Geek Solidarity: Standing firm with your sisters in geekdom.
There’s been a lot of heat on the internet this past year regarding sexism and misogyny in video games. A lot of it sparked from specific women (such as Anita Sarkeesian) pointing out that, hey! Women are portrayed kind of terribly, here are the reasons why, and here’s how we can fix it. She, and the many other women who’ve pointed this out, experience a negative backlash against them, targeting every area of their personal life, attempting to shame them into silence.
Many people who argue against this like to throw around “men have it just as bad” and “women just need to suck it up like we do”. You may have interacted with me on the G33kpron Facebook fanpage and I’ve probably called you a “shit head” and violently told you to “fuck off”. My anger, and a lot of women’s anger, comes from a place inside of us where we store memories of the systematic abuse and oppression of women in Western society and its direct impact upon us.
I’ve written a lot of inflammatory articles, and I’ll probably continue to do so, but I thought I’d take a moment to explain how you, as a guy, can support the women around you without trivializing and invalidating their direct experiences with misogyny, especially the misogyny that is ever present in geek fandom.
One of the most popular phrases when a woman or a person of colour is trying to explain, to men or to white people, about their poor representation in comic books/video games/etc, is, “Well, we have it just as bad, WHAT ABOUT US?!” Not only is that trivializing and invalidating to the people around you who are trying to discuss the very real and very poor representation of women and PoC in the mass media (that includes television and film, although even those two divisions of entertainment are more caught up than comic books and video games, in my opinion) but it is a very poor way to discuss anything ever… at all. In any way.
You want to show support and solidarity for us, as women, in geekdom? Try and be more open minded toward the truth that you do not, in fact, have it as bad as us. Hyper-masculinity is an issue that affects men and young boys, but in no way does it define you. There are many portrayals of men in video games and comic books that are different from the “standard” of beauty for men. Mario is undeniably one of the most well-known and well loved video game characters and he’s a short, mustachioed, chubby plumber; Link, on the other hand, is a slender, lithe, femme elfish Hylian with earrings and big blue eyes (not to mention every fan favourite in Final Fantasy: Sephiroth, Cloud Strife, Squall, Zidane, etc). Hell, Gordon Freeman is an average-looking middle-aged dude physicist with thick-rimmed glasses and worry lines on his forehead.
The fact is: you have options, very popular options, that differ from the beefy Duke Nukem-esque body image that society thrusts upon you. Women, on the other hand, do not. In main stream comic books, especially, women’s body types follow the same formula: teeny tiny waists, well-defined breasts, doll-like faces, taught bottom, similar facial features (often despite them being of difference races all together). It’s literally all we see. We’re encouraged to present ourselves physically as per this norm, but when we attend conventions and the like, we’re constantly othered, badgered into telling our “credentials”, scowled at and considered to be the trojan horses of geekdom. Some geek dudes would rather believe that we’re “attention whores” who are trying to “infiltrate geek circles” than believe that hey, maybe this lady actually likes geeky stuffy! Being conventionally attractive and having geeky interests are not mutually exclusive, despite what you may seem to believe, and believing otherwise is sexist as hell.
Understand that women talking about their experiences with misogyny and sexism in geek fandom is not women painting all dude geeks with broad strokes. Even though you might not be a raging misogynist, participating in “what about us” conversations does nothing but add to the problem. By not listening, understanding and supporting the women around you when they are talking about their experiences, you are invalidating the very real systematic oppression that women feel every day.
It’s not a bad thing that you don’t have it “as bad as us”. Most of you guys have privileges the rest of us will kill for. Don’t take offense when I say “sorry, your opinion doesn’t matter on this” because it’s nothing personally against you, but you are a part of a privileged majority. You’ve never had to deal with being leered at wherever you walk on the street, you’ve never had people come up to you at conventions when you’re not even cosplaying and obsessively take photos of you, and you’ve never had to deal with constant sexual harassment on a daily basis for simply existing. I have, especially as a geek.
So please, dude geek peers of fandom, stop trying to make it all about you all the time. There’s nothing wrong with talking about the problems of unrealistic beauty norms in society and how it affects you, but pick a better time than directly in response to women wanting to talk about their marginalization as geeks, or hell, as women in general. Please, for the love of my sanity and for the greater good, learn to listen.