The Fake Threat Of Fake Geek Girls

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.

What the...

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.

(Image credit | lavitrei /Shutterstock)

Comments

    Probably some people are just threatened by someone new who hasn't been in the series for as long as they have and are acting just as much into it as someone else is. Like meeting a kid or bro gamer/fratboy who thinks CoD is the best game ever because he's been playing it since MW2 while you're been playing the franchise since Medal of Honour.

      Did you get MoH and CoD confused?

        If your first FPS shooter wasn't Wolfenstein 3D (original) then your a noob

          But I can't remember if I played Doom first or Wolfenstein?! Oh noes I might be a nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooob :P

            I'm definitely a noob, I started with DOOOOOOM :(

            all I have to keep me warm is my 3 kdr :(

    I dont as much have an argument with Fake Geek Girls, bu I do with Fake People in general. It should come down to just being genuine, with others and with yourself.

      Brb, writing article about Fake Sports Girls.
      Or maybe Fake Car Girls?
      Or Fake Jazz Girls?
      Or Fake Girl Girls? (a.k.a. Drag Queens)

    This.
    http://youtu.be/PTbwCsjN4Ek

    The best is when the they play D&D in community, funniest stuff!

    It's always great to see people getting into something new because they're interested in it. But that's where I took issue with with Leigh's response of "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". There's no genuine interest in that mindset. That's a person who only wants in because it's new and shiny to them. That's a fake.

      I say newbies are welcome as long as they are honest and have an open mind about it all.
      If a girl claims to be a huge videogame nerd but only plays Bejeweled and Farmville and then you find out she hasn't played a console game seriously since Mario Kart, then yeah she's faking it.

      I don't think there's many people out there actually saying to themselves "I really want to meet new people so I'm going to pick something I hate and join a club about it." Unless, you know, it's a club about hating something.
      I think it's safe to assume at least a passing interest, which could develop, or they could find out they don't like it.

        It's not about hating something yet joining anyway at all. Sorry if that's how my point came across. I mean people who get involved just because it's new. They don't even have a passing interest. Which is how I took Leigh's response because she says "just because you want to be a part of a new club".

          Well clearly they have an interest in the people that are interested in it. It's rather like the old joke about the problem with learning Esperanto, that the only people you can talk to are the sort of people that learn Esperanto. If the mythical fake geek girl is interested in the people, they're probably also open to the idea of actually appreciating geeky things, they're just starting from a place they're more comfortable at.

          Honestly, if you're genuine, posers aren't anywhere near a threat. Be the kind of gamer you'd want to have representing games to the public, and you'll either win them over or be rid of them.

            "clearly they have an interest in the people that are interested in it" Please explain

          Well clearly they have an interest in the people that are interested in it. It's rather like the old joke about the problem with learning Esperanto, that the only people you can talk to are the sort of people that learn Esperanto. If the mythical fake geek girl is interested in the people, they're probably also open to the idea of actually appreciating geeky things, they're just starting from a place they're more comfortable at.

          Honestly, if you're genuine, posers aren't anywhere near a threat. Be the kind of gamer you'd want to have representing games to the public, and you'll either win them over or be rid of them.

          Wanting to try something new is pretty much equivalent to having a passing interest.

        I don’t think there’s many people out there actually saying to themselves “I really want to meet new people so I’m going to pick something I hate and join a club about it.”

        Ummmm... LOTS of people do this. Half the sign-ups at University O-weeks are for people joining societies to try something new and meet different people. Ditto goes for people who pick up afterhours activity like Salsa, Yoga, Austag etc. Just because you don't want to move outside your comfort zone, doesn't mean everyone else is completely satisfied.

      I suppose that quote could do with "and think you might enjoy the activities of that club" at the end to really get to the point.

      Well that's my opinion anyway. I'm all for people trying new things so I think this article is awesome, but I'd also hope people put a bit of effort in too. I mean you don't have to be utterly ecstatic or something, just something showing you're actually interested. Even if that's simply you stating you have no idea about this stuff and it'd be awesome if you could get some help to get started cause X seems cool/interesting.

      That person is only a fake if they stay after they realize that what they thought was new and shiny, was in fact just a freshly polished turd.

    Tara's article lost me at this line - "My husband Sean Bonner is a coffee geek, an art geek, a meme geek, and a  punk-rock geek." - I'm sorry but that discribes the Hipster culture more than a geek/nerd culture.

      This amused me greatly.

    I find the concept of someone faking being a geek to be cool kind of strange.
    For me, growing up as a geek was the exact opposite of cool, but we were geeks anyway because that's just how we are and it's what we are all about.

    But hey if people wanna jump in to the nerdy waters now then why the hell not? Come on in, the water's fine!
    You don't need to fake it as long as you have an open mind and are willing to get really in-depth with some nerdy shit. If you don't know which Battletoad was the coolest that's okay, we can teach you which Battletoad was the coolest (it was Pimple btw).

      I guess it's similar to music. I got into Johnny Cash majorly after hearing 'The Man Comes Around' in the Dawn of the Dead remake. Now I've got multiple albums, songs on constant rotation and his music taking up the majority of my iTunes Top 25 most played songs all these years later. I understand I'm a relative new comer, but I can assure you I like it. Everybody is introduced to the things they like some how, some where. Doesn't make it any less legit.

      Geeks are now mainstream, there's a lot of money in it, and the rise of the superstar geeks like Zuckerberg has made being smart 'cool.' Just look at how similar hipster fashion is to how geeks USED to dress in things like Revenge of the Nerds. The tiny sweater, vintage shirts, skinny trousers, thick-rimmed glasses.

      So naturally, the fake geeks like Olivia Munn or Adrianne Curry ride the wave of goodwill, wishful thinking and idolatry into coveted jobs.... at the expense of idiots who buy it.

    I'm not expressing my opinion on the article here, I am as yet undecided, but to articulate the point I saw it as trying to make...

    If you survive a Richter Scale 2 earthquake (ignorable tremor), and go around calling yourself an "Earthquake Survivor", then you're demeaning the suffering of those who went through actual Earthquakes.

    The article opens by mentioning how difficult it was to be a geek prior to the growth of the internet. For many, they made social sacrifices, willingly or not, because of their hobbies and interests. For many of these people, the term "Geek" is a hidden badge of honour, a testament to their conviction. Seeing it used as a way to get "Likes" and "+1s" is similarly demeaning.

    Seems like a really wordy way to say "GO AWAY ATTENTION WHORES".

    Who cares if they're faking being geeks, faking deep emotional issues, faking abuse, faking medical problems, whatever. Attention whores suck and need to go away. They're the feminine to the internet trolls masculine (traits, as opposed to gender, as males can be attention whores and females can be trolls).

      Oh yeah, attention whores are the worst.

    "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."

    If many people can shares stories of the same thing, they are not isolated events. Just saying.

    I don't care if someone wants to get into nerdy stuff. I bloody welcome it. I'm introducing some of my friends to comic books right now.

    The issue, as I see it, comes when people consider nerds and geeks to be cute playthings, and I can name at least four people I know personally that act like this. It's demeaning.

    And this isn't really isolated to girls. It's just that the girls and guys I know that see nerds/geeks/whatever as lesser people act differently. The girls, for the most part, act like we're broken puppies, whereas the guys just ridicule us. It's not a hard and fast rule, but I see it as holding.

    So, basically, I don't care if a gamer or a geek is male or female. I don't care how old that person is. I care about how geeks are portrayed and viewed. I feel disgust about people who equate our hobbies with a cat playing with yarn.

    And I don't think I'm alone here.

    I think the simplest way to describe this is with a t-shirt analogy.

    Girl wears band t-shirt. Proceed to chat with girl about band. She looks at you, clueless, and then says "Oh I don't know anything about this band, I just thought the t-shirt was cool".

    Very poor analogy yes, but a simple enough illustration of the point?

      Yup. To give you another example, I had some dude hitting on me the other week, and he was like "I'm so into sci-fi!!" When I asked if he'd read the latest Charles Stross, he asked "Who's that?" *facepalm* Needless to say he didn't get himself any m0sh pie....

        Just because a person hasn't heard of one particular author doesn't mean you should criticise them. If they haven't heard of a bunch of decent authors in a genre, then maybe you should. Perhaps he hadn't read 'Charles Stross' but was heavy into Sawyer, or Arthur C. Clarke?

          Yes - I agree with you, just because you like something doesn't mean you should be a walking encyclopedia on the subject. I should have worded my comment in a way that didn't make me sound like a wanker . :)
          For the record, this particular guy was totally faking it to get into my good graces. After further quizzing turned out the only SF novel he'd ever read was Snow Crash. He also claimed to be a cinema buff and had never heard of Kurosawa...

            I love sci-fi, and I have no idea who Charles Stross is. Asimov, Wyndham and Adams are where it's at :P

              You should read him, dude - he's awesome. :) Try Halting State, if you're a gamer you'll like it. Also Glasshouse is good and the Laundry series which is about an occult government agency which deals with supernatural threats to global security, kind of like Hellboy but British.

    I recently started playing Baldur's Gate 2 again, and my characters name is Carlos the Dwarf (despite being a human fighter/mage). Damn Freaks and Geeks was a good show.

    I f you haven't met a "fake geek girl" you've probably been "conned" or just don't meet enough people. Here's an example of a conversation I had once with one:

    Me: ...Yeah I'm pretty into games, you?
    FGG: Totally, I've played games like Mario and...ummm some of those Wii ones.

    It's pretty easy to spot.

      oh god, yep, this happens ALL the time, seriously. Girls say they are hardcore gamers and what that really means is, best case scenario, they maybe own an xbox and 2 games, tops.

    People are sensitive about their identity.

    Let's say I go through my life as a passionate video games fan. As outlined in other comments, this might come at the expense of social standing; my passion may place me in a certain "niche" of people. I get used to not fitting in with others, and I become comfortable with this as my identity. It becomes part of who I am. I'm not popular, I'm not pretty, but I am passionate - that it what I have that others don't.

    Then suddenly, others come along and begin to indulge in that passion. Nobody might reach the level of seriousness that I do, but bit by bit elements of my passion are spread out amongst others. Suddenly, what made me special is spread out and trivialised amongst the many. What do I have now?

    I'm not saying this is the specific scenario others go through, but it's how I feel about it and I wonder if any others agree.

      It's very understandable even if I don't experience it myself any more. I remember being the first kid in my school to read Harry Potter WAAYYYY before it became... Harry Potter. I know I had to put up with a lot of poor puns (Hairy Pooter, Pooper etc) in primary school. Then, it happened. Suddenly the thing was was only mine because this massive phenomenon and people were talking about it, encroaching on it. I didn't pull a "I was into it before it was mainstream" but it stunk.

      Now, I don't care if X passion is adopted by the masses. I was pretty hipstery for a while in terms of taste in music, film, dress etc back when everyone was going through the tight polo phase, so was definitely in a niche social group. Now, I can't walk through Newtown or campus without seeing a billion such people. Doesn't phase me any more.

    I'm sure some people have already seen this, but..
    http://i.imgur.com/UUxRd.jpg

    I would love it if more girls get into stuff that I like (Games, Chess, Traditional Taichi/Wushu, RC Heli's) to get the attention of people like me. It would mean that they deem our attention worthy of them to put up with it. One thing that I do hate is when you help a noob out, spend time with them to show them the ropes, then they disappear because they then decide that it is not their thing. They have just wasted my god damn time!

      You have issues.

      "Damn girls, if only they spent more time on MY hobbies so I might have am excuse to grace them with MY attention, to deem them worthy. Fuck the bitches who think it's not worth it and waste MY time."

    I think the original article was written after the writer watched Good Game.

    I think the writer is secretly referring to idiot attention whores like Olivia Munn and that chick who licked the PS3 who had the shitty ME3 cameo, I forget her name?? "OMG I am like, soooo nerdy, lol!!!" Pathetic. I for one am sick of stupid bimbos (because it seems to be only the ladies) using aspects of a culture to make themselves seem intelligent or interesting. And FYI I'm a bearer of vagina, and someone that routinely gets described as attractive, so I'm not saying that just because you're pretty you can't be into "nerd culture", more just I wish people would stop being something they ain't.

    And I do know more than one gamer girl who has gone to a con wearing a revealing costume just because they thought that they would be lavished with ego-feeding attention from all the supposedly sex-starved desperate geek dudes. Shows how contemptuous they are of their male counterparts. :s

    Also, slightly OT, but is there any way to tactfully convince an overweight friend that cosplaying Morrigan is not a good idea without totally crushing her self-worth? 0_o

      as a nerd, girls in revealing costumes at cons scare me more than i want to pay attention to them, because i feel dirty looking at them, and thus wont give them attention.... so it's sort of the opposite...

      Have you see Morrigan, she is a little big round the thighs, chest and face. If your friend isn't wide around her waist, it shouldnt be a problem, if she is, is there someway she can compress it?

        Yeah, Morrigan is sometimes depicted as having Christina Hendricks style curves, but my friend is considerably more, uh, rotund than that.
        It's kind of a repeating pattern with her, she wears seriously revealing outfits, and while it's great that she has the confidence, people really laugh at her. Even Karl Urban was at some con a few years back and made some comment about her outfit being inappropriate to me because he didn't know that I was friends with her. (his face was pretty funny when I told him she was one of my best friends, lol). I'm not saying that only girls have a body like Jessica Biel should wear tight clothing, it's just I don't like seeing people's reactions to her & I fear she'll end up being all over the internet as some joke or meme.

          That is indeed a dilemma. I have a friend with a similar problem, I try to steer her towards cosplays more befitting her frame instead, it generally works if we get excited enough about it. Or maybe you could drop a lot of hints about working out to better suit the cosplay? Sometimes if they just really love a character it's hard though. I know I've certainly been guilty of cosplaying characters that are an awkward fit on that basis in the past.

          That said, I don't think it's very nice when people criticise cosplayers for not perfectly fitting the body type (nobody on the planet can do CLAMP's proportions anyway) but if it's an extreme case, yeah, I can see your concern, don't want her to wind up on one of those 'how not to do cosplay' message boards.

          I agree it is kind of bad form with the girls who dress in revealing costumes just for the attention, but they're pretty easy to spot anyway - they can't discuss the series they're cosplaying with you, most obviously.

      Was that Chobot? Because she got her comeuppance: her character model looks like hellspawn.

    Look guys, the complaint was about all those fake girls who wear Mario print shirts with massively oversized glasses to tease nerdy dudes for attention. That's it. There is no wanting to join a club or any nonsense. Have you ever talked to one of these girls about video games? I have, they most definitely are not interested in them. It's all attention seeking.
    While I'm sure that there are legitimately girls that dress in gaming apparel that are into games, I'd imagine that outside of class or work you'd have a hard time actually locating one thanks to their hobby being centered majorly indoors.
    As an aside, girls at conventions are generally gamers or into anime and stuff, as opposed to posers seeking attention.

    People lying to pick up people? No wonder the media is all over this. This changes EVERYTHING!!!

      Best comment so far.

    Seriously, if in this day in age, you are not into technology, games, gadgets and other related hobbies that used to be labelled under the very broad term "geeky" then GOD HELP YOU IN LIFE.

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