Objection! Girls Can Be Geeks, Too!

Joe Peacock really ruffles my feathers. You may have already had the misfortune of reading Peacock’s newest tirade against what he calls “geek posers”. This newest installment is specifically against those geeks who just happen to be female. In it, he claims that attractive girls who cosplay or wear “geeky” attire at Cons are “poachers.” He claims these poachers are women who resort to wearing skimpy outfits because they are incapable of finding companionship outside of the legions of mouth-breathing, desperate nerds. The outfits, according to Peacock, supposedly make these women feel better about themselves and impress the basement-dwellers at the Cons.

Wait, back up. How exactly can he make this argument, anyways?

The Clubhouse

Let’s start with what we know about Joe Peacock’s stance on the matter generally. Joe has already made his views clear on how he believes the geek community should be regulated in previous articles. Mr. Peacock has this belief that, if you now become interested in the geek community or its myriad topics, you must be a “poser”.  For Peacock, this is doubly-true if you are an attractive woman, since you’re here just to boost your self-esteem (more on this later).

See, according to Joe Peacock, if you weren’t in the clubhouse already, you must only be in it now for the popularity contest, because you had ample opportunity to get in before it became cool, but you just couldn’t bring yourself to do it.

I contend that this is just factually incorrect. Geeky pursuits of all varieties have had varying (but mostly low) levels of public exposure for a long time, and much of it has been negative. Sure, people outside the “inner circle” knew about these pursuits–but were they actually exposed to them?

Let’s also not forget that everyone has to come to this community somehow. I am lucky in that my Dad made me watch Star Wars as soon as I was old enough to understand the plot, but that doesn’t make me a better geek than someone who watches Star Wars for the first time today and throws themselves into it–it just makes me an older geek. Why is it less legitimate for someone to come to enjoy geeky pursuits now?

The insistence of people like Joe Peacock on holding aloft their geek credentials like some kind of rallying point is troubling. When did this community become a clubhouse, anyways? We should be welcoming new minds and hearts to our geeky pursuits of choice, not discounting them based on timing or gender, as Joe would have us do.

We can’t exclude people based on their gender, physical appearance, or their relatively new arrival to the community. What we should be doing is encouraging new geeks, not trying to shut them out of our clubhouse. Joe does state that he is willing to teach the “posers”, and I believe that what we’re seeing from him is likely a genuine love for “geek culture”, or whatever you want to call it. He states:

“‘Geek’ is what happens when passion overrides your need to be accepted or fit in. It’s loving something so much that you throw yourself wholeheartedly into it.”

This is an interesting (if somewhat poetic) description. The sad part is that Joe feels that he is able to both define the parameters as to what constitutes a “real” geek and also to decide who fits this description ahead of time, thus regulating the whole community. The argument he presents is basically “if you’re not as passionate as me, you must not be a real geek.”

The Poachers

Specifically, he shows us his lurking fear of geek girls.

I give Peacock credit for identifying the entertainment industry’s increasingly common attempts to reach the geek demographic, but this fact does not an argument make (or at least not this one). Is the entertainment industry trying to introduce more geek-friendly programming and icons (including female icons)? Sure they are: they see it can make them money. Love it or hate it, that’s how capitalism works.

But Peacock takes this and runs too far with it. Does this mean that the attractive girl in the Cammy outfit is only at the Con because she has low self-esteem and wants to be idolized by nerds? No, that is a leap even Mario would have trouble making.

Yet here Joe finds himself:

“I get sick of wannabes who couldn’t make it as car show eye candy slapping on a Batman shirt and strutting around comic book conventions instead.

I’m talking about an attention addict trying to satisfy her ego and feel pretty by infiltrating a community to seek the attention of guys she wouldn’t give the time of day on the street.”

Joe tries to soften this blow by stating beforehand that he knows beautiful geek girls who are “bona fide geeks.” That’s great Joe, really great. Couldn’t you consider that the girls you dismiss offhandedly as being “attention addicts” could also be legitimate geeks? Why is that so difficult for you to believe, and what gives you the right to act as ultimate arbiter over the status of any geek girl you see at a Con that you don’t personally know?

Why does anyone have to prove anything to you?

I am not a champion of the cosplay community, so I allow for the possibility that this kind of person could exist. Even so, you cannot pre-judge someone based solely on their appearance. Even if you positively ascertained that someone is a “poacher” by talking with them (again, this is a stretch and no one is obligated to prove anything to you), wouldn’t it be better to try to show them the joy that is our hobby rather than kick them to the curb? And ultimately, even if they were one of these mythical “poachers”, what harm have they done to you? Matt Dukes (@direflail) of Critical Hits echoes my sentiments on Twitter:

Joe does betray some of his feelings on the topic by using the word “Infiltrating,” though. He seemingly views geek girls as invaders or outsiders. What damage they are doing to him, or even to the community at large, is not elaborated upon with any amount of clarity:

“They’re poachers. They’re a pox on our culture. As a guy, I find it repugnant that, due to my interests in comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and role playing games, video games and toys, I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It’s insulting.”

I can’t speak for Joe or anyone else, but not once have I ever been at a Con where an attractive woman in a costume walked up to me and demanded that I feel honored in her presence. Of course, no one is actually insulting Joe–he’s just threatened or maybe confused by the fact that an attractive woman at a Con might actually enjoy the same things as him. I don’t know why this is difficult for him to believe. Anyone can be a geek.

Perhaps even more disturbing is that Joe equates these women with Olivia Munn immediately afterwards, claiming they have no investment in the culture. Reality check: regardless of your personal thoughts or feelings on Olivia Munn, she was being paid by organizations with a vested interest in expanding the types of viewers they could attract. You can argue whatever you want about Olivia Munn, but an attractive woman cosplaying at a Con does not have anything in common with her besides her gender, as far as you know.

And I can’t help but feel that this is part of Joe’s real issue.

Though he gives props to Felicia Day and allows for the existence of “real” attractive geek girls, it seems like he is unwilling to implement these beliefs at the ground level. To him, these new attractive geek girls are poachers, until proven otherwise. He’s already counted them out. But then, he ironically goes on to claim that he is not the one objectifying women:

“However, you “6 of 9s” out there? You’re just gross. There’s an entire contingent of guys in geekdom who absolutely love you, because inside, they’re 13 year old boys who like to objectify women and see them as nothing more than butts and a pair of boobs to be leered at. Have fun with them, and don’t be shocked when they send you XBox Live messages with ASCII penises.

Those of us who actually like substance? We’ll be over here celebrating great comics, great games, great art, great movies and great television, because we’re actually attracted to a completely different body part: the brain.”

Honestly, it was a shame that this section was left until the end of Joe’s piece, because if he had put this at the beginning of the post, it would have been better for everyone involved. Joe has excluded these women and reduced them to nothing but “butts and boobs” by dismissing them as poachers without allowing them the possibility to just be attractive geeks. Perhaps my favourite and most telling reply to the article came via Twitter, from Felicia Day (@feliciaday):

Inclusivity is what the geek community needs, and what will make the community a stronger and better place to share all our geeky joys. Any man or woman can be a geek. No one person has sufficient geek cred to pretend like they get to decide that.

Unfortunately, inclusivity is the one thing that Joe–and people like him–are not willing to compromise on. They’re too busy deciding who the “real” geeks are.

Have something to say about the state of modern geekdom? Sound off in the comments!