Fake Geek Girls Invade the University of Chicago

I can hardly believe I’m writing this, but after a successful run at both C2E2 and Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, our panel discussing fake geek girls, sexism and gate-keeping has been invited to present at the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Chicago.

“Unmasking the Fake Geek Girl: Confronting gate-keeping and sexism in geek culture” will take place Thursday, January 30, from 4:30pm-6:00pm, at CSGS, Community Room (105), at the University of Chicago Hyde Park Campus, 5733 S. University Ave., Chicago, IL 60637. The event will be FREE to the public. No registration is required. Persons with disabilities who need an accommodation in order to participate in this event should contact CSGS for assistance:


As the line between “geek” and “mainstream” culture becomes more blurred, the debate about what makes someone and “authentic” or “fake” geek has taken on an unmistakably gendered tone. Women are no strangers to having to prove they belong in perceived male-dominated spaces, and perception that women are “invading” geek spaces has invariably led to the label “fake geek” being appended overwhelmingly on women.

What exactly is a “fake geek girl” and why does she need to be barred from geek spaces? Who gets to define what makes one a “real geek,” and Do “fake geek girls” really exist? If so, does it even really matter? Is it really about keeping geek culture “authentic” or about keeping certain people out? Six women from the Chicago Nerd Social Club with a diverse range of experiences and expertise in geek culture look at how expecting women in geek spaces to be “fake” reflects our ideas of gender, power dynamics and cultural biases, and what happens when those ideas are challenged. This discussion will include time for Q&A with the audience.

This is the first time we’ll be bringing this discussion to an academic setting, so we’ve tweaked the panel’s title and our approach. As this will be our third foray into this topic, we’ll be delving deeper into how the fake geek girl issue reflects ideas about gender, social privilege and what happens when perceptions of identity are challenged.

Returning to the panel with me are fellow Chicago Nerd Social Club members:

CarlyeCarlye Frank –  a local artist who specializes in comic art and was trained under comic artist Skip Williamson. She’s also feminist activist, a college instructor and an alum of the Masters in the Humanities Program at the University of Chicago.


LauraLaura Koroski – an opinionated twenty-something who hails from the Chicago area and is in love with her city. Currently a grad student, hopefully a future history teacher, she has little free time, and such time as can be called free often goes into her blog, Challenge by Geekwhere she writes about nerd culture and geeky topics through a feminist perspectiveLaura’s geek passions include fantasy, sci-fi, feminism, and history – also, Doctor Who. 

Kate Lansky – an avid gamer, lifelong comics fan, unrepentant book horder and writer. Kate recently had her short story, “We Save What We Can,” published in The Toasted Cheese Literary Journal. When she’s not creating fantasy worlds or raiding with a guild, she’s diligently tutoring her son in the Way of the Nerd.

Karlyn1Karlyn Meyer – an attorney who uses her vacation days to work at PAX and game development conferences. She studied intellectual property and the law’s application to gender and sexuality, receiving national publication for her scholarship regarding video games and copyright law. You may have seen her on the internet doing a rad cosplay of Maurice Moss from the IT Crowd. In addition to being an avid gamer, she is raising a tiny human who will join her in the Chicago Nerd Social Club.

Dawn Xiana MoonDawn Xiana Moon – a lifelong geek who performs with Read My Hips tribal bellydance, works freelance as a web designer, is a singer/songwriter and is also the producer and director of Raks Geek, the bellydance + fire show that broke the internet’s brain with a video of a Wookiee bellydancing to a Klingon band. She’s also part of the podcast, Podcast on the Edge of Forever.

For further information, please see the official event listing on the CSGS events calendar. You can also find us on Facebook.

Whether you missed us at C2E2 or Wizard World Chicago, came to see this discussion before, or have never even heard of this “fake geek girl” kerfuffle and wonder what all the fuss is about, we hope you’ll join us.

Pre-C2E2 panel discussion on the Chicago Nerd Social Club Podcast (Update 1/11/14: Transcript of podcast interview posted here.)
C2E2 “Exorcising the Spectre of the Fake Geek Girl” panel (transcript included)
Wizard World Chicago Comic Con “Exorcising the Spectre of the Fake Geek Girl” panel (transcript forthcoming)

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