Ever since women started to take a larger role in the gaming/geek/nerd community they have received massive backlash, being called “fake” or “posers” for various reasons. Most of these reasons revolve around a girl who doesn’t know every single thing in the entire world about every video game/nerd culture topic and in turn must be faking it. I’m sure all you ladies in the gaming/nerd communities online (or even in person) have experienced this, you say something like “Hey, I like Fallout too!” in a conversation about the Fallout series and someone instantly retorts, “Did you even play the original Fallout? No? Well you’re just a faker and poser, not a real gamer.”
What? So because I didn’t play a game that came out when I was 8-years-old, back when I didn’t even have a PC, I am not a gamer and can’t enjoy newer games in the series? Well that’s absurd, but to be honest this stuff happens all the time and I have some awesome first hand experience with it, sadly.
Then, there’s this:
There is some invisible level of “nerd” that only certain girls can achieve, apparently. Simply playing The Sims 3 does not make you a gamer (weird since it’s a game, and therefore playing it would be gaming, making the player a gamer by definition), you can only be a gamer if you play others games too. You’re a “dumb poser” if you think you are a gamer just because you like The Sims 3 and have glasses. This is assuming the intelligence level of the person who only plays The Sims 3 is lower than the person who wrote this, the person who wrote “I like stuffs” and uses commas like they are going out of style. That isn’t really the point though.
Wearing glasses or taking pictures of yourself with a controller means you are automatically “fake” and want attention according to much of the geek/nerd community. I don’t think this assumption is fair, considering there are all kinds of levels of being a nerd/gamer and these levels are all accepted with males but not with females, resulting in the “fake GIRL gamer/nerd” phrase. It’s never “fake BOY gamer/nerd” is it? If a guy had a picture of himself in “thick-rimmed” glasses (which are a style and practical, not a determining factor of being a nerd but whatever) then it would be funny or cute, a girl does it and it’s “OMG WHAT A FAKE NERD GET HER!”
This bleeds into all venues of nerd culture, whether it be playing video games, liking Doctor Who, or cosplaying as your favorite characters at conventions. I watched a video the other day from the ever so lovely YouTube-er albinwonderland in which she goes over that awful Facebook rant by Tony Harris from awhile back that demeaned the female cosplay community and women in general. She also makes some fantastic points about what a nerd is and why there is not such thing as a “Fake Geek Girl”. Have a look, it’s great stuff!
If you want to read that massive Facebook rant in its entirety without watching albinwonderland do a hilarious rendition of it, here it is – read at your own caution though, it’s a tough read (let’s just say it’s obvious he isn’t a comic book writer):
I mean not only is that outrageously offensive and demeaning to women, it’s just plain ignorant. Who are you to say that virtually all girls who cosplay at cons aren’t even attractive and only do it for attention and think that guys who do the same are pathetic, Mr. Harris? Not only is it not even factual (I’d say there are fewer girls who do it for attention than there are girls who do it because they love the character/enjoy the material) but it’s just downright disrespectful.
The cosplay community isn’t the only community under scrutiny from these “turbo-nerds” or “cave-dwellers”, as some call them. As I mentioned above, gamers get hit with the criticism stick pretty often too. I’m sure you all have seen this picture, with or without some inane assumption that she is “fake” or the general slut-shaming that typically accompanies these types of photos:
Sure, we have probably all used this picture as some kind of measure of what it means to be a “fake gamer girl” versus a real gamer. Hell, even I have used it for bad jokes and a good laugh, something I am not proud of. When I looked into this a little deeper though, I thought “why do I assume that she doesn’t actually play games”? Is it just because she is attractive and eating her controller? I mean she got the controller somehow, I think it’s safe to assume it’s probably hers which means she spent money on it which leads to the conclusion that she probably plays video games.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that eating controllers is totally cool, because I think it’s weird and not at all what controllers are made for, but it doesn’t automatically mean that the person in the picture doesn’t play games at all and is “fake”. I read an article awhile back, which you may read here (thanks to JenovasWitness, who linked it to me), in which the woman in the picture above was interviewed. She said this picture was meant to be a joke on her boyfriend and that she actually has been gaming since she was 3-4 years old. That’s one thing we all forget, who says the girls in these pictures are being serious? I’d wager that a lot of these girls are either modeling something or are being satirical.
Another great YouTube video on this subject is this one from the Black Nerd Comedy channel. He talks about the hypocrisy of the whole “fake geek girl” discussion and brings up some really funny and relevant points against the “girls are fake geeks” notion. He includes how it’s silly to assume “hot girls” only want attention and aren’t really geeks/gamers. He brings up how females are often grilled on their gaming/nerd hobby, being asked if they have played or watched some super obscure game/show as some kind of measure of true nerdiness. He also talks about good ways for women to deal with this backlash without sitting back and taking the ridicule.
The escalation is intense, these scenarios go from “You’re just a fake gamer STFU GTFO” to “You’re a stupid whore who only wants attention, stop preying on nerd guys and grow up you dumb slut”. That is no exaggeration either, as I said above – I have first hand experience with this kind of thing, and a lot of it. This mostly occurs on the internet or via Xbox Live or PSN, since these are places in which people are allowed to remain anonymous. No one has ever come up to me in the real world and said “I bet you are only wearing that Umbrella Corporation shirt because you watched those movies, you probably never played the games you fake gamer girl slut” but if I had a picture of myself online with it on I might get a negative comment or two. A good website to see examples of this is Fat, Ugly, or Slutty. Girls submit their crazy stories of being called fake or being harassed because of their gender and the stories get posted up. I actually submitted this video awhile back and made it on the website.
Here is another problematic exploit:
People pick apart photos of girls posing with their cosplay gear or collectibles under the assumption that because one thing is awry that she is stupid, fake, or generally disingenuous about what she is posing with. The problem? People jumping on the bandwagon. People see pictures like this and automatically thing “Oh man, what a poser!” instead of thinking that she just made one simple mistake.
A girl gets called “fake” in one community by one person and all of a sudden everyone agrees and says “OH NO SHE’S A FAKER!” instead of listening to reason and getting her side of the story. This leads to hateful messages and comments as well as straight up harassment over time. This ruins gaming as well as nerdy communities for some women which is a total bummer. I have had women tell me that they pretend to be a guy when gaming or talking online about nerd stuff, using a boyish gamertag/ID/handle and generally pretending to be a male to avoid harassment. Why should anyone have to do that? We should be proud to be females who like what we happen to like, not ashamed and fearful because some “neck-beard” can’t handle a woman knowing anything about Metroid or Star Wars.
In the cosplay community this get’s particularly painful as men (like Tony Harris) think that female cosplayers only do what they do for attention and don’t really play the game/read the comic/watch the anime/etc. This leads to the “she wants it” attitude which segues into some really serious and scary stuff like sexual assault, stalking, or even rape. I have personally been subjected to this kind of harassment at a convention while cosplaying. I had a male grab my hand, try to touch my backside, tell my boyfriend that I was “his”, and take a plethora of pictures of me while stalking me over several days. No joke.
It was really uncomfortable and honestly scared me, making me unsure if I ever wanted to cosplay again (don’t worry, I did, but the next time I crossplayed as a male character and avoided the hassle which is kind of related to the point I’m trying to make here). Plenty of other girls have experienced this and a lot of them get it worse than I did I’m sure, which is horrifying. What’s sad is that these guys think it’s “ok” or “acceptable” to act like this, since that is “what she wants”, which is 100% not true. Even if a girl is cosplaying for attention I can guarantee you that she doesn’t want creepy, invasive men crawling all over her every second of the day.
Another major way in which this stigma hurts females is that we get classified based on how we look or what we like:
Certain games/characters/shows/general nerd things/etc. are now considered “casual” or “mainstream”, things that fake nerd girls do to get attention – because we all know that these girls have nothing better to do that play “mainstream” games in an attempt to get a boy to look her way and ask how big her boobs are.
Apparently liking Assassin’s Creed, cosplaying as Samus Aran, watching Firefly, or reading Ender’s Game are what you do if you are a “fake” nerd since these things are “mainstream” and well-known for various reasons. The hard part is that this almost never applies to males, if I guy plays Battlefield he’s ok because it’s a good series. If a guy reads The Hunger Games he’s ok because those are good books. He probably wont be called fake or told that he is not an actual gamer/nerd because he does those things because it’s not assumed that he is only doing it for attention.
Even the guys who only play Call of Duty and nothing else get very little flack, the worst they get called is a “bro” which is nowhere near the same level of “fake” since it’s not implying that they don’t even like it.
It has turned into a gender issue, being a “gamer girl” isn’t just being a female who plays games, it’s a girl who likes to pretend she plays games to get all the boys to pay attention to her – or something ridiculous like that. I don’t personally care for the phrase “gamer girl” since I think being a gamer is a genderless thing, something that all genders can do equally. However, I don’t agree with the fact that “gamer girl” has turned into a rage-inducing insult rather than a simple label placed upon female gamers. People use that phrase to classify nerdy women and insult them through memes and comments. Search “fake gamer girl” on Google images and you will see all kinds of generalized, hate-filled assumptions that put these girls in the photos (as well as all girls who do these things) down.
There are various levels of being a nerd, some people are more into something that others but that doesn’t mean that the one who is less into something is faking it.
It’s unfair to make assumptions that pretty girls don’t play games, or girls who take pictures of themselves with controllers are “sluts” and awful people.
Just because you play Zelda or Portal doesn’t mean you are the know-all, end-all gamer who knows all the thing ever and therefore has the right to put others down for liking Skyrim or Call of Duty.
We all (both men and women) need to fight against this crap, it’s demeaning and further separates the sexes in nerd culture. If we want equality or just general camaraderie among nerdy/gaming communities then we need to quit putting others down for silly reasons like this.
Instead of seeing a girl with a SNK shirt and thinking “OMG she probably doesn’t even know what that is”, try talking to her instead. Ask her about her favorite characters and what she likes about the show, get a conversation going. For all you know she may be more into it than you, or maybe she is just getting into it and would like to learn more – this is where you help her to learn more by being a friend instead of calling her a stupid poser.
This is how we develop friendships (and relationships) and is an important part of socialization. Pushing someone away because there is no way they could possibly like Mass Effect as much as you just ends up hurting you, because that person may just like it as much as or more than you and they might just be an awesome person that you will miss out being buddies with.
I want to open up some discussion here. What do you think about the “Fake Geek/Nerd Girl” myth? Have you experienced it personally? Have you witnessed it happening to other people? Do you have anything to add? Let it out and share it!
I’ll leave you all with this shining ray of awesome while you ponder the issue, enjoy!
Update: A follow-up article has been written to further discuss these issues here on LSZ. If you are interested, click this link and give it a read. Thank you!