Posts Tagged ‘my life (as a lady)’

Wiscon 36

Wiscon 36

Once upon a time, six-ish years ago when I was but a wee terrible blogger, I began lurking in feminist SF/F communities, because I could barely believe that such things existed. And as I was lurking about, I heard about this thing called WisCon. It was a whole, real life, actual convention, just for feminist science fiction. I fell in love with the idea. I read tons of blog entries about it and decided that someday, finances allowing, I would go.

And I did.

Last year. I just never mentioned it here.

Worst blogger ever.

But I also went this year! And have just returned! And it was great! And oh man, am I tired.

I took notes at most of the panels I was at, and, assuming my notes are at all coherent, will attempt to turn them into blog posts soonish.1 For now, here are scattered, overall thoughts about the con:

1. The people are awesome. I’m super lucky in that one of my best friends lives in Madison, and she was happy to put up me and a couple of our other besties throughout the con (both years!). But I also met tons of people I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I kept in touch through the year mostly by way of twitter, and when we got to the con on Friday, running into people was like coming back to summer camp and seeing the whole summer crew after a year of boring school. But better, because unlike summer camp, no one tried to tell me coffee was just for grown ups.2

And what’s great is that going to WisCon is like finding my people. There’s a core of shared interest among basically everyone there, so even if you don’t all have the same exact interests, it’s still refreshing to be around people who won’t bat an eyelash at how excited you are over whatever it is that you love. I wear my nerdy fangirl tendencies on my sleeve3 and it’s lovely to be surrounded by others who do, too.

2. The quiet room. I fell in love with it. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a dim room with nothing going on, where you can sit quietly and recharge if, say, you’re coming off of a night with only four hours of sleep, your day began at 6:30 AM, and won’t end until 1 in the morning. Or if you’re an introvert who’s been surrounded by people for a couple of days and you need a break. (Or, in my case, both.) I spent a few hours chilling out in the quiet room through the course of the weekend, and am deeply grateful it existed. I don’t have any real con experiences to compare WisCon to, but I get the impression WisCon organizers go out of their way to make the con as accessible as possible, and it shows.

3. I wish I had a time turner. Seriously, you guys, I can’t even convey how agonizing the choice between “But It’s Not For Girls,” “Geek Girls and the Problem of Self Objectification,” and “Feminism and the YA Explosion,” was. The programming is vast and varied, with different tracks that suit different people’s interests. There was tons of programming on class and race (both within science fiction and generally), panels on comic books and novels, academic discussions and readings, and tons more. There were a lot of things that sounded fascinating that I couldn’t get to due to conflicts with other things that sounded fascinating.

And now I feel like I should conclude this blog entry, but here’s the thing: I just got home from an awesome con. I need to go to bed. More (hopefully) soon.

  1. My track record on writing the blog posts I say I will is wretched, however. Just sayin’.
  2. Also, there was booze. At the con, I mean, not camp.
  3. omg I met Corbin Bleu again recently!!1!one

Gender and the Geek

Gender and the Geek

This article (via Chaos Theory) is absolutely excellent. Both in its analysis of the show Beauty and the Geek (which is fascinating and touching, despite being incredibly shallow), and in its analysis of why it’s so uncomfortable to add Nicole and Sam, the female geek and male beauty, to the show.

But I think there’s also more to it than that. I’ve discussed the idea of a reverse-gender cast with GC before (as we accidentally watched all of season two together in a New Years marathon last year. In one sitting,) and have always been against the idea. Which at first struck GC as odd, what with me being, you know, a female geek and all. But there are two points I’d like to make about this.

First: I don’t like having Sam in the competition against the female beauties. First off, because a lot of their challenges are things which are, in this society, gendered as male activities*, such as the week they were building bottle rockets. As GC pointed out, there’s a much bigger chance that at some point in his childhood, Sam had already done that, or at least known kids who did and was familiar with it. But it isn’t just that.

The stereotype of the shallow, sexy woman is also invariably tied to low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence. The theory seems to be that the cliche beauty, the sort found on the show, uses her body in place of brains, and thus has never tried to use her brains. She may not be dumb, but she’s uncomfortable and doesn’t like being put in a position where her smarts and not her body are being judged. So that’s what the show does. It repeatedly challenges these walking stereotypes to learn something, and to be confident in their newly-acquired knowledge, and in almost any competition, the most confident wins.

The thing is? Good looking men aren’t socialized that way. That stereotype does exist for guys, but with guys, “lack of confidence” and “attractive” aren’t inextricably linked. Where beauty for women is generally passive and objectified (literally meaning they’re at their prettiest when they’re not contributing anything but good looks), it isn’t for men; a man can be attractive and shallow without getting the message that he should shut up. So to have a contest such as the one where the beauties had to debate against each other, but throwing him in the mix, is unfair. The show is a learning journey, where the beauties gain that confidence. Sam, raised in a society that can appreciate his opinions as well as his attractiveness (not to mention one which urges him to be competitive while it urges women to be supportive and gentle), is not lacking in that confidence.

And then there’s the matter of judges. Society already values male opinions over female one; in a contest where there are, what, eight women stumbling to find an answer and one guy (who, while not especially well-spoken, is also not shy or nervous), who is going to stand out more? I’m not saying that he didn’t genuinely learn his material and present it well, but regardless, the whole competition was already biased in his favor.

Point two: let’s talk about being female and geeky. It isn’t easy. Though male geeks tend to appreciate your existence, society overall is confused, baffled, and just doesn’t know what to do with you. You’re smart, but instead of being judged on competence, you’re judged on looks. But the thing is, inherent attractiveness isn’t even the point. Different things tend to be important to geeks as compared to most of the rest of the population, and one of the major differences is that looks (and with them, fashion, the ability to use make-up, or do your hair) are waaaay further down on the priority list.

Look at Nicole. She’s not ugly, but she doesn’t dress with attractiveness in mind. Especially when she’s surrounded by other women, all of whom are concerned primarily about being attractive, the message is that she’s lacking. Actually ugly or not, she might as well be, because not caring means being ugly, and being ugly means, well…dealing with it.

This is not a society that’s kind to the unattractive. At all. And when all you want is to be judged by your intelligence, and instead you spend your life having all of your hard work barely noticed but your physical attractiveness scrutinized…well, it’s hard. It’s frustrating. Being yourself without apologizing for it is hard, because no matter how awesome you are, you’re fully aware you’d be treated better if you were prettier.

So back to the show. The reason having the female geek on a show where the geeks all get makeovers and learn to better fit in with society is that it’s damn hard to not do that. It strikes me as very much taking someone who has, consciously or not, rejected the patriarchal idea of female beauty, and trying to shoehorn her right back into it. Because the thing is, guys can be appreciated for being geeks. Which isn’t to write off their legitimate struggles with social awkwardness or attractiveness; when I said this society isn’t kind to the unattractive, I meant that, full stop. Both genders. But for men, there are other ways to contribute to society and be appreciated for them. For women, it’s beauty first, kindness and femininity second, and everything else after that. So for male geeks, learning to jump these hurdles and conquer personal demons is a bonus. It’ll make life much easier, sure.

But for a female geek? It’s akin to saying, “You’re really great at what you do. But you’d be better if you were prettier and easier to get along with.” Which is the same damn thing women are told every day. It isn’t subverting the societal message of what a woman should be, it’s reinforcing it.

I get enough of that in my daily life, as someone who’s female and a geek. I identify with Nicole, and it’s rare to find someone on reality TV (or, for that matter, TV generally) I can see myself in. I really don’t want to see her buy into this.

* Mostly unrelatedly, fuck you and your “boys are different” campaign, Playskool toys. Because sure, only little boys like toy trucks and want to run around…but at least they make girl toys! Play houses! With play kitchens and a play washing machine! Seriously, fuck you.

There’s A Reason I’m Not Dating A Nerd

There's A Reason I'm Not Dating A Nerd

Good Christ. I just found and read through this. Ahem:

“I’m at the local wine bar and a very attractive hostess is recommending books in the science fiction genre to another (far less attractive) hostess. So far I’ve heard Ender’s Game, Hyperion and Snow Crash tossed off as appropriate for a “newbie.” Is this the Twlight Zone??? Am I a freak to think this is freaky? I haven’t had a sip of wine, so it isn’t the alcohol.”

So now, please let me explain why I’m dating GC, who, while he has his nerdy tendencies (such as an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of baseball, which I find perhaps a little too hot), has no interest in anything even vaguely related to scifi; and not someone who has a fetish for hot nerds.

Whether you call it a nerd, a dork, a geek, or a brain, I am one. I’m a woman who loves science fiction, for example. And on the one hand, I’ve always been proud of my geekiness — much prouder of that than of my looks, in fact. Part of being in a subculture that’s often mocked is that if you don’t embrace it, there’s a good chance you’ll be miserable. So I embraced it. I own my nerdiness and my fangirly glee. But I don’t advertise it anymore, because, quite frankly, I’m sick to fucking death of male nerds being amazed by my very existence.

Case in point. GC and I met when we were both working at Borders. He and I had gone out on a couple of dates before the subject of Batman came up. I don’t remember how it happened, but I suspect it was something along the lines of favorite actors → Christian Bale → Batman Begins → Batman. He likes Batman, in an abstract sense, but has never been into comics. And while most of my friends are hardcore comics fans whose knowledge makes mine look miniscule, I’ve read a whole bunch of trade paperbacks, and a couple of histories/social studies of Batman. I’m definitely at least conversant on the subject. GC was impressed (and perhaps terrified, but he got over that), and in the break room the next week, he asked me a Batman-related question. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only people in the room. Two other guys, both of them nerds, were there. Both of them overheard. And upon affirming that yes, I really like Batman and have a mild interest in and knowledge of comics, I was asked what other titles I read.

This was not a friendly question. It wasn’t the way you’d ask a new acquaintance what they read to see if there’s anything to discuss or bond over. It was a challenge, which they made very clear. The question may have been, “What other comics do you like?” but the subtext was very clearly, “You’re a girl, what other comics could you possibly actually be familiar with?”

But I am, as I said, conversant in Batman and passingly interested in comics. So I answered honestly that I don’t really read a lot of comics, and definitely know more about Batman than anything else, but thanks to friends who were really into them, I enjoy both Green Lantern and Green Arrow. And the guys in the staff room, well, freaked out.

The questions began. First I was asked to establish more credentials, and it wasn’t even innocently phrased anymore. One guy said, word for word, “If you really like Batman, name three Robins.” Because hey, I’m me, I busted out Stephanie Brown, in fact, and not Tim Drake. I was then told that I’d forgotten one. (“No, you asked for three and I named three. If you wanted Tim, you should have asked who the three male Robins were.”) I was asked who killed Jason Todd. I was asked to detail current storylines.

And again, keep in mind, these were questions to establish that, good god, I really was a living, breathing girl — an attractive one, no less! — who was into something nerdy. One of the guys responded with wonder. The other, who many women at the store have had other, far worse kinds of run ins with, was angry and condescending. (Needless to say, he was the one who hadn’t even realized Stephanie was a valid answer to the Robin question.) This all went on for a good twenty minutes (until our break ended, in fact) and through the whole thing I got more flustered and more angry, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why until later.

I later pondered and realized that what pissed me off was the notion that, because I’m female, I need to prove to men that I can join their exclusive club. And once that proof is established, I’m still not really allowed into their clubhouse. In the same way that so many nerds consider jocks to be practically another species, well, women are, too. We are Other. We’re confusing and mystifying. And it doesn’t matter if we like the same things, if we read the same things, if we discuss the same things. ‘Female’ is ‘Other’. But a female who is into those same things is put into yet another classification — as both female and nerd (especially if you’re attractive) you’re now a fetish. You’re someone who can share the joy of videogames and comics and science fiction, so he doesn’t have to alter his interests to impress you — and on top of that, you might have sex with him. You’re not just a girl, you’re a dream girl.

I used to be pretty pleased with that. I grew up awkward (as many nerds do) and when I first met a group of male nerds who treated me as Queen Nerd, it was a heady, thrilling feeling. But as I grew more comfortable and confident with myself, it started to feel creepier. I don’t like being someone’s concept, I like being a person. And Nerd Girl is not the same as Person.

To refer back to the title, though it’s a vast overstatement (there are many reasons why I’m dating GC, and I have definitely dated nerds in the past), one thing about the way GC and I interact that makes me feel really good is that he likes me as a person, and not as a Nerd Girl. He likes that I’m intelligent, he likes that I’m happy to kick back and watch baseball with him, he likes that I’m cute. And he finds my nerdiness to be an endearing quirk, one he’s fond of, but when it comes down to it, he likes me for me, nerdiness included, but not because I’m a nerd. And that is a much better feeling.