Having grown up a geek, daughter of geeks, in the 1970’s and 80’s, I recognized I was a minority. When I walked into cons of my own free will instead of being dragged there by a BF, I was a social unicorn. However, the reaction I got was always positive. Granted, some of them were hitting on me, but when that did not pan out, I did not receive the dismissals of my geekness that femme-geeks are now. When people on comic book message boards found out I was a woman, I was not attacked for it or my validity of fandom questioned. All the women I knew in the fandoms at the time had similar experiences. We got hit on a lot, but no one was dismissing us as fans or being nasty to us just for being women. I was only on the receiving end of misogynist comments once, but that was post 2000 from someone significantly younger than I that could not hold the debate to the topic at hand. (Grant Morrison’s X-Men run sucked, end of.)
So what happened?
I think part of it is the older geek community feeling a bit threatened by the massive influx of new members, especially women, over the last 15 years. Magna, anime, shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and video games were already bringing more people, especially more women, into the fold in the late 1990’s, but LOTR and comic book films blew it wide open. They made geekdom socially acceptable to the general public, which is a wonderful thing. Never in the U.S. have we had so much media to choose from to sate our geek-desires. Never has we had such a large community to share our joy. Even comic books, once the red-headed step child of the SciFi community, are getting the respect they deserve.
But it’s also *so* socially acceptable it has become “fashionable” and the terms “geek” and “nerd” have become trendy and overused. Seriously, just liking Apple products and wearing glasses does not make you a geek. It’s like wearing punk clothing and not knowing who Black Flag is. Come back to me when you can hold an informed conversation one whether Star Wars qualifies as SciFi or Fantasy. Go on now. Shoo.
So I think some of it is the same pattern seen from any established group dealing with new fans. The accusations of “poser!” always abound. There are posers, there always are in social movements that have become fashionable. But more often the accusation is thrown at new fans by insecure old timers, afraid of losing “their” fandom. So are these misogynist attacks because women are the group that has grown the most noticeably over the last 15 years? I think that is a factor, but I think a bigger factor is a reflection of a greater anger toward woman in our society, especially from the younger generation.
Many of us remember (and loved) the “Grrl Power” of the 1990’s, where books like Faludi’s Backlash created an entire pro-women dialog. Just think, all these characters were on TV at the same time!
(C.J. Craig of the West Wing *almost* overlaps as well, but not quite. Still, I gotta give her some love.)
It was awesome to be a girl! Unfortunately, some of that came at men’s expense as they tried to redefine their roles and their masculinity in a world where the pendulum had swung away from them. (And I admit, it can’t have been easy on them.)
Now thing to remember is that entertainment industry is controlled by older people dictating to younger people what they are going to watch. In the 2000’s, the media launched a very deliberate counter attack: The glorification the bimbo. Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears, The Girls Next Door, Jessica Simpson. The media told girls and boys that women were supposed to be unintelligent, mean-spirited, opportunistic, trashy, promiscuous (and not in an “sex positive empowerment” sort of way, in a “I measure my self esteem by how many boys want to fuck me” sort of way) and generally worthless human beings to be used as sexual objects or trophies. Certainly not to be respected. (And the possible effect that has had on the openess and acceptability of rape culture is another important discussion entirely.) I think the younger male geeks drank that in during their formative years and now, with the help of anonymity on the internet and general angst and rage, they make women the targets of some seriously hateful shit on the assumption that women are unintelligent, mean-spirited, trashy, etc.
It’s complete bull shit.
The thing is, femme geeks can complain about this all day, but the kids making these attacks are so misogynist, they just dismiss it as female whining. So we have to combat it with a two pronged attack. Sadly, for a while at least, girls will have to keep proving their geek cred. It sucks, but there it is. When you can name all the classes of the Earth Alliance cruisers or discuss Moorecock’s issue with Tolkien, they will start to have a real conversation with you. In a real conversation with you, they might get the idea that femme geeks in general are “real geeks” who have a lot of offer. Unfortunately, for femme gamers, beating their ass in CoD just pisses them off more and they get more abusive. Second wing: The people who really need to step in are the older geeks who will put their foot down and tell these douchey little twerps this is not acceptable behavior in our community. For some reason, until just recently their voices have been pretty silent on the kind of abuse out there. Older geeks grew up on the receiving end of bullying, so they tend to not bully others (at least that has been my experience) and they should not accept when others are being bullied.