Just when I thought I was being lazy about making new blogs posts, someone was horribly wrong on the internet and has induced both feminist AND nerd rage. That’s a pretty impressive level of heinous douchebaggery right there.
The person wrong on the internet is this dude right here. While he attempts to offer criticism on the phenomenon of booth babes–something I also find troubling–Joe Peacock manages to write a piece positively dripping with the underlying sexism that is ubiquitous in nerd culture. The lists of sins Peacock commits in this article is long and tragically overshadows any valid points he has. However, I will attempt to address the main points best I can.
Instead of tackling the real underlying problem in my opinion–that corporations think it’s a great idea to use half-naked women to sell their products–he instead attacks the women themselves. Sorry, perhaps “women” is the wrong term. He’s talking about “wannabes who couldn’t make it as car show eye candy slapping on a Batman shirt and strutting around comic book conventions instead.”
So, what’s the problem with these women exactly? Other than simply not being genuinely interested in nerd culture, they just aren’t all that attractive. Peacock claims that in the non-nerd world, these girls would only measure up to a 6. However, simply by dressing up in nerdy costumes they ascend to a 9. So these women dress up in revealing clothing, think they’re way hotter than they really are, and bask in the attention of dudes who they totally wouldn’t actually sleep with? Those bitches.
Holy objectification, Batman! Not only did this guy just demonize feminine displays of sexuality, but he goes as far to describe women using a number as if her lack of attractiveness somehow degrades her worth as a human being. Even more confounding is that Peacock goes on to link to the fantastic Fat, Ugly, or Slutty without realizing that he is, in a form much more subtle than that website shows, helping to promote and perpetuate some of the very misogynist attitudes that give rise to the harassment he himself is obviously opposed to.
He does, however, make a good point about an issue nerd boys face in the culture at large. He states:
“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.”
In another context, my response would have been “Preach it, brother!” But alas, Peacock is talking about the girls themselves –not the people who decide this sort of misogyny draws more money from consumers.
But Autumn! He isn’t talking about the ACTUAL booth babes! He’s talking about sluts who go to conventions in order to get attention from nerds when they don’t actually care about nerd culture!
True! That is the target he seems to be aiming his vitriol toward, but guess what: he is doing little more than slut shaming under the guise of defending nerd culture. Defending nerd culture from what exactly? Why, from poser women who conspire to use nerd boys’ boners against them! This is particularly baffling since he admits that this sort of attitude–that boys are helpless thralls of any pretty girl that looks their way–is ludicrous and insulting. What Peacock totally misses is that he is promoting the equally repugnant and insulting flip-side of that stereotype: Girls are petty, blood-sucking succubi who prey on helpless boy victims.
Perhaps the only statement that might prevent me from vomiting every time I read this article is the following:
“There’s no doubt about it – girls in geek culture have it hard, and it’s probably going to be that way for a long time. … Women elevate the culture, and thus, the content.”
You know what is hard for girls in geek culture? Having to downplay their attractiveness and interest in “girly” things like fashion in order to be taken seriously in the community. Being treated as some sort of awful predator looking for an easy kill should they partake in nerdy hobbies. Having to prove to everyone that they are a REAL nerd girl and not just some “slut with a controller.” Feeling shame for dressing nicely or, heaven forbid, sleeping with a dude she met at PAX lest she be forever branded a con whore.
Peacock meant well with this article, certainly, but guess what? Girls shouldn’t be required to meet a certain threshold of appreciation of your hobbies in order to gain your permission to express their sexuality in a way they see fit. We need to stop trying to shove women into a tiny subset of acceptable behaviors and roles in order to accept them in our community. Need proof of this weird, frakked up dichotomy? Here you go:
“Flaunt it if you got it – and if you’re a geek, male or female, and you’re strikingly handsome or stunningly beautiful, and you cosplay as a handsome or beautiful character, more power to us all. Hot geeks are hot.”
So it’s totally okay if you want to strip down to your skivvies, drape yourself in Super Nintendo controllers, and post pictures of this to the internet… but only if you can complete a speed run of Super Metroid in under 45 minutes. If not, you’re a poser and a “pox on our culture.”
What this whole fiasco exemplifies is the following: it is incredibly hard to not be sexist. Even people who mean well and actively try to not be sexist fall into this trap all the damn time. In her wonderful article describing “hipster racism” Lindy West states that the best we can do is to commit to working our asses off to not be racist. The exact same thing is applies to sexism–it is so incredibly ingrained in us that we don’t even realize it when we’re being terrible little crotch goblins. This is my attempt to point out to a well-meaning dude that he is being exactly that: a crotch goblin.