Full Footage of the Exorcising the Spectre of the Fake Geek Girl panel now up! (Updated 1/5/14 with transcript)

It’s been a very busy several months. Work deadlines, attending my fourth Lakes of Fire, the start of the Full Moon Jam season and wrestling with Mother Nature (seriously, what does a fire spinner have to do to bribe the Weather Gods for at least one rain-free fire jam??). Not to mention trying to keep up with all of the geek circle news like the SFWA controversies and the ever-present problem of how to deal with con harassment. So apologies for taking so long to get this up, but I hope you’ll find it’s worth the wait.

The entire, hour-long panel discussion and Q&A session of our C2E2 2013 panel, “Exorcising the Spectre of the Fake Geek Girl,” is included in this footage. Which looks absolutely amazing, thanks to the camera ninja skills of Michael Silberman of Great Eye Films.

If you weren’t able to attend the panel, I hope you’ll take the time to watch. This was a dynamic conversation to be a part of, and I’m immensely thankful to have taken part in this with Carlye Frank, Laura Koroski, Karlyn Meyer, Dawn Xiana Moon and Erin Tipton. And thanks again to the Chicago Nerd Social Club for all their support, and to Anne Peterson of CNSC for introducing us at the con. I hope we’ll have the chance to take this panel to future cons and continue the dialog there.

(UPDATE 1/5/14: A full transcript is posted below the video.)

Following is a full transcription of the panel discussion. Some variations may exist between the transcription and actual audio due to casual discussion style. ‘Um,’ ‘so,’ ‘you know,’ ‘like,’ and other phrases may be omitted when it seemed appropriate. Apologies for any discrepancies in accuracy. Links to referenced works are provided where applicable. Transcription and links provided by Ora Uzel, with many thanks from the panelists.

Anne Petersen: “I know we’re ahead of schedule, I’m gonna start in—“

Michi Trota: “By two whole minutes!”

Anne: “Two whole minutes!  Two more minutes with fake geek girls, so…  Kidding…  So I’m Anne Petersen.  I’m with Chicago Nerd Social Club.  We’re really really super pleased to help sponsor the panel, I’m not really sure—“

Michi: “Actually no, you guys have done a lot to really help promote the panel, and I would not have been able to pull this together without the vast amount of just awesome support that Chicago Nerd Social Club has been giving. And you guys stand for really the kind of geek culture inclusiveness that really makes it awesome.”

Anne: “Yeah, that’s really the aim of Chicago Nerds to some extent, is that we really like to include everybody. All stripes of nerds are welcome. Please, you know, participate in any kind of nerddom that exists, frankly. So we’re definitely interested in organizing more out of normal nerd and geek culture events. Please let us know if you have any ideas. We love getting ideas from you guys. And we’re very pleased with the turnout here. I think there’s as many people in here out there possibly waiting to get in. That’s really indicative that it’s a controversial and interesting topic that we really need to talk about. So, without further ado, I’ll turn it over. Thank you guys.”

Carlye Frank: “Thank you Anne, and thank you to the Chicago Nerd Social Club for sponsoring our panel. And thank you all for joining us today. We’re going to be talking about the fake geek girl phenomenon, issues of what makes a geek, who owns geek culture, who participates in it, and what actions we as creators and consumers of geek culture can do to insure access for everyone.

“Our panelists today are: Michi Trota, Michi is a writer, an editor, a fire spinner, and a community organizer; Erin Tipton, is a lighting designer, a knitter, and a devoted Whovian; Dawn Xiana Moon is a musician, a bellydancer, and a web designer; Karlyn Meyer, Karlyn is an attorney, a cosplayer, and a gamer; Laura Koroski, Laura is a graduate student, blogger, and a feminist activist; my name is Carlye Frank and I’m a geek.” [Applause] “We do have one cancellation today, Jen Dollface, the Jackass of All Trades, cannot join us due to scheduling conflicts.  Jen has been instrumental in getting this panel together, the intellectual structure of the panel, but she’s been training to be an EMT, so she has our support, because she out learning how to save lives today. We’re going to reserve the last 20 minutes of the panel for Q & A, so if you can save your questions until then. If you do have a question, raise your hand, jump and shout, whatever you need to do to get our attention.”

(3:11)

Carlye: ”So let’s dive in ladies.  The Fake Geek Girl: does she exist?

Erin Tipton: “No.”

Laura Koroski: “I’d agree.  No.”

Erin Tipton: “The idea of the fake geek girl is all based on the mentality that someone else gets to arbitrarily decide who is a geek and who isn’t. To term someone as a fake geek means you’ve put yourself in the position of judging them and their geekiness, and nobody has a right to do that.”

Michi: “I’d actually take the position that it doesn’t matter whether or not some people out there whether they’re women or men are even faking it, whether or not they’re interested in geek interests or whatever, because I don’t know if anyone last year read John Scalzi’s piece ‘Who Gets To Be A Geek or Not’ but he actually has a really good point that usually whenever there’s — someone usually points out or thinks they’ve discovered someone who’s faking being a geek, there’s usually one of two reactions. And the first one is, ‘OH MY GOD LOOK AT THAT!  Fakey faker being fake over there! Let’s call them out and shame them all to hell.’  And, you know, maybe if you do that it gives you a momentary feeling of intellectual superiority; or the other option is, ‘Oh, let’s bring them in and show them why they should actually really love what I love, and bring them into geek culture, which is a nice sentiment, but it kind of has some problematic assumptions in that you’re assuming that they don’t know what it is about geek–you know, if they’re faking being a, say, Firefly fan, or if they’re faking liking comic books.  You’re assuming that they don’t know what it is they’re faking being interested in, or that they don’t–or that they even don’t know it to begin with. Because obviously if they knew it, they would love it as much as you. That’s not really the point.  Because there’s a third option. The third option is that you would just let that person do their own thing, because here’s the thing: that person’s geekdom is not about her–sorry–it’s not about you; it’s all about her. It’s all about that person’s ability to express geekdom and participate in geek culture however the hell they want. It has nothing to do with you.”

(5:41)

Dawn Xiana Moon: “I want to make a little bit of a distinction too with two different things that tend to get conflated. There are geek girls who are, you know, people who are just coming around to C2E2, whether they’re in cosplay, whether they’re not; and then there’s the phenomenon of Booth Babes. These are people who are paid to be there. It’s a job. I mean, they’re not saying that they’re nerds. They’re not claiming any of that for their own. Their whole job is to look cute and to get you to come over and buy a company’s product. So those things I think we should also keep as very distinct and separate entities.”

Michi: “Yeah, if you’re going to be upset about the idea that there’s someone using a physical appearance to entice you to buy a product; why be upset at that person and not be upset at the company that is using that.”

Laura: “Also, if you’re going to be upset about that, you’d better be prepared to be upset your entire life, [laughter, inaudible] at the entire advertising industry, because they all do that, all the time! Every time you open a magazine or turn on a TV, there’s someone super attractive trying to sell you something.”

Michi: “Yeah, there’s a model trying to sell you a car, body wash, you know, everything.  It’s not just geek culture, it’s everything.  So you really can’t just pick on that one—that one aspect.”

Dawn: “I think there’s also another thing too where there’s celebrities that want to take over geek culture and claim it as their own just because there is a kind of build in audience there. And that I feel like is again something that is a little bit separate from the kind of things that we’re talking about here which are people that you’re gonna meet and come face to face and contact with. I mean, with a celebrity I don’t necessarily want to judge. Sometimes I get frustrated. I mean, I’m a musician. It’s frustrating to me when I see somebody who’s really not a musician put up a Youtube video dressing up, you know, in cosplay something and claiming that they’re a musician and getting a lot of iTunes downloads for their song that’s not very good just because it talks about, you know, Super Mario Bros. So I mean, that can be a frustrating thing, but again that’s getting into something that’s more commercial, and that’s not a person that you’re gonna to walk into.  These people don’t really exist, the ‘fake geek girls’ that are walking around cons.  We’re convinced that it’s a phenomenon that is–something that is—it’s one of the—it’s a unicorn. I mean, it’s something you hear about. It’s not something that actually happens.”

Karlyn: “Yeah, it’s a total witch hunt of just ‘Okay well which one of these girls is not like us? See their costume? But I don’t know… So [inaudible] try to figure this out?’”

Dawn: “Totally.”

(8:05) 

Carlye: “So in that line, the fact that the fake geek girl meme, or this idea, has become so pervasive in the last year; what does that say of gender relations in geek culture overall?”

Erin: “I think it’s kind of indicative of a really interesting trend that I’ve noticed: ‘Where have all these nerdy girls been all our lives?’ Well we’ve all been right here. It’s not like there’s a new phenomenon of women saying, ‘I’m nerdy.’ I mean, I’m not saying there aren’t women who are coming into their nerddom later in life; some of our really good friends are. But I am saying that just because you didn’t look up and see that there was a girl who was just as into gaming, or just as into, you know, your sci-fi or just as into everything that you were into when you were a kid, didn’t mean that we weren’t all there. It’s not a new phenomenon for there to be women nerds. But I think it’s become this weird awareness shift of guys going, ‘Oh my God, look at all the women at this con! Look at all the women who are here participating and being active and where were they this whole time?!’ Well, we’ve always been here.”

Michi: “Yeah, I’ve always–always been very upfront about being a nerd. It was—as long as I can remember, being a nerd, being a geek has been a very important aspect of my identity. It was how I connected with my dad. It was how I connected with my mom. I mean, my mom used to be the one who actually ran the VCR, because as much as my dad would buy all of the technology, she’s the one who would read the instruction manuals and figured out how to set the VCR to record things like Robotech and Voltron and He-Man, so we would go out and play in the afternoon daylight hours and do our homework, so then we would watch it after all of that stuff was done. But I think what the spread of the fake geek girl meme actually says about gender relations in geek culture is that it is really screwed up. It means that—I think there’s—what’s really troubling to me is that it shows that there’s this really weird underlying assumption that geek and nerd is still very heavily associated with male and masculine. Like, the idea that if you—There’s a big perception that geek spaces are still default male spaces and that when—I mean the way that I used to think about myself was that I was a nerd or geek despite being a woman, and it’s been a very subtle, but distinctive and important shift that I now think of myself as a nerd and a geek and a woman. It’s not separate. It’s not something in spite of.

“Because there are not—You know it’s like thinking of myself that oh—I would think of myself as ‘I’m strong, I’m brash, I like being—I like doing nerdy things. I like going out and doing sports.  I love reading comic books.’ And these were things that were associated as not typically feminine interests. I didn’t do makeup.  I didn’t do fashion. I mean Dawn and I have had these, like, kind of discussions before where this is how we connected initially, where we did not have these formative feminine gender expressions when we were growing up, and it was only later in life when we got very comfortable being—like, dressing up girly, like, you know when I got dressed up today, I’m like, “Oo, I have all these accessories, and I think I’m gonna wear a little makeup before I come on out today.‘ And it took me a really long time to be comfortable expressing myself in a more feminine normal—a normative feminine way, but still balance that out with, like, I can still do that and still be nerdy. It doesn’t mean that because I read comic books, I shouldn’t be interested in also watching, say, Project Runway and enjoying that. I can do both of them.”

Dawn: “You don’t have to choose one or the other.”

Michi: “Yeah, totally.”

(12:09)

Karlyn: “I also kind of wanted to speak to in terms of, like, ‘Where have the girls been all this time?’ is that, you know, geek spaces have become a lot more accessible, just logistically. I mean, I work at a lot of cons, and I’m always meeting people who this is their first con ever, you know, and these things are blowing up and we have the internet now where you can get online and game with people you’ve never met. We have Youtube where you can say, ‘Here’s a geeky thing I love. I’m putting it out there for the world.’ So to say, like, ‘Oh, we’re seeing women all the time now,’ It’s like ‘yeah it’s the 21st century,’ they’re going to be more visible because they’re on the internet and at the con [laughter, inaudible] and you’re seeing more of the world. And so it’s really frustrating then when what you always here is the pushback for that is, ‘Oh these women, they’re just doing it for attention. They just want to be seen,’ you know, because it’s like well they can be seen now, and that’s okay.”

Laura: “And really we can all be seen. Just because you know in the 90s if you were associating with a specific  group of nerds that was all you would really associate with, the people in your neighborhood, and your city, whatever. But you know, visibility for everyone means visibility for women too. And to say that we aren’t—that we haven’t been there before is just… bullshit.”

(13:20)

Michi: “Well it’s also kind of like if you were a girl—I feel like when I was growing up and being nerdy, I kind of had to not be so girly to be in geek spaces, because it would kind of make the boys feel a little uncomfortable, if I was more girly.  They wouldn’t quite know how to relate to me so much.  So I was expressing myself as more of a tomboy so you would kind of—it would feel like more of—They would be surprised when they remembered that I was a girl.  Like, I would go hang out—I was at the comic book store every Wednesday during high school.  New comic book Wednesday—every Wednesday I was there.  And every now and then it would, you know, bring up things like ‘Oh there’s a dance at school.  I’m trying to figure out what kind of dress I’m gonna wear.’  And they’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s right.  You’re a girl.’  Like—“

Dawn: “It’s like you don’t really count.”

Michi: “It’s like, yeah you feel like ‘yeah you’re a girl,’ but ‘Oh you’re not like those other girls.’  And it takes you a while, but when you start getting older you start realizing, ‘wait—‘”

Erin: “That’s really condescending!  That’s really condescending!”

Michi: “That’s really condescending!  And it kind of—it pits you against other women, and I don’t—It really took me a long time to realize that’s not a good—that’s not a healthy attitude to have.”

Erin: “Well, and that kind of segues into the idea, you know, there’s a lot of women doing gate-keeping against other women too with the same kind of mentality of, ‘Oh I’ve been a nerd my whole life. I had to, you know, put aside these girly interests because of these interests or whatever. And so then you get, you know, a super feminine girl who comes in, or even just a new girl, and there’s very much an idea of how women keep other women out because they’re—women have the mindset of ‘I have to be the only woman in the group.’ In a group of guys, there’s always that one woman. And apparently you can’t share that position. And it’s a weird woman dynamic but then you see women who have been nerds their whole life who are going, ‘Oh if this other girl comes in to my group and she’s nerdy too, then where do I fit in?’ And it’s not a matter of there’s only one. We can all be nerds. It’s okay. And you can all be women. It’s okay. You don’t have to exclude somebody. So it’s not just a guy thing to say—to judge very feminine women who say they’re nerds as being fake. It’s also a female thing.”

Dawn: “We were talking earlier before the panel about this idea of: part of gate-keeping comes from having suffered, you know. Most of us we grew up being nerds. This was not a cool thing. It was not okay. You were ostracized by everyone around you except for, you know, the small other little clump of nerds that you found. And I think for women that’s extra the case, you know. You probably were because there weren’t so many of us who were willing to say ‘Hey, I’m a nerd and I’m a girl.’ It was extra hard to be a girl and I mean it still is a lot of times in geek culture. It’s extra hard to be a girl. So you had to suffer more, so you know what, you’re gonna make that next person suffer more and prove that they actually deserve to be here. But I mean how screwed up is that?”

Erin: “It should be ‘Oh I suffered all this crap so you don’t have to suffer all this crap and I’m gonna say, come on in and let’s have a geek party!”

Dawn: <sarcasm> “Because really we want everyone to suffer…” </sarcasm>

Erin: “Schandenfreude…”

(16:49)

Carlye: “I’m glad you brought gate-keeping into the conversation, and I wanted to ask about specifically female gate-keeping and some of the insecurities that might reflect.  Part of what we spoke about before the panel was this idea of limited resources within geek culture. We use a rhetoric that includes language like ‘limited edition,’ ‘special edition,’ and there’s this idea that—even if it’s not conscious—that there’s this idea that there’s not enough to go around. And I’m also wondering if part of female gate-keeping might be female insecurity over trespassing in what has historically be a male subculture.”

Michi: “Yeah, I was actually thinking about that this morning. I think that kind of stems from partially the idea that—If you look at how women participating in geek culture is presented in a lot of pop culture and mainstream. Let’s look at Big Bang Theory how every time they present Penny, or Bernadette, or even Amy who is supposed to be like she’s this big über science nerd; whenever they start talking about the guys’ interest in comics or scifi, every single one of them is always like, ‘Oh geeze, the guys are doing the whole comic book thing again,’ and it makes me think—when you think about how it’s presented, women participating in geek culture is usually presented in one of two ways: It’s either a reluctant participation where the women are, like, pulled in where they’re kinda of like, ‘Okay fine, I’ll go along with you to your convention, because you’re my boyfriend and I’m gonna be the good girlfriend, but really I’m just gonna be bored out of my skull while I’m there.’ Or ‘They’re unicorns! And there aren’t really that many girls who are, like, actually in—wanting to go to cons or going to a comic book store of their own free will.’  And I think it actually perpetuates the idea that there aren’t that many women who love geek stuff, because they actually love it on their own merits. It’s part of this—It’s not just geek culture that does it. It’s mainstream culture that pushes this—that keeps perpetuating the idea that there aren’t that many of us.”

“But if you look at what the floor has been like here at C2E2, the gender spread is really really pretty even. I’ve seen women all over the place for the past few days.  When I was putting together this panel, I was kind of tearing my hair out trying to figure out who I was going to ask because I am blessed with a massive amount of really awesome geek women who are really into this and who really believe in talking about these kind of issues and have really amazing things to say about it.  There were supposed to be six of us on the panel plus the moderator. And we’re all squished here together at the table. So I think it’s—The idea that it’s—from this insecurity about trespassing is partially due to the false idea that there aren’t many of us and because there’s only so much room, like what Tiffany was saying about there’s not enough room and if there are going to be more, we’re going to be pushed out of that space.”

(20:17)

Erin: “Well and I think, part of the other thing with the idea of limited resources.  You know, everyone wants to feel special, and everybody wants to feel special in their own interests. And I think there’s kind of this—not overt thought—but there’s kind of the underlying thought of, ‘Well if all these people start coming into my interest, will I still be special in it?’ And so there’s kind of this elbowing for room.  You want to share your passion and your love but you want to share it with a small group of people, because then you can be, kind of, together.  You can have that bonding thing. But when more and more people start identifying themselves the way you do, how special does that make you, you know? And so there’s kind of this mentality of ‘We don’t want to share our specialness.’ And that kind of leads to ‘Oh, how long have you been a nerd? Oh, well let me start asking you all these questions about that comic book t-shirt that you’re wearing. Or oh, let me make you prove it, because I proved it and I’m special in my field so why are you here?”

Laura: “There have been a lot of pieces written, most recently I think on Tuesday there was one by Red Eye Chicago on how, you know, ‘If we can apply the word nerd or the word geek to so many people these days and if anyone can define themselves as a nerd of something or a geek of something does the word mean anything at all? And this is a problem for nerddom and geek culture.’ Which, you know, that has some validity, but on the other hand if we are going to continue being a culture that closes off that has entrance requirements, that shuts that gate and locks it, we are not going to—we’re not going to have 50,000 people at C2E2 anymore. We’re not gonna have a panel like this where the line is twice as long as the room. We’re not going to be called mainstream anymore.  We’re going to become—regress back to this exclusive community that does get beat up and thrown into lockers in high school, and I don’t think any of us wants that.”

Erin: “Well it also completely shuts down dialogue. The dialogue stems from people with different viewpoints and ideas having conversations and learning from each other.  If nobody new is ever allowed in, how do you learn anything?  How do you get a new perspective on your favorite show that you’ve seen 30 billion times and all of a sudden somebody watches it for the first time and goes, ‘Oh my God, what about blah blah blah!’—and you’ve never even thought about that because you’ve seen it so many times. Like, that’s the whole benefit of new people and new influx and new ideas and conversations; to learn more about who you are and what you love as well as being able to share that with other people who love it too.”

(23:13)

Karlyn: “I absolutely agree with that. I think that’s another problem that kind of comes with gate-keeping, is that, you know, you have people that might not necessarily agree with you, like yeah, they’re passionate about the video game industry, but they think also, there are some problematic things going on, and these are the things I would do to change it. And so do you say, ‘Well you’re not a real gamer—‘ because I’m bringing this from the gamer angle, or ‘You’re not a real geek because you don’t agree with the status quo and you’re not just lining up with me on that.’ And so it does kind of allow geek spaces to really stagnate, where when people could bring in really creative other ideas for ‘here’s how you make things more inclusive and just really reach more people and make this a better place,’ you can just kinda say, ‘You’re just not the same kind of geek as me because you’re not willing to accept this as it is.’ I think that can also be really problematic, and I think it happens a lot.”

Laura: “And the sad thing is it’s so easy to do that. It’s so easy to say, ‘If you don’t agree with me—If you don’t accept the status quo, then you’re not part of this.’  But as you were just saying, that’s how we grow as a community. That’s how we grow as people, even, is learning to deal with other opposing viewpoints. And sort of, ‘Maybe we’ll come to agree with them. Maybe we’ll see them as something completely different,’ but to shut them out is the instinctual easy reaction, and it’s a shame that happens.”

(24:29)

Carlye: “So in this process of entering a new community, specifically entering into geek community, is it more difficult for women than it is for men?  Are women judged more harshly or asked to provide their credentials more often than men are when entering these spaces?”

Dawn: “I have a favorite story about gate-keeping.”

Michi: “Actually before you do that, I’d actually like to poll the audience.  How many women here have ever felt like they have had to prove their geek bonafides?  [audience members raise hands]  Yep, just about every one.”

Dawn: “So geek credentials! All of us have felt the need to prove them. Usually I’m very comfortable wearing the geek badge on my sleeve. And so, if somebody challenges me on that, game on!  And I usually can. I mean, it’s rare that they win this game. So, last year at C2E2 I was wandering around Friday afternoon, you know, just looking around the floor seeing what was going on. And, you know, they give us all these badges that say what we are, and I have a speaker’s badge on, because I was speaking at a similar panel that we did last year. And one of the vendors looked at me and said, “Oh, is that your badge or are you just borrowing that?” If I were a guy, what reaction would—that would’ve never happened. It just completely took me aback. And yet every girl is kind of used to having to prove themselves in these kinds of things, ‘No, no, it’s okay, you know, I’m doing a panel later.’ And you just start explaining. It hits you later how absolutely ridiculous that is, because if you were a guy—the assumption would be you were speaking at something; ‘Oh what’s that thing? I would like to hear about it.’”

Erin: “At least they didn’t ask you if it was your boyfriend’s badge.”

Michi: “Yeah, it’s like the assumption that you have to like, ‘Oh, no you’re not in a position of authority. You have to establish that you’re in a position of authority.’  It’s not a default that ‘Oh you have something saying that, ‘No, I’m in a position of authority, here’s my speaker badge.’ Oh no wait, are you borrowing it? Is that really yours?” It’s not that it’s never questioned; it’s that it’s more often questioned.”

(26:39)

Erin: “Well it’s like that comic, where the guy’s wearing the Green Lantern shirt and the guy’s like, ‘Cool shirt bro.’ And then the girl’s wearing it, and he was like—all of a sudden because it’s a girl wearing it, she’s getting 20 questions on ‘Well how much do you know about Green Lantern? What do you know about this?” It’s that kind of thing.  It’s like—If a guy shows up in costume, everyone goes, ‘Oh, you totally know what you’re doing.’ If a girl shows up in costume, people start quizzing her to find out ‘Oh, what do you know about this? Prove that you’re wearing that costume, because you like it, not just because you’re wearing that costume to get attention or whatever.’”

Michi: “Yeah, I mean, when I was younger, I used to take Dawn’s tack—I’m also extremely über competitive. But it was kinda of—I’ve always been—I used my nerd identity as kind of a battering ram when I was younger, just being kind of like, ‘I am a nerd. I don’t care what you say. If that means I’m going to be lonely and ostracized, completely fine, you can just take it and shove it.’ But—and if somebody would come up to me in the comic book store and be like, ‘Oh, you’re reading X-men?  Don’t you want the Sho-Jo comics over there?’  I’d be like ‘No, really? You’re gonna give me this? Oh, I know exactly everything about the X-men going all the way back to Days of Future Past. But—and it would just be like game on, throw down, and exactly everything I know. But now that I’m older and cranky and just do not have time for this anymore. It would be, ‘Why do I even have to prove that I know everything about the X-men just to get you to leave me alone about it.  It shouldn’t—I should not have to say anything to justify my enjoyment of reading an X-men comic other than ‘I enjoy it.’ That why I’m reading it. That’s why I have an X-men t-shirt.  That’s why I have a comic book. It’s because I enjoy it. That’s the end of it.”

Erin: “What’s really unfortunate though, is when you take that tack your options kind of come down to: I have to prove that I earned my spot here, or I can look at you and say ‘You know what?  Go fuck yourself,’ in which case, I’m the bad person. You know, like automatically I’m—‘Why are you so defensive? Why are you so hostile?’ Because I’m sick of having to prove that I belong here.”

Michi: “Why are you so angry, Tippy!”

Erin: “Oh, God…SO MANY REASONS!”

(28:58)

Karlyn: “With gamers also in addition to all of that you have the, ‘Oh you don’t like the right kind of thing or you don’t accel at it to the level that I think you should.’  Because it’s kind of funny when you have this name: ‘I’m a gamer girl.’ What does that mean? There are so many kinds of games. Are we talking video games, tabletop? If we are talking video games, console, Facebook games? Is that legitimate enough for you? Like there are so many different ways you can like games. But then you do hear things where people say like, ‘Oh yeah, she says she’s a gamer, but all she does is play Mario Kart.’ It’s like, ‘Is that not a game? Is that not one of the most popular games?’ [laughter, inaudible]  So you find that there’s also gate-keeping of just like, ‘Yeah well you’re not that like I think you should be.’ But why do you get to determine that?”

Michi: “It’s like, where does it stop, really? I mean, where does it stop and why should there have to be any kind of—any kind of limit. And that’s why it’s problematic.”

Dawn: “And that’s the thing. I mean everybody on this panel I think to some degree has been guilty of gate-keeping ourselves in the past. But you come to recognize this.”

Michi: “Yeah…recovering…”

Erin: “Her name is Michi, and she’s a recovering gate-keeper.”

(30:03)

Carlye: “Okay, so since we’ve come right out, and we’ve admitted that women are also guilty of gate-keeping, the million dollar question that I know we’re going to hear is how can this then be called a sexist phenomenon?”

Erin: “It’s because this all stems from the misogynistic idea of women being inferior and women subscribing to the same idea, like women internalizing the idea that we have to work harder and we have to prove more and we have to do more, and so then that perpetuates itself. Guys approach it with ‘Oh, you’re a girl in geek culture so you have to prove you deserve to be here.’ And we internalize that and say, ‘Oh I have to prove I deserve to be here.’”

Michi: “Well it’s also I think internalizing the idea that feminine is inherently less than masculine, and when you come into geek culture, there’s a lot of very—it’s not that geek culture should be considered masculine, but there’s a lot of very heavy masculine tones in it. Like, the way that I used to perform coming into geek culture was coming in with a t-shirt, coming in with—you know, wearing jeans, and not really, you know, kind of playing up a lot of traditionally feminine garb.

“The first time I ever actually experienced gate-keeping from women in a geek space was going to a meetup—it was actually in Chicago after we first moved here and I actually went with my husband and just for the hell of it, just because I felt like getting dressed up I—instead of going in a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, it’s like ‘Oh we’re going to be going to a bar; it might be kinda fun.’ I wore kind of like a shirt, kind of like this. I had some earrings on, I was wearing, you know, like some cute little platform shoes, and because I was there with my husband and I was getting this reaction where the women were sort of like, not really talking to me so much.  And I would start talking to people and they were like, ‘Oh, wait you mean you actually know this kind of stuff?  I’m like ‘Yeah I do. I read Lord of the Rings.’  ‘Oh you’ve seen the movie.’ ‘No, I read the actual books. What is going on with this?!’  And it took me a while to figure out they were assuming that like: A) I was there because my husband was there, and I was just tagging along with him, and B) It was also because of the way that I was dressed compared to a lot of the other women who were not necessarily dressed in what would be considered tradition—typically feminine garb. So there’s a lot of internalized sexism, I think is the problem, where you’re denigrating what is considered feminine and elevating what is considered masculine. And that is, I think, the real problem, because there should be no elevating or denigrating of either. You can be masculine. You can be feminine. You can be a nerd in any way that you want. There should be no way—there should be no preferred way to express yourself.

Erin: “That sounds so idyllic!  It’s just like ‘Ohhh, that’s the dream!’”

Michi: “That is the dream, and I’m overly optimistic.”

(33:04) 

Karlyn: “And I just want to say real quickly, because that’s precisely the kind of gate-keeper I used to be. You know, when I finally got past guys saying, ‘Oh girls can’t play video games,’ and I showed them like, ‘no, I like first person shooters and I can kill you very easily.  I’m good at what I do. And then when I would see girls coming in saying, ‘I’m a gamer girl too, but I play, you know, RPGs where there’s like a love interest and a story line.’ And I was like, oh my goodness, like, how are we the same? There was a lot of kind of—I earned my stripes playing against the guys in deathmatches when there was a lot of Mountain Dew and profanity [laughter, inaudible] and they’re playing Dragon Age. It was kinda weird, but now it’s like, no these are all good games and thank you for bringing me into that world, but it is easy to just say ‘oh that’s just the feminine part of it, but I’m doing the real thing, I’m actually, you know, doing it.’”

Michi: “Yeah, like there’s, I don’t know if anyone’s ever read Elizabeth Simin’s comic ‘Manic Pixel Girl.’” [Actually titled ‘Manic Pixel Dream Girl’]  “If you haven’t, it’s really fantastic and you should totally check it out.  She’s been doing this strip where she actually talks about how she was—she started out as a little girl loving games and buying her first console game and really really playing them. But as she gets older into being an adolescent, she starts being a fake normal girl and putting it away in order to perform feminine gender and kind of looking at—feeling like she was never a real normal girl. And she re-discovers her love of video games as she gets older and into her twenties. So, there are a couple of panels where she kind of admits that she jumped on the fake geek girl bandwagon where she’s holding up signs saying like, ‘No fake geek girls!  Anyone?!  Anyone?!’  Crickets in the background. And she’s talking about how like, ‘Oh God, why is anybody not making a big deal out of this?! These fake geek girls are a menace!  They’re being total bitches!’ And then you know a little asterisk, ‘not like I’m not being a bitch right now by typing this on my computer.’ You know, ‘Nobody really understands how much we suffered for this, and I was made fun of for doing this.’ Asterisk, ‘How am I assume—why am I assuming that they were not made fun of when they were growing up too?’ And there were all these assumptions, just by looking at someone who was pretty and popular and who maybe like saying, ‘I’m a geek now that I’m older, and I’ve discovered how awesome this stuff is. How do you know that they were not made fun of? How do you know that they do not have their own experiences of feeling isolated or feeling ostracized for whatever.’”

“I mean, I don’t know if you guys remember last year, Kriss Abigail, who was on our panel. She was a popular cheerleader, and she did not come out with expressing how much she loved being a geek until she was an adult. But she shared what it was like when she was in high school, being like, ‘Oh yeah, me and my cheerleader friends, we actually would watch Star Trek and marathon it at home but we wouldn’t talk about it when we went to school the next day, because it was like, ‘Oh yeah what we really did was watch, you know, Beverly Hills 90210, but we thought Star Trek was awesome but we couldn’t say it in public.’ And it was coming out with it later, but she was the type of person who I think the fake geek girl people would be like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re just saying that you’re a geek now that it’s easier for you to do it,’ because she was a cheerleader and she was popular in high school. So why would you look at her now, and assume that because she was a popular cheerleader that it was any harder for her or that she didn’t have those kind of experiences where we could connect over what it was like to be isolated.”

(36:37)

Erin: “But I don’t think necessarily that determining—So I never had those kinds of experiences. I was very very lucky. I was brought up in a family that was completely supportive of being as nerdy and geeky as I wanted. I did theatre from the time I was 8, so there’s plenty of nerddom going on there. I got to go to a performing arts school where I had to audition to get in. And it was—There were no sports. We had no sports in my high school. It was literally a school filled with performers and artists and musicians, and it was the most amazing experience ever. Because I was never beat up, does that mean I’m not a geek? Because I was never shoved in a locker? Because I was surrounded by people who were just as enthusiastic my whole life? I don’t have the stripes or badges of pain or you know, I don’t have that isolation or suffering factor. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel like a geek, you know. To look at someone and say, ‘You don’t know what their history is.’ Doesn’t matter what their history is. What matters is how they’re identifying themselves to you right now.”

Michi: “Well it’s also saying that you—like it’s not also to say that you haven’t had experiences of feeling isolated in other ways either. It’s not—you know, you can empathize because you—maybe you weren’t isolated for being a geek, but you have been—you might have felt isolated or excluded for other things, so it’s not like—we’ve all had those experiences in one way or another where we felt alone or we’ve felt you’re faking being something in order to fit in or in order to be left alone so someone doesn’t hassle you, whether it’s over being a geek or in your job, because you’re just trying to, like, get away with something so your boss or your coworkers leave you alone. Everybody has had those kinds of experiences so you can empathize. Like why not empathize instead of judging somebody, because you can’t know—unless you’re Professor X and you’ve got those telepathic powers—you can’t know for sure that somebody doesn’t know what it’s like to be alone.”

(38:47) 

Carlye: “So what can we do with that empathy? Just very quickly before we open it up for questions. What is the solution to gate-keeping and to exclusion. What can we as members of geek culture, as producers of geek culture—what can we do to make sure that it’s an open place and a safe place, most importantly a fun place for our fellow geeks?”

Laura: “I mean, I think the big thing to do is just keep talking about this kind of stuff, keep talking about it, keep writing about it. Keep making people aware of the things that they might be doing or that they might be saying, because you know, you admitted to being a recovering gate-keeper but I’m pretty sure that, you know, I’ve done some of it, everyone up here’s done some of that. And I’m not gonna point fingers because I don’t know most of you guys, but you know, I’m pretty sure that everyone at some point has said, ‘You’re not geek enough for me,’ or maybe ‘You’re not up to my level,’ and that doesn’t necessarily—But without telling someone, without making them aware that this is a phenomenon that happens quite often. And then it’s destroying our sense of calling each other a community.  Nothing’s gonna happen. Nothing’s gonna be done about it.”

Michi: “I think we also—on top of that, I think we need to quit making assumptions about what kind of geeks people are, just by looking at them. Just because somebody is—we look at someone and think like, ‘Oh that person’s more attractive than me’ or ‘I think that person’s attractive.’ ‘Eh, that—clearly they’re here to get attention,’ or ‘They don’t fit in my picture of what a geek looks like so I’m going to be more suspicious of who they are.’ I mean, like, you know, Daniel Craig, I guess, has gone on the record saying that he loves playing Halo, so yeah, he kind of feels like he’s a bit nerdy. Okay, totally awesome for him. If he wants to label himself as a nerd, that’s great. It doesn’t have any bearing on how more or less I feel as a nerd, just because he’s an A list celebrity and he wants to call himself nerdy and he likes playing Halo.”

(41:11)

Erin: “Well, I think that kind of comes down to the fundamental of you know—Someone else’s nerddom is not about you.  And as soon as people stop assuming that anyone else’s nerddom is about them, then I think that gate-keeping phenomenon and that exclusion will start to really wear away, because people will find that community and find that sense of family, because they’re accepting people as they come to them, not as they’re putting their issues on them.”

Michi: “It’s not about—somebody else’s expression of nerddom is not about you, it’s about them.”

(41:50) 

Erin: “Shall we do questions?”

Carlye: “Yeah, I think it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for.  Who’s got a question for our panelists?”

Audience Question: “I have—okay so my sister and I. My sister’s fandom is actually sports and football in particular, and of course there is gate-keeping for that and she has to prove her football bonafides, but nobody ever says to her ‘Oh you like football?  What team does Derek Jeter play for?’ Like they don’t try to trick her or ask her questions about different sports. But with me in geekdom, I’ll say ‘Oh, I like Doctor Who’ and they’re like ‘Who’s the leader of the X-men?’ And like, because it falls under the umbrella of geekdom I’m supposed to know all about it, because if I don’t—I mean I do know that—then  I’m not really a geek, so my question is: Do you think that maybe sexism in geek culture is perhaps more ingrained in even like sports culture, like it’s particular to men, because it’s so all-encompassing for guys than it is for, I don’t know…”

Dawn: “I mean, I do think that your sense is right that it is more ingrained.  I think all of us, especially the women in this room, have felt that, just even in what you’re saying.  ‘Oh you’re a geek, now prove it’ even in all of these things that I never even claimed to like.”

Michi: “Well, I think it’s also for—There’s a really really cool piece on Comics Alliance kind of talking about how geek culture—the relationship between geek culture and expressions of masculinity. I really think you should take a look at it.  It’s talking—one of the things it talks about is how, for a lot of men in geek culture, geek culture has been a kind of—almost escape from very traditional heteronormative expressions of masculinity, the really heavy, yeah ‘you have to be aggressive,’ ‘you have to be good at sports.’ People who have—men who have come into geek culture came into geek culture to get away from that. So there’s been—it’s almost like there’s a more hyper form of ‘We really need to be protective of who we let into geek culture.’

“So if you—so a lot of that questioning of someone who does not fit the image of who gets to be a geek. You’re like, ‘Oh, so you like Doctor Who? Do you like X-men as well? Do you know everything about X-men? Okay, you know about X-men. What do you know about Lord of the Rings? What do you know about Star Wars?’ You have to prove like you know—you have to jump through all of these hoops, because there’s a really protective instinct to know who’s in the culture.  Because you’re trying—I mean like I know for me geek culture was really kind of an escape for a long time from the vagueries of mainstream culture, from feeling persecuted for being different. And when you’re feeling persecuted for feeling different, you want to be very protective of who you let in. It’s not an excuse, but it’s something of an explanation, I think, for why there tends to be a lot of hyper-protectiveness about who they’re letting in.”

Dawn: “I think partially people are afraid of being hurt.”

Michi:: “Yeah, definitely.”

Erin: “I mean, we’ve all seen the—you know, and I’m sure we’ve all experienced, you know, having a crush on someone and them completely dissing you because ‘oh, you’re not cool enough or you’re not whatever enough.’ And so, I think like when—in terms of like sports, women being interested in sports. That’s not a new phenomenon. And guys just kind of take it as, ‘Oh well you’re interested in sports?  Well prove it. Okay, you’re good.’ You know, whereas in nerddom I mean—and this is gonna sound really awful, and I don’t mean it to sound the way it’s gonna probably end up sounding—but I mean, a lot of geeky guys have been really hurt by women judging them based on their interests. And so to be a woman coming into that culture, they feel like they have to not only play 20 questions, but they have to play 400 questions to make sure that you’re legit enough that they’re not gonna get snubbed. You know, and I think that’s kind of—part of why it’s that much harder is because, ‘Oh, the geek women haven’t been around,’ so they feel like we have to prove more.”

Michi: “Yeah, and it’s hard to say that without blaming other women for it, because that’s not an excuse. Because just because you were hurt by one or two—because you were rejected by someone you asked out on a date or rejected by a couple people you asked out on a date, doesn’t mean you get to blame an entire gender for the way you were treated.”

(46:25) 

Audience Question: “Mine kind of goes along with that.  There’s a lot of subcultures like sports, or certain types of music [inaudible] but I feel like in geek culture the reaction to women is so much more violent. Like no one’s gonna go ‘Oh you’re a lady who plays basketball? I’m gonna rape you and cut your tongue out.’ But if you happen to put on the internet that you love video games that’s like a reaction that happens so much that we’re used to it. Do you think that there’s a reason that people are like so—not actually acting out on these things usually, but putting them online and like writing comments. There’s so much violent imagery in the reaction to women in gaming, and comics, and you know others and stuff.”

Erin: “I think part of it is a lack of accountability when you’re posting on the internet. You can say whatever you want and people think that that takes away that filter, that filter that goes, ‘You would never in a billion years say this anyone’s face.’ But because it’s over the internet, and they can do it anonymously, they can be as heinous as inner thought ever made them think. And there’s no one to say, ‘Dude that was dickish! What was that?!’ Like, there’s nobody there to call them to the carpet on it personally.”

Michi: “Well Laura has a blog and I think you’ve had a couple of comments every now and then—you wrote about Doctor Who.”

Laura: “Yeah, I wrote an article about Doctor Who—the various companions in Doctor Who and how they’re treated, and then I got this article cross-posted to a feminist website FemInspire.com. There was one commenter who wrote, I wanna say, a 2000 word comment response, and 40 of those words were ‘fuck.’ I counted.”

Erin: “And I mean, I’m sure Karlyn you’ve experienced a lot of that being a girl in gaming. Like, the commentary and…”

Karlyn: “And I think that that’s something we can really kind of see across the board with like the geek and gaming spaces is that, you know, when you’re mentioning for example like ‘Oh women playing basketball,’ and stuff, it’s like well, we’ve had this national dialogue just this really open, like we’ve had ESPN, we’ve had it for a really long time. Like when people want to talk about sports they do it out in the open and it’s something that can be moderated and kind of treated with basic standards of decency and decorum. But like with a lot of these things it’s like well we’ve been playing games and it’s been this very insular thing with just me and my buddies and now we have the internet and I can talk to this girl. I don’t know where she’s coming from, but she doesn’t know who I am and so I’m gonna call her a cunt. And you can just kind of do that all of a sudden you know. So I think that partially because it’s coming from these spaces that have been so in the dark and now all of a sudden we’re able to talk about it—they don’t know where I live—I think it’s gonna happen a lot.”

Michi: “Well I think it’s also when you start—there’s, I think, a new pushback now to not using gendered slurs and to not using slurs in general, gendered slurs, racial slurs. And when you start telling people ‘Hey, no, you just used this word and that is not acceptable.’ And suddenly you get the like ‘But FREE SPEECH!’  Free speech argument! It’s like, no it doesn’t matter if you’re using language that hurts people. You should stop, and if you want to use insults there is a dictionary full—the English language is full of extremely descriptive words that has nothing to do based on gender or race. You can just go back and use that, and it doesn’t have to be based on a person’s inherent qualities like race or gender or your genitalia. Please go and use that, and you’re not actually going to be losing anything.”

Dawn: “I think also people are scared.  I mean, these spaces have been safe and comfortable for such a long time, and so male dominated for such a long time—“

Michi: “They’re safe and comfortable for a small specific…”

Dawn: “Yeah, but I mean having anybody new come into that is extra scary, and extra scary combined with the internet and anonymity is you know wreaking kind of havoc.”

(50:22)

Audience Question: “One thing I was wondering about, sometimes the franchises that we’re involved in introduce sexist content in the [inaudible] themselves creeps up on us, but then sounds like some of you also came into [inaudible] material later. I feel like first person shooter is a pretty new mechanic, but then, like how do you reconcile with the rampant sexism in a lot of this content?”

Karlyn: “Yeah, we fight it. And that kind of goes back to what I was saying before.  There are a lot of times where you can say, ‘Oh, I love this medium, I love this franchise, however it’s problematic in some ways, and I’d like to change it.’ And there have been a lot of—I’m not going to go on this for too long, but like Jennifer Hepler; she is a writer for Bioware who basically said, you know, ‘I write these games and I like them,’ and they asked her if she could change one thing about it what would it be, and she said, ‘I would like to have a mechanic where you can skip fighting in the same way that some people have a mechanic where you can skip dialogue. And you say, ‘yeah I see what they’re saying and they go fight.’ And she of course got death threats and rape threats and this is the cancer that’s eating the video game industry, just because she was thinking outside the box of like, ‘this could be an interesting thing.’ And it’s like that’s the way you should think, just you know come up with ideas and stuff. And then that’s the same thing you see where people say, ‘There’s some sexist things going on here. I love this, I wanna change it, I wanna make it better.’ Then it turns into, ‘Oh, then you just don’t love it enough. You’re just not a real geek. This is what—you‘re the problem with it.’ But you should be able to love something, critique it, and want it to be better.”

Dawn: “And in some ways I think the more you love something, the more you realize all the ways it falls short.”

(51:55)

Audience Question: “So Michi, there was a couple of things that off of what you said. I remember on one end of the spectrum, you were not a girl, you were so much, like, you were saying jeans and a t-shirt means you’re not a girl. And then at one point if you dressed up a little bit more nicely then all of a sudden you were too much of a girl, and there’s a lot of stuff about how relatively girly or is it fair to say that relative attractiveness inside a situation has a big bearing on this? Like, what is the attractive or the hot factor? How does it fit?

Michi: “Attractiveness relative—actually I was making notes on this—attractiveness whether or not a woman is perceived as attractive by anyone should have no bearing at all on how she—on whether or not she is perceived to be a geek. It really shouldn’t, because geek culture is made up of more than just hetero males. There are transgender males, there are gay, there are queer. It’s made up of geeks who come from all walks of life. And whether or not somebody finds me attractive or finds—someone finds me not attractive, it should have no bearing on whether or not they think I’m a geek, or whether or not I’m perceived to be a geek. My issues of how I feel I perform gender as a woman are my issues and nobody else’s, and that is not fair for me to project how I feel about performing gender onto another woman, and looking at her and saying, ‘Oh, she—I feel that she is prettier than me. I’m going to be a little bit more circumspect about how she is—whether or not I think she is a geek.’ That is not fair. That is what I used to do, and I’m not doing it anymore.”

Dawn: “One of the realities of being a woman for better or worse, and I mean most of the time it’s not that great at this particular instance, but I mean, how we dress, how we look, how we carry ourselves, has a huge bearing on how people treat us. And whether—outside of geek spaces even—whether or not we’re perceived as competent or whether or not people think we’re intelligent—I mean it’s a terrible thing, but this is like society at large. It’s something we’re used to. So in a lot of instances if you look too attractive—I mean there’s some bar—if you’re too—if you’re not attractive enough, people don’t take you seriously, but if you’re too attractive, people automatically think you’re not very intelligent, and you don’t actually know what you’re doing. So you can’t win.”

Michi: “And we don’t know where that bar is.”

Erin: “No, there’s no way to win.”

(54:49)

Audience Question: “So I consider myself a geek in like the comic book and gamer realm, and I know that as far as the spectrum of geekdom it’s always—there’s not any characters or representation of women in a positive or powerful light. There’s often the damsel in distress, especially with first-person shooters.  Sometimes there’s not even the option to play as a woman, or you’re always saving a woman, way back to Mario Bros. A) Do you think that it’s gate-keeping in itself to keep women playing the games or get you interested in the comic books?  and B) Do you think that that is part of the reason why people have such a negative look on women, because they’re playing these games and they’re reading these comics where the woman is considered the lesser character, so why wouldn’t the woman be considered the lesser nerd?”

Erin: “I think it’s kind of a self-perpetuating cycle.”

Michi: “Yeah, I don’t think it’s on purpose.”

Erin: “I think it’s a marketing thing. Like with the new Bioshock game, and they wanted to put the girl on the cover and they were told, ‘No, that we refuse to produce your game with’—and I’ve gone completely blank on her name now—but yeah, on the cover like they were like, ‘No, we will not market your game if she’s on the cover.’  And I think that it’s not because that they hate women.  I think that it’s the target marketing plan that they’ve said, ‘This works and we’re not going to deviate.’  And I think it’s—the reason it’s a self-perpetuating cycle is because they continue to do that, and then their stats are upheld by guys continuing to buy those games, or anyone continuing to buy those games, so then they think it’s a winning formula, so then they keep doing—and so it’s just an endless cycle until the demand from their audience forces them to start shifting.

Karlyn: “And that’s where a lot of the pushback comes from as well. Because you do have, you know, males in the 18-35 demographic. They’re white also. These are the people for whom video games are made. And so when they can say—well they’re not consciously saying—but you can look and see that, ‘All these games up to this point have been made with me in mind as the target audience.’ And then all of a sudden you have people coming in and saying, I’d like to see a little more representation, a little more inclusivity, a little less sexism, maybe some people of color. And it’s just like, ‘Why are you trying to change everything about games?!’

Michi: “Yeah, wasn’t that a big deal when they did, was it Dragon Age 2, when they had romances that were actually same sex, and suddenly everyone’s like, ‘Why are you putting that in there?  You’re ignoring your demographic—straight male demographic!’

Erin: “Nobody’s ignoring the straight white male! Calm down. He’s not going anywhere. He’s just fine.”

Karlyn: “Yeah so you get like this extra persecution complex of like I have this thing, it was mine and now you just want to take it away from me, but it’s like that’s a beautiful thing to have, and I promise you will still be catered to, but it’s still scary.”

Dawn: “Well I also think that women who are making video games are—you know, there’s smaller numbers of them. So if you have a lot of guys making video games, just probably by default they’re going to think ‘Well the main character should be a guy, and you know, sort of build things accordingly.’ So it’s not necessarily always even a marketing thing. I think sometimes it’s just the context people are starting with and thinking, ‘Well clearly everybody thinks like me.’ So if you get a few more people in the video game industry maybe who are women, maybe you’ll start to see the games change a little bit.”

(58:04) 

Michi: “Well here’s the thing about sexism that’s really—I think, the major problem’s that a lot of people have the perception that sexism to be a problem has to be overt—“

Laura: “And it has to be intentional.  It doesn’t have to be intentional.”

Michi: “Unintentional, unexamined sexism is a much much bigger problem in geek culture, I think, than overt intentional, because I mean, that piece that started the whole—that I really think started the whole fake geek girl problem last year, the piece by Joe Peacock on CNN about ‘Fake Geek Girls: We Don’t Need You’” [actually titled, ‘Booth Babes Need Not Apply’] “or whatever.  When Joe Peacock wrote it and he got all that massive blowback, he was like, ‘What ha—I wrote something that I thought was supportive of geek—like real geek women and geek culture. What did I do wrong?’ He actually went on—he appeared on John Scalzi’s ‘Who Gets to Be a Geek’ discussion board for that piece, and was like, ‘I don’t get it, what did I say? I thought I was being supportive?’ And people were trying to point it out to him, what he was writing and why it was problematic, and he just wasn’t getting it, because there were a lot of unexamined internalized issues of inherent sexism that he just wasn’t getting.

“And I think that’s a lot—everybody has it. We swim in a sexist culture. Everybody has those issues. I have them. Everybody on the panel has it in one form or another. And what really makes the difference is when you actually look at how you have those issues. And you’re willing to be challenged. You’re willing to pull them out, and look at them and admit that well maybe I have made mistakes in the past—don’t flagellate yourself over it. Be willing to move forward and try not to make the same mistakes, and have somebody talk to you about it. Be willing to be challenged. Be willing to re-examine your assumptions.”

Carlye: “Okay ladies, we are going to move forward because they are going to come and take the room away from us. I know, it’s all the time we have. We want to thank C2E2 for having us. Big thanks to Chicago Nerd Social Club for sponsoring the panel, to the people who volunteered to make this possible, of course our incredible panelists—“

Erin: “And thank all of you guys for showing up!”

FIN

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  9. I just wanted to say thank you for posting this panel. I just ran across it and it really struck a nerve and has gotten me to think more about unintentional unexamined sexism which gets internalized and leads to feelings of trespassing and needing to prove my credentials in a number of situations. I am starting to realize that many of my beliefs could come from this internalization despite rarely or ever feeling that others have not been welcoming in both geek/nerd and other situations. I think I often feel like I have to prove myself even if no one asks me to do so and this is part of the reason I almost always feel average in what ever I do.

    Also this year I am going to C2E2 for the first time (I won a 3 day pass which is the only way I could afford to go) and therefore am looking forward to seeing some of you on the Glass Ceilings, Missing Stairs & Gatekeepers: Geeks Still Deal with Sexism panel.

    Have a great day.

  10. Pingback: Recounting C2E2 2014 and Looking Forward to C2E2 2015 | Geek Melange

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