Are Geeks Being Manipulated By Hot Girls?

Booth Babes

Joanna Schroeder offers an open letter to Joe Peacock, challenging his claims that he is an ally of female gamers, and rising to the defense of the Frag Dolls.

Dear Joe Peacock,

Let’s get this out of the way: I’m not a geek. I don’t play video games aside from Super Mario Bros, where I’m always the little yellow mushroom guy (because he wears a diaper for no apparent reason and my kids never let me be Mario). My favorite video game character is Yoshi. I don’t have an avatar. I didn’t know what cosplay meant until I looked it up while working on this article.

Let’s also get this out of the way: I’m a pretty girl. I know I’m not supposed to say that out loud, but it’s true and it has almost nothing to do with me. Beyond washing my face and occasionally applying eyeliner, I don’t do much to deserve the privileges that being pretty has afforded me. And being attractive in the ways that American society deems acceptable is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful privileges one can carry. I walked into court once for a traffic ticket and when I smiled at the judge, he smiled warmly back. All charges were dismissed.

Why does it matter than I’m pretty and that I’m not a geek? Because I want you to know the ways in which you proved yourself a hypocrite in your article Booth Babes Need Not Applywhich appeared on CNN.com, and I want to be sure that you don’t call me a “6 of 9″ in response. I’m just a regular 7 or 8, and if I can get that on the table up front maybe you won’t use it against me.

♦◊♦

First, let’s talk about what you and I do agree on.

The premise of your article is that members of the geek community do not appreciate being manipulated, and you explain what that manipulation looks like:

I’m talking about an attention addict trying to satisfy her ego and feel pretty by infiltrating a community to seek the attention of guys she wouldn’t give the time of day on the street.

I call these girls “6 of 9″. They have a superpower: In the real world, they’re beauty-obsessed, frustrated wannabe models who can’t get work.

They decide to put on a “hot” costume, parade around a group of boys notorious for being outcasts that don’t get attention from girls, and feel like a celebrity. They’re a “6″ in the “real world”, but when they put on a Batman shirt and head to the local fandom convention du jour, they instantly become a “9″.

I think you’re getting at something that concerns me, too. Social media has amped up the already-problematic issue of some women’s addiction to external validation, as potential praise for beauty or sex appeal is simply everywhere.

Once upon a time a girl had to put on her sexiest outfit and head out to the local club to be told over and over again by strangers that she was hot. Now all it takes is a self-portrait on the iPhone, uploaded to Twitter and tagged #Hotstagram and suddenly dozens, possibly even thousands of people are telling you that you are, in fact, worthy of being alive and will someday find love… If you stay hot.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not specifically against any of this technology. I’m actually a huge fan of social media and have built something of a career out of it. I love Twitter and have even fallen down the Hotstagram rabbit hole once or twice (as a viewer, not a contestant).

And it’s generally assumed that men don’t mind being the pawns of beautiful women, especially if the “reward” of that is the opportunity to look at, talk to, and maybe even get to know a hot girl. Maybe that’s unfair, or even untrue, but it is part of the damaging notion that men should have to grovel for the attention of beautiful women, as well as the same taken-for-granted societal assumption that women’s value is in their looks.

However, some of the more sensitive and clever guys among you have figured out that when the hot girl in the Batman t-shirt walks away, she never really cared about you at all. You were her drug, the thing that got her high, that made her feel good about herself for just a moment. Or you were her job, the guy she was supposed to be selling to, and she did it with her eyelashes and her smile and maybe her cleavage and you felt sorta… well… used.

Yes, Joe, you were objectified. These women never intended to know you. They never wanted to date you. And that stings. And it makes you mad. You’re justified, nobody likes being manipulated, it feels really dirty. And not all guys live and breathe for boobies and a Princess Leia costume. In fact, most guys would rather get to know a woman for who she is than be flirted with simply to satisfy the cravings of a woman who is struggling with validation issues.

♦◊♦

But here’s where we have a problem. You offer yourself up as an advocate for female geeks, and you toss out this caveat intended to pacify those of us who may get the hint from your article that you sorta just don’t want women involved:

Now, before every single woman reading this explodes, let me disambiguate a bit. I absolutely do not believe that every girl who attends conventions and likes “Doctor Who” is pretending to be a geek.

There are lots of geeks who are female. Some of these female geeks are pretty girls. I find it fantastic that women are finally able to enjoy a culture that has predominately been male-oriented and male-driven.

And be it known that I am good friends with several stunningly beautiful women who cosplay as stunningly beautiful characters from comics, sci-fi, fantasy and other genres of fandom. They are, each of them, bone fide geeks. They belong with us. Being beautiful is not a crime.

It’s cool that you feel that way, Joe, but something makes me doubt that you truly do see these women as equals and as a real part of your community. I suspect there is a gap between your genuinely good intentions and the attitudes you actually hold. Here’s where I was tipped off.

You start with this:

Case in point: there is a website called Fat, Ugly Or Slutty that catalogs insults, harassment and verbal abuse from male gamers to females on Xbox Live. Reading through just one page of the site made me ill. The big brother in me wanted to go pound the crap out of the thirteen year olds who think it’s cool or funny to demean women for sport.

And then you criticize Ryan Perez who “did something stupid” on Twitter. Apparently Ryan Perez called out Felicia Day and said she didn’t really add anything to “geek culture” other than her celebrity. And Ryan Perez was wrong because, as you say:

“The fact that she spent her own money to make a successful independent video feature centered around World of Warcraft puts her into ubergeek territory. Not only does she put her money where her interests are, she creates things that further the community.”

But the next line is where you get caught doing “something stupid” yourself:

But then, you have these models-cum-geeks like Olivia Munn and practically every FragDoll (sic). These chicks? Not geeks.

Okay, so what have you done wrong? First, you should be aware that the site you praised, Fat, Ugly or Slutty, was actually co-founded by some Frag Doll Cadettes. The same girls you called “models-cum-geeks” and “not geeks”.

Here are the facts: Frag Dolls are actually female professional gamers. They are paid not just to talk to fans at conventions and demonstrate products, but also to play video games.

Beyond that, as Katie J.M. Baker of Jezebel notes, the actual “Booth Babes” really aren’t trying to trick you into anything:

Booth babes aren’t trying to pretend they’re gamers; they’re hired, like all models, to sell a product. They work long hours, don’t get paid much, and many of them hate being ogled. We don’t get angry that car models know nothing about automobiles, or that hand models know nothing about watches.”

So let’s assume you have a problem with the type of Booth Babes that Baker is talking about, and maybe you’re justified. That still doesn’t give you the right to insinuate that the Frag Dolls are among that crowd, or that they somehow don’t belong in the geek community. The Frag Dolls website explains:

The Frag Dolls are a team of professional female gamers recruited by Ubisoft to promote their video games and represent the presence of women in the game industry. These gamer girls play and promote games at industry and game community events, compete in tournaments, and participate daily in online gamer geek activities. Started in 2004 by an open call for gamer girls with competitive gaming skills, the Frag Dolls immediately rocketed to the spotlight after winning the Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow tournament in a shut-out at their debut tournament appearance.

By the time of their fifth anniversary in 2009, the Frag Dolls had competed in numerous tournaments including the 2004 Electronic Gaming Championship in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, 2006 World Series of Video Games in Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, Winter CPL 2006 in Rainbow Six Vegas and Guitar Hero 2, the Major League Gaming circuits from 2005-2008 in Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, Rainbow Six Vegas, Rainbow Six Vegas 2 and Halo 3, and numerous online tournaments. The team’s tournament accolades include first place finishes at Winter CPL 2006 in Rainbow Six Vegas, at multiple years of the Penny Arcade Expo in Tom Clancy titles, a 9th place finish out of 116 teams in the Penny Arcade Expo Halo 3 tournament in 2008, and 11th place overall in the Major League Gaming 2007 season in Rainbow Six Vegas making them the first all-female team to make Semi-Professional status in Major League Gaming history.

I think it’s safe to say that if the Frag Dolls aren’t real gamers, nobody is.

♦◊♦

To sum up: You want to beat up the guys who say rude shit to geek girls because they don’t want girls in their space, but then you say some rude shit about other geek girls? Beyond that, while you call out the guys who don’t want girls invading their community, you still want the option to pick and choose which girls should be allowed in yours.

You claim that “true” geek girls, even if they’re beautiful, are enhancing geek culture. But as much as you claim to like having women in your community, you still want to be the one in power. You still want to be the one who decides which women are “real” and which are poachers. You still want to be able to assign their beauty a value. You want the right to call them an insulting and degrading term that essentializes them to nothing but a number. A “6 of 9″, as you say.

Is that equality? No. And it seems to me that if you want to truly welcome geek girls into your community, you’re going to have to get past the idea that you get to define their identities for them first.

Sincerely,

Joanna Schroeder

(aka “7 or 8″)

Frag Dolls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on girls in geek culture, read Marianne Cassidy’s “I’m a Female Nerd, Apparently”

Photo of Booth Babes courtesy of matchity/flickr

Photo of Frag Dolls courtesy of Facebook

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like xoJane, hlntv.com, and The Huffington Post. Joanna loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. Her dream is to someday finish her almost-done novel and get some sleep. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.

Comments

  1. And if you want to truly welcome geek girls into your community, you’re going to have to get past the idea that you get to define their identities for them first.
    I think this desire speaks back to some of the basic reasoning that lead guys into the various geek communities in the first place (and possibly even the very creation of those geek communities).

    They were ostracized by others and alienated by all the “normal kids”. Well unlike other “normal kids” its girls and women that are trying to make their way into those communities (because even for as much as Average Jock/Cool Guy/Thug may knock on geek communities you don’t see a lot of them actually trying to get in on them). Its seen as an invasion (and I think this is why geek communities can be so harsh to women, not some sort of anti-woman hatred that started from nothing, although that can be found in those communities these days).

    Now I’m sure it would be all empowering to say that those guys need to just “get over it” but it’s not that easy.

    It’s short it’s revenge. They were hurt by others so now they want to hurt them back (and no I’m not trying to say that explains all the anti-woman sentiment in geek communities, but I think a lot of it is).

    (And for the record I think so called booth babes are a distraction. Unless they have on a cool costume I don’t pay them much mind()

    • It’s short it’s revenge. They were hurt by others so now they want to hurt them back

      It is not just that. They were also hurt by people who look, act, and sound like those trying to get into their community. It really does not help matters when the women who are not welcomed with open arms start in on the “you’re just a bunch of whiny boys” comments. That just reinforces male gamers’ suspicion of women who say they like video games.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        It’s odd…

        Look at your wording: “Women who say they like video games.”

        Why can’t it just be “women who like video games”? It’s so bizarre that there is so much suspicion there.

        I get it that there is this manipulation factor in the “booth babes”, but why look at the Frag Dolls or girls like that and say, “they SAY they like video games.” Is it so hard to believe they don’t like video games?

        I chose the two photos I did on purpose. There isn’t a single photo on in Flickr or the Frag Dolls Facebook page where the women look like the Booth Babes do. The contrast is *so* obvious. Why would you look at any of those women and think, “Well, she CLAIMS she likes video games, but I don’t know…”

        Treating them with suspicion is why you’re getting that “whiny boy” response, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy about women for you.

        • Treating them with suspicion is why you’re getting that “whiny boy” response, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy about women for you.
          It sounds like a mean loop of suspicious and self fulfilling prophecies. And the only way it will end is if it ends on both sides. But depending on which side you’re coming at it from there aren’t calls to end it on both sides.

          You say you get it that these guys were mistreated but then you don’t understand why they are suspicious of women?

        • Joanna, you took the phrase out of context. In context, I am talking about the reality of it being very difficult to tell the difference between women genuinely interested in games, those only interested because it is socially cool (for the moment), and those with some other agenda.

          I do not think the “suspicion” is bizarre. The geek community is an in-group formed by male geeks because everyone else trashed them. They wanted a place where that would not happen, so they made it. When you are dealing with people used to being bullied and mocked, chance are that they will be wary of anyone suddenly interested in them or their community because that is often the way the bullying and mockery starts.

          Oddly enough, I have never met a group of geeks who did not have an unspoken test that people had to pass to prove their cred. This seems perfectly fine when it applies to every other group, but when it applies to women, it suddenly becomes “unfair”.

          To be perfectly honest, aside from the tans and a couple of pounds, both photos show a group of pretty women. I do not know how anyone can tell who likes video games by looking at them, so I do not see what is so obvious to you. However, what is obvious to me is that attacking the community you say you want to be a part of, particularly by attacking the members of that community, is the dumbest way to convince anyone from that group to let you in.

          I do think that male geeks could benefit from lowering their shields a bit, yet I also think that female geeks could benefit from toning down the rhetoric and sense of entitlement.

      • Something to keep in mind for those guys is that not all pretty female geeks were those cruel, hurtful people at *any* time of their lives! Girls are every bit as likely, if not more, to be teased, ostracized and hurt by others for being geeks. In other words, girls and women are not ALL the ‘normal people’ you speak of, and it’s hurtful and bewildering that you’d even explain this discrimination with that falsehood.

        - a pretty, geeky girl cosplayer who was the butt of many a joke and often friendless in her teen years

  2. I really wish geeks of all genders would realize that they ARE being manipulated, but by corporations and their advertisers. Geek has become a marketing niche.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Yeah, who’s not?

      I mean, I feel like you can’t walk ten feet in a city without being manipulated, but it’s nothing new. It’s just that suddenly the smart people behind advertising and marketing realized that geeks are not only very often smart but usually have some pretty solid disposable income.

      I think the Jez article is smart in pointing out that we simply don’t expect models and spokesmodels to know a ton about the field they’re modeling for. They’re models. That’s okay. But don’t lump the real gamer girls in with the models.

      Once you stop trying to define who is “in” and which girls are “out” then you start to really experience diversity.

      • And if you want to truly welcome geek girls into your community, you’re going to have to get past the idea that you get to define their identities for them first.
        Its a matter of trying to protect their community from posers and (and it doesn’t help that not every “protector” is working with a different idea of what makes one a poser).

        Once you stop trying to define who is “in” and which girls are “out” then you start to really experience diversity.
        Are you speaking specifically to Joe or to gatekeepers of geekdom in general?

        I’m asking because without some sort of definition of “in” and “out” the poachers would roam free. And also for some of those folks they experienced “diversity” and it sucked. So they retreated. And the feeling is that now their retreats are being invaded.

        (I’m not saying this to defend nitpicking purists who act as gatekeepers mind you.)

        And about the booth babes bit where you quote Jezebel:
        “Booth babes aren’t trying to pretend they’re gamers; they’re hired, like all models, to sell a product. They work long hours, don’t get paid much, and many of them hate being ogled. We don’t get angry that car models know nothing about automobiles, or that hand models know nothing about watches.”
        Unlike cars and watches though those communities weren’t nearly built from nothing by people who were teased, shamed, and ostracized into obscurity, by some of the very people that are now trying to get into those communities.

      • I think the attitude displayed in the linked article is wrong, to be sure.

        But I think the “booth babe” phenomenon is worse than, eg, models at car shows. Car show models are expected to be knowledgeable about the cars they’re selling. They’re not mechanics or engineers, but they’re supposed to be able to answer questions about their product in an informed fashion (it’s not like most of the non-model sales staff are engineers or mechanics either).

        http://jalopnik.com/5449945/auto-show-booth-babe-smacks-men-down-spills-secrets

        “We have extensive training from the very engineers that design these vehicles. We have piles upon piles of confidential and public industry information we spend months studying before we take a single step onto the show floor. If we don’t know the answer to your question it isn’t because we’re dumb, as you too often imply, it is because there is not an answer available to us.”

        You don’t hear anything like that for video game booth babes. I don’t blame the booth babes for this. They’re just doing their jobs. But I do blame companies for settling for the absolute lowest common denominator, making a naked bid to sell sex instead of their product, no matter the toxic attitudes about women they’re catering to and perpetuating (and, for that matter, the toxic attitudes about gamers they’re perpetuating).

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Listen, the majority of booth babes are spokesmodels, like Vanna White. That’s totally cool for them, it’s a good gig. It’s a job like any other job, except predicated upon being beautiful.

          But where Peacock went very wrong was lumping the majority of pretty girls in with all booth babes, out to manipulate you for their own high, is BS. And as I said, putting the Frag Dolls in with them is just ignorant, and feels like he’s tipped his hand so we can see what’s really behind this article – an inherent mistrust and dislike of female gamers (particularly pretty ones).

          I don’t trust that, “I have a few beautiful female friends who…” line… I mean, there’s that joke, “I can’t be racist, I have a Black friend!”

        • wellokaythen says:

          “But I do blame companies for settling for the absolute lowest common denominator, making a naked bid to sell sex instead of their product, no matter the toxic attitudes about women they’re catering to and perpetuating (and, for that matter, the toxic attitudes about gamers they’re perpetuating).”

          I really wonder how effective this kind of marketing really is. Do the companies that use “booth babes” at shows actually sell more than companies that don’t, and how much of it really has to do with the use of those models?

          I’m guessing the use of “booth babes” has a lot to do with the choices of the marketing managers out in the field. Let’s say I’ve been given several thousand dollars to put together a good display. How would I like to spend that time? Hmm, maybe hire some beautiful models to stand around near me. That ought to make my sales job less boring…. I’m sure I could convince my boss that it’s good for the bottom line.

      • However, there is a lot of “geek pride” and even the argument that geeks are an oppressed group. They’re not. They’re just another marketing niche.

      • I just have to ask, Joanna, why should “geeks” value diversity? I mean, a lot of what being a “geek” is about involves social exclusion, as I said in another comment. Geeks banded together and did their own thing because the pretty girls and pretty boys didn’t want them around. So why should geeks have to be accepting of the very kind of people who have always treated them like sh!t, just because now being geeky is kind of a fad?

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Listen, geeks don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do.

          One commenter mentioned a “test” that everyone – guy or girl – has to go through in order for their group of friends to accept them. If you want to recruit like that, that’s cool with me, as long as you apply it equally.

          For instance, I can’t see being friends with someone who drops brand-names like a Real Housewife or is bigoted against POC or LGBT people. However, if they don’t know what POC or LGBT stand for, that’s cool, as long as they aren’t bigoted. You don’t have to be part of the social-justice in-crowd to be open-minded. (Anyone getting this analogy?)

          My issue isn’t even whether or not geeks let females in at all. My issue is with Joe Peacock being a wolf in sheep’s clothing and pretending he’s all for women geeks and gamers, when in truth he’s only for “some” women geeks. And for some reason the Frag Dolls pissed him off, even though he praises Fat, Ugly or Slutty…

          Everyone has their tests for their friends, I guess… Seems a normal part of any subgroup. And I would never have gone into a “geek area” like a site catering to gamers or something and found the article and called it out. It was at the top of the front page of CNN.com for chrissakes. If he’s gonna go mainstream, he’s gonna draw some mainstream flak.

          • What I got from Joe Peacock’s article is that he resents women who aren’t geeks — in fact, women who may be the FURTHEST THING HUMANELY POSSIBLE from what it means to be a geek — pretending to be geeks.

            Now, you might argue, “geeks don’t geek to define who is a geek or not” but I think they do, or at least, they have a right to an opinion.

            My boyfriend, who is INCREDIBLY geeky, said to me once, “If the cool people become geeks then geeks will have to become something else, because cool people will never really want to hang out with us.” Sadly, I think that is true.

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              Yeah, and that’s the part I agreed with him on. That if there are women who are looking to fulfill their affirmation addiction and they are using you for that high, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the geek community or not – it sucks.

              And for a girl to put on a Batman tee shirt and flirt with dudes she has no intuition of knowing, for that purpose alone, is dishonest.

              That’s not the same as him lumping the Frag Dolls in with Booth Babes OR girls looking to use Geeks for validation. We’re talking about three very different situations.

  3. As others have said many of the geeks have probably been treated like shit, especially by the “jocks” n pretty types. It’s normal to have backlash, though I hope they move past it.

    For quite a while I was intimidated and threatened by beautiful people due to the bullying some gave me in school but for the last few years I have gotten to know some VERY beautiful women and they have been nothing short of great people. I think it’s a great opportunity for the geeks who have been treated like shit to actually get to know some of the “beautiful people” so they can realize like I have that they’re just normal people, not some angelic/saint/superhuman.

  4. I object! I reserve the right to hate the frag dolls for wiping the floor with me on Rainbow Six Vegas. Do you have any idea how emasculating it is to hear these broads shout out attack patterns will you’re hiding in a corner wallowing in a puddle of your own digital urine, hoping in vain that the grim reapers with the high pitched voices wont find you!!!

    HUH…DO YOU?

    • wellokaythen says:

      I’m not familiar with most of the games being mentioned here, so this is just outside curiosity and probably a stupid question, but:

      How do you know what the other players actually look like? How do you know that the person who kicked your butt really is a booth babe? I know people claim to be all sorts of things online that they’re really not….

      • Ubisoft hosted events on Wednesday nights 2006-2008. Xbox live has voice chat and an active community. BTW they aren’t “booth babes” they are the Frag Dolls, a sponsored udisoft team with they’re own following.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Frag Dolls are there to play, yes, and from what I could gather, they were designed to bring more women into gaming by having REAL gamer women as mentor for girls just starting out to look up to. If they were dumb, or sucked at playing, or half-assed about it, it just wouldn’t work.

  5. John Schtoll says:

    Joanna: I read the article you link to about the life of a booth babe and I am sorry but to hear these folks talk about sexism and being oogled is kinda like hearing an oil rig worker in the arctic complain that it is a cold and dirty job, NO ^%&^ Sherlock. You are there because of your body, not your mind, you got the job because you are considered pretty and have a nice body, if you didn’t you wouldn’t be there. And while standing around all day for $170 might not seem like alot of money, there are tons of other jobs you could be doing and you would be working ALOT harder for ALOT less money. Jeez, please spare me the pity party.

  6. Copyleft says:

    Of course faux-geek girls are exploiting male geeks to get attention. And the male geeks are exploiting the hot faux-cosplayers to get some free visual stimulation. That’s the business exchange, and everybody gets something they want. Sounds like a fair trade to me. I guess you can call it ‘objectification’ and condemn it if you want, but I don’t really see the problem. Shrug.

    I know the usual reply is “this makes legitimate gamer/geek girls look bad and have trouble being taken seriously,” but… since when were MALE geeks made to look good or taken seriously? Geekdom comes with societal dismissal and contempt; if you’re a geek, you will be regularly insulted and informed what a loser you are. Maybe for some female geeks this is an eye-opening experience of what life is like on the other side of the popularity fence.

  7. I don’t even have to read this whole article to say… yes. What else is new?

    Have you ever gone to a business conference? No different.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I can’t stand when people go, “I don’t even have to read this…” or “I didn’t read the whole thing, but…”

      The article isn’t about someone objectifying Booth Babes. That’s what they’re there for. They’re models. I’m not saying someone should leer at them or say rude shit or touch them or ANYTHING. I’m saying, they’re there to sell something by looking pretty.

      The article is about something different.

  8. wellokaythen says:

    Sorry to burst any entitlement bubbles out there, but no one is actually a pawn of other people. Men and women are not pawns of each other. People who are not conventionally attractive are not under the thrall of people who are conventionally attractive. Consumers are not pawns of corporate-owned media or mass advertising. No one is ever completely manipulated by other people without any consent, or under complete control of someone else. You can’t get suckered into a fantasy of sex with a beautiful woman without giving your own consent to go along with the fantasy.

    The very fact that a guy can see that someone is trying to manipulate him means that he is not actually a pawn.

    I am shocked (shocked, I say!) that corporations might misrepresent their product or use physical attractiveness to sell a product. And here I thought the video game industry was uniquely truthful, virtuous, and authentic in its respect for its fan base. Please.

    I am also shocked (shocked, I say!) that anyone would dress up in character at a geek-oriented event in order to get some attention. Imagine putting on a great costume with the intention of getting people to notice. Shocker.

    By Mr. Peacock’s logic, I should be offended by any pretty waitress who’s nice to me, because she’s just being paid to be nice and wouldn’t give an ugly geek like me the time of day otherwise. I can only trust a waitress who has my same interests and level of attractiveness. Otherwise I am just a pawn in her game of maximizing her tips. The nerve of that tramp….

    Obviously, marketing and other subcultural forces do have enormous power. I’m not saying they have no power over us. One great example of this is how ubiquitous the whole “jocks vs. geeks” myth has become. Talk about people buying into how the system wants you to see the world….

  9. RE: Frag Dolls.

    To paraphrase a Dave Chappelle joke… these girls might not be booth babes, but you they sure are wearing booth babe uniforms. And yes, Joe should have done his homework, but it’s really, really easy to see why he didn’t think they were legit.

    • They are wearing jeans and t-shirt on the photo. What would be an appropriate uniform in your opinion?

  10. ThePaleKing74 says:

    There’s a point in the “Metrosexual” episode of South Park where Mr. Garrison, outraged at all the straight men “acting gay,” shouts: “One of us? We spent our entire lives trying not to be one of you!” I think that’s a pretty apt analogy for how most geek men feel about attractive people (of both genders, really, but more so women) making their way into the culture. Now before anyone takes this analogy a little too literally, I’m not saying that geeks are a subculture as unfairly maligned as LGBTs, but the impetus for the creation of their subculture is one and the same: to create a space free from the normative world where they can be themselves – one with its own power structure that follows a different set of rules from the world-at-large. For the geek, obsessive devotion and knowledge of a particular property is the main cultural currency in that subculture, so when a physically attractive woman (or man) enters that sphere, that to them, is the injection of another type of cultural currency – a currency associated with the outside world they’re trying to get away from. This intrusion often breeds contempt amongst the original members of the subculture, because at the end of the night, a metrosexual man or an attractive female geek can go home and still retain the privilege that comes with being more socially acceptable, whereas a gay man or a physically unattractive geek cannot (again, this comparison varies sharply by degree, but the mechanism is one and the same).

    This intrusion doesn’t excuse geek men for their lack of empathy for attractive women breaching their subculture, but it does ask that said women and outside observers be less dismissive of their struggle to accept it.

    *And to the commenter above who says that booth babes shouldn’t be surprised by oogling and that’s something they signed up for: no one deserves to be objectified. By all means, look, be visually stimulated if you want to – but don’t oogle and certainly don’t touch. Just because the company they work for is objectifying them, doesn’t mean that you should, too.

  11. I would argue from my own experience that true geeks, male or female, suffered the intense pain of social exclusion in grade school/middle school/high school. It is a core part of our identity. Not having dates, being mocked, being treated like a pathetic joke by stupid jocks and mean girls. I know this because I was a geek, my boyfriend is a programmer, I live in Silicon Valley, my friends are geeks.

    I think many geeks look at hot girls pretending to be geeks and get angry because those girls are on the top of the world. Everybody loves them, everybody wants them. Hence, they are not geeks. They are hot girls adopting a fashion. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. But being a geek is not just about liking comics or wearing sci fi costumes. You can’t decide to be a geek, it is an identity that is thrust upon you.

    • John Anderson says:

      I kind of agree with you. Many people forget that geek comes with the connotation of being socially inept. I don’t know that it necessarily excludes attractive people. There are some that are socially inept. It may not look that way because other people are trying to establish social contact with them. Just because the frag dolls may be hot (I’m looking at the two on the right), it doesn’t mean that they weren’t socially imept, although gamer does not necessarily equate to social ineptness.

      I was a stone geek in grade school. I wasn’t good at (team) sports and was a high academic achiever most of the time. I’m still incredibly introverted and very socially inept especially when it comes to women. I had a woman throw herself at me and thought she was just being friendly. Another time, I thought I was on a date when a female friend asked me to lunch. During lunch, she mentions her fiancé.

      In high school, I took up weight lifting and martial arts and attained a type of “cool” status, but was still socially inept. In other words, I got invited to parties and stood around much of the time and eventually didn’t go. Society didn’t consider me a geek, but I took that label although nerd may have been more accurate.

      I have an easy manner with people and tend to be well liked. Consequently I have very diverse groups of friends. I would always smile when I had a friend tag along when I would hang out with a different group of friends and hear them remark your friends are cool. My rule is don’t associate with ass holes. My mom visited my work once and was surprised at how many people knew me. She was delighted to hear that her son was considered a nice guy. I’ve been invited to hang out with people outside of work, but rarely go now. I still consider myself a geek, but that has a lot to do with the introversion and when it comes to women with the cluelessness.

      Where I disagree is that the geek identity is not always thrust on you. It’s also not necessarily constant. It can change over time and even shift within groups. You can be the most popular person in one group and socially outcast in another. You can also self identify as a geek or nerd. It’s like calling myself MRA. It’s not a perfect fit. It’s just the best fit I could find when trying to identify with a group. Not all gamers are geeks and that’s probably where the confusion comes in although gaming itself may be considered geeky.

  12. Can we just acknowledge for a moment that typically beautiful women are among the most powerful members of our current social model? If you have doubt about this, please, by all means, speak to a girl who grew up outside of that group, who felt ostracized and apart from society, and who finally, thankfully found other girls (and guys) like her, and they realized they all like Zelda games, and they formed these fledgling communities where they found peace, acceptance, and a lack of pressure to conform to a viciously propagated American standard of beauty. Most of these girls will tell you that Olivia Munn et al, (lets call them “the new face of Geek Girl”), coming into that world will reverse what they’ve built, and make them feel, once again, as left out and unwanted as they’d feel at, oh I don’t know, a Miami nightclub. It’s fair to grouse about exclusivity, as its generally a bad thing. But like Jello Biafra said about the punk movement in ‘Chickenshit Conformist’…

    If the music’s gotten boring
    It’s because of the people
    Who want everyone to sound the same
    Who drive bright people out
    Of our so-called scene
    ‘Til all that’s left Is just a meaningless fad

    Geek culture is the new CBGBs, and the “gangs” and “thugs” are “jocks” and “mean girls” (read: bullies), with an army of beauty-worshipping media behind them, not only driving the wounded and awkward (read: the Thoughtful) out of the scene they built but co-opting its image (their image) and twisting it to suit their “fables of opulence”.

    That said, any woman, regardless of how hot Howard Stern might think she is, who loves geeky things, is inclusive and kind and wants to be a part of this scene, will be welcomed by the scene’s progenitors with open arms. However, the booth babe who sneers at the fat guy in the Thor outfit (seen variations on this countless times) really isn’t welcome, because geek culture — due to the personalities and social status of those who created it — isn’t for them.

    In short, Martha Dumptruck helped invent this scene, and gladly invited in Veronica Sawyer, but those Heathers are just not welcome.

    • This. Exactly.

      There are geeky girls who are attractive but they are usually attractive in SPITE of being a geek. Certainly, it is possible to overcome one’s blessings in the looks department through a combination of social awkwardness and pursuit of nerdy activities. I would never assume that a particular girl is too attractive to really be a geek, but I will need to see some evidence of her geekitude before I’m sure.

      I’m talking about the kind of girl who, at age 14, spent her babysitting money on a microscope (yes, I did that). Who BEGS her parents to send her to summer school so she can take a science class (yes, that too). Who taught herself to program a computer one summer because she was bored and didn’t have any friends to hang out with (yep). Who once copied the genealogical charts from the Lord of the Rings onto a poster. In CALLIGRAPHY. Who thought “Cosmos” was the greatest TV show ever made. Who sewed her own Ren Faire dress and wore it to school, then wondered why people thought she was “weird.” Who learned to play Dungeons & Dragons and enjoyed it. I could go on but, well, it only gets worse. :-)

      • RedJohn says:

        And by “worse” you mean “even more awesome”, right? Because I think you had me sold at the microscope purchase.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Uh-oh, now I have to get our tech guys to design the GMP dating widget.

          ;)

          I think you sound wonderful, too, Sarah.

          I had weird things, too, I was obsessed with books and fictional characters and was depressed about how life never lived up to stories. I lied compulsively until I realized that I could just write stories instead of tell lies, until I realized that I liked my characters better than real people.

          People are weird. The “popular” kids just hide how fucking weird they are. Trust me, I spent 10th grade peering into the world of popularity and then I bailed. I’d rather people show their weirdness on the surface than pretend to be just like everyone else.

      • “I would never assume that a particular girl is too attractive to really be a geek, but I will need to see some evidence of her geekitude before I’m sure.”
        Yes, awesome post. My admins tend to frown on people who log on and immediately declare they are a girl/hot girl. We don’t care and don’t want you trolling trying to start an argument. Now if we find out your a girl through vent/ts/something else, we still don’t care but we’ll keep the trolls off your back.

  13. Just a couple of quick comments, particularly on this last bit: “But as much as you claim to like having women in your community, you still want to be the one in power. You still want to be the one who decides which women are “real” and which are poachers.”

    Geek culture has something a problem with wanting to decide which “geeks” are real and which are poachers, full stop. I mean regardless of gender or anything. Part of this has to do with the way in which geeks have been bullied and what-not, and so there seems to be this fear that if we let everyone into the club, we’ll end up inviting our once-bullies in to then harass us again. Or that, hey, us geeks created this special corner of the world where we could be nerds and not ridiculed, and we don’t want to change what’s been created.

    That’s not to excuse that sort of exclusionary mindset, but to sort of explain it. Gender and beauty are unfortunately part of that exclusionary mindset, and it’s only enhanced by the larger cultural narratives about women and beauty. It’s a problem, and it’s a big problem.

    Otherwise, yeah, I agree with what you’re saying here, Joanna. Just wanted to point out that the “you’re not geeky enough” sentiment is also something that can be applied to men.

    • Speaking as a woman who is (1) geeky and (2) not terribly attractive, I have to admit, it is hard for me to relate to really beautiful women. I don’t care much for them, as a rule, unless they are really down to earth and not hung about their looks (but that’s rare, in my experience). I’m just being honest. Guys who get upset about being treated badly by “hot” women (scorned, rejected etc.) don’t understand that those women are often just as mean (if not meaner) to other women.

      • Guys who get upset about being treated badly by “hot” women (scorned, rejected etc.) don’t understand that those women are often just as mean (if not meaner) to other women.
        While true bear in mind that a good number of us guys what we believe to be hot does not necessarily mean the “hot” (conventionally attractive) that you speak of.

        Just pointing out that it’s not always the Buffys and Cordellias that we consider hot. There’s a lot to be said about the Willows as well.

      • Kirsten (in MT) says:

        Maybe stop trying to relate to “really beautiful women”. Maybe set aside *your* hangup about their looks and try to relate to them just as, you know, human beings?

        Sincerely,

        Another geeky and not terribly attractive woman, who believes that if I don’t want to be judged by my looks then I should not be judging others by theirs

        • TheIr life experience is way different than mine, which is why it is hard to relate. I’m not saying beautiful women are bad people, just that they might as well be from a different planet. They are like Martians to me.

  14. Ugh. I should have known that an article about geeky men being manipulated would take a sudden left into how bad women have it. I had a well developed response just waiting to be typed out, too.

  15. “The geek community is an in-group formed by male geeks because everyone else trashed them.”

    This is such a stereotype. I am married to a “geek”. He is labeled such by his friends because he loves technology, video games, computer games, comics, Robotech, anime, etc. His friends consider him a “geek” because of these interests, which he has had since childhood, but in no way is the umbrella of geekdom exclusive to only those who have been trashed by “everyone else”. My husband is not socially awkward, and he’s proud to call himself a geek. It’s merely a group of people with similar interests. I, like Joanna, can tell you I am a pretty girl, I also dressed up as Ulala from Space Channel 5 10 years ago, and I can tell you all the Marvel vs DC characters, as well as many other tidbits of “geek” knowledge. I guess I’m not “in the club” because I’m not rejected by society and I’m (gasp) pretty.

  16. Peter Houlihan says:

    I’d just like to point out that, while the frag dolls might be gamers, their jobs do (at least to an extent) come from being female and pretty. Also, the whole booth babes thing bothers me to no end. It’s a dynamic which isn’t much good for men or women.

  17. Did you really self proclaim yourself an “average” 7 or 8? And then go on a rant about whats wrong about this situation?

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Yes, I laid all my cards on the table. I didn’t say I was “average”, I said I was an “average 7 or 8″ which means like… “7 or 8 on the mainstream scale” as opposed to the two weird worlds Joe Peacock is contrasting which are “geek world” and “model world”. I’m just living in average world.

      And I would never give myself a number except IRONICALLY – because that’s how Joe Peacock apparently relates to women: as numbers.

  18. In 2004, Ubisoft recruited an all-girl professional gaming team to promote their games, represent females in the gaming industry in a positive light, and just plain kick-butt at games.

    -From an interview with Frag Doll Cryptik

    I think that individually the Frag Dolls are real bona-fida geeks and gamers. However, it is pretty clear that looks and attractiveness are one of the criteria (although an unstated one) for Ubisoft when they hire girls to the team. I don’t believe for a minute that there are a 100% correlation between conventionally good looks and gamer skills among girls.
    The Frag Dolls team are put together by a commercial entity to primarily sell more of their products.

    So Frag Dolls as an entity is in many ways the same as booth babes as an entity.

    I think an analogue can be for instance boy bands. Boy bands put together by producers or studios don’t generally get much musical cred even though the individual members perhaps are excellent or good musicians/performers. Compare the cred of Take That and of Robbie Williams among music critics.

  19. Alberich says:

    Joanna,
    I don’t want to defend Joe Peacock, as his texts seems to be angry and hostile, while he only gives reason to be indifferent, annoyed or amused. Why not just shrug or laugh at the people, one believes to be imposers.
    But this sentence:
    “I’m talking about an attention addict trying to satisfy her ego and feel pretty by infiltrating a community to seek the attention of guys she wouldn’t give the time of day on the street.”
    might indicate that it is not about these girls being pretty, but about them behaving (body language included) like they believed they are better than the people they encounter. This could be very subtle things like your face showing disgust or contempt when looking at certain people, or how you react to somebody approaching you, or whether you are dominant in most of your interactions.

  20. John Anderson says:

    I know a few gamers, men and two women who love playing video games. A couple go to conventions, or play on-line. Most just like playing several hours a week. Two of the guys probably play an average of 15 – 20 hours. I don’t know about the wommen, but based on what they tell me, I suspect they get in about 10 hours a week.

    One of the women is hot. She’s also into manga and BDSM. She’s kind of a freak when it comes to sex. I wouldn’t consider her a geek. The other is average looking at best. She enjoys intelligent conversations so hangs out mostly with older guys. She’s close to a girl geek. Both women are extremely intelligent with masters degrees. One is going for a second.

    I work in a male dominated field. I don’t see much difference between technology and gaming. If you got together a group of the best female gamers and put them up against teams of guys selected semi-randomly across the population, you’d probably get a fairly dominant women’s team. The woman’s olympic hockey team wins more games against high school biys than they lose, but you almost have to wonder how the boys could win at all. If I remember correctly, they win about a third of the games.

    I think women in technology and women in gaming have very similar circumstances. The men generally don’t seek them out. We share information that we have when they ask, but they’re not a part of our communities so that we offer the information or bring it up in casual conversation. The two female gamers have gotten good enough to mod game systems, but are still forced to seek us out when they want information. At times they try to share information with us, but we have already gotten it.

    I’m certain that there are women who manipulate men. I’m also pretty sure that there are women who are hot who don’t intend to manipulate men, but effectively do. I wonder if that’s some form of privilege. I’m being manipulated by a hot girl now. She knows she can get me to do things, but I get to check her out and talk to her. I think we’re friends. Recently, I saw her with the less attractibe gamer chick, who I needed to talk to. I was in a rush and kind of ignored the hot one. She kept trying to talk to me. She has a level of importance to me, but other things matter more. Even when I know I’m being manipulated, they can’t make me do anything I wouldn’t do. What about the guy who asks the hot sales lady questions without the intention of buying anything?

  21. CosmicDestroyer says:

    1. Felicia Day is a freaking comic genius. That guy may have been fired for sexualizing a cultural icon, but he was also dismissing her fans.
    2. Fired? Equally dumb (but less hurtful) things have been implied by journalists who still have their jobs.
    3. Some Booth babes know what they’re talking about, others are just there to look pretty. There’s nothing unethical about either of those things. It would be nice if they had some hot booth dudes, and / or if both dudes and babes alike had full working knowledge of what they were selling, but I’m guessing that’s a tall order.
    4. Is objectifying someone the same thing as manipulating? I know reducing a person to a unit of labor or money is bad, but does that, semantically, count as objectification or manipulation?
    5. There are women who WANT to be looked at? Do the women who resent being looked at know the former exist? True, the former may be a destructive spiral of compulsion, but most of my friends are female and will only admit to being the former. Are there legions of closet exhibitionists out here?
    6. What’s with all the mildly fetishistic “big brother” stuff with people these days? I know a lot fewer of you have actual opposite sex siblings, but, still. Yegh! It’s one big River-Simon/Benson-Stabler slash fic out there.

  22. “…most guys would rather get to know a woman for who she is than be flirted with simply to satisfy the cravings of a woman who is struggling with validation issues…”

    I definitely like this line. Just saying. :)

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