The Forbes article “Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away” by Tara Tiger Brown has been making the rounds on my Facebook and Twitter page today. While its certainly not the most angry or derrogative article I’ve ever seen on the subject, many people, myself included, took issue with it. My initial response was to roll my eyes at its “only geeks like me are real” attitude, followed by annoyance at having to be annoyed by an article which mentions fondly Sierra Online. My friend Kat Hill (The Action Flick Chick) asked a more succinct question: “Why girls?”
Before we go any further, much as I hate helping that Forbes article get five more views, for the rest of this post, I’m going to assume that you’ve read it.
No one likes falseness. Its this inherent human characteristic that explains why everyone hates geek girls. None of them are actually interested in their supposed hobbies, and they are absolutely EVERYWHERE trying to get the attention of your man. Its so bad that I can’t believe there’s not yet a song about it written to the tune of Bed Intruder.(Wow, now that I’ve said that, I hope there isn’t a song like that already because if I’ve missed a meme I can no longer be confident that I am in fact the world’s only true internet nerd girl.)
Enough with the Modest Proposal. I haven’t actually met any truly fake geek/gamer/nerd girls. You would think that I would have, having worked in the gaming industry, the picture-takin’ industry, and some jobs that were a mix of both. What I have met are a lot of are a lot of girls and guys who have a genuine interest in something to one degree or another and want to ensure that they either:
A) are perceived as knowing more than they actually do, or being more skilled than they actually are.
B) get patted on the back for how much they know/how good they are.
Hey, no one wants to be wrong or look stupid. Everyone wants recognition to a certain extent.
When Kat pressed Tara Tiger Brown for an explanation on Twitter, part of the response was “Tara Tiger Brown @tara: @ActionChick I haven’t seen any examples of guys doing it. A few have told me they’ve seen it but no examples sent to me.” (for a fuller version of the conversation, see Kat’s reply blog.)
And so – before I go any further, as a public service – I present…
Ten Glorious Examples of Geek/Gamer/Nerd Guy Poserism:
1. The first example is the one that I am most judge-y about, despite my philosophy of nerd and let nerd. When I was in college, I worked at a Hollister, in the back room. One of the managers found out that I played World of Warcraft – and that I was more hardcore than him. He wasted a lot of time asking me questions and shooting the shit about WoW when we should have been folding low rise jeans.
One of my co-workers realized this, and wanted to get in on the conversation. One day he declared that he too wasted his life playing WoW. I asked him what he played. He said he rolled an ogre. I said “Cool, I’ve always wanted to try playing as an ogre, what’s it like?” He didn’t miss a beat. He said “Oh man, ogres are the best. They’re so badass.” I knew right then that MMOing had gone mainstream.. and I was so bemused by it that I didn’t call the kid out.
2. The second example: (this one makes me realize how gaming-centric my list is going to be, because games are what I’m most into) the guys who sit and play games that they don’t even like, just because they’ve read that those games have a lot of easy achievements and they want to increase their gamer scores. Don’t believe people actually do this? Here’s a randomly selected quote from Gamesandi on Yahoo Answers about doing just that:
Avatar is the most obvious game. You can get 1k gamerscore in about 5 minutes, there are tons of videos on youtube to show you how. It might be a boring as hell game but i’m sure you can endure it for 5 minutes.
I’m sure this is not a male-specific activity, but both of the people who I actually know of who actually do this are dudes, so that qualifies this for the list.
3. While I’m on the subject, let’s add to the list all of those guys who wanted me to prove my gamer-ness and were like “Oh yeah, you play games? What’s your gamerscore?” ..So by trying to prove you’re a hardcore gamer, you’ve proved you’re a console gamer. Lol! …Oops! Was I just PC elitist to an unbecoming degree? Please consider this asshattery and scratch it from the record.
3. Much in the same vein – win trading. This is done in many games, and the point is basically to earn rewards that make it look like you’re a badass without actually being a badass. Isn’t that the same reason girls take these photos of themselves doing geeky things that everyone complains about? The point is to make yourself LOOK legit. Artificially enhancing your K/D ratio? Same shit. People who aren’t legit want to look legit. Hell, even people who are legit want to look legit.
4. This guy who was stopped at the airport for wearing an “offensive” Transformers shirt. In interview afterwards, he got the name of the particular Transformer wrong: “…since Megatron is holding a gun, I’m not allowed to fly.” The image on the shirt was Optimus Prime. What’s more fun than being outraged at discrimination against geeks? Laughing at this guy because he’s not a real geek!
5. Dudes who wear tshirts of games they haven’t played and comics they don’t read. This one I’m not personally too judgmental of, because hey, sometimes you get a free shirt, and its FREE. I know a lot of guys who wear the shirt of a game they haven’t played. But I’ve seen girls get called out for this. Ever walk up to a dude in a video game shirt and say in Simpsons Comic Book Guy Voice, “Have you ever even PLAYED Super Ninja Zombie Vixens III?”(If you didn’t imagine the voice there, go back and do it again.)
And comic book shirts have been popular since like 2001. Ever go up to a guy in a Superman shirt and quiz him on issue #23?
6. For example #6, we go to a lovely response article from The Mary Sue. Susana Polo writes:
“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.”
Not only did Ms. Polo provide me with a convenient example for the list I was already going to write, she also presented a solid argument for thinking the best of other people and being inclusive because its both courteous and productive. I don’t mind helping her get five more views, so CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK.
7. Without further ado I add to the list.. all of the guys who found out I liked old literature and poetry and tried to impress me with bad poetry or misquotations. I don’t blame you for trying, dudes, you do what you can.. but I highly recommend bouncing your first clunky attempts at poetry off of a fifteen year old girl who hasn’t willingly read Venus and Adonis, memorized Poe, and stolen Dickens from the library .
8. MMO players you will know this voice all too well.. non-MMO players, you will call me a poser for talking so much about MMOs.. Number Eight: The little voice who says “My main is a level threehundredandsixtyfive, with a full SuperGodArmorSet so I know what I’m talking about!”
I consider this in the same bucket as the guys we encountered way back in the day who claimed they had killed bosses they hadn’t. It’s most apparent in MMOs maybe, but the idea of wanting to appear better than you are is prevalent in every competitive game and, really, every aspect of life.
Some of the most compelling evidence of the prevalence of talking shit: WoW, and many other MMOs, have developed features which basically prevent unfounded bragging. What motivates someone to make an untrue claim? The desire to be thought good, the desire to be accepted into a group. When you think about it, Steam and Xbox Achievements and PS Trophies not only provide a carrot on a stick, but also put an end to rep inflating fibs. I find it hard to believe that features such as Achievements and the WoW Armory were developed strictly to keep the 16-38.8% (depending on which study you follow) of players who are female from trying to look hardcore for attention.
9. According to Teresa Justino’s classic 2011 blog, author China Mieville is a poser. I hang on her every word as she writes:
“I’m writing to rant about something that’s been bothering me for a long time. I hate it when hot guys say that they’re into geeky stuff just to get in on what’s popular, or to get attention. Take China Mieville for instance.
Right. You expect me to believe that someone that hot has the foggiest notion of what it’s like to be picked on as a kid? You expect me to believe that someone who looks like this.”
It’s obvious that hot people cannot really have interests outside of being hot. After all, they are too busy being hot and riding the wave of wonderful acceptance and ass-kissing that is their reality.
Actually, I’m sort of up in the air about Mieville, because I don’t think he’s as hot as she does, and the internet hasn’t yet told me whether or not leftist Socialists can be geeks or not, but I have a hard time finding them attractive.
10. George Lucas. Lucas is the crown jewel of my countdown of guy geek posery because he has made unfathomable amounts of money of geek culture, and yet he’s totally ignorant of the fact that Han shot first.
In the interest of avoiding un-due flaming, I do not think that Ms. Tiger Brown was intentionally being exclusive or mean spirited at all when she wrote the blog. I like the idea of encouraging girls to become passionately lost in their pursuits. I just don’t think that the “I’m more real than those OTHER geeks” approach is the best way to do that at all. In one place she describes her husband’s geekery, using an interpretation that some tried-and-true, shoved-in-lockers-and-given-wedgies geeks would frown upon for being too loose:
“My husband Sean Bonner is a coffee geek, an art geek, a meme geek, and a punk-rock geek. He is super passionate and obsessive about the things that he is interested in.”
Obsessing over punk rock counts as a geek interest? ..OK.. here I thought that my regular attendance at rock shows was tarnishing my dork cred. But, as I’ve written before, I’m not in favor of declaring what can and can’t be geek/dork/nerd or trying to control who can use that label. You are what you identify with as far as I’m concerned. If you’re a bad person, I will just ignore you, whatever you call yourself.Towards the end she makes some points which I basically agree with.
But elsewhere in the blog, these lines jump out:
“Pretentious females who have labeled themselves as a “geek girl” figured out that guys will pay a lot of attention to them if they proclaim they are reading comics or playing video games. Celebrities are dressing up as geeks to reach a larger audience.”
Who are these pretentious females? I have met or encountered a few geek/gamer/nerd girls who I would like to say something negative about, but I cannot say that they were proverbial Fake Geek Girls. Mostly, I think they were people who I don’t like whose interests happen to intersect with mine. And how can you say who is “super passionate” about what they are interested in? Does taking pictures of yourself doing something (one of the few specific examples Ms. Tiger Brown calls out) eliminate the possibility that you are passionate and obsessed with something?
There is a danger with calling out girls for being Fake Geek Girls. The danger is being wrong, first of all. Just because someone does something which on the internet appears to be for attention doesn’t mean that they have no interests outside of attention. And seriously.. who doesn’t want some form of attention? No blogger can say with a straight face that they want no one to read their words. The danger is realizing that the “attention whore” has motivations and thoughts not that much different from your own. Or she might actually know more than you.
Beyond that, the constant discussion of rooting out the “posers” makes new comers feel like they can never show that they have something to learn. Who wants to be caught without knowledge and called a fake? This does not encourage noobs to “be real” about their abilities and exposure to certain media; it causes them to go to great lengths to hide. it. If you show acceptance to someone who may turn out to not know much about your particular “thing”, its possible that your encouragement can expose them to nuances they’ve missed. If you attempt to ostracize people who do not look like your version of a “geek”, “gamer”, “nerd”, or whatever your preferred badge of honor is, then you could potentially ENCOURAGE posing for acceptance. You could miss out on a friend, discourage someone from enjoying and spending money on things you support, and cast yourself in an unbecoming light. And of course, the more you encourage the “real geek/gamer/nerd” witch hunt, THE MORE YOU ENCOURAGE THE WITCH HUNT. In other words, if you expect to make other girls “prove it” instead of taking them at facevalue and giving them the benefit of the doubt, I hope you like being asked to “prove it” time and again. How can anyone believe that unicorns exist when those who call themselves unicorns can’t believe that unicorns exist?
PS- Dear George Lucas.. I am only joking. Please don’t sue me.
Credit to Meredith and Kat for exposing me to articles.