The Myth of the “Fake Geek Girl”

If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Recently, a friend posted an article on his Facebook page about the pervasiveness of the “fake geek girl” in our society. It was an interesting read. (Author’s Note: I’d love to link to the article that inspired this piece, but disorganized creative type that I am, I never bothered to bookmark it. Ooops.) It’s no secret that it is now hot and trendy for girls who aren’t into a subculture that’s considered “geeky” to dress the part and show up at conventions and events. They aren’t there out of love for what everyone else loves, and are therefore largely either despised or objectified. Many of these girls are there because they’re either looking to meet a certain type of guy, or  because they realize it’s a great way to get attention and fulfill the ultimate fantasy of many a geeky guy.  It’s a lie, of course, and a game, and I don’t defend it.

Yet, I see why it’s necessary, or why some girls feel pressured to fake it in order to feel accepted by their friends, their significant others, or the group of people around them. It’s not any different than the pressure for women to adhere to the mainstream ideal of attractiveness when going out to a popular club, even if that’s not really representative of who that girl is.

Since most of you don’t know me and don’t read my blog or follow me on Facebook, I suppose I should share a little bit about myself. I’ve always been an intelligent, outgoing, unconventional girl who happens to frequently date guys and become close friends with guys who are the opposite of me (personality-wise, not intelligence-wise). I’m somehow well-suited to the guys who never seem to approach me; the introverted ones who you won’t meet at bars and who, if seen at a party, are afraid to talk to you. Some of them have gone on to become hugely successful. Some are the best friends I’ve ever had in my life. Some are the most memorable and affecting love affairs I’ve had in my life. Some are people I bond with in a way I’ve never bonded with anyone else. I’ve had to work to get to know many of these more introverted, driven people who tend to be both less emotional and less expressive than myself. But it largely works. I know many “geeky guys” who have changed me for the better and helped me grow, and I hope the reverse is true as well. Many of my friends don’t get it. They ask why I date “geeks” instead of more traditional types, the type of guy most of them would imagine I’d want in my life. They tell me someone isn’t good enough for me based on how they dress or how they act at parties or because someone would rather sit at home in front of a computer screen than do shots at a club on a Friday night.  I see the judgment from mainstream society, and it annoys me terribly.  I also see the judgement from a subculture that should know better, as they know little about me. It annoys me that I’d be seen as a “fake geek girl” or representative of something that is destructive to a community of people because I choose to show up at a convention that someone in my life is really excited about in costume to show my support for that person’s interests. If I don’t do this, if I reiterate my “non-geek girl” status, then instead of being a fake, I’m someone who simply doesn’t belong.

What annoys me even more is the sense of non-acceptance from the “geek” community. My boyfriend of quite a few years is a geek. He likes sci-fi and comic books and works as a computer programmer, and each year, we’re involved with a number of events that are most certainly “geeky” in nature. (What most people don’t know is that he watches some of the same reality TV shows I’m into, will sit through the opera or ballet, and is happy to keep up with my hectic social schedule–and be more amiable than I am in the process, at times. We’re all multifaceted.) I’m a very open person, and I tend to embrace even things that really aren’t part of my comfort zone. I don’t pretend to be knowledgeable about things I am not or that I am passionate about things that I have little interest in. However, I’m interested in getting to know other people and learning about their passions. I’d always assumed I’d encounter the same in response.

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In truth, during my years interacting with the “geek subculture” I’ve encountered everything from being ignored and ostracized to having groups of girls make up mean nicknames for me and gossip behind my back. I will literally sit there at an event and nobody talks to me despite the fact that I’ve always been the approachable, chatty type who will make friends everywhere I go. I was shocked to realize that a group of people that had encountered so much judgement and non-acceptance was relatively uneasy with the idea of accepting me.

I do not advocate for the “fake geek girls” of the world, the ones who are simply out for a self-esteem boost and may have ulterior motives, although I don’t really believe one should be judged for enjoying admiration and appearing in photographs.  In general, I do not advocate for “fake” anything, and thus, I’m not a “fake geek girl”. I don’t play video games or watch sci-fi, and I haven’t read a comic book. I’m a writer with a degree in musical theater. I’m outgoing. I plan parties. I like to be the center of attention. I’ve spent my whole life onstage. I’m not dumb, not an airhead, I just don’t like video games. I don’t like being made to feel I should apologize for being a high-school cheerleader because I’m with a group that got picked on by that crowd when we were all much younger. I was never the girl who did that, although maybe I didn’t stand up for the underdog or talk to the outcasts as much as I should have back then. I’d like to think we’ve all grown tremendously since then.

Yet, when I am part of a community that isn’t willing to accept me because I prefer Survivor to Stargate, I feel like I’m back in high school. Only this time, I’m not invited to sit at the “cool table”. It feels crappy to wonder why you’re invisible.

The irony is, it has nothing to do with intelligence, this type of judgement. I have a higher IQ than most of the self-proclaimed “smart, nerdy kids” who won’t talk to me because I mix up Star Wars and Star Trek.  (yes, my secret is out.) If they wanted to talk to me about books or politics or philosophy or psychology or religion or almost anything else,  they’d discover that.  They’d discover I’ve led a pretty fascinating and well-rounded life, and a majority of the people in my world happen to be very high-achieving, intelligent, talented, and impressive people in their own right. However, once I mention I fell asleep during Firefly, I see the look of disinterest and dismissal. It really is a type of rejection.

Of course, this isn’t what I’ve encountered from everyone. I still continue to attend events and wear costumes at Dragon*Con and help out wherever I can, and it is because I have met some wonderful and fascinating people in the world of “geekdom”. It’s simply that I can understand the pressure to be a “fake geek girl”, because if you’re a girl who isn’t into that subculture, and you happen to date guys who are—well, you’re judged. A lot.

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I don’t have interest in being someone I’m not. I’m not putting on an exploitative costume or wearing fake glasses or toning down my makeup or replacing my girly-girl fashion style with a witty T-shirt so people will think I’m smart or so geeky guys or intelligent guys will like me. They already do, with my quirky artist/life-loving manic pixie/insecure, misanthropic extroverted personality. Yet, it sucks not to fit in because a group of people who know all about being judged and not fitting in do the same to you.

I don’t, as a rule, judge people as a group. People are not categories, myself especially. I accept people as they are. I’m not a mainstream person. I belong to my own set of subcultures, and so I’m interested in accepting others. But it seems as if those who have most often been judged are the most likely to judge in return, leading a less individualistic person to wonder if it’s just easier to fake it.

I’m not defending the idea of the “fake geek girl”. In fact, I probably dislike this type of behavior more than the die-hard fans of one thing or another that are offended by it.  I absolutely get that some girls pretend to be part of a subculture to attract a certain kind of guy, whether it’s geeks or hipsters or musicians or anything else. The feminist side of me cries a little when I see people sacrifice their authenticity in order to attract another person’s attention. It’s uncool, and it doesn’t work. However, I see why some girls who aren’t “geek girls” feel pressured to fake it in order to be accepted, much as with any group out there in mainstream culture. If you don’t, you risk being judged or seen as less than you are–or worse yet, people never get to know the real you. When the real you is worth knowing, and it always is, it’s a hurtful oversight that benefits no one.

geekgirlsfakeIt is ironic—or not—that a person can feel as much pressure to belong to a subculture to avoid judgment, as to conform to mainstream ideals to find a place to fit in.

The problem isn’t the “fake geek girl”. It’s that we live in a society that requires women to always fall neatly in boxes, usually boxes somehow related to the men with whom they associate, and to dress and act and behave in a way that’s rewarded by both men and women. If you conform, girls like you, guys are attracted to you, and your self-esteem is regularly reinforced. If you don’t, you risk judgment and ostracism and wonder what’s wrong with you. Girls are intimidated because you stand out, and, good or bad, that draws the attention other girls want for themselves. Guys are intimidated because you make it clear you’re playing by your own rules, not the standard ones in effect. Mainstream or subculture, women are still put in boxes that define the way in which they’re meant to be pleasing to others. Not that men aren’t, of course, but I will staunchly maintain women have it a bit harder on that front right now.

The problem is that we live in a world that encourages and rewards the “fake geek girl” just as it does the “fake Barbie doll girl”. It is harmful and diminishes the self-esteem of the women who firmly believe they cannot be loved and accepted without pretending to be something others will find attractive. It also demeans intelligent men, sending out the message that all guys would choose the fantasy over the reality, and they would not. The phenomenon of the “fake geek girl” is just another way women have found to manipulate or to be manipulated, even those who head into things with good intentions.  Rather than her intelligence being accepted and encouraged by a community of peers, she’s being rewarded for her sexuality, for her willingness to please, to conform, to be another person’s ideal.

Why can’t we all just be as we are—flawed, interesting, diverse, messed-up, fun-loving human beings? And why, if you happen to be female, does your sexuality come before all of that?

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That’s why I’m not a fake anything, and as a result, I don’t know that I belong anywhere in our society. I’m proud of my sexuality, but I own it. It is not something that is defined by the culture I live in, or the guys who want to buy me drinks, or someone who cares more about how I look in a Star Wars costume than my actual ability to converse and share ideas. It’s no different than what you might encounter in any other group of people, at any other social event.

The “fake geek girl” may be a despised, objectified, and often misunderstood creature. Yet, she exists because living in a way that is authentic and self-defined takes either great internal strength and confidence, or the ability to be a hard-headed human being who won’t compromise ideals to be liked, no matter how much harder that choice makes things. Most people prefer conformity or even the illusion of being accepted by a group.

The next time you meet an interesting, attractive woman at a “geek-oriented” event and she admits that she isn’t a fan of whatever happens to be the topic of discussion, perhaps it’s best not to assume she’s a “fake geek girl” there for attention. That assumption demeans everyone. Instead, find out why she is there, the things she’s most passionate about, and who she really is.

You may be pleasantly surprised at the eye-opening new perspective or intelligent conversation you’ll take away from doing so. You may even find you’ve made a new close friend simply by following the age-old wisdom of never judging a book by its cover.

Please read our followup piece to this controversial feature: The Myth of the “Fake Geek Girl”: Addressing the Discourse and Discontent

***The views expressed above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Nerdy Minds (Magazine) as a whole. But they might.***

So that we are able to better understand our viewers’ perspective and give you more of what you want and less of what you don’t, please leave a comment (positive or negative). Care to offer another perspective? Facebook us!

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16 thoughts on “The Myth of the “Fake Geek Girl”

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  1. It’s not just WOMEN who get put into boxes. This writer puts her guys in one (nerdy). I personally don’t have a problem as long as said box is accurate. As far as ‘fake’ geek girls ~sigh~ Anyone who gets discriminated against at DragonCon (in my nearly decade-long experience there) has worked at it. That con covers EVERYTHING in pop culture (nearly anyway) & it would NOT surprise me to see someone in cosplay as one of the contestants LOL If you act the least bit interested in whatever the topic of conversation is (& the later on in the night the easier this gets) you will have no problem getting along. Kind of like me at a football game – haven’t a clue nor a real interest but on the few occasions I went (for varying family-related reasons) I simply pointed & asked ‘what’s going on’ & got along very well. I think my point might be – I acted INTERESTED. I did NOT dwell on how pointless I think said game might be (true or not) nor on any of the other myriad negativities I might have voiced – I tried to find some common ground (like figuring out the rules in the hope I might find more enjoyment in the experience…) and carried on from there. In other words stating in a Browncoat panel that you found their all-time favorite thing (Firefly) boring is perhaps NOT the best way to win friends & influence people there. And perhaps instead of admitting to your inability to tell the difference between Trek & Star Wars you might just ask some Trekker to explain why he/she loves the show. I’m thinking you might not get left out in the cold then even if you are just there to support your guy.

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  2. (This turned into a discussion on a Facebook group, but I’m going to repost my reply for the rest of the readers not in that group. 🙂 Then, I am going to watch “How I Met Your Mother”. *laughs* )

    “Actually, I addressed the fact that it is not only women who do this (I said something like “Granted, it is not only women who face this problem, but I maintain we have it harder on that front these days.)

    As for putting the guys I date in the “nerdy” box, I went on to explain how those “nerdy” guys are into lots of other things (most of which many people at many geek-oriented social gatherings don’t know about, because there is little talk about anything OUTSIDE of a rather small cross-section of topics.) So, yep, I addressed the idea of all people being put in a box.

    I actually run a Meetup for over 2100 people. In my sorority, I was the social director. I’m definitely not unaccustomed to social graces, and my first concern in any social situation is to 1)Make people feel comfortable and 2)Find common ground. I generally believe that’s how to make friends. However, one must always stay authentic. If you’re going to a football game, as in your example, and you do not follow football, it is poor manners to yell out “FOOTBALL SUCKS!”. However, if someone asks you, “What’s your favourite team?” and you hate football, there’s nothing wrong with saying “I’m not really into football.” The response will usually be, “Cool..what do you like, then?”, not “Why are you at a football game?” You can be yourself without being rude and still expect some measure of acceptance.

    I was at an event recently where I spoke with someone who asked what my favourite episode of “Firefly” was, and I gave an honest answer…”Honestly, I’ve only seen a few episodes, and I just couldn’t get into it.” The reply was, “Well, what’s your favourite sci-fi show?” Again, I answered honestly and said, “I’m not a big sci-fi fan. It’s never been my thing,although I’ve tried watching a few. I do watch a lot of TV, though!” (opening the door for continued conversation.) However, the person turned away from me and dismissed me from the sphere of existence simply because we couldn’t talk about sci-fi. Other than the fact we didn’t share that interest, I was perfectly friendly, comfortable, and willing to chat.

    I really believe in being well-rounded. I like reality TV, and people I meet will tell me to my face that reality TV is crap and a waste of time. And, you know, it’s totally cool they think that. I will still want to talk to that person and get to know about them…I just know we won’t be talking about reality TV. But, there are literally an endless number of things you can share about one another. Why should the focus be on the one you haven’t got in common? “

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  3. This sounds like a trolling article. Well written by someone obviously intelligent, but wonders when she goes to science fiction Conventions and expresses a lack of any interest about science fiction, people don’t want to talk to her. You *really* don’t understand that?

    You like ‘geek guys’ but don’t like anything they are interested in. Wow. How lucky for them, that instead of watching their favorite show, you’ll go to the opera or ballet with them.

    I don’t think ‘fake geek girl’ is about people pretending to be interested to hold a conversation. But by your logic, you go to a football game and have *zero* interest in football, but are shocked, shocked you say, that someone doesn’t want to engage them about theater, psychology or any one of your many other interests. Why the heck should they? You’re not at a neutral site, you’re at a football game.

    You’re into cosplay. That’s one thing. But if you look at the 4 days of programming over 53 tracks at Dragon Con, it’s hard for an intelligent person not to find *something* interesting. Or you can say ‘I’m here to hang out with my boyfriend. He’s the cute one over there.’ That would be more social than telling attendants that you have no interest in the very things they’re passionate about and have gone to a special Con to talk about.

    You don’t have to like everything. I don’t know anyone that does. But if you don’t like literature, art, comic books or super heroes, science fiction at all (tv or movies), videogames or other gaming, or don’t have *any* interest in *any* of the stuff (other than costuming) which is *HUGE* at Dragon Con, just say you’re there with your guy. That’s the truth and you’re not being ‘fake’ or ‘inauthentic’.

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    1. I think you’d have to have your head buried in the sand to not realize that there’s tremendous amount of legitimate feminist critique at conventions that cater to “geeky” pursuits. To diminish the author’s attempt to share her experience as trolling pretty much nullifies any intellectual integrity your opinion holds.

      Even if you’re not personally involved with treating women at conventions differently than your male counterparts, it’s not hard to imagine that a fair number do. While I’m not personally acquainted with DragonCon, I do follow other technology conventions, and examples of extremely sexist treatment and denigration of women run rampant. (For example, see: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-im-finished-defending-sexism-in-tech-2013-9.

      Perhaps a bit more topical to DragonCon – consider the case of Anita Sarkeesian, who wanted to start a Kickstarter campaign analyzing female characters in video games. Although her crowdfunding efforts were successful, it came at a deluge of hate mail and death threats – all for analyzing a hypothesis that some female characters are harmful tropes: (Source: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-07-09-anita-sarkeesian)

      Before rendering advice and criticizing the author’s attempt at interacting, it may be completely reasonable that she made every attempt to carry forth a conversation. The fact she’s chosen to attend a convention with her geeky partner shows an incredible amount of courage and open-mindedness – one which should be celebrated and not condemned.

      The bit about her taste in men and what she subjects them to is absolute conjecture. For all you know, she may engage in those activities with other willing accomplices, or might even go alone!

      I probably wouldn’t have responded thusly if your tone were a bit less argumentative, but you’ve made far too many assumptions to cast judgment here.

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  5. I’m sorry, but this entire article makes me think you don’t understand most of the geeks at cons at all.
    Most of us are introverts. We are capable of discussing at length something that we love and cherish and obsess about, but as soon as you profess that you don’t have an interest in those things, we will shy away and back off from the conversation- because you don’t share our interests, and engaging with an outgoing, upbeat person is quite literally exhausting for someone who’s an introvert.

    Approach a geek with something they love, and they will be your best friend. But say you’re not really interested, and suddenly THEY’RE not interested.

    From the sound of this article, you were fairly popular in school. You got along well with everyone, you got to sit at the ‘cool’ table.
    Whereas most of the nerds/geeks at conventions were the ones who were teased, made fun of, beat up, and turned into some sort of social pariah.

    We have loved the things we love from the moment we discovered them, we didn’t come late to the party, or hide our interests to be popular at school. We stepped into the fire and we TOOK IT, because these were the things we loved, and we were going to love them.
    We are very defensive of the things that we cherish and geek out about because we’ve been through a hell of a lot to show that we love them.

    Many geeks will have just a few things they obsess about, and those are the things that they are there at a convention to be fans of, so when someone is there that doesn’t share that interest, they LOSE interest.
    It’s like the football analogy- saying “Okay, what’s going on, what are the rules?” will get your ear talked off, but saying “I’m not really into football, but I really like baseball, which is also a sport!” will get you stared at.
    They’re there for football. Not to hear about the other sports you like.
    Sure, maybe you’ll find the one that likes baseball just as much, but for the most part you’ll get a, “Oh, well okay then.” and they’ll change the subject.

    There’s also the fact that at an event like a sports game, you’re stuck in your seat. You make friends with the people around you. At a con, there are escape exits everywhere and if an introverted geek doesn’t feel like talking to someone that doesn’t share their interest, they’ll bolt.

    I do it all the time. You are not interested in the things that I like, so I have no reason to talk to you. I could care less about Survivor. I don’t watch Reality TV (unless it’s Dance Moms, but honestly I only watch that to see the dancers, not the Moms).

    To me, you seem like one of the people of the world that a friend and I would put into the class of being “A People”. That is to say, you’re the person that an introvert finds exhausting. You want to make friends and be out there and talk about everything that interests you and you expect other people to be able to keep up with it and respond in kind…

    We’re not like that. If we don’t have an interest in what’s being discussed, we fade away to the background, and feel awkward and uncomfortable, and we’re terrible at small talk and chatting about things we’re not interested in. That’s just how we are. You might be full of social graces and conversation starters, but WE are socially awkward and find everyday conversation tedious and exhausting and difficult to keep up with.

    I’m not saying all of us are- I’m sure that there are many Extrovert Geeks who are perfectly happy to have a long, wonderful conversation with you and be friends, but most of us are there for the things we love, and we don’t want to take time away from our obsessions to talk about something we’re not interested in.

    If you want to have friendly conversations with the people around you, show an interest in the thing they’re in love with. Bring up something else and they’re just going to turn away. Not because they’re rejecting YOU, but because they’re rejecting your interests.

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  6. Thank you all for your feedback, positive and negative. I was going to post lengthy replies to everyone here, but it was suggested that I did not do so. I think, as an artist, a sign of good work is that you receive an intelligent response from an audience and initiate discussion. Today, I saw discussions everywhere on this topic, positive and negative. I suppose I can take away “Welcome to the blog!” from all of that. 😉

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  7. I don’t love the way the bullied have become the bully. I don’t like “fake” geek girls; but not all geek girls are fake. When a girl cosplays a provactive character (and has the right body for it) it is automatically assumed that she is fake and being exploitive. The prevailing opion being all geeks are MEN and they are all social outcasts that look more like chess club than football team.

    And as much as “turn the other cheek” is preached, the harsh truth is now that the “freaks and geeks” have a marketable -and profitable – interest the cool kids want a piece. And the geeks are now in a position to be effectively exclusive.

    I did not always like anime. I didn’t know that some of the “cartoons” I love watching were considered anime until 5 years ago. And then I met the man I intend to marry; and to spend time with him I got involved with whatever he was involved in – which happened to be anime. Now I am an integral part of one the largest anime conventions in North America.

    Does that make me fake? Because I was one of the cool kids in high school, because I make friends easily, am a bit on the extrovert side, and forced myself to be a part of a genre I had no clue about for the love of a man?

    Geeks are introverted – mainly. And want someone to discuss their passion with. Ok. So teach! Don’t just dismiss someone because they admit that they don’t know what you are talking about. That is not fake; fake is the doe-eyed chick who agrees with your every argument while knowing not one thing about the subject.

    Stop stereotyping. Cheerleader is not the same as airhead. Geeky is not the same as social misfit. Give a person a chance and you might be pleasantly surprised.

    So yeah, I agree with Chic Web Geek on this one.

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  9. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thanks, However I amm encountering difficulties with your RSS.
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    Like

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