homophobia in the online gaming community. I also want to put together a substantive list of the many important women in geekdom who have successfully navigated the misogyny to both break into a male dominated industry and then continue to produce quality work. My hope is to educate and inspire our diverse Geek community to become more inclusive, diverse, and accepting, and less divisive. Feel free to comment with any examples, suggestions, sources, or advice as I continue to research, compile, and edit.