This week, Noah Berlatsky wrote an article for The Atlantic addressing an issue which has been gaining intensity over the past months. The issue is that of ‘fake geek girls.’ It’s a controversial topic in ‘geek’ circles, the predominantly male subculture of those who can name every incarnation of Doctor Who and knew about Game of Thrones way before you did.
Joe Peacock defines ‘fake geek girls’ as “pretty girls pretending to be geeks for attention.” Berlatsky explains: “The idea is that hot women go to cons, dress up in sexy cosplay outfits, and pretend to care about Star Wars or Spider-Man in order to…do what isn’t exactly clear. The logic rather breaks down at this point. Something about attention whores, something about taking advantage of geeks, something about male paranoia and a big fat dollop of misogyny seems to be the basic reasoning.” What the debate has done is call into question the kind of vitriol directed at women in a subculture from which you wouldn’t typically expect misogynistic behaviour, and taps into discussions which raged last year in response to Julia Gillard’s speech (Read Eva Cox’s interesting analysis of that situation here).
Rachel Edidin argues that because geek culture exists on the fringes, there is an even stronger drive to define a ‘centre’, and the typology of the ‘real’ geek. Because of this, “masculinity is policed incredibly aggressively in geek communities, as much as in any locker room.” But at the same time women are increasingly noticeable in the community, “which means that geek identity is no longer unimpeachably male.” Writing for Forbes, Daniel Nye Griffiths writes, “In the face of this insecurity, “fake geek girls” are the equivalent of Communist sleeper agents in the uncertain 50s – the number of women who have no interest in geek culture but want geek attention at a personal level is vanishingly small, but their phantom is used to justify prejudice more generally, with the aim of keeping an unknown quantity out of the clubhouse.”
The debate about ‘fake geek girls’ in some ways stands as study in what happens in any culture committed to hierarchy and power (in whatever form), and this is perhaps why it has captured the attention of so many people the world over.