There’s Room for Everyone in the Nerd House

Yesterday was apparently some weird sort of internet Groundhog Day, since I must have shouted “HOW ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS?” at my monitor three or four times. I was going to froth about a terrible New York Times article that.. asked questions about publishing it didn’t bother answering (and got a lot of things wrong along the way, because that’s what happens when you let someone who knows a lot about the economy of widgets write about the book industry, but that’s another post ahem.)

I was derailed from that particular clusterfuck by this one. If you don’t want to clicky, the short version is a (white, hetero, presumably cisgendered) male comic book artist wrote a facebook screed saying women who dress up in sexy cosplay outfits aren’t real nerds and should GTFO of his comic book conventions. Because they’d never give the shy, awkward (male!) comic book geeks in attendance the time of day if they met on the street. And they don’t really know enough about nerdy things to be there. And stuff.

(And it seems that while that was going on, someone else in the industry stepped in it, too. On the same topic. Yeesh.)

Look. We already went over this shit in July. Scalzi, as usual, knocked it out of the park with his response.

But clearly we can’t have nice things, like, oh, women in what has been predominantly a male community, because some dude doesn’t get to sleep with them? I guess? And if he does, they’re whores and should go home? I don’t even

Gather ’round, nerds, and let’s talk a bit about cosplayers, sexy geeks, and inclusion. Auntie Falconesse is going to throw some quick pointers at you.

First of all there is no base-level requirement for a person to be a nerd. Someone’s passionate enough about a thing that they consider themselves a nerd? Bam. They don’t have to have a stack of comics this tall to ride the roller coaster. They don’t have to take a quiz about Golden Age comics, or speak passable Klingon. They’ve never watched any sf television before but they’re digging Fringe like whoa? Invite them the hell in.

I present to you a relevant XKCD comic:

Replace “Diet Coke and Mentos” with your favorite nerdy passion.

So very many of my geeky passions came from people saying “You haven’t seen/read X? HANG ON WE HAVE TO FIX THIS.”

I might not have started watching Doctor Who if it weren’t for Marty doing just that the first time we met. “Let me put on the first episode; you’ll love it.”

I might not have seen Firefly if my friends Dale and Erik hadn’t said “Hold on, we have it with us!” and pulled the DVD set out of their trunk in a movie theatre parking lot.

I might not have read Sandman if a friend hadn’t made a reference to “Dream of a Thousand Cats” and, at my questioning look, dropped every trade paperback into my lap.

My to-read pile grew exponentially at Viable Paradise, every time someone said, “You haven’t read that? Oh my god, you have to.” (Hello, Nine Princes in Amber. I see you there.)

Any of those people might have scoffed at me and told me I was doing it wrong, that clearly I had to hand in my nerd card, chisel my name off of the wall of geeks, and shoo-fly. But they didn’t. Not a one. Because the more people who share their passion for those things, the better.

Which is a long-winded way of saying, if you find one of the ten thousand, share with them.

Next: a person in a cosplay outfit — even and especially a revealing one — is either already part of the nerd community, or would like to be included in it. Maybe their particular nerdy passion is recreating those outfits. Maybe that Batgirl over there rented her costume for the weekend because her partner wanted to go as Batman and their kid wanted to go as Robin, but the fact she’s dressing up to enjoy the experience with her family doesn’t mean you get to tell her she doesn’t belong. Maybe she’s never read a comic in her life, but something about that image inspired her to dress up. In public. In a roomful or hotelful of people she doesn’t know. 

You don’t get to police cosplayer’s bodies or experiences. Harris and Manning are partly upset because some cosplayers, or sexy nerds, or whatever, get attention. And some of those people enjoy that attention, which is somehow even more offensive to them. If a person goes to a con, dresses up in a way that shows a lot of skin, and likes the attention they get, that’s no one else’s fucking business. What I get out of a con doesn’t have to be what you get out of a con doesn’t have to be what he or she gets out of a con.

The problem comes in when people stop treating those fans — and yes, they’re fans — as human beings and start acting like they’re sex objects. Here’s a tip: Cosplayers aren’t there for YOU. No, really. Do they want people to notice their costumes? Possibly! Especially if they’ve put a lot of work into it. But you’re not the reason they’re dressed up. They’re doing it because they like the character, or they like making costumes, or their group of friends decided to go as the Avengers, so they joined in. The costume is about the cosplayer, not about the people looking at the cosplayer.

Which also means you don’t get to judge a cosplayer’s appearance. Surprise! Not all fans have supermodel bodies. You see that bullshit in Harris’ screed about women who “think” they’re pretty, or who are “con-hot?” We call that missing the fucking point. And policing their bodies and clothing choices. The only thing that’s gross here is Harris’ attitude.

If you can only talk to her breasts, kindly grow the fuck up. Remember how she’s not there for you? That includes “she’s not there for you to maybe fuck.” If you treat every woman at a con as a potential date, or are angry at any who aren’t receptive to your overtures, the problem isn’t with the women. Just saying.

Couple more things:

Don’t assume that cosplayer = clueless about fandoms. If she’s dressed as Wonder Woman, there’s a good possibility it’s because she really likes Wonder Woman. If you’re striking up a conversation with her, and you go in with the attitude of “Well, I’ll teach the little lady a thing or two about comics,” you might want to check that.

Following on that, if it turns out she isn’t familiar with whatever fandom you’re looking to chat about, don’t mansplain, don’t condescend, don’t talk to her like she’s a child or your potential future lifemate. You want to talk about geeky things you’re passionate about, talk about why you’re passionate about them. If she needs clarification, she’ll ask. If she’s interested. Which leads to…

Know when to disengage, or when she’s looking to do so, and end the conversation. If she’s not interested, that’s okay. Don’t corner her. She might simply have no interest in your particular fandom. That’s the keen thing about geek culture: we can all like different things.

Now can we please be done with this whole “who is allowed to be a geek” thing? Please?

I have publishing industry shit to rant about, after all.

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4 Responses to There’s Room for Everyone in the Nerd House

  1. Matt D. says:

    LOVE THIS! :}

  2. Diana says:

    THIS. Rock on, sir.

  3. Nice Girl says:

    100% this! I wrote a similar diatribe last night, though mine isn’t quite as well worded as yours. http://nicegirlslikesextoo.com/2012/11/13/fake-geek-girls/

  4. Chris says:

    There IS room for everyone. Well said (so to speak), every point. But . . .

    I’d only ask that, in the future, you have a “put down your drink” notice, before you spill something like your 2 wonderful friends Dale & Erk geeked a copy of Firefly out of their trunk for you.

    I cried because (1) I laughed so hard and (2) I resonated with the atypical (& comical) situations that one’s passions surprises everyone with. In your case, it was no surprise to them that they had they had a copy in their trunk – the surprise for them was that a situation arose that that atypical copy-in-the-trunk was a great answer for.
    And as you pointed out, your willingness to be open to geeks of all flavors allowed them to share their passion in this comical, and poignant, way.
    Thanks for this great reminder.

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