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"Girls Got Into Geek Culture Because Fashion" and Other Sad Notions

By Allison Emm

In case the Twitterverse hasn’t informed you yet, PREVIEWSworld.com Editor Vince Brusio did a bad, bad thing. In an attempt to give female cosplayers at SDCC one big compliment, he basically told us we’re only in it for the “fashion sense.”

Eeeesh. Not okay.

So, the backlash ensues. Women are tweeting him all the reasons why they love geek culture, and why he is so very wrong. The rallying cry comes from @BaronessHeather. "If you're a female member of 'geek culture' who's not in it 'for the fashion sense,' I urge you to tell @DCD_Nexus they owe you an apology."

I get it. I found it offensive also, but it got me thinking. In our fervor to punish one transgression, aren’t we committing another by inadvertently condemning those who ARE drawn to the fashion? After everything women have been through in regards to the onslaught of “fake geek” accusations, how can we turn around and suggest that fangirling through fashion is somehow less worthy?

“Fashion” is a perfectly legitimate reason to find yourself drawn to geek culture.

No, I do not mean you should magically geekify yourself because it is currently in “fashion” (i.e. en vogue) to be geek chic. I use the term to refer to the study, practice, and art of dressing. Fashion, whether geek related or not, is nothing to scoff at. It’s an art form, emphasizing expression through personal appearance. Style of dress can influence and reflect society, indicate patterns in history, define relationships, or communicate status within a community.

In specific reference to comics and other fandoms, style of dress is almost always used to flesh out aspects of a character. For a cosplayer, wearing the accoutrements of a character is a profound way to interact with the narrative. Even for your everyday gamer t-shirt sporting fan, the act of donning a faction’s symbol is a way to identify with a group or ideology, fictional or otherwise. Don’t knock my Thieves Guild Shadowmark shirt. It’s how my guildies know I’m cool, okay?

Fans, male or female, are often initially attracted to the image of a specific character or story. This could be as simple as Super So-and-So looking oh so handsome in his Super So-and-So Suit. It could also be the fact that Miss Anti-heroine rejects the established rules of attractiveness and opts for a grungy t-shirt, loose-fitting pants, and a crazy hat. Whatever the scenario, we are undoubtedly drawn to strong imagery. When you were six years old and discovered you loved Batman, were you analyzing the fact that a mere man pushed himself to be larger than life, fueled by a dark past and a passion for justice? Or did you simply think he was powerful, smart, and SO GOSH-DARN COOL LOOKING? Even if you were a hyper-analytical first grader, you still ran around the house with a towel tied around your neck just like a tiny, adorable geek fashion enthusiast because it helped you interact with the narrative.

Taking interest in physical appearance or the way in which an individual adorns themselves is not a feminine trait; it is a human one.

The truth is, there are actually two dead-wrong assumptions at work in this whole Vince Brusio fiasco. The first is the stereotype that women are drawn to so-called frivolous things like fashion and appearance. The second is the stereotype that fashion and appearance must always be frivolous.

Let’s open this up to a civil discussion, shall we?

Let me put Brusio’s unfortunate blunder in more personal terms. Say I had a well-meaning male friend who tried (and failed miserably) to give me a compliment by assuming I got into geek culture for the fashion sense because I am a woman. Would I call him out?

Yes. Absolutely. No question.

Eyes narrowed to an icy, deliberate stare, I would inform him of his mistake, and kindly educate him on the issues. I would not, however, force his comment back down his throat, beat him over the head with feminist buzzwords, brand him a chauvinist, and then watch him run away with his tail between his legs because it makes me feel more like a “powerful woman.”

There is the temptation to respond with belligerent, rage-driven rants every time a misinformed male lets something offensive tumble gracelessly from his lips. There is, WITHOUT A DOUBT, a time and place to unleash the righteous wrath of feminism. Tony Harris, for example, deserved quite bit of the bad press, professional humiliation, and ideological flogging he got for his famous “Faux Nerd Girl” outburst in 2012. (But the threats of physical harm? That helps no one’s cause, people.) His flub up will go down in history as the prime example of how to be the biggest arseface in nerd history, and rightfully so.

The rage is more than understandable. It makes me physically ill to think that there are men who operate under the notion that our identity as nerds, geeks, scholars, beauties, artists, writers, leaders—human beings—is somehow dependent on their approval, or worse, their evaluation of our attractiveness. Fortunately there are also men who see us as equals, understanding full well that this kind of narrow-mindedness not only hurts women, but men as well.

Then, somewhere in the middle, you have our well-meaning, woefully confused friend who legitimately thought he was paying us a compliment. Sigh, shake your head, and take a moment to reflect on how society has failed him, too. I don’t presume to know the male mind thoroughly, but I would venture a guess that this kind of foot-in-mouth disaster is why teenage boys are afraid to talk to girls. We could respond with hostility, and yes, he would surely get the message. Alternatively, that hostility might also further the stereotype that women are volatile, irrational creatures when scorned. If we truly wish to be recognized as equals, I suggest we assert ourselves diplomatically, encouraging open conversations in which misconceptions can be corrected.

Yes, Brusio’s statement was careless and offensive, but let’s make TWO things clear:

  1. There are plenty of reasons why women are drawn to geek culture, and it’s wrong to assume it’s just because girls like dressing up.
  2. There are, actually, plenty of women AND MEN who are largely attracted to the “fashion sense” in geek culture, and it’s wrong to consider them any less geeky for it.

Why are YOU into geek culture?

Tags: comic con, geeky girl glam, allison emm, geek style, sdcc 2014, don't hate me because i'm geeky

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About the Author
Allison Emm

Allison Emm is a writer, illustrator, and handmade soap enthusiast hailing from Boulder, CO. She is fond of bookish and ruggedly handsome mountain men, blue spruce trees, birds of prey, starships, and yarn. See more of her high jinks at www.AllisonEmm.com, and follow her on Twitter @Allison_Emm.

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