Friday, November 23, 2012

Tony Harris, video games, and the problem of the "geek girl"

Last week, the 'geek world' exploded with the Tony Harris rant about fake geek girls and how they're a pox to the world, etc etc. I'm so sorry not sorry at all I missed the initial outrage on facebook and heard about it when it was a day old and the web of geek girls and their supports came out in droves to criticize his words and very sexist point of view.


Anyone see the irony, there? He complains about the sexy little skimpy clothing, and yet, I haven't seen anyone point the finger back at him, a famous comic book artist, and ask: Isn't this YOUR fault in the first place? If you had drawn the women as real women and less than a scantily-clad barbie-like superhero, then perhaps these girls wouldn't be TRYing to dress that sexy.

Or maybe, just maybe, he's mad that a lot of the women in cosplay get-up look a hell of a lot better than the male-geek population. After all, how many male geeks can achieve the un-human like nature of Thor and his muscles? Or Superman's triangle body? The Hulk's lack of body fat? Not very many. Let he who is without body-fat cast the first stone...

Let's really get to his point: for Tony Harris, and unfortunately too many others in this world, girls are "fake geeks" and to even be considered for this category of awesome, they must prove themselves. Over and over and over. As a self-proclaimed geek girl myself, I've had it with not being taken seriously in my geek status. I've never met a girl who considers herself a geek without having an actual claim to the title, either. (Another pro tip: Girls who don't like geeks are NOT going to dress up and hang around other geeks. It's like oil and water. Girl geeks don't geek-shame!)

I've been questioned about my knowledge of Star Wars (even though I used to be the #2 expert on a well-known internet knowledge base/forum), my knowledge of computers (even though I've built several -- yes all on my own!), and I've even been told that my "geek glasses aren't enough" to call myself a geek. (I agree -- but don't judge me before you know me, asshole). Oh, and girl gamers? You're probably just a guy playing a girl in the game -- because girl gamers aren't serious gamers. Girls can't appreciate what a REAL gamer is. (Cue endless eyerolling...)

One of my favorite worst experiences of geek girl shaming was shopping at Fry's Electronics for RAM. I went there with my ex, a tall, pale white male whose appearance generally screamed geek. (Read: relatively poor fashion sense, deathly pale skin, slightly overweight, dexterous fingers from gaming, and a pompous attitude from accomplishing a lot in the online world but little in reality). The RAM was for my computer - which I had recently completed for my first solo build - and I wanted more RAM than the 8 GB I had installed. Rather than buy online from Newegg, I thought I'd give the local big box store a shot to meet my immediate desire. I had a suspicion of what would happen, but the reality was just awful.

We went to the parts area of the store, and looked at the wall of RAM with pricing, etc. In this area of the store, you have to enlist the help of an employee to know if they have stock and order it to the cash register as you don't touch it until you've paid for the product. I found what I wanted, and approached the employee:

Me: "Excuse me?"
Employee: "Yes? Can I help you?"
Me: "I'd like to know if you have an item in stock."
Employee: (looks at my ex) "What were you looking for?"
Me: "I'M looking for RAM, a 4 or 8GB stick."
Employee: (Looks back at my ex) "What kind of RAM?"
Me: (waiting a moment, letting the silence build a moment.) "DDR3 is what I'm looking for."
Employee: (Looks at my ex for confirmation. Ex looks at me. Employee eventually acknowledges my existence). "Ah, ok. Let me check..."

For the rest of our transaction, he talked to me but looked to my ex for confirmation after every sentence and statement. Needless to say, I didn't make my purchase there and avoid that store whenever possible. Every time I'm in there with a male, its assumed I'm the idiot girl who's completely ignorant and doesn't know shit about technology.

As a girl in a man's world, I'm always talked down to. I obviously don't know enough about a topic to be THAT much of an expert. I can't POSSIBLY be THAT into Star Wars -- it just doesn't happen. It's fantasy.  To all the doubters and haters, I give you another pro tip: you don't own the title 'geek.' It belongs to MANY people outside of you and your own definition. 'Geek' unfairly assumes he is a pale, fat guy living in his mother's basement who can't socialize outside of the 'geek' circle and is destined to be virgin for life unless he manages to score one time with that really awkward girl that no one really likes. 

Is that really who the geeks are? No! Granted, I've met one guy who fit that to a T, but that was one in all my life of geek sharing. If you don't fit that description, remember there are hundreds and thousands out there who all have their own unique way of fitting into the 'geek' way. That brings me to another pro tip: Geeks come in a variety of expertise, so don't pick out ONE factor and JUDGE everyone by that one epitomic definition. Mr. Harris went off on comic book readers and convention attendees - in my opinion, a relatively small corner of the geek market, actually. The thing is, there are TONS of ways you can be a geek, and participating in cosplay or reading comic books are not the "one way to geekdom." Really. Traditionally 'geek' has to do with science fiction, fantasy, and technology. But those areas have broadened considerably, just as the word 'geek' has. You can be a LOTR geek by studying Elvish as part of your doctorate and be completely computer ignorant. You can be a LARPer who also loves all things Superman and know nothing about table-top gaming.

Pro tip: Don't scare away the n00b geeks by telling them how much they #fail at being a geek. Remember, we ALL had to start somewhere in our search for geek. We all learned along the way, and no one knows it all from the beginning. Honestly, being a geek is where you have some specialized knowledge of a topic that holds a lot of value to you, but can and may hold little real-world value (unless you're a lucky one who manages to make a living doing something your geeky self loves. Congrats! you're living a dream so few of us do.)

This brings me to my final pro tip: If any of these "fake geek girls" exist, they are NOT going to spend the time and money required to cosplay just to mess with you; you are NOT that important, so stop the paranoid thinking that reads like this: "OMG, the fake girls are trying to flirt with me! Where's my fake girl x-ray scanner so I can run away from all these hot, nerdy chicks who I swear are lying to me!" Seriously, you sound crazy. And no one, not even geek girls, will like and stay with a crazy person.

Disclaimer: I don't read comic books and I don't really enjoy comic book movies. I don't like the over-dramatized action. It grates on me. I like fantasy and science fiction, but the whole superhero genre is not my thing. But I like a lot of other things.


  1. "If any of these "fake geek girls" exist, they are NOT going to spend the time and money required to cosplay just to mess with you; you are NOT that important". Well said. Mr. Harris' paranoia treads close to the edge of psychosis.

    You are obviously aware of my feelings on the topic. Upon learning of the offending remarks I had much to say, but it was from a male perspective, i.e. a once-removed perspective, that I bitched out Mr. Harris for his stupidity. Thanks for giving me the female POV.

    Oh, and Fry's customer service is and always will be legendary for its awfulness.


  2. Wow...I don't know what to say about this guy's stupidity. I am not a "geek girl" per se. I know a few who love to go to the comic book engagements. They're smart, sassy, and sexy. I'm a geek...but I'm a literary geek - so call me "Brit-Lit geek girl". This guy can't even capitalize or punctuate correctly. He earns no points from me.

    1. Literary geeks are def welcome in my geek world. Especially those who appreciate proper grammar!

  3. I'm not a geek, at all, but I found this post very interesting. I don't do Star Trek, Star Wars, or comic books, however I am intelligent and well read and I find that men are threatened by passion in a woman. That is a very general statement, but sad enough, I have found it to be true more often than not.

    I think the chord you struck within me is my love of football and baseball. Men find it utterly unbelievable that I can talk with them about these sports and I am fairly intelligent on them. I have a lot to learn, but I can hang with the boys. This leads to many sexist comments and attitudes. So, while my passion is different, I get the whole argument and, frankly, Mr. Harris comes off as one of those men who accuse me of being "into sports" because I want to attract the attention of men. Pfft. I have better things to do with my precious time. I just love boys in tight pants. ;)

    1. OH yes, how could I forget football! As a big football lover myself, yes, I'm tired of being doubted there, too. I think that's an excellent comparison to the girl-geek debate: the girl sports fan.

  4. What a hypocrite this Mr Harris is. If there is something I can't stand in comics and movies it is the unrealistic body portrayals. Not to mention the underlying myth of redemptive violence, which only perpetuates violence in the world.

    1. All of the violence in comic books turns me off.

  5. I loved the last pro tip the best. Very true.