Geeks, Sexism, and Assault

Sorry I’ve been away for a couple weeks. Things got a little crazy at the paper with multiple deadlines and trying to get life stuff done.

 

I wanted to share the column I wrote for this week’s paper, because it’s both an issue I’m passionate about and ties in relatively well with my last post. It’s one of the reasons why I think people who say there’s no need for feminism at all in North America because the issues it addresses are eradicated, must have little knowledge of what goes on outside their circles.

 

In the case that some people may get all up in arms, I want to preface this with the disclaimer that this column is not directed at all male geeks, nor is it lumping them all together. As many of you know, I myself am married to a geek, and he is a wonderful, caring and amazing man. But unfortunately, there are too many guys out there who do react like this.

 

I also had wanted to touch on the whole ‘Fake Geek Girl’ thing more, and where it stems from originally, but I’m going to address that another time.

 

So, without further adieu, my column.

 

Last week, the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), one of the world’s largest and most popular comic book, geek and all things nerdy conventions, wrapped up leaving behind the memories, the excitement, and the protests.

This year, female attendees of the SDCC decided to take a stand against an issue that has long faced women involved in the realm of nerdism: sexual harassment. It didn’t help the situation any that a female minor was discovered outside the convention bloody and unconscious. While police have now ruled that they believe the young lady fell and was not assaulted, as was the original suspicion, the fear that this could happen has left people who classify themselves as geeks and nerds outraged. And rightly so.

As a self-professed geek, Star Wars obsessed, video game player, as well as a woman, I know all too well the reality of this issue. And as the popularity of the ‘fake geek girl’ accusation has arisen in the last few years, so has the harassment of girls who identify themselves as geeks.

The thing is, as women in that realm, we are well aware of the fact that nerds around the world are so stunned at seeing a ‘female’ that they don’t know how to react and often end up sputtering out some strange pick-up line or just gawk at you. The problem comes in to the fact that more often than not, inappropriate behaviour beyond that (cat calls, harassment, stalking, non-consensual groping, photographs etc) has been chalked up by many as ‘okay’ because ‘What do you expect when a girl walks into a crowd of men who have only been around video games and comic books’?

Well, that’s simple. To blame their behaviour, no matter how scantily or modestly clad the woman is, on the sheer inability to control their desire lumps these men into the category of animals, not humans, who are controlled by their inner ID instead of their Ego, means that not only is this ‘group’ of men unstable, but they should not be allowed in public. It means that they are a clear and ever present danger, who could at any time, attack, molest, rape and beat a woman solely because their urges are in control.

Does that sound ridiculous to you? Because it does to me.

The real issue here is that, especially in the geek world, many men seem to think that a
female geek (cosplaying or not) is automatic consent. It’s consent for them to pursue a girl even after she’s said no because she’s a geek, therefore no only means yes. It’s consent for them to grope a girl and shoot pictures up her skirt because if she’s cosplaying, it’s not to dress as her favourite character, it’s because she wants men to objectify her.

It’s consent for them because she identifies as a geek, and has knowledge about video games, comic books, and whatever else she might be into. It means consent because girls can’t really be geeks or nerds, so they’re just claiming that to get some action. Again, sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, this type of behaviour is not limited to the SDCC, or even the upcoming Fan Expo in Toronto. It stems to all areas, including video games and online gameplay. To the point I avoid some of the things I used to love online like the plague, because the moment my ‘gender’ is discovered, I am faced with a barrage of derogatory comments, along with being told that they wish women would be banned from consoles. I know many other female
friends who have encountered the same.

While not all geeks and nerds do this, just like most ‘extremist’ sides to anything, they are the loudest, the most obnoxious, and appear to have the largest in numbers. They’re often the ones who are behind the ‘fake geek girl’ argument, which ends up pitting girls against each other by twisting their definition of a geek so that other girls don’t ‘fit’ the mould.

The problem is very widespread. In light of recent conversations like #yesallwomen and others who have addressed how commonplace harassment has become, all you have to do is look to female geeks to see how bad it really gets. The truth is, I don’t know a single female who identifies as a geek or a nerd who has not faced some form of sexual harassment by fellow geeks.

Some people blame it on the idea that the ‘geek girl’ is a new phenomenon, and that until
it became popular, girls were not really geeks.

Again, untrue. For the longest time, many girls and women hid their nerdy-ness because it was so frowned upon. Because gender roles were so enforced that many women were afraid to admit it. It is true that more women have started down the path of being a geek within the last decade, but that’s because it’s become more okay.

Girls didn’t always know that was an option. We live in an area with a LOT of geeks. You may not know it, because we’re not necessarily as ‘loud’ or out there as geeks in other places, but we exist, and many of us are females. Females that love to cosplay, could take down guys in some of the hardest video games and are totally open about what we love. We’re also fortunate to live in an area where many of our male nerd counterparts are already understanding of this. But there’s still a long way to go.

So as we all move forward in our geeky lives, preparing for Fan Expo and getting excited about things like the fact that Patrick Stewart will be making an appearance there, remember, be respectful. A girl who calls herself a geek or a nerd is not asking for it, and cosplay =/= consent.

Comments

  1. Brittany SSP

    Very well said, Tabitha. It's sad but harrassment occurs in ALL groups, even ones that supposedly form from being on the *outside* (which should lead to fair treatment for all…you would think). Also, I think people use the excuse of “Well she's just playing hard to get.” Can we do all we can to just wipe that off the face of the earth? If someone, male or female, wants to be involved with you- you'll know. It's not that hard, let's stop using that as an excuse.

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