In response to gaming and geek culture’s desperate need to disparage women

Sexism exists. As a society we have come come a long way, but sexism still exists and we still have a lot of work to do to change people's attitudes towards women. I believe I am a strong woman. I believe in judging people based on what they do and how they conduct themselves in the world. As such, I am writing this response because I am completely and utterly sick of people who still feel the need to disparage women because they don’t fit a certain mold (note I say people here because both women and men do this and they equally sicken me.)

Today a man named Joe Peacock wrote an article that was featured on CNN titled “Booth babes need not apply” that went on to discuss women who he described as “6s” in the real world, but garbed in a geek tee shirt or cosplay outfit, became “9s”. He said these women were "a pox on our culture" and "just gross."

Joe went on to talk about Felicia Day, who is an attractive woman deep in geek culture, and how she is, in short, a legitimate geek female. He then continued by saying Olivia Munn and “practically every FragDoll” were not geeks. He called them “models-cum-geeks”, “chicks”, and “poachers.”

Joe is no better than "the thirteen year olds who think it's cool or funny to demean women for sport" whom he purports to hate. He even uses the old “I’m friends with hot girls who are geeks, so I can say this” defense in the beginning of his article. I’ve heard that before – “I’m friends with someone who is gay/black/female! It’s okay when I now say this wildly offensive thing!”

Even writing that last sentence makes my blood boil.

Some gals (and guys!) in gaming and geek culture I love, and some I don’t. Some I don’t like because of how they represent themselves and I’m sure in some cases those representations I have disliked have hinged on attitude or appearance, but mostly I like or dislike people based on authenticity and whether or not they actually have the expertise to back up whatever they are doing.

I also have a huge issue with the short-sightedness of lumping “booth babes” together with women who work in the industry or who are fans within the culture. “Booth babes” are not a singular entity. Women work at conventions as hired contractors to do everything from wrangle lines to represent products (they can know a little or a lot about the product, depending on their role.) Sometimes, they are dressed normally. Sometimes, they are dressed in a costume. I take umbrage with people who form opinions about a woman based on looks alone. I’ve worked dozens of conventions with these women (both while the women were in costume and when they were not) and I know that at least for the companies I work for the women who represent us are trained on all our products. And yes, I’ve had to defend these women on show floors against angry folk who insult and ridicule them. Why? Because there’s a preconceived notion these women are not on the same level as “geek culture” – an idea that is toxic and ignorant.

Now that I’ve explained “booth babes” I’m sure you can see why Joe's title is a great example of the insidious sexism still rampant in gaming and geek culture. The women Joe spends his article talking about are not booth babes: they may be people that, for one reason or another, he doesn’t like or respect, but instead of clearly articulating why he feels that way, he undermines them by using an offensive and inaccurate term.

Being “good friends with several stunningly beautiful women who cosplay as stunningly beautiful characters” and liking Felicia Day doesn't mean you aren't a misogynist. Trashing Olivia Munn or FragDolls and dismissing them merely by saying “these chicks? Not geeks” doesn't help elevate geek culture - it detracts from it. By marginalizing women as he has in this article, Joe Peacock doesn’t expose anyone as a fraud; he instead shows his bigotry, arrogance, and ignorance. The only way to stop being sexist is to actually start treating women as people, not objects. If we really want to stop people who are phony or who prey on gaming and geek culture by using sexuality to lure us in, let’s talk about it, but this current conversation isn't engaging in that discourse: it's just degrading women. We, as a culture, are better than that, even if Joe Peacock isn’t quite there yet.

7 Comments on "In response to gaming and geek culture’s desperate need to disparage women "

Jul 26, 2012 at 12:23am
100%. It wasn't even clear on what he was trying to accomplish in his slanderous article.

Pronouncing his general dissatisfaction and jealousy of women who want just want to enjoy their job? Geek culture is supposed to be supportive and accepting, as we (true geeks) embrace our unusual activities. We are outcast from mainstream, and the act of calling out those who want to grow in the industry...is nothing less than hypocritical (if he can even call himself a geek).
Jul 26, 2012 at 2:27am
Word. This is similar to a discussion I just had with my girlfriend about that article. There are people fighting to treat women like people in geek culture: <a href="http://www.geekgirlcon.com/">http://www.geekgirlcon.com/</a> in Seattle this August is going to be an awesome example of it, I hope. (Disclaimer: I'm a volunteer, and my GF is on staff. We both believe that this sort of thing is necessary.)
Jul 26, 2012 at 2:56am
Elizabeth, thank you for posting this. Sexism has been the one thing that I find super hard to deal with in gaming, and covert promotion of it really bothers me. One of my favorite webcomics, Weregeek, takes the belief that everyone, even the people too cool to geek out about comic books and table top games, has something to geek out about in their lives. Be it sports statistics, a new line of makeup/clothes, the fanaticism that is elicited is equal for all people involved.

In short - everyone's a geek. Don't act like that people need protecting from "poachers," anyone with half a brain knows who is pretending to be interested and who isn't with a short conversation about the topic.
Kat Sanders:
Jul 26, 2012 at 3:19am
Well said. Well done. :D
Jul 26, 2012 at 2:42pm
I see your point. But I also agree with his article. I know a girl that is a bit of a fake geek and it does annoy me somewhat, I'm not sure exactly why but it just does.

Secondly, the profiteering can be concerning sometimes. I think of that site that was announced a while back, it allowed guys to pay by the minute to play with girls in games. That kinda stuff concerns me. Mainly because I know guys that would get involved in that, and it is a little like preying on the needy.
Jul 26, 2012 at 2:55pm
I read the article again. The writer is diddle-head.
Jul 26, 2012 at 9:56pm
Yes, I think he missed the mark. Lumping girls who are kinda geek, but not uber geek, in with for-pay "both babes" is probably the most exclusionary reaction I have ever seen in this culture towards women. The fact that he is mostly raging against pretty women reminds of other repressive cultures and how they force women to hide their bodies so that the poor men don't have to have any self control. He just highlights the immaturity that comes from not being comfortable around women. This is just old fashioned sexism in a batman shirt.

Women aren't the ones excluding geeks from mainstream cilture, guys like this are. If you didn't exclude women from your hibbies, then they wouldn't degrade you for it. Women love men who are passionate about something (and they love intelligence, too) . But make them feel like outsiders and they won't think you and your hobby are cool.

Feeling impotent around pretty women is not a universality of geek culture. It's what defines misogyny. He is representing a culture that feels under attack from pretty women, but it's not geek culture.

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