'Fake Geek Girl' Stickers Used To Sexually Harass Women At Convention

What started off as a satirical joke this weekend at video game convention RTX quickly turned into an invasive prank. Harris O'Malley, known on the web as Doctor NerdLove — an internet personality who gives love and sex advice to geeks and otakus — never anticipated his sticker joke to be used aggressively against women at the convention where he distributed them.

In an effort to poke fun at the idea of "fake geek girls", O'Malley created sticker "Fake Geek Girl Advisories" — stickers which were distributed at RTX this weekend, a convention held by Rooster Teeth Productions (you might know them from Red vs. Blue, a popular Halo machinima).

The issue began when at least one publicly-unidentified person started to use these stickers in a way that betrayed their original meaning. Maybe they didn't know they were meant to be satirical. Maybe they did, and decided to re-purpose them anyway by approaching unsuspecting women and slapping the stickers on their butts. I emailed with the sticker-maker last night to hear exactly what happened this weekend and how he felt about the repurposing of his joke.

"I got to RTX on Friday around 12:30 or so with my wife," O'Malley explained to Kotaku. "She headed directly upstairs to Ballroom G while I took a quick pass around the dealer's room/exhibitor's hall looking for a swag table to drop off some stickers. I had the Fake Geek Girl Advisories, some stickers with QR codes that lead to different articles on the blog and some with the NerdLove logo on 'em. I handed out a couple, deposited others on tables and couches for people to take and headed off to join my wife and friends at the Spill Dot Con panel.

"Shortly after the panel ended, the RTX guardians [event volunteers who staff the convention] came and found me and wanted to see some of my stickers - the ones with the QR codes. After establishing that I hadn't had anyone else handing them out for me and that I'd left several out and about as freebies, they told me that somebody was taking them and slapping them onto women's asses and the backs of their costumes. They asked if I could refrain from handing out any more until they got the matter cleared up. Evidently they had a description of the guy and had everyone looking out for him."

O'Malley only heard of one person using the stickers in this way, but when we asked if the man got kicked out of the event for harassment, one of Rooster Teeth's founders issued the following statement to Kotaku:

We alerted our team of volunteers and convention centre security immediately and dealt with the incident as quickly as possible. We do not tolerate any type of harassment and removed a couple of people who were making the event uncomfortable for other attendees over the course of the weekend.

When asked to clarify, Rooster Teeth said that it was an isolated incident from a sole person — the "couple of people" refers to other, unrelated incidents. "We do not tolerate any type of harassment," Rooster Teeth said. To that end, the harasser was "booted and banned" from the show. "I'd also like to emphasise that despite these isolated incidents that the event overall was extremely positive and a huge success," the Rooster Teeth co-founder added.

Harassment at conventions has been under added scrutiny in the last year, with some opting to take a public stand against it.

As for the stickers, they were never intended to be taken seriously according to O'Malley.

"The story with the stickers is that they're satire, pure and simple. I don't believe in 'fake' geek girls and I like the idea of mocking people who buy into the idea with their own words, so I mocked up an design patterned after the "explicit lyrics" stickers for CDs," O'Malley explained. "My idea was that since the Explicit Lyrics tags were essentially a joke in terms of effectiveness and a hyperbolic reaction to a non-problem, the Fandom Advisory design would carry the same implications - that it was a meaningless label for a nonexistent problem.

"It was originally designed for t-shirts (seen here: http://drnerdlove.spreadshirt.com), but I decided to print some out as stickers for distributing at cons. It is, admittedly, a polarising design; the people who get it LOVE it, but apparently the ones who don't HATE it."

Following the events at RTX, O'Malley is reconsidering the stickers a bit — whether he should explain the joke on the stickers themselves, or if he should discontinue them altogether.

"This shit is NOT FUCKING ACCEPTABLE," O'Malley wrote on his blog. "Cons are supposed to be safe spaces for everybody; shit like this drives women out of fandom."

Picture: Zoe Quinn


Comments

    A really unfortunate occurrence, especially considering it went against the satirical spirit of the creator. When I first heard about it I thought someone made the stickers just to harass people.

    Also, they were putting the stickers on people in cosplay as well. I can't help but feel that this has the potential to actually damage someone's hard work. :/

      The stickers shouldn't of even been made in the first place I feel, even if its satirical it's still negative.

        You clearly don't understand how satire works.

          I would have thought that the internet shows that intended satire or sarcasm can easily be misinterpreted. He really should have thought twice about the stickers.

            So because a loud group of stupid people don't understand satire people just shouldn't use it online? Sounds great.

              Online doesn't matter because (for the most part) there's no repercussions other than having to clarify. The problem was that this wasn't online, and for people not in on the joke or able to detect the satire, did what the product was intended for, and in an inappropriate manner, no less.

      Yea i had the same thought, some of the costumes those guys make are absolutely amazing and can take months to actually put together

    The satire is too subtle. From the sticker alone, I would have assumed they were promoting the exact thing they were satirising.

      Indeed. Where's the QR code? If there was an obivous QR code pointing to an article on an appropriate topic, that'd make sense.

        It is kind of hard to tell what he was saying. My interpretation was that there were the Advisory stickers, there was a second kind which had QR codes leading to articles, then a third kind that was the Dr NerdLove logo.

        Though then it seems like the security guard told him people were sticking the QR codes on girls' butts? While the rest of the article seemed to imply that it was the Advisory ones that were being used to label people. No idea what's going on.

    People must learn to take a joke. The first step in this process is to understand the joke......

    Welcome to play school......

      But what's the joke? The guy slapping stickers on chicks?

      I've got a decent sense of humour, but that's not a joke, that's harassment.

      Those jokes tend to be 100% less hilarious when you're the recipient of them.

        I think you two are missing the point entirely!!!!!

        The joke is written ON THE STICKER.

        Quote: 'What started off as a satirical joke.......'

          This. The joke isn't in bad taste. That's not the point.

          What's happening is the same as if I made a hilarious statue of a famous lolcat, then someone stole it and started beating people with it. Don't blame the lolcat or the statue. Blame the asshole abusing it.

            This is exactly my point!!!! I am in no way condoning the behaviour of the guy using the sticker as an excuse to grab a few girls backsides. Quite frankly, there is no excuse!

            This confused individual clearly didn't take the joke as it was meant to be taken. Hence why I said, "People must learn to take a joke".

            The replies I'm getting would suggest I'm supporting his actions....... The only action I would let slip in a situation where a man is going around groping women, is another man knocking a few of his teeth out.

    I adopt the standard, pro-article, anti-sexism/discrimination stance on this.

    But just as an aside... is anyone else seeing the irony of Rooster Teeth advising people on maturity? I mean, the name is a not-particularly-subtle allusion to the term 'cock-bite'.

    No judgement, I just find it amusing.

      I always assumed it was along the lines of "as rare as hens teeth".

    "oh it was just a joke" excuse. Effing hate it.

    If you missed the part of this that was the joke: It was the stickers, it's called satire... google it. (Long story short, how are "fake geek girls a problem"... a: if they're at a con their geek flag is flying even if they're not as geeky as you; b: they are girls, at a con... how could this be a bad thing?)

    The moron slapping them onto womens butt's is a different matter, that's harrasment pure and simple, and I don't recall seeing anywhere that some-one thought that was a joke (interesting side-note... it would be harrassment to slap a womens butt -without permission- even without the sticker).

    Lucky he's not facing 8 years in prison for "making a joke" like some other people I suppose.

    As someone who likes to cosplay at cons, someone slapping a sticker like that on my bum would possibly ruin a convention for me forever. In fact I was slightly panicked when I read the title, worried that someone may do the same while I was in my Elizabeth costume. I don't take to being touched without permission too well (I'm not too much of a huggy person) so to be touched in a place I would not want, along with being labelled as a fake would definitely make sure I never come back to a convention again.

    The problem isn't the sticker but the way it was used.

      I think the sticker itself had some negative potential, people taking it too seriously etc etc
      HOWEVER, to blame the sticker in any way for someone sexually harassing women is absolutely ridiculous. I think it's quite silly that such a thing even had to be addressed.
      If someone used a Wii controller to sexual harass women, would Nintendo have to explain that this was never Nintendo's intention? Hmm, you know what? They probably would =\

        Oh, I didn't mind to be a reply to yours, Scree, but I do fully agree with your post anyway.
        I'm not much of a huggy person either, and the idea of people touching me without my permission is troubling, if they were doing it sexually even more so. But as a male I very rarely have to deal with that at all, so I can't say I know how it feels, but I can give you my condolences and I apologize for the sexist, perverted wankstains that share my gender

      I actually find the context of labelling a cos player as a "fake geek" quite amusing... I mean I am a nerd/geek/otaku and there is no way I'd cos play, so the irony is quite palpable.
      As for the idea of unwanted touching, I'm sorry to say that this kind of behaviour will likely exist forever, there will always be jerks. I hope it never happens to you, but if it does don't be afraid to tell them off, to make a scene, and get them kicked out. I for one would rather have cos players than jerks at cons.

    My girlfriend got grabbed on the ass a few years ago while she was catering a wedding and no one would do anything about it. I don't remember, however, it being reported on the front page of Kotaku as veiled insight.

    Oh my god! One person acted like an asshole at RTX - quick, better write an article exposing the rampant sexism at gaming conventions! (while ignoring the fact that 99.99% of attendees were able to have fun and enjoy the convention without sexually harassing anyone)

      Hmm, I think you've only read into the article what you wanted to read, this article covered one of MANY things that went wrong at the convention, and in no way condemned the whole thing based on this one guys actions. They merely reported a piece of news, along with the statement by the creator of that sticker that says he in no way condones what happened.

        How many things went wrong exactly? Because honestly, I haven't seen anything else untoward reported about RTX on the usual gaming websites (Kotaku, RPS, Polgyon, etc).

        This whole story looks like a media beat up, from the click bait headline, to the tone and phrasing used in the article, e.g. "The issue began when at least one publicly-unidentified person..." - there was only one, and RTX confirmed it was an isolated incident (backed up by the sticker's creator).

        If there were multiple repeated incidents over the course of RTX, or if there was any kind of evidence that it was a widespread problem, then fair enough. But as it stands, this article smacks of a manufactured controversy.

    “It was originally designed for t-shirts (seen here: http://drnerdlove.spreadshirt.com), but I decided to print some out as stickers for distributing at cons. It is, admittedly, a polarising design; the people who get it LOVE it, but apparently the ones who don’t HATE it.”

    You know - that probably should have been his first clue as to whether it was a good idea or not to hand out them out at a convention. I love the t-shirt I think that's a great idea and to my mind that's where it should have stayed, sure he can't be held responsible for one small minded idiot's actions but if it was so polarising he should have been aware of the possible ramifications of distributing it.

    Regardless of what a reasonable person might think there is always an unreasonable idiot floating around somewhere - and the moron sticking them on to others obviously thought they were being funny. I'm glad they were reeducated otherwise.

    It makes me wonder if this is a systemic problem with all conventions (I don't go to them so I wouldn't know) or those who attend them. To my mind anyone who goes to them is already a bigger fan than me regardless of their gender and if I were there I'd think that others could out-geek me when it came to fandoms that I feel passionate about... so who am I to judge if someone is dressed as the eleventh doctor but carrying a tenth doctor's sonic screwdriver. The point is they love Dr Who - and I can relate to that.

    Please, for the love of humanity, don't take this as sexist. But fuck off Hernandez.

    I don't get the satire. Someone explain it to me so I don't feel dumb.

    I don't understand any of this. There definitely are something like "fake gamer girls" that go to conventions. I've talked to them. While it was maybe three girls out of the 5k plus that were at dragoncon they were something that could be described as a "fake gamer girl". They were there dressed as school girls and when asked what they were interested in at the con the repeated none of this nerdy shit. So yea please stop pretending its not real, its just not a real issue

    Stupid idea. Because 'fake gamer girls' do exist.

    If they didn't exist, those girls with them slapped on their backs would be making a mockery out of the idea (nobody would be hurt), like a body builder with a sign on him saying 'I don't lift'.

    It was a joke? What a load. Calling someone a fake geek girl is a negative thing, like calling someone a virgin. If I took a bunch of stickers to PAX saying 'advisory, virgin' an claimed it was only a joke when people started putting them on other people I would be in the wrong.

    As someone not 'in' on the joke, I would assume their purpose was to put them on girls who I thought were fake.

    I don't see how these stickers could have been intended for any other reason than to mock someone.

    I don't think the creator is particularly offensive or mean spirited, just irresponsible and a immature. He needs to take responsibility and apologise for a dumb stunt.

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