Dear Gatekeepers of Geek Culture: Please Stop That
So I was on my friend Ana’s facebook and I came across this article.
Which is infuriating, I guess. I mean, first of all, gatekeeping is boring. Guessing at the motivation of instagram users is even more boring. The meme she uses to illustrate is also incredibly sexist. Authenticity, you’ll notice, is often a question for women. No one has ever asked my dates whether they were perhaps faking their interests in games and books to get in my pants, yet the concept of a girl being “fake” is the subject of a popular and instantly recognizable meme (and in order to understand the meme, one must understand the stereotype. If this were not a widespread idea, the meme would fall flat. Like, is this funny to someone other than 6 people?).
Anyway, my friend was also kind of infuriated by the idea of girls “faking it” and I thought that this was another opportune moment for me to talk about authenticity.
First and foremost, “faking it” is a charge that is usually leveled at a woman. From sex to interests, a woman “faking it” represents reprehensible behavior. Faking an orgasm is the source of so much male anxiety that dozens of articles have been written about how to “tell” if she’s faking orgasms…but very few about how to be a partner that women aren’t afraid to speak with about their sexual needs.
This isn’t the first article written about women faking interests for men, either. Months ago, as referenced on my blog, there was a big tadoo about Vince Mancini’s article called Hot Women Pandering To Nerds where he accused everyone from Rosario Dawson to Olivia Munn to Adrienne Curry of “faking” their geekery in order to attract men.
This speaks to a certain hysteria on the part of heterosexual men about whether their partners are what they think they are. And hey, it might be true that your girlfriend really hates Ninja Warrior, but she wanted to date you so bad she’d have told you she ate babies if she thought it would get her a coffee date. I have to say that I have had female friends come to me and ask me about video games in order to have a conversation with an adorable boy that they liked.
The problem, however, is not their authenticity. Rather, that’s not the root of the issue. The problem is sexism; isn’t it always? And by playing into the concept of authenticity the author is accepting sexism and then disseminating it–and she’s disseminating it from a culture that is already pretty girl-unfriendly.
The issue here is twofold.
1) Women are told that their greatest accomplishment is gaining the favor of a man
2) Men are told that their interests are somehow “better” than women’s interests.
So the Forbes article is not only playing into that, but is very clearly playing into the socialized competition between women. I, frankly, have no need to dig up dirt on the author to assert that she’s not a real geek, either. I don’t care if she’s “real.” Her reality doesn’t pay my bills (and I’d advise her in the interest of feminism and geekery to stop giving a shit whether girls posting pictures of their yarn collections on instagram are “real” or not).
So there are a lot of problems at work here, and I’m not really interested in whether some women and girls on instagram post too many picture of original nintendo cartidges. I’m more interested as why some women do fake their interests for male attention. Then we can get right to the crux of everyone’s problems.
First, the accusation that women do things for male attention is heterosexist. I hate to inform everyone that not all women are exactly interested in men or their attention and will, in fact, do things to gain the attention of the adorable butch dyke who works in the coffee shop.
I am going to recognize the inherant heterosexism and then side-step the analysis of seeking approval in gay relationships, because I feel like someone (anyone) is probably more qualified to speak on that than I am. I am talking about women’s relationships to men under the patriarchy umbrella and the societal messages that we give to women about male acceptance (which, sadly, even queer folks aren’t immune to).
Given that, I wanted to mention that this obsession with women’s authenticity is incredibly sexist. I can’t seem to recall anyone going “Vin Diesel? That guy’s not a real geek. He’s just trying to appear less threatening to attract women!” Only women are scrutinized in such a way and only women’s bodies and minds are open to that much public criticism. We could only be having this discussion about women.
As I said (let’s do this in an orderly fashion), women are told that their greatest accomplishment is gaining male favors and male attention. Any attention, even if it’s negative. How often do we hear of people defending or minimizing street harassment as “being paid a compliment,” like I should be thankful that someone, anyone, whistled at me and demanded that I take my tits out. Now, while I take a look around and use my head to notice that a lot of women’s culture is devoted to making them into what women’s culture says is attractive to men. Women are taught, everywhere, to seek this approval (Open any magazine and find a hundred articles about how to get sexy for him, about how exercise will give you a body that is attractive to members of the opposite sex, cover your hair, wear a short skirt, stick out your tits, tousle, wear lip gloss, let’s just keep listing all the things girls have to do to themselves) and I’m going to be (not nearly) the first one to say that when you get a hit of this attention you have been told for years that you need like fucking air…it feels good.
Well, it feels good until you smarten up and realize that frenetic desperation you’re feeling is the feeling of being constantly consumed, but what’s a little emotional death between friends?
When I was 14, I didn’t have anything like facebook or instagram, and thank god for that. I would have shot myself in the foot with it within seconds. Instead, I dressed semi-provacatively, and mistook any male attention for positive attention and thought I was successful at being a woman. I thought this because everwhere I turned from the age of 5 onward showed me that the “success” of a woman’s life was dependent on marriage. Or being a princess who was eligible to be married. Therefore, if I was attracting this attention, sooner or later one of them would bestow upon me my greatest accomplishment…having a boyfriend that all the other girls wanted!
Yeah, see how that worked out?
So I’m not saying that there are not girls who fake their interests to get male attention. We fake EVERYTHING to look attractive. I’m wearing mascara right now, these are not my eyelashes. This is not my hair color. I’m not even this height. I don’t know why we suddenly get very concerend about people faking interests. Why is that more of a worry than my eyelashes anyway?
Anyway, women get rewarded for this behavior but then repremanded for doing it too well. It’s the equivalent of training a dog to take a cookie and then slapping him when he takes it. So when you swear up and down the line that you’re the one with the real interests and these other girls are just attention-seeking whores…you’re the one doing the slapping. I have no idea how positiong yourself as the slapper, as it were, is solving the underlying problem that we socialize our girls to seek out male attention by any means necessary, including by “faking” a personality (we also are socialized to give up our sexual satisfaction and career aspirations in order to properly fill our role as a mirror that reflects men as twice their actual size).
So why the epidemic (apparently) of girls faking “geeky” interests for male attention? Possibly, and this might be a long shot, this happens because we privilege “male” interests over female interests.
Observe. What would most people call a girl who likes beer, football, and video games while still maintaining the appropriate level of feminine presentation? I usually hear that girl described at the very least as down or chill. At the most…marry her twice.
Now then, what would most people call a boy who likes shopping, spa-days, and cooking?
If you guessed “gay,” you win a prize (all expenses paid trip to a patriarchy-free island for at least an hour). Another acceptable answer would be “pussy whipped.”
So we have a culture that privileges male identity, and rewards women for seeking out male attention, and measures her success by what kind of boyfriend she’s likely to have, and then when they play the game that was laid out for them too well, we call them attention-whores and give page space in Forbes magazine to talk about how terrible the girls are.
Yeah, those girls are totally the root of the problem. Good, hard-hitting cultural journalism there.
Give me a break.