Posted by : Wendy B Thursday, 25 August 2011

I recently read “Geek girls” and the problem of self-objectification and was a bit miffed by the overriding notion that females are only accepted into the Geekdom Boys Club if they are scantiliy clad in appropriate fantasy or sci fi attire. To be one of the boys, you have to cosplay your T&A to their hearts' content.
Too often, women in geek cultures are only welcomed if they are decoration, sexy versions of the things geek men love, not equal participants or fellow fans. Forever Geek […], for example, has, in just the past two months, posted with glee about female models naked except for high heels and stormtrooper helmets gracing skateboards, a car wash in which women dressed in sexy Princess Leia costumes washed cars, and Star Wars corsets. Geek communities love women, as long as their members don’t have to think of those women as people.
Writes KJ in G+ discussions:
Who are these "geeks" the writer claims are only accepting "hot" chicks into the geek circle? Are they the target audience for G4 who apparently only cares about looking at Powergirls breasts and watching dudes throw up and get kicked in the nuts? Are they the same guys who say, "Dude, I hear there are chicks dressed as slaves at Comic Con, lets go and get wasted!" These are not real geeks and response to their acceptance is not a response worth having.
Olivia Munn in the outfit at
the heart of most "sexy
cosplay" discussions
This view point of the article is disturbingly biased, but perhaps it is a sign of the times, where being a geek is now cool, considering the success of Big Bang Theory and comic book and sci fi movies. Non-geeks are ever so slightly less likely to add a negative tone to the words "I didn't know you read comics," when they make that discovery.  There has also been a rise in North American comic con culture that apparently has resulted in a lot more sexy ladies showing up at conventions scantilly attired. (Not that the scantilly attired haven't always been there and not that I disapprove of anyone dressing in a sexual nature in the approriate venues. By all means, if you are comfortable with your sexuality and your body, then work it. If you are The White Queen, then own it.)

Do you think they have a favourite
Ghostbuster?
Now we have the likes of Olivia Munn, an actress and model who has probably helped convince other sexy, aspiring females that the newest way to your 15 minutes is through geek culture. Research not necessarily required.

Unfortunately, some of the scantily clad, unresearched flesh belongs to Booth Babes Promotional Models who are specifically hired to look good in that tiny outfit, not for how much they might know about that outfit and the character that normally wears it.

Going back to the subject of regular geek ladies and the culture they are supposedly trying so hard to fit into with their exposed flesh, the article states:
Women aren’t the problem, whether they crossplay and eschew femininity altogether or they pull out the sexy Leia costume. The problem is that women who dress sexy, who frame themselves as sex objects, are rewarded by geek culture for doing so.
 Um. No. No, they are not rewarded. Having the drooling attention of the boys and having their images shared all over the internet is not a reward unless the woman in question is an attention seeker, in which case, there are far deeper issues there than her desire to be accepted into the geek culture--or any culture for that matter. Boys clubs are far from confined to geekdom. Women have to fight their way into acceptance in work environments, sports, etc. The easy way in, I suppose, is flashing some boob, but if you actually want to stay there and be respected, you need to walk the walk and talk the talk.

A sexy woman dressed as Chun Li who doesn't even know how to deliver the Hyakuretsu Kyaku is going to have her picture taken, posted online, but she is unlikely to have her name remembered, unlike a sexy woman dressed as Chun Li who can give you the control pad commands for all of Chun Li's moves in any or all of her incarnations. Guess which one the guys will be inviting to their next game night or arcade adventure?



A fine example would by my good friend, Trisha Cezair, who started cosplaying over the last few years in addition to her well established art work. She can do the sexy cosplay, but if you're only interested in her boobs, then don't expect to earn her attention. She doesn't paint or cosplay anything she doesn't like and know, so don't be surprised that she will not give you a blank stare in response to a geek question. Is she accepted into the geek culture? Well, just ask all of her friends--many of whom are guys--with whom she shares her love for anime, comic books and video games.

Are they only her friend because of her boobs? No. Don't worry, I'm not naive enough to believe that her looks don't help, but I think her talent and her geekery far outweigh. 
The problem, then, isn’t what women do, but a culture in which the only way that women can be recognized as a desirable part of the culture is when they participate by making themselves consumable sexy objects for geek men.
Again, no. Guys might ogle the sexy female form, but in the end, they want to hang out with the girl, especially if the girl can hang out with them. The key word is "approachable." Face it. If we bust out the stereotypical geek-in-mom's-basement model, how many guys are likely to wander up to a sexy cosplayer and try to strike up a real conversation about whether Superman is faster than The Flash, knowing that there's a chance of being utterly shunned and humiliated? This is why we can all appreciate down-to-earth sexy geeks like Felicia Day or Aisha Tyler who don't need to flaunt their sexiness. Guys are just as likely, if not more likely to buy their geek-related products, instead of just a poster of them wearing next to nothing.

Penny happily dressed as
Wonder Woman
Even Hollywood gets that. We have Penny from Big Bang Theory, who is objectified initially and occasionally thereafter, but her acceptance as a friend is not merely because she has boobs, and more importantly, she is not fully accepted into their ranks because, no matter how impressive her boobs might be, she is not a geek.

We have Zoe in Fan Boys, who is accepted by the boys--in spite of her boobs--long before she ever dons the Leia bikini.

Free Enterprise had Rob meet his girlfriend-to-be Claire in the comic shop, she is fully dressed and impresses him with her knowledge. In fact, for the geek girls that I know, Claire's experience is the standard. I wrote about it in 1997, and things haven't changed much. When a woman walks into a comic store, it is assumed that she's just browsing the pretty pictures while she awaits her male counterpart. When the boys realize that they are there for themselves, there is first amazement and awe that quickly is replaced by respect as discussions about a shared love ensue.

Simply put, my issue with this article is that I am and know many geek girls and we have never encountered situations where our acceptance is based entirely or merely on our level of sexy. 

We know that comic books and video games are realms that objectify women. We know that the majority of these geeks are male and that the companies cater to them by adding the appropriate amount of bounce. We know that there are not a lot of women behind the scenes creating the products of geekery. Those are issues that feminism needs to address, but the idea that women can only be accepted into geek culture by dressing in next to nothing? Ridiculous. If you're a geek girl trying to find acceptance in geek culture and finding that this is your only option, then you've found the wrong representatives of geek culture.









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This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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