My take on “fake geek girls”

Okay, so there’s quite a bit of well-deserved backlash over this piece on “fake geek girls”, including a couple of thoughtful responses. This whole story makes me cringe, in part because I myself used to be one of those people who got annoyed by “fake geek girls”, and I know all too well where the original article-writer is coming from.

Like many of us who hang out on the internet a lot and have been for a while, I wasn’t in any way popular or well-liked growing up. Social awkwardness stemming from a textbook introvert’s sensory issues that leads one to prefer the company of books and computers to humans, plus being brown in a predominantly white community, plus a general lack of awareness and interest in many of the things that little girls are usually supposed to like. [1] Not fitting any kind of beauty standard early on and knowing it, I started identifying with the “tomboy” narratives that were popular in the post-Title IX eighties and nineties, where we had all those underdog stories about the girl who gets on the boys’ [insert sport here] team and kicks all kinds of butt. You know the ones.

Of course, despite my best efforts, I was (and still am) clumsy and not in the least bit athletic, but I still liked the idea of being admired and respected for being good at something, rather than for being pretty. Hence, I immersed myself in geekdom. I was good at math and computers, and had access to the internet at an earlyish-enough age that I learned to socialise online in my teens, befriending people from all over the world who shared my interests. Meanwhile, in the real world, I discovered I was talented at music; my best year of school was grade seven, the year I joined band — a most geeky extracurricular activity if there ever was one — and learned to play the tuba well enough to impress both my teacher and the kids in my class. And then, at age sixteen, I finished my first videogame, and all those friends I’d met over the internet loved it, as did a handful of the ones I knew in real life.

So, given that I could only really find my way in the world once I figured out how to get people to like me based on my talents because I was hopeless at being beautiful, it only felt natural to me to resent young women who DID fit the beauty ideal better than me, by dint of being whiter, thinner, taller, and/or more femme-presenting, who showed up in geeky spaces I frequented and turned heads. I couldn’t help but think all those talents for which I worked so hard suddenly meant nothing, because all they were talking about was her and how hot she was. Even now, I’m ashamed to admit I feel a slight tinge of resentful envy towards women in the videogame industry who get a lot of attention based on their looks… unwanted or otherwise.

Despite all that, it’s not those women who ought to be blamed. In fact, they didn’t even make the rules. This same beauty standard doesn’t even exist for boys or men; male geeks in pop culture are allowed to be socially awkward and liked for it regardless, but women are really only allowed to be hot, and that’s fundamentally unfair. I don’t want so-called “fake geek girls” to go away; I want sexism to go away. That’s an important distinction to make.

If I were the Queen of all Geekdom, there’d be plenty of room for thin, white feminine women clad in skirts and makeup as well as androgynous tomboy-who-never-grew-out-of-it sorts like me… and anyone and everyone in between or neither of the above or whatever. And everyone would be treated equally. As for the perceived impression that geekdom is somehow ruined by having too many people in it, of varying degrees of expertise, I say… what’s wrong with that, exactly? Why can’t the mainstreaming of geeky interests be a good thing? I’d love to be able to meet more people interested in the same things as I am, after growing up feeling marginalised; wouldn’t you?

  1. My favourite colour when I was little was yellow; says it all, really.
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