A little while ago there was the big hubbub around the horrible misogynistic reaction to Anita Sarkeesian’s Women vs. Tropes in Video Games. While that was still winding down, Destructoid blogger Ryan Perez decided to tweet Felicia Day (creator & star of online series The Guild, star of Joss Whedon’s Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and creator/producer of the excellent Geek & Sundry YouTube channel) and ask does she actually contribute anything to geek culture?, and referred to her as a glorified booth babe. (Destructoid fired him for his remarks.) Then there was a minor fuss when a few idiots decided Felicia wasn’t a real geek because she made a country music video. This week’s big hot mess is supposed “fake geek girls”, as described by Joe Peacock in an article on CNN, “Booth Babes Need Not Apply”.
Despite the title, the article isn’t really about the professional “booth babes” hired by companies to attend cons and promote their products (although he seems confused on that point, and his argument wanders in that direction a few times). This is how he starts it off:
There is a growing chorus of frustration in the geek community with – and there’s no other way to put this – pretty girls pretending to be geeks for attention.
And later moves from that assertion into comments verging on the outright offensive:
I call these girls “6 of 9”. They have a superpower: In the real world, they’re beauty-obsessed, frustrated wannabe models who can’t get work.
They decide to put on a “hot” costume, parade around a group of boys notorious for being outcasts that don’t get attention from girls, and feel like a celebrity. They’re a “6” in the “real world”, but when they put on a Batman shirt and head to the local fandom convention du jour, they instantly become a “9”.
They’re poachers. They’re a pox on our culture. As a guy, I find it repugnant that, due to my interests in comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and role playing games, video games and toys, I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It’s insulting.
Of course he makes sure to state that he doesn’t think of all female geeks like this, and – referring to the Ryan Perez incident – takes pains to single out Felicia Day as a valuable asset to the geek community, but it doesn’t really do much to make up for the attitude he expressed in this piece. There’s much to be said against the professional booth babes – though this should be directed at the companies that hire them, not the models doing the job – but he makes it clear (for the most part) that he’s not talking about the ones who are paid to be there: these “fake” geeks are just in it for the attention of people like him.
John Scalzi took Peacock to task in his blog post Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants To Be, focusing on the presumption made that these cosplayers are not real geeks. Take a look too at Peacock’s own replies in the comments thread, where he tries to explain himself. John’s main point is simple: What does it matter what their reason is for participating in geek culture? That they’ve chosen to do it means they do want to be some part, like it or not.
To be honest I think this is less a problem of Peacock’s intent in writing the piece, and more his failures in expressing the idea – both in the confusion between professional booth babe and amateur cosplayer, and his poorly chosen tone in that first half of his article (and the penultimate paragraph, where he tells these women they shouldn’t be surprised they get harassed via XBox Live). It really doesn’t make him look good.
There’s also a post worth seeing by Nick Mamatas, where he talks about the association of bullying to geekdom, and tries to get at the heart of why self-identified “geeks” so often seem to form these exclusionist and discriminatory attitudes towards other people who they judge as not belonging to their culture.
Wonder what it’ll be next month? Have no doubt, there will be more…