Throughout most of my nineteen years of life, I have been a devout fangirl to various fandoms. Starting off from a young age with Harry Potter and quickly progressing to Spider-Man, X-men and Thor. Harry Potter was deemed ‘acceptable’ for me to like, ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord Of The Rings’ was questionable. But when I announced that I simply loved Marvel Comics the first two things that happened were:
1.) ‘But it’s for boys/they’re marketed towards men!’
2.) Instant, incessant and impossible quizzing.
Apparently, for a girl to ‘really’ like comic books, she must memorise every single minute, tiny, eensy-weensy little detail down to what colour the original Black Widow’s boots were (yes, I have genuinely been quizzed on that) or else she is ‘not a real fan’. Now, if you fail this quiz – and more often than not you do – you are deemed a ‘fake geek girl’. One of those terrible attention-whores who only do it for attention. To be loved and adored and desired by the stereotypically shy, inexperienced nerd who will worship the ground you walk on.
This is literally what comic book artist, Tony Harris pointed out in his infamous Facebook post about ‘cosplay-chiks’ – yes, spelled that way. The entire post, in fact, is a mess of random capitalisation, punctuation and dramatic fallacy that makes Tara Gilesbie look like Charles Dickens – that the ‘majority’ of girls that go to geek conventions are ‘preying’ on ‘pathetic nerds’ because of their ‘awful need for attention’. With their ‘sexy’ costumes (um, costumes that YOU designed for the characters) and the fact that they are ‘willing to go almost completely naked in public’ (again, due to the costumes that YOU DESIGNED).
So according to Tony Harris – and a large part of the male audience – believe that the only possible reason that girls could be in any way involved in geek culture is because they want the attention of boys. When we all know that that simply isn’t true. Because not EVERY SINGLE THING WE DO is for the pleasure and approval of men – something that is still, annoyingly enough, considered a radical notion.
One of the points that I have heard many of these testosterone-fuelled nerds whine about is ‘Girls only like it since the movies came out! They only know about the movies! They only like it because the actors are hot!’
First of all, we all started somewhere. The movies for X-men, Avengers and other fandoms have given way to make the fandom more popular and as a result, many sales of comic-books have gone up. Second of all, you’re moaning about girls being attracted to the actors? Ok, because no one made a huge fuss about Scarlett Johansson’s boob bounce in The Avengers movie, riiiiight? No one at all talks about how ‘hot’ and ‘sexy’ Black Widow is before her amazing backstory and fierce badassery? Right? Right? Moving on to what many think is ‘the other end of the scale’, but if we look further, is dangerously close to the same side:
The sexualisation of female geekery.
As I grew up into a faintly-attractive female and further immersed myself in geek culture – moving into video games and expanding my interest in geekery, I was – alongside the sexism and accusations that ladynerds are subjected to – put on some kind of pedestal by random men in the subculture because I was a ‘hot geek’ and instantly compared to dozens of other ladies. An ex-boyfriend of mine raved on and on about how much I look like Felicia Day, going so far as to save photos of me on his phone next to pictures of her and becoming extremely jealous if I ventured onto geek cafes or stores in case any other Felicia fanboy noticed. In a conversation about my fitness and physique, he joked I could cosplay She-Hulk because ‘some guys find that sexy’. Really? As I mentioned before, men who demonise women in nerd culture often fall back on slut-shaming female cosplayers for dressing in outfits that – mostly men – design for their female characters, more often than not causing us to be objectified and subject to the fantasies of our male peers in geekdom.
Again, with the comparisons – I was once persistently asked for a date by a guy in high school who, upon being told that he was now being very creepy, he said that he was Scott Pilgrim and I was Ramona Flowers, he knew that I was being pursued by other suitors, yes, but he’d fight tooth and nail if he could be the one for me. I will emphasise, he said this after I had turned him down various times and his inability to take ‘no’ for an answer while building up this fantasy of glorified hypermasculinity in his head in which he was on some glorified quest to make me his. When I asked him why he seemed to think I was so glorious, his answers?
1.) You’re gorgeous.
2.) You’re a geek, like me.
Those are, apparently, my two defining traits. Nothing about my personality? Had he even taken the time to actually talk to me beforehand and get to know me? Short answer: nope.
Because, according to these men – on both sides – I don’t have a personality, and my personal reasons for being involved in geek culture are irrelevent. Because I am only what they make me. A pretty object to either be scorned or fantasised about. Because the fact that I can intricately discuss the subtext of Star Trek, the social justice messages of X-Men and the psychological patterns of villains such as Loki and Magneto doesn’t matter. The fact that I can quote lines from T.V. shows and films word-for-word and do a pretty good voice representation of the character it is said by. The fact that I can join in all these discussions about the characterisation, the story and the subliminal messages. None of this matters. Because whether I am being shamed and demonised, or glorified and sexualised, it all boils down to one thing, and one thing only. Geekdom is simply no different than every other aspect of our society when it comes to women. The only important thing? Her looks. Is she attractive, what is she wearing and how does she present herself. If you fit their ideals, you are welcomed, if only as a decoration, not really as a person. And not too many of you – don’t take up too much space. Notice how many geek groups will have a token hot female? Yeah – only the hottest are allowed.
Just like with everything else.