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.”
The 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.”