Geek Anthropologist Marie-Pierre Renaud on the “Fake Geek Girl” Debate

Photo of a group of fans at Star Trek Las Vegas

by Jarrah Hodge

A longer version of this article was originally posted at Trekkie Feminist

For anyone not familiar with the “fake geek girl” issue, it flared up online in 2012 after two articles were published. The first was by Tara Tiger Brown at Forbes telling supposedly attention-seeking “fake geek girls” to “please go away”. A couple months later. Joe Peacock wrote an article for CNN called “Booth babes need not apply”, in which he took issue with: “pretty girls pretending to be geeks for attention.”

Example of the "fake geek girl" memeThe debate spiralled out from there, leading to a couple of different memes including the “Idiot Geek Girl” meme. It touched a nerve with a lot of female geeks (like me), who felt we were having our “geek cred” policed unfairly based on gender and appearance.

So I was excited to see an article about a study on the “fake geek girl” debate by Marie-Pierre Renaud. Renaud is a graduate student of sociocultural anthropology at Laval University in Quebec and is one of the founders of the fabulous blog The Geek Anthropologist.

In the intro to her research, Renaud says she was surprised that she kept encountering an assumption that women were historically rare in geek culture.

“In the rants against ‘fake geek girls’, a lot of the arguments that were invoked was that there didn’t used to be so many women in geek culture, and now that it’s becoming more popular, there are a lot more women. A lot of people who responded to the rants…wouldn’t really contest this idea that it was new for women to be involved in geek culture,” Renaud explained to me in an interview.

She said overall there isn’t really research or hard data to support that argument.

“The fact that there are more women who are visible doesn’t mean there are more women than the past…we don’t have a census of geek culture. ‘Geek culture’ keep changing…it’s not something you can clearly define,” she said.

Renaud got into geek culture at a young age by watching Star Trek with her dad, and her experience with the Trek fandom reinforced her feeling that the idea that women weren’t involved wasn’t necessarily correct.

“I would always be thinking back to documentaries like Trekkies I and II and documentaries about Firefly fans and fans of other franchises, and my experience would always be, well, there are women out there.”

“I titled the foreword to the series, ‘As Always, it Started with Star Trek’ because as a Trekkie, I know, like a lot of Star Trek fans, that one of the reasons the show was saved from cancellation in the 1960s was that Bjo Trimble started this campaign – with her husband – and she’s remembered as the woman who saved Star Trek,” Renaud explained.

“We have to ask ourselves were women really absent? Were we ignoring them? Were we making them more invisible? And if they were really present in less numbers than men, then why was that the case? We can’t just assume if there weren’t women there, they were not interested.”

Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment

Top Chef Canada “Battle of the Sexes” Begins

Posters for Top Chef Canada

by Jarrah Hodge

I am a sucker for cooking competition shows. Usually (with occasional exceptions) as a feminist the main thing I notice is the general underrepresentation of women and visible minority contestants and judges. But then I got the heads up that Top Chef Canada’s Season 4 was being marketed as a “battle of the sexes”.

Ugh. The fact that we were finally going to get 50% women contestants on the show didn’t feel like such a victory anymore.

The posters (above) were harshly criticized around the blogosphere because of the overall grossness of the marketing ploy, as well as the difference between the captions on the two posters. The women’s poster reads: “Is that all you got boys?”, which is seemingly directed at the men in the competition, challenging them to step up their game. It’s gendered but not as bad as the men’s poster, which says: “This kitchen is no place for a woman”, attacking women as a group.

Huffington Post Canada said it wasn’t sure what the show was trying to accomplish: “They may have been trying for tongue-and-cheek, but for the most part, it’s widely known there is a huge imbalance between the number of male and female chefs in professional kitchen. On top of that, suggesting a place for a woman is in the kitchen is one of oldest sexist jokes around — and was never really funny in the first place.”

Sarah Ratchford at Vice explains her issue with it: “The imagery suggests that the kitchen is too fierce, too dangerous, too competitive for a woman. She better stay out, where it’s safe!”

Top Chef Canada unsatisfactorily defended its marketing choice with the following statement (h/t Eater):

The fourth season of Top Chef Canada showcases the Nation’s best chefs and, for the first time ever, an even number of men and women face off in a culinary battle of the sexes that challenges them mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Food Network Canada’s marketing campaign plays on this year’s theme by using two opposing posters. One showcasing the male competitors and the other featuring the female competitors – both teasing the battle of the sexes angle. The competition may start with men vs. women, but in the end the person with the strongest kitchen skills will be named Canada’s Top Chef!

The response doesn’t really acknowledge the deep concerns people had with the wording on the posters, as well as the overall idea that it’s in any way meaningful or productive to pit “the sexes” against each other. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment

FFFF: Frozen’s Elsa Teaches the Other Disney Princesses

Funny Feminist Friday Film square logoMichelle Cameron stars as Elsa from Frozen, who teaches the other Disney Princesses that they don’t need to spend so much time worrying about landing a Prince.

Also featuring: Elizabeth Oldak (Belle), Tanja Nagler (Cinderella), Molly Gallagher (Ariel), Tiger Darrow (Snow White), Dominique Roberts (Aurora) and Celeste Hudson (Jasmine).

Note: The video is subtitled so I’m not including text of the lyrics here, but full text is available on the YouTube page in the video description.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in FFFF, Pop Culture Leave a comment

FFFF: More Historically-Accurate Disney Princess

Funny Feminist Friday Film square logoRachel Bloom’s cartoon points out being a Disney princess and finding a prince would be a lot less cool if it were historically-accurate.

Lyrics (after the jump): Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in FFFF, Pop Culture Leave a comment

Status of Women Committee MPs Study Eating Disorders

Canada's House of Commons library roofby Jarrah Hodge

On February 10 I had a unique opportunity to speak to the House of Commons Status of Women Committee on eating disorders, media and gender. The committee, which is made up of Members of Parliament from the major parties, had recently voted the following:

“It was agreed, — That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee conduct a study of eating disorders amongst girls and women, including the nature of these diseases, what treatments are providing the most relief to patients and where they are available, how family physicians can learn more about eating disorders and how to treat them, what roadblocks exist to better serve girls and women with eating disorders, and what resources relevant stakeholders need to improve the lives of these patients.”

Basically, the committee is studying eating disorders, particularly among Canadian girls and women, and considering potential service gaps and areas for improvement.

My name was put forward by NDP Status of Women Critic Niki Ashton. Given that I’m not a doctor and there were many clinical experts and people with personal or family experience already speaking, I thought it made most sense for me to bring in feminist analysis of how media images of women factor into eating disorders.

Over the weekend leading up to the appearance via videoconference, I had a lot of help getting a firmer understanding of the situation facing people with eating disorders in Canada, and the research that has been done showing links between media and eating disorders, and the potential for media literacy education to help with prevention and treatment. Many members of the Women, Action & The Media (WAM!) Vancouver listserv shared their ideas and resources, but I owe particular thanks to Sharon from the fabulous website Adios Barbie, Kalamity from Fat Panic! Vancouver, and Angela from Project True.

With their help, I put together a 10-minute opening statement, which I will paste below the jump along with links to my references, since those don’t appear in the online transcript. On at the same time as me was Wendy Preskow, founder of the National Initiative for Eating Disorders, who told the heart-wrenching and powerful story of her daughter’s struggle with bulimia and getting the care she needs. After our statements, the committee members asked us questions. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics, Pop Culture 1 Comment

The Hobbit: Desolation of my Childhood

Poster for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug"by Jessica Critcher

The Lord of the Rings movies came out when I was in middle school. I was already a big enough nerd at that point that I saw each one on opening day. My friend Chantal and I would ditch school and geek out about them. Once I even wore elf ears. And I still watch the films regularly. My most recent LoTR marathon was New Year’s. One does not simply walk into Mordor—It’s a 12 hour affair on extended Bluray.

The Hobbit stands out in my mind as a book that turned me from a kid who reads a lot into an official nerd. Parents, beware: allowing your children to read may result in strange behaviors and the decision to major in English.

Because I’m such a fan, it took me a while to place why I was so reluctant to see The Desolation of Smaug. Part of it was Martin Freeman’s rape “joke” in an interview about the film. But it was something else, too. (Rumor grew of a shadow in the East, whispers of a nameless fear.) It wasn’t until I was already in the theater (and people started walking out) that it hit me. Star Wars. This is Star Wars all over again.

Like Star Wars, LoTR was a highly successful trilogy. They’re both still widely popular well after their release, referenced often in pop culture. They were both given a big budget trilogy prequel that nobody asked for. And like the new Star Wars movies, The Hobbit films have no soul. Read more

Posted on by Jessica Critcher in Books, Pop Culture, Racism 3 Comments

Masculine Style: What Cowboy Masculinity Tells Us About Our Material Selves

Cover of Daniel Worden's Masculine Style: The American West and Literary Modernismby Jonathan Alexandratos

A quick search on a particular, massive online bookselling site yields numerous texts that discuss cowboy masculinity. Some do it by examining the “high art” of Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, etc. Others use “low art” – John Wayne films, dime novels – as their starting point.

Daniel Worden’s Masculine Style: The American West and Literary Modernism, however, uses both. In a brief-but-pertinent 178 pages (excluding his bibliography and index), Worden summons, more-or-less chronologically, T. Roosevelt, Nat Love, Cather, Hemingway and Steinbeck, as well as Anthony Comstock, Edward S. Ellis, and Edward L. Wheeler (all dime Western novelists) to support his claim that masculinity, in Western (meaning, here “of the American West”) modernist literature, is a performance, not a biological assignment. To Worden, a character’s ability to participate in the culture of masculinity relies on how well he can wear its costume and conform to its established traditions.

“Masculinity is not a thing but a history,” begins Masculine Style. With this opening statement, Worden is able to do two things: (1) show that masculinity is not a tangible, static “thing” but a role that one acts, and that (2) this view is supported by various historical mile markers, starting in the late 1800s and going through the Cold War. Read more

Posted on by Jonathan Alexandratos in Pop Culture 1 Comment
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