Yesterday, John Scalzi posted a righteous smackdown upon those who cry “fake geek girl” and demand proof of geek cred whenever someone engages in geeky behavior while also having the nerve to be female. His smackdownery was in response to a specific editorial written by a guy named Peacock, but also sums up well the feelings a lot of us have had over the past months as more geeky gals have stood up and pushed back against the phenomenon.
As someone who is not a gal but is of the general opinion that gals are awesome, I stood and applauded at this. On reflection this morning, however, I remembered that I have myself encountered, and commented upon, exactly the sort of “fake geek gal” Mr. Peacock was describing. She was at Dragon*Con, some years ago now, sitting at a table adjacent to mine, and well… let me just quote from my LiveJournal entry at the time…
Sales were slow on Saturday, so late in the day I crafted a new “BMSIBYF” ["Buy my stuff, I'll be your friend!"-- a running gag of mine at cons] sign out of bristol, tape, and extra cardboard and went back to the campy grin technique. Immediately sales picked up, and by midday Sunday, I’d made lots of new friends.
This caught the roving eye of the booth bunny next door. I have only a passing familiarity with the group who was next to us, but like so many of the people at D*C (and even more at Comic-Con) they are an indy comics shop who are Not Dark Horse and Not Image Comics, if you see what I mean. Demons in spandex and leather-trenchcoat vigilantes, that kind of thing. Their table had fairly brisk traffic, but their only product as far as I could make out was a $20 shirt with their company logo on it– not exactly an item calculated to set the congoing public on fire.
Thus, they had a booth bunny, a latter-day Betty Boop who appeared to be in her early twenties, with abs and eyeliner and auburn-in-a-bottle hair, who would take turns sitting on their table and lying on her stomach on their table, batting her eyelids at the people who walked by. Unfortunately for our neighbors, even having a booth bunny was not enough to make a $20 shirt bearing an indy comics label logo an attractive commodity, and sales were suffering. Meanwhile, 85% of the people who came back to our little corner and spotted me smiling happily and holding up my silly little handmade sign, would at least laugh, and a good 50% would then come over to the table and even if they didn’t so much as buy a button, they’d walk away having heard of NeverNever and The Suburban Jungle and remembering me as the “buy my stuff sign guy.” Several people who’d never heard of my work still wanted pictures of me with my sign.
Well, not knowing the booth bunny I can’t really ascribe motives to her, but I got the distinct vibe that she was jealous. At a lull in the proceedings, she sidled over to our table, batted her eyes at me, and cooed, “Could I borrow your sign for a little while?”
Halfway between annoyed and amused, I responded, “Wellll … I dunnoooo…” In the past, I’ve been approached in exactly that same manner by people who then proceeded to punch me in the face and take my lunch money. But she assured me that she only wanted it for ten minutes, so I acquiesced. And, having learned from bitter experience that discipline is paramount in these situations, made an exact note of the time.
So she took the “Buy my stuff! I’ll be your friend!” sign, hiked up her midriff-tied torn-off t-shirt, and started posing with it and telling people, “GOSH, if you buy our SHIRT, I’ll be your FRIEND! What more could you WANT?” [A business partner at the time], being susceptible to booth bunnies and insufficiently clad females in general, took the opportunity to take several pictures of her.
Not a sale.
After eight minutes of the fanboys not noticing the difference between her with the sign and her without it, their continued insistence on not buying the shirt no matter how much they stood around and ogled her, and my answering queries of “You gave her your sign?” with a casual, “Yup … she’s got six minutes left!” she apparently got disgusted and handed it back to me.
“Here,” she said. “I guess I’m just not as cute as you are.”
Now here’s the thing: I’ve been going to Dragon*Con for over ten years. Of the thousands upon thousands of women I’ve met or seen at Dragon*Con, regardless of whether they were supermodel types or not, this gal is the only one I have ever encountered who seemed to actually hold geeks in contempt and only be there with the purpose of being gawked at. (Technically she was there to sell books, as she was the model the artist had used to base his heroine on; I don’t know if she was getting a cut of book sales or what. The gawking was intended to lead to book selling, not actually the desired goal in and of itself.)
So it’s not like “fake geek girls” are exactly a rampant epidemic.
On top of which, and this is the part that gets me, can you blame the gal? By wearing her ridiculous outfit and posing in her ridiculous poses and doing that duckface, she got crowds of hormonal nerd zombies to line up at her table, staring and making Beavis and Butthead noises. If the table had been stocked with a $10 book instead of a $20 shirt, I have no doubt they would have made a killing that day from all the troglodytes going “Uhhh… hot chick… me give money…”
Meanwhile, a perfectly nice and real, genuine, bona fide geek gal artist of my acquaintance who was across the aisle was being roundly ignored by those same troglodytes, because she wasn’t vamping it up but instead sitting there, drawing and smiling quietly at anyone who walked past. If Mr. Peacock feels insulted that “I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence,” maybe he should be railing at the troglodytes who create that environment rather than the occasional (and frankly rare) woman who tries to capitalize on it.
Those are the real “pox on our culture,” Mr. Peacock.