Dec 26 2012 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: So How About That For Boundary-Policing?

Because I'm going to talk about something in the body of this post that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I want to bookend it with some palate-cleanser.

So, first: Tansy Raynor Roberts has a pretty entertaining series of posts on Xena: The Warrior Princess. (I have very fond memories of watching Xena on DVD with some other persons of historical bent. We found the Greek in “A Day in the Life” very confusing, until we realised whoever had done the cards had confused the orthography of their nus and upsilons. And oh, the mad yet-classically-appropriate approach to myth reuse and recycling! And the lesbian subtext. Good times, good times.)

So, what's up with all those guys in the last few months complaining about “fake geek girls”? (There's Scalzi's post on the sod from CNN in July, and then mid-November some comics artist bloke decided to have a go at female cosplayers for being neither geeky nor hot enough to satisfy him... and there are more, I'm sure.)

I suppose I'd better make a confession. I'm not a capital-F Fan. I'm not a capital-G Geek. I'm not a Nerd. I don't self-identify as part of the tribe. (I'm even reluctant to go to conventions, since all of the four times I've been to one, I've been struck by how very much out of place I was: neither middle-class nor yet middle-aged, insufficiently comfortable with the American-ness* of the occasion and the conversation, feeling rather alienated by the fact that the space I was occupying seemed to be far less heterogenous than my everyday life. About the only count on which I didn't feel out of place was gender—there. Then. At that time.)

*Articulating how this in particular is alienating to an American audience is rather like trying to find the right way of explaining drowning to fish. (Cultural hegemony! It's what's for supper!) It's a topic I'll revisit if I ever find the words.

This “fake geek” nonsense arises from a rigid sense of self-identification and stringent boundary policing among a subset of (although they don't realise it) a much wider and more permeable community. These men feel their social power being eroded by the increased visibility of a previously much more marginalised class within the community, and the misogynistic nature of their retrenchment is evident in the ways in which they rank the “fakeness” of female participants in community activity in an implied scale based upon the visibility of female sexuality. Participation in community activity is deemed (by these guys, at least) to be a male prerogative: you can be one of the guys as long as you're willing to be one of the guys, and not threaten them by either obvious difference or by being a better “guy” than they are.

So far, so much bullshit on the part of the people deploying terms like “fake geek” and “slut” to devalue the legitimacy of participation of those against whom such terms are used. Am I right?

But the problem is wider than a few... ah, gentlemen... who react to the presence of cosplayers and other visibly female women within community spaces with aggressive delegitimisation.

Do you remember Patrick Rothfuss's Fantasy Pin-Up Calendar?

Does anyone see, perhaps, a small problem with the image of women's participation in genre-community spaces implied by the promotional pictures on view? It appears that this calendar does nothing to subvert the traditional frame of the male gaze, which casts women as passive/submissive receptacles of desire, objects for consumption. The female gaze is irrelevant to this calendar project: the female onlooker is irrelevant, and the presence of active female sexual agency ignored. Not that I judge Patrick Rothfuss for his participation in such a project... but while the vision of fantasy and the voices of the genre community here aren't as hostile as the cries of “fake geek!” it still isn't exactly welcoming for people who are not heterosexual males.

It implies that we're not as much a part of the community as the people to whom this calendar is designed to appeal. And that sort of thing? That sort of thing emboldens the criers of “fake geek” (and “slut”) into imagining more people agree with them.

So who's a “real” part of the genre community and its conversations? Who gets to define “real”? Normally I'd leave questions of ontology and epistemology to those poseurs with undergrad degrees in philosophy**—but here, I think the idea of “fakeness” and legitimacy is a pretty thin smokescreen over plain old sexism.

**That crash you heard was one of the panes in my glass house going SMASH. (Half of my undergrad degree is theology. Can't throw any more stones, or it'll get draughty in here.)

There's no such thing as a “fake geek.” Who can be bothered pretending?


And to close, more Tansy Raynor Roberts. If you missed it, she's written a really interesting series examining the women of Discworld, “Pratchett's Women.” I was pointed at the ninth instalment some time ago, and went back to read them all from the beginning:

The best part is watching the way that Sacharissa steals the novel from under William’s feet. Their romance, if you can call it that, is one of those vague baffled courtships that Pratchett does so often, in which both parties spend the whole time loudly thinking about everything except their attraction to each other, and dance around the subject so subtly that you’re not always sure that he MEANT you think it was a romance at all. But for the most part, Sacharissa isn’t bothered about impressing William or finding herself a bloke – instead she, like William, falls deeply in love with the newspaper business.

This romance is a threeway.

“Pratchett's Women IX: The Truth Has Got Her Boots On”

Find Liz Bourke @hawkwing_lb on Twitter.

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Mordicai Knode
1. mordicai
...the mad yet-classically-appropriate approach to myth reuse and recycling...
This is my favorite thing about comic book retellings of myth, or myths on tv, or in a movie, or...whatever! Like: I DARE YOU TO PRETEND MYTHS ARE INTERNALLY CONSISTANT.
2. olethros
Analogy to the alienating character of the "Amercian-ness": being an atheist in the United States, especially at Xmas time. I feel like I've just been choked within a hair of death by a 2,000 years dead Arabic infant.
3. Eugene R.
It is a lovely system, innit?, wherein we can dismiss "fake" (girl) geeks for not being "slutty" enough, while simultaneously smacking down "real" (girl) geeks for being slutty.

The issue of "real" versus "fake" does bring up the problem of how our sense of self can impose boundaries (moving, yet centered on the self) to include/exclude others whose projections of self (via costuming, say) either confirm or threaten our own perceived identity. I believe it is going to happen to all of us, no matter how "enlightened" we are. What is important is not that it happens to us, but how we behave based on that (however unwanted) stimulus. We do this kind of boundary defining even with descriptors that are not personalized. I suspect many of us would equate "all-American" with someone who looks like Mitt Romney (an impulse from which his political career benefitted greatly). "Geek" evokes similar "type specimens" or personifications, which can be used offensively to exclude as well as embracingly to include. In genres that highlight and explore and (sometimes) celebrate the 'alien' and the 'fantastic', one could wish that we would tend more to include than to exclude.

One does not have to remember Mr. Rothfuss's 2012 pin-up calendar as one can purchase the 2013 edition (as your link shows), again under the delightful title Check These Out! (oh, those librarians!), now with characters taken from the works of living (mostly) authors, 5 of whom are female.

Also, I am mildly suprised that the Xena orthography mix-up was upsilons/nus and not etas/nus, which often throw me. Good catch!
4. Graemeg
While I don`t think that it was approached well, I think that the heart of the `fake geek girl`conversation has some merit.

Over the past couple of years the landscape of the participants has changed quite a bit at the conventions. Not that this is a bad thing necessarily. I have no problems at all with more people enjoying genre movies and tv, comics etc. However, the number of times I heard a vapid conversation that went something like, `Who is that guy? I don't know, but he is cute, we should go meet him.' was enough to set my teeth on edge.
And the fact that there were more people in the retail store section of the con than the artists section was disheartening as well.
Perhaps limiting the finger pointing to women was a mistake, however from what I have seen, it is the women that are the most obvious standouts. Many dress skimpy and have loud clueless conversations. Neither of which I mind (though the vapid conversation I would gladly skip) however I think that in a con it sort of stands out in a negative way.

People have discussed this topic nearly to death already, but I think that as with many things, each side can get so entrenched in their own ideas that they don't listen to the other side and acknowledge that there might be something valid in what they have to say.

I think that having more people enjoy all forms of genre entertainment is great, but that having people with no real interest buying tickets, and treating a con like friday night at a club detracts from the overall experience.
William Carter
5. wcarter
Misogny is a problem almost everywhere, and it makes the rest of us look bad when some ignorant jackass decides that women or anyone else for that matter somehow don't deserve to be a part sci fi/fantasy fandoms.

I can see what Liz meant by trying to explain drowning to a fish, because I'm not at all sure what she meant by "Americanness." What part of America?

Even if we limit that to just the United States, there's vastly different attitudes and cultures depending on where you go. Most of the time you don't have to go all that far see differences, including at conventions.

Add that to the fact that there's little over three million square miles in the lower 48 alone, and you have me totally lost.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think it's possible to define Americanness beyond "located in the Western Hemisphere."
6. dogmatix
Nobody ever complains if not all the guy geeks are hot enough to dress up as Robin or Thor or Loki, or looks down on them if they do and say that they just dress up in costume to get girls interested in them. Why is that? *dryly not amused*
Michael Grosberg
7. Michael_GR
I see the cries of "Fake geek" from a somewhat different angle. I believe at least some of the people who express similar opinions about female geeks are trying to increase their own social status by claiming that they themselves (or their "tribe", anyway) are so attractive these days that girls will do anything - including dressing in sexy/embarrasing custumes - to be associated with them. Since it's obviously uncool to brag about it you have to complain instead, how all those horrible girls want you for your body and don't really care about who shot first in Star Wars. In their heart of hearts, I think the people who complain know very well this isn't true and are secretely excited about this trend.

BTW, it would be interesting to hear fans from non english speaking countries talk about their gender-related experiences in local conventions. Where I live (Israel) the demographics for fans are quite different than those in the U.S. - the majority is young and the percentage of women close to 50% - including among con organizers and other "notables" where there's possibly a female majority. Since organized fandom was pretty much non-existent here before 1998 there simply isn't a class of aging male diehard geeks that can complain about wannabes, female or otherwise.
8. dogmatix
@Michael - Re: con demographics - I'm in the USA, but I mostly attend anime conventions, rather than comicbook conventions, and I have to say that the 'fake geek girl' phenomenon is not something I've ever encountered at anime cons. I'd guesstimate that females make up at least half of attendees and organizers for anime cons, and you'd be in a lot of trouble if you started disparaging skimpy costumes, since there are a quite a few popular female characters, and many anime girls have skimpy outfits.

Also, I don't know if this happens at comic conventions, but the gender-rigidity (not really a word? but it fits) among cosplayers is very relaxed - it's very common to have women or girls dress up as male characters (since there's not as much spandex, you can do a lot with the cut of the clothes or some basic chest bindings). It's less common, but I've seen guys dress up as female characters, too (usually the ones ~not~ in skimpy outfits *g* ).

Anime series in general can be anywhere from rigid to very, very fluid concerning gender roles (Ranma 1/2 has a main character who changes sex when he gets hit with hot or cold water. A character in Fushigi Yugi is a guy dressing up as a woman for the entire series, a bodhisatva in Saiyuki is both male and female, the main character in Twelve Kingdoms is a 'king'(addressed as such, with the responsibilities of one) even though she's female, etc etc.). So, I guess maybe since the root material plays fast and loose with gender sometimes, it's not a Thing, as much as with comicbook cons? (just my guess, though)
Alan Brown
9. AlanBrown
The real problem is go/no-go thinking, where we try to put people into one category or another. When really, most of us fall somewhere along a continuum. That continuum might be geekness, musical authenticity, athleticism, sexual orientation, race or whatever. We spend all this energy trying to categorize people instead of accepting them as they are. I my own life, I see this in Irish music circles (he's authentic--no, he's not). I see it in SF fandom. I see it in religion. I see it all around me.
It is like that old series of Miller Lite commercials, the ones where people argue about whether the beer "tastes great" or is "less filling," as if it is not possible for the beer to fit into two categories at once. A lot of arguing and fighting over a meaningless distinction. (Star Wars and Star Trek fandoms--I'm looking at you!)
At the risk of being geeky with this example, I was home sick one day watching a Phineas and Ferb cartoon, and it was about how the boys went to an SF convention, one dressed like an elf, and one like a spaceman. And how chaos ensued, because no one wanted to see fantasy and SF fans getting along. Out of the mouths of cartoon characters came a very thoughtful message about tolerance and acceptance.
In the end, I myself try to live my life following the motto of another, more ancient cartoon figure (who I later realized was probably quoting a conversation between God and Moses), "I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam."
Sol Foster
10. colomon
Alan, one of the things I find most interesting/amusing about Irish music is the way the moderately experienced players will set up all sorts of rules and regulations about what is allowed and what isn't, most of which have little if anything to do with what the oldtimers at the heart of the tradition actually did and still do. Most of the rules seem to take a small kernel of truth and then distort it wildly so that the person who has been playing the music for, say, four years can look down at the "ignorance" of the enthusiastic noob.
Alan Brown
11. AlanBrown
Yep, colomon, that's exactly the kind of behavior I was thinking of. And that sort of uninformed arrogance, especially when applied to things like what people of the opposite sex should or shouldn't be wearing, can be repugnant.
rob mcCathy
12. roblewmac
I have never like the term "geek" worn as a badge of honor. I'M a 39 year old wheelchair user who reads comic books and the whole "Geek pride" thing is lost on me. it always struck me as an effort by people to live John Huges movies.
Mike Conley
13. NomadUK
wcarter@5: Maybe it's just me, but I don't think it's possible to define Americanness beyond "located in the Western Hemisphere."

That's probably because you — like most Americans — have never lived outside the US and don't realise that, for all its size, it is remarkably homogenous. Go spend a few years living somewhere else — where, for example, the inhabitants of two villages separated by a creek speak totally different and mutually incomprehensible dialects — and looking at it from the outside, and you may start to understand.
William Carter
14. wcarter

I have spent time outside the states, and in my experience you can't really say that any but the smallest groups of people are basically the "same" anywhere.

Beyond that, language alone does not necessarily make common groups of people. French Canadian and Cajun are too very different things, nevermind the actual France.

So I reverse your question to you. I'll keep the restrictions from my earlier post in place for simplicity's sake. Since you haven't mentioned any country but the U.S. we will limit the definition of "homogenous" America as understood by this discussion to leave aside Canada, Mexico, the island nations and the entirety of the South American continent.

So to begin, have you ever actually been to the United States? And if you're best reply is yes, I've spent a weekend in New York City on a business trip, then you cannot possibly defend your position.

If you have traveled this country extensively then maybe you can actually tell me in what way are we homogenious?

Since I was born here it's certainly possible I've missed something.

If you haven't traveled our country then let me give you a brief, very broad-strokes list of a few of the things I have seen (and this of course, is completely disregarding the vast differences you will find between individual people):

In Casper, Wyoming you would be lucky to find someone willing to say three words to you in an hour. In Savannah, Georgia you might beg them the shut up.

In the Appalachia (East Tennessee, North Carolina, parts of Virginia and Kentucky) you can find moon shiners and settlers who live miles from any cities and can get snowed into their homes for weeks at a time. In south Floridia there are people who have never seen snow.

In Lousiana you may not understand a word some people say to you.

In California there are occasional parades of people marching naked down the streets of San Fransico. In Dallas, Texas other people would raise an outcry if someone applied for the permit to do that.

The Centers for Disease Control rates Aspen Colorado as a city full of people who are mostly healthy and fit. In Memphis, Tennessee it rates obesity as pandemic.

In Hawaii a significant portion of the popluation in Japanese, in many other areas you might never see someone of Asian decent.

Then of course there's the elephant in the room: the various nations of native "Americans."

The Cherokee nation for instance is recognized as soverign state within the borders of the U.S. by the United Nations, and it's members hold legal dual citizenship. I'm pretty sure none of them would appreciate being told they were all just like me.

To call an entire country of people here or anywhere esle the all the same is every bit as ignorant as those who claim the right to decide who is and is not worthy of being part of a fandom.

*Edit for grammar and clarity
Chin Bawambi
15. bawambi
Thanks carter for putting us back on track on discussing how NOT to pigeonhole folk in the community.
Chris Nelly
16. Aeryl
@9 Alan

Phineas and Ferb are awesome. More adults need to get their life lessons from those kids.

(the rest of this comment is in general, not in response to anything specific)

To the people who think that the "fake geek" discussion is valid, and are disheartened by the influx of mindless consumerism to geek culture, I exhort you to put the blame where it belongs.

Not to the n00bs who are just learning and ask what you consider to be inane questions, and not the booth babes trying to earn a paycheck.

Kick up, never down. Be angry at the media and marketing companies who decided your life's hobby was just another demographic to be exploited. Be angry at Hollywood for deciding to pillage one of the last bastions of creativity for movie ideas and using the conventions as a focus group. Be angry at the marketing people who decided you couldn't be convinced to by this book/game/card&dice set unless it presented to with a set of boobs.

Don't take it out on the fans, they are your allies, not your enemy.
Alan Brown
17. AlanBrown
As an egregious example of exploitation of the geek world for commercial purposes, I would point to Ice T's wife, CoCo, who came to the NYC ComicCon with reality TV camera crew and photographers in tow, dressed in some skimpy outfit. (What is her last name, anyway? Is she Mrs. T?) I wasn't there, but saw the pictures on the internet.
But I do not think that exception proves any rule. The vast majority of people who dress up at cons just do it to have fun, not to be judged or garner fame, or to show off their bodies.
It is sad that SF fans, who have so often been judged so negatively by others and endured their share of bullying, when they gather, immediately band together to judge other people. I would think that the proper lesson from their experiences would not to pass judgement on others...
Mike Conley
18. NomadUK
wcarter@14: I was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, as Yankee as anyone. I lived the first 42 years of my life in the US, in a dozen different states.

The homogeneity is not in the trivia you list. It is in the near-uniform belief in the US as exceptional, as an unmitigated force for good. It is the naive outlook regarding the rest of the planet, when its inhabitants bother to regard the rest of the planet at all. It is the belief that the American system of government is better than any other, more competent, more perfectly crafted, more effective (the Cherokee — about whom the occupiers of their former lands know next to nothing — would certainly disagree). It is the utter lack of humility, the complete failure to see itself as the rest of the world sees it, and to think that, because of its saturation of world media and culture and business through the accident of its geography and economic might that its culture is in some way superior to everyone else's.

That there are many individuals who don't see themselves this way, or that there are differences between peoples of different states and regions, is trivially obvious. But it is the face the nation as a whole exposes to the outside world that determines how it is seen, and how its behaviour is judged. The response, for example, or even the lead-up, to the tragedy in Connecticut is utterly incomprehensible to almost anyone living outside the US, but perfectly understandable to an American (and if you are an American to whom it is incomprehensible, then you need to learn a lot more about your political system and how it really works).

And, beyond all this, the original point that there is an 'Americanness' to the culture of conventions that can be off-putting to someone not of the tribe, is self-evident to anyone who views America from the outside. It is the same ineffable distinction that allows, say, a European to spot an American without their having to open their mouth. That you don't see this and don't accept it simply illustrates the point.
William Carter
19. wcarter
If you think that American exceptionalism is a uniform belief then you didn't associate with nearly as many people as you think you did.

You yourself pointed out the reason so many people think we look down our noses at them: the politicians and the international media corporations--in other words the groups most outsiders are exposed to---do hold that view.

I have seen national pride in plenty of other places as well. It doesn't offend me, in fact I would consider it quite healthy. If you hate were you live, you're probably not satisfied with other things you should be in life as well.

The truth of the matter is most people have a natural competitive streak. It's part of being a social species.

As for the the U.S. being a "force for good" either now or at any other point in its history thus far, neither myself or any of the people I know and can think of right off the top of my head feel that way. However, I also dont think it's any worse than other countries. Even the native tribes themselves displaced one another for well over 1,000 years before the first ships of European settlers arrived.

So ask yourself, why the hell would I or any other sane person think our government should interfere in other countries when we would much rather have them fix any number of domestic problems?

Those in charge get to make far too many decisions that make us all look bad in the eyes of the rest of the world simply because the rest of us are too distracted by our own lives--families, health, jobs, friends, taxes, schools, and dinner plans--to pay attention and call them out on it.

And that might be the sticking point. I can see where other people could confuse apathy with a superiority complex.

As a friendly side note I would pay you to find any average citizen who actually belives our political system is or has been anything other than an unholy mess in the last 20 years.
20. Luigi
While I agree with the many others that have commented that this issue is certainly a pertinent topic for discussion, I feel that the example concerning Pat Rothfuss's endorcement of the genre themed "pinup" calendar was a bit ill suited. I don't mean to be nit picky but let's face it, biologically males are hardrived to have a strong sex drive, as much as we in the literary (an other) community can applaud those who are 'sophisticated' and look past this, attempting to not objectify women. I am by no means saying that it's a futile plight I'm just saying that getting rilled up over this particular example is silly. The calendar was aimed at a demographic that it could sell to and the profits of the sales went to the worldbuilders charity. The only morally objectionable point about the calender and the process of its sale as a whole was that it featured women in sexually oriented positions. Let it be noted this wasn't exactly porn. If every women in a seductive pose was and is morally wrong as it objectifies women as a sex then reproduction itself is verging on being morally wrong. For those more critical readers, yes this stream of logic is weak but the point I'm trying to elaborate on is that the Calender is a weak example to use for masoginy in SF & F genre. The Calender was not meant to nor did it in my opinion objectify women. If anything, many of the characters portrayed, in their respective works, are not dainty pieces of good-for-nothing eye candy. C Lannister being a great example. Portraying them as sexy can in this case almost be seen as almost celebrating female sexuality. This may be a hyperanalysis but so is claiming that this is an example of rampant masoginy.
Claire de Trafford
21. Booksnhorses
I bought that calendar; must have skipped over the images or thought there'd be something else to it. Not quite sure what I'm going to do with it now - husband snorted in derision when I opened it xmas morning. Back to the countryfile calendar for 2013 I guess.
Alan Brown
22. AlanBrown
For a thread on 'boundary policing,' this discussion is all over the map! ;-)
Jenny Kristine
23. jennygadget

"As for the the U.S. being a "force for good" either now or at any other
point in its history thus far, neither myself or any of the people I
know and can think of right off the top of my head feel that way."

Any, really? What strange part of the US do you live in? I mean, sure, I can argue against American exceptionalism among peers of my choosing and all I will get are nods. But bring up the idea that America is not the best ever at work or a family gathering? HA!

Look, I'm not going to pretend that a nation of millions of people is full of people that are exactly alike, but lets also not pretend that our schools don't teach American exceptionalism, and that this idea - and companion ideas like the American Dream, etc - aren't a huge part of our national identity.


"...let's face it, biologically males are hardrived to have a strong sex drive...The calendar was aimed at a demographic that it could sell to..."

Your argument is that the market for pics of hot guys is so lacking that it doesn't make sense for the calendar to include any of them at all?

And it's not really sexism bc: BIOLOGY!


...have you even heard of tumblr?

You are also arguing that 1) the calendar would not sell anywhere near as well to (hetero) men without women looking sexy in it AND 2) that (hetero) women would never buy a scifi calendar anyway - at least not in enough numbers to make up for all the horny men who now won't buy it. Shockingly, I am slightly skeptical about those assumptions.
William Carter
24. wcarter
@23 jennygadget

In the context of my previous comment I was talking about a group of peers that I chose . I'm sure I know people like that, but I'm not close with any of them.

As far as my family goes, most of them as I said in my last post, don't really care. A couple of them do however argue about which state is the best--Texas or New York being the ones I hear people bragging about most often.

The main point I want to make is that NomadUK invalidated a number of his own statements.

He said he was born in the United States, so he himself is an exception to the so-called "universal" belief of American exceptionalism. Whether it's because of his traveling or something else . And then there's the Cherokee which he mentioned as having a justifyably differing opinion. He conveniently ignored the fact that they are also U.S. citizens as well as members of the Cherokee nation.

As far as public schools teaching American exceptionalism goes you're absolutely right--but that goes back to my previous point about the politicians and media corporations being the ones to actually hold that view.

On that note there is a book you might be interested in. Have you ever heard of the book "Lies My Teacher Told Me"? It focuses on debunking the whitewash American History books have been given by the powers that be.

But back to my original point. None of this really answers my question about what Liz herself meant by "Americanism."

NomadUK put in his own assertion but I haven't seen her chime in to back him up.

In the end every single point made he or I have made in this debate so far has been about one microcosm or another.

Despite NomadUK's claims, even the idea that one's country, state, city, team, lifestyle, etc. is the "best" is in no way exclusive to U.S. Surely I don't need to list examples of international competitions and sports leagues.

So I stick to my original view: I do not think it's truly possible to define Americanism beyond geopraphically.

I've said my peace now I'll shut up.
25. Edgar Governo

"Nobody ever complains if not all the guy geeks are hot enough to dress up as Robin or Thor or Loki"

Really? Talk to any guy with a ponch dressed as Spider-Man at a con and tell me whether that's still true.
26. dogmatix

ponch - paunch

Hm. Yeah I could see that happening. Okay, you have a point.
Emma Bull
27. emmabull
Huh--I loved that calendar. I'm a long-time fan of classic pin-up art, and I was delighted to see how well Lee Moyer understood the form and recreated it for a modern audience.
28. Lyinar
The thing that got me about the "fake geek girl" comic was that it was part of a set of comics about "enemies of fandom", which included another entry for the "alpha geek", who was an enemy because he demanded that ALL fandom bow down to his vision of what the fandom should be.

Hypocrisy much, eh?

Personally, my experiences with conventions and fandom have been heavily coloured by DragonCon, and specifically the Wheel of Time track there (which sadly had its last year this past convention). Despite the occasional unfortunate implications of some of Jordan's views on men and women, the series's fandom has a much larger percentage of women in its ranks than most other fandoms. Also, that particular fandom is pretty welcoming of newbies.

Thus, it's never been weird to me that women could be involved in the fandom, nor have I had the idiotic "You're just getting started, you're not a TRUE geek!" reflex ingrained into me... In fact, my response to someone who *does* have that reflex is to point out they were n00bs once, too.

And as far as female geeks in general... My girlfriend is a geek (and a far bigger one than most of the idiots whinging about fake geeks). Her daughters are geeks. My girlfriend and I were attendants at the Gallifreyan wedding (complete with full Time Lord dress robes and a hand-made TARDIS) of a couple of our friends this past DragonCon. Hell, my mom went to DragonCon multiple times and enjoyed it.
Vivian U
29. Viviannn
I am reminded of a time, years ago, when I subscribed to the Science Fiction Book Club, lured by the promise of a free set of book plates. Imagine my disappointment, as a woman, when I received a pile of book plates featuring a nearly-nude woman riding on a flying something, whose breasts had somehow gotten replaced by flesh-coloured soccer balls. What was I supposed to do with such book plates? I certainly wasn't going to put them in my books. I ended up tossing them all in the recycling bin.

A couple of assumptions were on evidence in the choice of artwork: one, that all SF fans are men, and two, that their tastes will not incline toward women with normal bodies. Fantasy art is dominated by such images (which is interesting in itself, and a discussion for another time and blog post), but if they'd dug a little I daresay they could have found something that would have made their female customers feel less invisible.
30. CathyKJ
Geek here, also female, and an owner of the Moyer/Rothfuss calendar. I'm also someone who is bothered by the frequent sexualization of women in comics and on novel covers. Personally, I think the calendar is awesome. I spent some time thinking about this, and I think the reason the calendar doesn't bother me is that its purpose is to be a pin-up calendar. It's not a book cover that has the bad-ass heroine in a physically impossible pose with boobs so huge her back should be broken. It's representing itself as exactly what it is, as opposed to using sex (and physical impossiblity) to sell something that doesn't actually have anything to do with sex. There's no booth babe here luring you in to look at a Far Cry demo; the calendar is a booth babe luring you in to look at more booth babes.

Do I want to see men in the 2014 version? Absolutely. If there aren't any, will I still buy it? Probably.

I'm probably not explaining myself well. It's hard to articulate, but I feel like there's a difference in the way art portrays and uses sex to sell itself. I realize I'm drawing a fairly fine distinction between the two, and that for many the distinction is irrelevant (if not non-existant), but that's my take on the issue (well, the calendar at least) as a geek who also happens to be a woman.
31. Maac
" But bring up the idea that America is not the best ever at work or a family gathering? HA!"

Do/did you ever hang out much with any racial or ethnic minorities? I think it might be interesting. I think NomadUK might have found it a bit enlightening too. (And yes, I have lived outside the US for extended periods; no, my citizenship has not been immediately apparent to all and sundry, which has led to some really fascinating foot in mouthness in front of me; and little New York me had been known to feel and function more "at home" in London than in Richmond, VA. Y'all need to generalize less. In general.
32. Therru
Now, first of all I must say that I don't believe in generalisations, and that I know there are any number of Americans who do not fit into NomadUK's description of 'Americanness'. Also, I live in Europe and I have not really spent any time in the US except for a very brief visit when I was a kid, so any perception I have is perforce based on a limited experience. But that said, NomadUK put into words almost exactly how 'Americanness' can be perceived by someone who was born and raised in another country. It doesn't matter if it's more complex if you actually go live there, or that the description isn't valid for every single American citizen. The point is that it's still true in a sense. You'd be hard pressed to find a European who thinks there even is such a thing as a 'European' (much to the chagrin of the leaders of the European project) -- Europe is much too disparate and with such a lot of old, old history, and there is a world of difference between, say, a Swede and a Greek. Still, if a Swede and a Greek went to Africa or China I'm sure the people living there would see in an eyeblink that both those people were without a doubt Europeans. It's something that's visible only to people who are not part of the group.

Like I said, I have never spent any significant time in the US, but I have been hanging out on American message boards and online fandom communities, and when I look back, the ones I've quit due to a sense of not fitting in or not 'getting' the general tone were almost always the ones comprised chiefly of Americans and almost no other nationalities. The ones I've stayed in all have a significant number of members from other parts of the world. It wasn't that the members were nasty or patronising (well, not intentionally), or that there was a language barrier -- it was, simply, that they set a very 'American' tone, and I just felt like, not a fish out of water, but more like a sweetwater fish trying to swim in the sea. It was jarring and uncomfortable. It wasn't even something I could explain to them, so eventually I just left.

I hope you understand that I'm not saying this in order to criticise Americans or 'Americanness'. Any nationality or cultural heritage group will have their good points and bad points, and aspects that others love and aspects that annoy the hell out of anyone else. Also, those aspects are fluid and change over time and within the groups, but that doesn't make them less real. And sometimes things that people within the group perceive as good will be annoying to others, and vice versa, and sometimes things that they are not even aware of themselves will stand out very clearly to someone from the outside.

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