Imagine: You meet a girl, and you get to talking. You talk about your jobs, your neighborhoods; you talk about your interests. As it turns out, the two of you are into a lot of the same things. This is cool! Wow, she likes the same obscure slasher flicks and retro video games that you do. How lucky for you both!
Wait. Be careful. This could all be a ruse. She could be... a Fake Geek Girl.
Oh no actually, false alarm. Turns out she's just a person who is into stuff to varying degrees. There's no such thing as a Fake Geek Girl.
Yesterday, Forbes ran this article by Tara "Tiger" Brown titled "Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away." The headline pretty much sums it up. Brown was asking the people she identified as "fake" geeks, girls specifically, to please go away. Cut it out. Quit being so fake.
After it ran, a lot of people got mad about it. And of course they did!
At the end of the article, Brown turns from light-heartedly defining the difference between a "nerd" and "geek" and takes a turn for the prescriptive:
Being really passionate or skillful at something is not something you can fake; it takes a lot of hard work to be a geek. Being a geek isn't something you so much decide to do, but realise you are after the fact. People who are obsessed with something often don't even know it until others point it out to them, they are just doing what they like without thinking about the how or why.
Those that are deceitful about being a geek do it because deep down they want to feel that hunger to be so into something you can't eat or sleep, but just haven't found their thing yet. Don't pretend to love something because you think it will get you attention. Don't think that you can take a shortcut because there isn't one. Dig deep, dig to the roots, dig until you know things that others you admire in the subject matter don't know or can't do. Then go ahead and proudly label yourself a geeky girl.
Is there a person on the face of the planet who really requires this sort of advice and permission? Somehow I doubt it. And regardless of gender, do we really need to be separating the fakes from the true believers?
Brown echoes Patton Oswalt's belief that the internet has democratized information to the point that niche interests no longer have the meaning they used to. Be that as it may, so what? That doesn't mean we have to start chest-thumping about our cred at every opportunity. If anything, it means that cred, or at least that sort of cred, is becoming increasingly meaningless.
Susana Polo at The Mary Sue has put together a missive "On The 'Fake' Geek Girl" that is in part a response to Brown's Forbes article, but is more broadly about the entire notion of the "Fake geek girl." In her piece, she says that she dislikes the entire notion because "it is so pervasive and subtle I personally find it very difficult to keep it out of my interactions with other geeks."
So yes, I understand the desire to weed the "posers" out of your personal life and interactions. But I have never, actually, in the flesh, met a "fake" geek girl. Or guy. I don't think those people actually exist outside of painful daytime news segments, the occasional job interview (where, in this economy, I'll excuse anybody for trying to be a little bit of something they're not), and internet memes. But I understand.
But who are you to say that a stranger, someone you're never likely to meet, is not genuinely interested in the thing they appear to be interested in? Who are you? I just… what? I'm rendered incoherent.
Polo raises a good question: Just who the heck are these supposed fake geek girls anyway? Many people can share the story of a girl they met at a con who was faking it to get guys, or for some other reason. But those are isolated events. The whole issue feels like an invented phenomenon.
Kotaku columnist Leigh Alexander got all het up about the article, sounding off on her blog about a whole mess of issues. Among the topics she tackles are how geekiness itself has ceased to have any real meaning, and how beyond that, it's really okay to decide to get into something you don't know much about just because you want to be a part of a new club.
It's true we're fascinated with authenticity and the lack thereof these days. But here's a little news flash to the author: Curiosity about other societies and people, and a desire to be included, is a perfectly valid reason to adopt or espouse a new hobby. If the acne-clad pungence of the basement stereotype around certain hobbies has now been dissipated, it's totally logical that new faces would be attracted to our culture, hoping to get involved.
Yes, probably they want to be liked. Probably they will try hard. This does not make them "fake." It makes them human. It's normal. Everyone, whether they will admit it or not, secretly wants to be liked.
Preach it, Leigh. It's time to stop worrying about judging the cred of others and start simply welcoming newcomers to the club. What club? Any club!
It's OK to be into things. If you have a vast repository of knowledge about a thing, good for you! You know a ton of stuff about something. Enjoy that knowledge. Or hey, maybe teach some of it to others. Only if you feel like it. Totally your call.
It's also OK to want to learn about new things, whatever your motivations. I'm reminded of this scene from Freaks & Geeks in which James Franco's cool-dude burnout Daniel is forced to hang out with the younger geeks in the A/V club. One thing leads to another, and Daniel winds up playing Dungeons & Dragons with the geeks... and loving it. What a lovely fictional example that is.
There's no harm in leaving a spot at your table for newcomers of either gender. Don't judge them, don't tell them they're phony or that they don't meet your required enthusiasm quota. Who knows? Could be you'll wind up getting to play Dungeons & Dragons with James Franco. Or, you know, the lady version of James Franco.