“Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away.” Tara Tiger Brown, you should go away, for writing something like this, and Forbes, for you should go away, for hosting something like this.
The problem here isn’t that there are people who self-identify as geek but aren’t “real geeks.” The problem is this phenomenon of judging who is and isn’t a “real geek.” This snide derision is not helping anybody, especially women in geekery.
Ladies, we’re not in competition with one another. Don’t hate. Support. If you see a woman who is new to geekery and self-identifies as geek, don’t turn her away. Welcome her. Show her the depths of nerddom. Hand her a d20. Lend her your beloved copy of Transmet vol 1. Show her some anime. Hand her some Asimov.
If she’s authentic in her passion, but just new to this whole deal, don’t shun her. Don’t accuse her of needing attention, or having such an empty life that she just wants to feel something, anything. If she’s not passionate about it, she’ll likely just walk away eventually. No need to rail against these supposed faux-geeks (have you ever met one? I haven’t) and risk scaring off the newer nerds. Unless, of course, like the bullies we’ve called out as a community, you’re just being cruel to boost your self-esteem.
And you know what else, Brown? You title that opinion piece by targeting women, but the things you accuse them of in the article are things anyone can be guilty of, male or female. So why limit it to women? Is it because it’s easy? Is it because this is how you show the “real” (read: male) geeks that you’re totes legit?
This is a harmful game that women are taught to play: compete with one another for male attention, because male approval is what’s worth striving for. Why? Why is geekery a competition? Why isn’t female approval worth striving for? (And as an aside, why is it that beautiful women who are openly sexual are typically the ones who get the most flack for being faux-geek?)
You know what the result of this kind of logic is? It’s women feeling driven out of cool things because they are unwilling to put up with this frat boy ideal of what it means to be a “real geek.” Yes, frat boy. It’s the same logic that drives brogrammers, that mentality of not being a “real developer” unless you’re up until four in the morning chugging Red Bull and sleeping underneath your desk. If you’re not full-throttle to a self-destructive level, if you’re not so passionate about your geek thing that your life is out of balance, then you’re not a “real geek.”
A main argument I hear for why this enrages a certain type of geek woman so much is that these faux-geeks make men more likely to challenge her “geek cred,” to make her prove herself. To these women, I suggest that instead of getting mad at the kind of women who don’t have the same level of “geek cred” as you do, get mad at the people who challenge your “geek cred” in the first place. That’s the real problem.
And honestly, what’s wrong with being a light geek? What’s wrong with being someone who enjoys the mainstreem geek things and perhaps also watches sports or listens to top 40 or likes fashion and cars? What’s wrong with simply enjoying something for what it is, rather than diving in and knowing it obsessively? What’s wrong with information being readily available to everyone? Why does Brown hate these things so much that it required a two-page article on Forbes to get it out of her system?
I’m not sure what Brown is doing to help make women feel more welcome in geekery, but this sure as hell ain’t it. Good day, madam.