Nothing to Prove

So galleons, this post originally started as a Twitter rant after watching this video (and then reading the comments on it):

This video is quietly powerful. It gives everyone a glimpse into the stories of geek girls from all over who face adversity and frustrations from other geeks. It shows everyone the hypocrisy inherent in the geek collective (or, rather, in the very vocal jackass subset who are ruining things for everyone).

And its comments are an appalling look at the arguments from “the other side”.

As I said, I started a lengthy rant on the Twitter about this. An easy 20 Tweets. And it was then that I realized I had a lot more to say on this topic, and that Twitter wasn’t the proper forum for it. So, here we are galleons.

Let’s talk about being a girl in the greater geek community.

***

First and foremost, a lot of people pick up their pitchforks in a nerdrage when a “geek community” is referred to. Because it’s hard to tell exactly how far that community expands. It is just for gamers and sci-fi television watchers? Comic readers? Tabletop gamers? LARP enthusiasts? Anime hounds? Filk artists? Planeswalkers? Internet forum wanderers? Fanfiction1 authors? Do you have to be part of a Star Trek or chess club in school? Must you be a math whiz? Do you need to attend conventions? If so, which ones count? If you’re a gamer, what kinds of games are acceptable to play? Will Candycrush cut it? Angry Birds? What if all you do is play CoD with your frat brothers- are you a geek?

Naturally, it’s hard to draw a definitive line around the geek community. But it’s no more or less difficult to peg down what makes one part of any social grouping. There will always be a myriad of subsets, off-shoots, and overlaps. Take, for example, the gay community. How many letters are we up to with LGBTQA-etc. now? Really, it’s a community for anyone who feels as if their gender, sex, or sexual orientation flies against the heteronorm, but each individual faction within it wants to be recognized as an individual subset. The geek community is for everyone who feels as if their interests and hobbies fly in the face of majority norm behaviors, but each individual subset wants to be recognized as a distinct entity.

And that’s perfectly natural. In fact, it is required of such social groups that you both identify with some members and explicitly non-identify with others. These types of social groups arise, not from direct personal relationships (as happens with friend-and-family groups), but from perceived commonalities (religion, profession, interests, region, etc.) among the various members.

Welcome to group dynamics, galleons.

The type of social grouping behavior we’re discussing right now is the social identity approach to group dynamics. It’s pretty run-of-the-mill psychology. Essentially, a social group arises when members are aware of a common category membership- the group is comprised of all individuals who have internalized that membership, making it part of their self-identity. This may not be the most conscious of actions- you do not have to stand up one day and state, “I am geek, hear me roar.” On a subconscious level, your brain will categorize you and place you in the “geek” grouping, whether you actively admit to it or not, if the brain believes you fit the category and will fit that into your own self-identification.

So, basically, you can whine about labels and claim to be above them all you want, but your brain is doing it anyway. Well that makes you kind of a liar, doesn’t it?

Another part of being in a social group is judging it (not necessarily objectively) against others. Ingroup bias is what happens when you compare your own social group to others in such a way that enhances the positive qualities of your own group. This is wonderful, for the record- because your social grouping is part of your self-identification, when your brain enhances the positives in your own group, it enhances your self-esteem as well.

At no point does this justify being bigoted jackasses to other groups. Emphasizing your group’s positive attributes does not mean you have to focus on and enhance the negatives of other groups in order to have self-esteem. And yet, people do it. It’s the quick and easy method of feeling good about your group and your social identity, but it’s not the only (or best) way to go about it.

Now, within social groups, strife can arise. While social groups must maintain some level of cohesion (through member solidarity, for example) in order to still be a functioning group, conflict can arise. Right now, the geek community is pointing out this conflict openly.

What we’re seeing is a kind of black sheep effect among the geek social grouping. New members (females, supposedly) are being forced to prove themselves to gain membership. The perceived boys club of nerdom past makes up the “old member”, who must be appeased before females can gain membership to the geek collective. As a result, women are increasingly frustrated by the hoops they are constantly having to jump through, as we are having to prove ourselves again and again and seem to be making very little progress toward becoming “full” members of the group. What’s particularly rankling about this is the fact that the geek community formed from a variety of social outcasts, outgroup members who formed their own group to identify with as a result. It is frustrating for women to see a group formed for inclusion and the sharing of mutual interests fall prey to these basic group dynamics, with members refusing to see the hypocrisy in their own actions.

Note that unlike social grouping, the black sheep effect does not have to occur. It often does, but it is not required in group dynamics. So, while psychology can explain why the black sheep effect occurs, it does not justify it in any way. Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable to rail against it within any community, geek or otherwise. It doesn’t have to happen.

***

And now that we’ve discussed that, I’m going to directly address some of the topics brought up in the atrocious comments to the above video (I do not feed trolls, and I do not get into comment wars on the internet, but that doesn’t mean I will not discuss these points in a forum of my choosing).

The women in this video are simply looking for acceptance/attention.

Well… yes and no.

Yes, the women in this video (as well as all women in the geek community, as well as numerous marginalized groups across the goddamn spectrum) are looking for acceptance. That is, in fact, the point of the video- that because they were born with vaginas, there are members of their primary social group who willfully will not accept them as part of said group. That they will be scorned, mocked, harassed, and insulted for having the audacity to be born with the wrong set of genitals. Remember, part of the whole ‘group cohesion’ thing is solidarity among group members. Women do not feel that solidarity, and that is upsetting. And wrong. And what we want to change.

And yes, the women in this video are looking for attention. They are trying to draw attention to a major problem within their community. By bringing it fully into the open, by sharing their stories, by standing together, these women (and men- don’t forget, most geek dudes are wonderful people who stand up for their female geek comrades as well) hope to enact positive change within the geek social grouping.

But no, these women are not doing it simply because they are whiny attention-whores who want people to feel bad for them. These women are trying to do something positive, not simply capture their 3 seconds of internet fame. They aren’t doing it so some commenter will say “the girl with the tats was really hawt” or “I loved all the girls with glasses in this video”. They’re doing it for a reason, with a positive purpose. If you truly do not see that, please please please re-evaluate how you are thinking about this video and what these women stand for. You are enabling the problem to continue- don’t be that guy.

Men face the same thing, so these bitches should quit whining.

Men actually don’t face the same thing. Sorry, but it’s true.

If your argument is that guy geeks have been facing social stigma for their interests and geekery for years, you are missing the entire point of this video. Yes, male geeks have been reviled and mocked for being themselves by those in other groups that closer emulate the majority norm for behavior. And female geeks have faced those same challenges. Male or female, you’ve likely been mocked by a non-geek just for being yourself. Which is a shame in and of itself.

But what female geeks face that you, male geeks, do not is that they are mocked, insulted, and scorned by other geeks. By their own fucking people. In a group that prides itself on being a haven for the outcasts, for the nerds, women are facing the same ridicule as they do outside the social group. And for us ladies, this hurts even worse- we are all supposed to be geeks together. This is supposed to be our group, a group of men and women with similar interests and hobbies. Instead, we aren’t accepted here, either. And that, gentlemen, really stings.

A man can go to a con dressed as a barely passable version of Ledger’s Joker, having only ever watched the Nolan Batman films, and be accepted instantly. A woman who has spent her entire life reading comic books and goes to the same con dressed as Oracle better be a red head of roughly the right proportions, have an exact replica wheelchair, and know her character’s entire history, including all crossover events. Because she will be interrogated about it. People will badger her about it, trying to unmask her as some sort of poser in Geekland.

And heaven forbid she dress as Emma Frost or basically ANY OTHER VIDEOGAME OR COMIC LADY and show some skin, because then she’s just a hot girl preying on geek guys and still a fake. Despite the fact that these characters are all drawn in these scanty outfits and that these women who probably really love Emma Frost or Starfire or Ivy or Samara are just being true to the character. And man, if the girl’s not hot enough to “accurately portray these characters”? Then she’s just a fugly bitch who should go home and cry to her Guild about how mean everyone is while eating Cheetos. But the overweight guy in the cardboard Optimus Prime outfit? Oh no, that guy’s cool- he’s obviously a real, acceptable geek.

No guys, you don’t face the same thing girls do. You don’t have other gamers instantly infantalize you the moment you say you game (“Oh, do pway Animal Cwossing? That’s so CUTE.”). If you forget the name of a minor X-Men character when describing your favorite fight scene, you aren’t instantly called a lying whore. You aren’t excluded from playing D&D or Magic with people in high school because you are a girl and wouldn’t understand it.

…For the record, yes, that actually happens. It happened to me. Because I had tits, I couldn’t be an elven ranger on a quest to Castle Greymoor to investigate the disappearance of Lady Selena. In fact, this just happened on The Big Bang Theory (which I love, but which is often guilty of laughing at geeks instead of with them and perpetuating outdated stereotypes of the community)- in the penultimate episode of last season, the girls came back to the apartment while the guys were playing D&D and Sheldon was vocally opposed to the girls playing. And when things went wrong (when the girls, giving into the apparent curse of their whimsical gender to constantly need to inject lurve and romance into all stories, put a love spell on Amy and Sheldon’s characters), what was the reasoning as to why? “This is what happens when you let girls play D&D.”

Class stuff, that.

So guys, no, you haven’t experienced the same things women have in the geek community. And it’s this sexism that is the problem. Understand?

Who cares what a few people say? Grow a spine, have some self-esteem, get over it, etc.

Who cares? WE care. We care because the geek community are our people. These are the people who are supposed to accept us, because we ARE them. And if it was just one or two people saying this stuff, we wouldn’t be calling it a problem. But there are so many men in our geeky social group that treat the women of the group poorly, who belittle and humiliate and hurt us. We do not have to stand for this kind of behavior. That is what we’re fighting against.

We have self-esteem. We are still proud of who we are. And we’re proud to belong to the nerd collective. We shrug off stuff like this daily. But we don’t have to get over hate- we can fight against it. We can work to eradicate it. To make the geek community the welcoming home that it is supposed to be for us nerds of all genders.

We get enough attacks against our self-worth from those outside this group. We don’t need it internally, as well. Nobody in the geek community should have to face this from anyone else within it. Period.

Why do they have to style themselves “geek girls”? If they wanted to stop their gender being an issue, they just shouldn’t mention it.

In a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter if you did or did not mention your gender. But because of the sexism we still face, we rally to our gender to find the solidarity we aren’t finding in our geeky social group. This isn’t a perfect world. If it was, this wouldn’t be an issue at all. This video would never have been made.

Besides, what they are “styling themselves as” is just a truth. They are geeks. They are girls. I could call myself a brunette geek if I wanted to. A barefoot geek (at the moment). A geek whose hand is falling asleep. All of these are truths. But since gender is where we’re currently facing a problem, it’s to gender that we retreat. To abolish the need for these labels, we have to abolish the gender problem.

Because right now, that’s how it’s viewed. As a problem. As in, being female is a problem. “If they wanted to stop their gender being an issue, they just shouldn’t mention it.” As in, a problem only arises if we admit we have vaginas. If we make no mention of our gender (and, therefore, are thought automatically male in the minds of the majority), we don’t have to worry about scorn or ridicule. Never mind that the moment we speak or are seen, we’re outting ourselves as women.

Curse you, breasts.

If you’re treated so poorly, why would you want to be part of a “geek grouping” at all?

It’s not a matter of want- it’s a matter of that social identity. We have already grouped ourselves as geeks. It’s part of our identity, both social and self. What we want is to be treated the same as men in the group. That’s not too much to ask.

And, for the record, not all geeky dudes are assholes who treat women like garbage. Most of them are good people. My best friend is a geeky guy. He’s awesome. He’s never marginalized the nerd girls he knows for simply having lady parts. But it’s not the good guys who are ruining the geek community for women- it’s the very rude, very vocal, very dickish minority of men who are treating women like second-class nerds and frustrating us.

Not everyone in a group is going to get along. I dislike a lot of people, geeks or not, based on them as people. But judging someone’s status in a group because of their gender? That’s not “oh, not everyone can like everyone else”, that’s “oh, I’m going to justify sexism because I think you’re being whiny and this doesn’t actually affect me”.

Fuck right off. I don’t care how small the scale, sexism is bullshit. By ignoring it, you are helping perpetuate it. That’s why we’re standing up and trying to change it.

***

It’s funny, but this entire argument can be summed up by one of the great geek kings, Wil Wheaton:

Srsly. It’s that simple.

1 LOL, I originally typed ‘fanFRICTION’ here. Which, let’s be honest, is probably a more accurate name for most fanfiction. Bow chicka Harry-and-the-Giant-Squid-pr0n-timez.

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