Hey guys! So I’ve got a first for you, a guest post. That’s right another blogger has felt some sort of kinship with me that inclined them to reach out to share our wisdom. That or I finally have enough followers that people think they can piggy back on my success. I KID! What success? Last I checked I’m still poor.
This post was written by Max Kenower who keeps his own, and very insightful blog, Sexuality and Internet Culture where he explores the more sexy and sometimes strange aspects of the internet. I highly recommend you check it out! You can also follow him on twitter.
For those interested I currently have a Letter To The Adult Entertainment Industry posted over on Max’s blog as well. Enjoy.
The “Fake Geek Girl”
A few days ago, a friend of mine came to me with an all too common complaint. She was trying to get into a predominantly male fandom, and was being met with accusations of being a “Fake Geek Girl”. You’ve probably heard this term before, possibly directed at you. For the unfamiliar, a Fake Geek Girl is a girl who takes interest in nerdy things like video games and comic books for the attention, but doesn’t actually know anything about said interest. The problem is that this accusation seems to have no grounding in reality, and has drawn the ire of many female gamers.
This raises an important question: if the Fake Geek Girl doesn’t exist, why is the accusation so common? As it turns out, I know a lot of normally useless facts about gaming and gaming history, so I can answer that question.
The fake geek girl stems largely from the early days of online gaming. And by early I mean the eighties. Online gaming first popped up with MUDs, text based games introduced in the early 80s that were meant to emulate Dungeons and Dragons, another hobby populated by male enthusiasts. Think of them as pre-cursors to World of Warcraft. Because playing a MUD was intensely nerdy and not very accessible, it attracted an almost exclusively male audience. A similar climate existed on Usenet, the precursor to the modern internet.
This created an unusual situation: on a network where everyone is a male geek who spends more time with computers than women, anyone claiming to be a woman will draw undue attention. People will be unusually kind to her, they will cater to her whims, and they will put her on a pedestal because she is the only woman any of them will probably ever interact with who shares their weird, obscure hobby.
Some people, however, remained cynical in the face of women. Some declared that anyone claiming to be a woman was clearly just a man trying to get special treatment. This view quickly took off as more and more people grew tired of the undo attention many female users received.
While others continued to defend the women, those users were now in the minority, and the rest of the internet invented a term for defenders of internet women: White Knights. The idea is that any man who is nice to a woman on the internet is just doing so because he is a sad virgin desperately trying to get laid and that the correct approach to women on the internet is skepticism and indifference.
Over time, the white knights became fewer and the skeptics became many. Eventually, skepticism turned to distaste, then distaste turned to disgust, and disgust turned to hate. Of course, the internet later opened up to the point that only true misogynist jerks (read: 4chan) continued to automatically hate women. But the principle had been established, and it carried over to online gaming well after the fad went mainstream.
This wasn’t helped by the way in which women eventually came into games en masse. In the mid-2000s, Nintendo started using the DS and the Wii to market to a larger audience, successfully bringing females into gaming. The issue was that Nintendo did this by pushing “casual” games such as Nintendogs and Wii Sports. Where causal ends and hardcore begins is highly subjective, but the general idea behind casual games is that they require less time, energy and devotion than more traditional “hardcore” games. Basically they’re gaming gateway drugs.
So when women finally entered the gaming world in droves, they were met by skepticism, hate, and claims that they were only faking interest in games for attention. Because they were just “casual gamers” who hadn’t put in the time and energy required to be a “real” gamer.
To top it all off, a lot of girls cosplay at conventions, which often means dressing up as characters that are scantily clad. And because of the archaic social construct of beauty and intelligence existing on opposite ends of a rigid spectrum, many men assumed that if you were dressed in a skimpy outfit, you automatically didn’t know what you were talking about. This certainly wasn’t helped by the existence of booth babes, the models hired to promote video games at conventions by standing next to booths and looking attractive. For all we know, many booth babes might be gamers, but in the eyes of those attending the cons, they being paid to be there and probably didn’t give a damn about gaming. All this served to do was cement the idea that women at conventions are only there for attention, exacerbating the fake geek girl idea.
The fake geek girl trend is interesting if only because it shows the backwards way many people react to misogyny. When the men of the early internet saw that women playing MUDs were being put on pedestals (which is a subtle kind of misogyny because it dehumanizes the woman by turning them into an object to be admired instead of a person), their first instinct wasn’t “those guys need to back off”, it was “those women must be men looking for attention”. While men pretending to be women almost certainly existed, the skepticism and hate that was supposed to solve this problem only bred more misogyny. It’s a perfect example of how, far too often, when men harass women, women are blamed for being harassed. Textbook rape culture.