It’s no secret to anyone who follows my Tumblr that I am a massive fan of Tom Hiddleston. It all started with his role as Loki in the Avengers films and grew from there. This is because I’ve always been a complete geek, when I get into something, I get really into it. I love to dissect every nuance and really get into the minutiae of a topic that I’m into. So I’m one of those people who gets on Tumblr with a bunch of other geeks of the same flavour, and we talk about all the details of that thing we love. Right now for me, that’s the world of Marvel’s Avengers with particular focus on Loki.
It has always been like this for me. I can remember being obsessed with everything Roald Dahl wrote when I was about 7 years old. At 11 it was US Civil War history, after reading Janet Lunn’s “The Root Cellar”. At 15, it was everything Titanic, after reading Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember” for a school assignment. That particular obsession came back when James Cameron’s film came out in 1996. At 16 it was the world of the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. At 18 it was Dublin Soul music, thanks to The Commitments. All through my life, I’ve been the kind of person who really likes to delve into stuff at a detailed level when the bug bites me. When I discovered the internet in my early 20’s, I joined so many forums and chat groups (and remember IRC?) just so I could talk about stuff I love. I still have friends now that I met online in Titanic, SeaChange, Mythbusters, and Tank Girl forums (among others) many, many years ago.
Science fiction, fantasy and superheroes are awesome. I used to have an extensive collection of indie comics until my stepfather dumped them all (my favourite was one called Greener Pastures, followed closely by Tank Girl). I have played some form of computer game almost every day of my life since I was 10 years old. I work with technology for a living. Every working day has me designing integrated AV systems and implementing IT solutions for everything from training customers in social media to 3D printing. I squee over shiny new gadgets. I’m a shameless Apple fan. I’m a librarian for God’s sake.
Yet I’ve noticed something. I don’t qualify as a “geek” in general geek culture. People roll their eyes at my TARDIS lock-screen on my iPhone. They scoff at the little Thor figurine that lives on my office desk. People make snide little comments about “fangirls” in reference to our online discussions about Doctor Who and Marvel Avengers. When I wear my PacMan earrings guys call me a “fake geek girl”. Dudes often explain things to me at work (and outside of work) as if I’m stupid. A particular bugbear is some guy who has never worked with AV in his life lecturing me about what kind of TV I should buy, five minutes after he’s watched me explain to my AV vendor what integration I want in a three room combinable meeting room system. Or the friend who asked the teenage boy working in JB HiFi which DVD/Bluray to buy even though she had already asked me and I had given her some recommendations. Because a bored looking teenage boy in retail clearly knows more than a 40 year old woman who works with AV integration for 35 large public sites.
In general, a woman’s interest in anything geeky is dismissed and patronised. Women are treated like “silly fangirls” and “fake geek girls” while the dude sitting beside them is wearing a wookie hoodie or has only seen the JJ Abrahms Star Trek films. Of course, there are always a million reasons given. Let’s look at a few shall we?
You’re only wearing that because you like the look of it!
So no dude has ever worn some form of geek culture because he liked the look of it? How many dudes have bought an Iron Man t-shirt because it looked cool? So what if it looks cool and a woman wants to wear it. How is that hurting anyone?
You’re only into [insert geek culture] because [insert attractive celebrity] is in it!
Oh and dudes don’t buy comic books because the female characters are drawn hot? Like they don’t drool over Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia or a whole bunch of other actresses who have been in sci-fi/fantasy/super-hero roles. It’s a good thing if a popular actor is a gateway drug into a fandom. How different is it having Matt Smith or David Tennant draw a woman into Doctor Who than an actress in a skimpy costume do the same thing for another fandom?
You’re only getting into it because “geek culture” is trendy right now!
I’m sorry? I played my first computer game when I was 10. That was 31 years ago. I read science fiction and fantasy, watched anime and bought comic books from the same age. For chunks of my teens I was ridiculed for it, so I hid it away a lot, but I’ve been into geeky stuff longer than many of the loud anti-fangirl crew have been alive.
You only play girly games, not real ones!
Firstly, lots of women play games that are traditionally aimed at men. I work with a 40 year old woman who has played WoW ever since I’ve known her and that’s over a decade. A girlfriend of mine loves Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Mass Effect, Call of Duty and such.
Secondly, how welcoming are these traditionally male oriented games to women? Are there any decent female characters for them to choose from, or are women just treated as tits and arse for the male players to ogle? If they’re multi-player games, how are women treated when they join in to play? One only has to follow Anita Sarkeesian’s work to see why many women shy away from these games and environments.
But finally, why are male oriented games considered more “real” or valid than other types of game? Why is Grand Theft Auto more “real” than The Sims, Tetris, Animal Crossing, The Simpsons Tapped Out or even Cookie Mama and Farmville? Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds are as valid as games as any shooting or driving game marketed to the dudes. Why is spending your time playing a game that shoots people more “valid” than spending your time playing a game that slices fruit?
You don’t know anything about the history of [insert geek culture]!
How many male Lord of the Rings fans don’t know diddly squat about Tolkien? Or male Star Trek fans know nothing about Roddenberry? Or male Doctor Who fans who have never watched an episode prior to the Eccleston reboot? How many male gamers out there never played PacMan, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong or have even heard of Pong? How many male science fiction readers have never read Orwell, Wyndham or Wells? How many comic book readers have never seen a vintage copy of The Phantom (or never even heard of The Phantom!) or collected indie comic books? I could go on. Why is it perfectly acceptable for men to pick and choose what geek culture they engage in, but women are quizzed and tested to prove their worth? Besides, how often does something that is new and popular draw people into the history? So, maybe they are only getting into Avengers because of Joss Whedon’s film, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to get totally into the whole Marvel universe and start collecting comic books.
Silly fangirls are ruining everything!
Ruining everything for who? For men who like the status quo of no female characters of substance, of never having to feel inadequate next to a handsome male character, of not having their fragile masculinity threatened by a dude shown in a sexually attractive light. They’re not the only people on the planet, and they’re not the only ones who are willing to fork out their hard earned cash on fandom. So something needs to appeal to women as well as men now to make money and stick around. Good! Not only is there more money to be devoted to keeping something alive if both men and women can dig it, but women have as much right to stuff they can dig as men do. We have as much right to be treated with respect, given diverse and detailed characters and to be considered when developing, writing, casting and marketing content. Besides, if we have to sit through a movie with some woman in a gold bikini, the fellas can sit through one with a dude with his shirt off and tight pants.
The reality is, women are not considered valid human beings, so our interests, knowledge and skills are not considered valid either. Our wants and needs are considered “add ons”, not the default. Our fandom is considered an irritant rather than the integral part of the machine of geek culture that it is. Don’t let people treat your interests and hobbies as silly or unworthy. You have every right to the geeky that any man does. Embrace your fangirl nature if you have one. Squee over the things you love. Learn about technology and gadgets if you are interested in them. Wear, create, use whatever geek culture you want, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not worthy, or you’re silly for filling your life with geekdom. You keep these geek culture items alive as much, if not more, than any snarky dude in a Yoda t-shirt!
And don’t get me started on other systems of privilege in geek culture either!