To Geek or Not To Geek

Today’s intarweebs frenzy appears to be about geek culture authenticity and women and … something. Best as I can tell, there are a few folks who seem to be lobbying for greater inclusiveness in the community apparently because someone was upset at not being allowed to play some geeky reindeer games or something? Yeah. That.

Right away, before anyone thinks otherwise, I want to make something clear: there IS misogyny in the geek community, and it’s nasty, and it needs to stop. Yes, there are women gamers, and tech nerds and genre movie buffs, etc., and we like that stuff just as much and just as authentically as the guys who like it. Not being in posession of male crotch bits shouldn’t make a person’s geek cred automatically suspect.

Truthfully, a real geek knows that the exact configuration of one’s physical body is utterly meaningless. What matters is what you like and whether you can talk about it intelligently with other people who share that interest. Some dude claiming that girls are automatically not a part of his scene is an idiot, and a real geek worth his or her action figures would tell him so (and we usually do.)

But that kind of misogyny isn’t the problem here, and it’s not the problem that inspired the meme in question. 

Much to the horror of those of us who grew up geeky–with all the social pain included–there’s been a recent phenomenon of hipsters co-opting geek culture the same way they co-opt hundreds of other marginalized cultures, from poor white folks to various indigenous peoples. They’re not actually interested in the same things we are. They’re not actually interested in having real relationships and friendships with us. They’re just slumming with us as the trendy outcast group they’re using this month to prove that they’re something more interesting than middle-class, suburban white kids. As with every other hipster fad, it’s only cool for them as long as the group they’re co-opting has little real social power. And, despite what some people apparently believe, we geeks still don’t have much of that.

As long as the preps, jocks and cheerleaders are still occupying the vast majority of social and political power positions, high school is not over for those of us they’ve always looked down on. Regardless of the fact that many of us are in solid financial positions now, thanks to the tech boom, socially, we’re still on the bottom levels of the food chain (along with the poor kids, queer kids, people of color, people with disabilities, etc.) No-one is holding up the fat kid with the massive comic collection as hot marriage material no matter how much money she makes, and until that does happen, yes, we have a right to be picky about who we let in the clubhouse. We’re not safe to be ourselves anywhere else, so we need to have spaces of our own. We need to be free to socialize without worrying that the people we’re trying to talk to about obscure mutant titles are secretly laughing at us behind their thick-rimmed glasses and the faux-vintage X-Men shirt they picked up at Urban Outfitters.

More than anything else, geek culture is about celebrating who you are and what you like. It’s about being able to be childishly exuberant about things, whether that’s a particular niche item you’re obsessed with (and enjoy talking about with fellow obsessors) or whether you just have a general interest in SFF and other such things. And that’s what makes us different than the hipsters who have invaded our culture. To them, we’re just a fashion trend. They dress somewhat like us, talk a bit like us, and pretend to have an interest in our stuff because it makes them feel cool to hang out with the weird kids. But they are not us, and because it’s so important for us to feel safe to be ourselves in our spaces, we are, in fact, justified at trying to keep those people out of our community.

Trying to make this legitimate attempt at preserving our culture into something about misogyny is a disservice to both geek culture and feminism. There are so, so many feminist issues in this community that are, in fact, a serious problem that co-opting feminist anger to complain about people calling you a poseur is actually offensive.


About Shawna (A Mediated Life)

Writer, singer, parent, fan, media maven, and general ne'er-do-well. Fierce protector of the rights of the disadvantaged and endless pontificator on subjects both ridiculous and sublime.
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Feminism, Geekery, Intarweebz Drama. Bookmark the permalink.

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