The Phenomenon of the “Fake Geek Girl”

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Jaime Faulkner, Editor In Chief, 2012-2013

There’s no denying that pop culture, especially what used to be considered “nerd” culture, is moving into the mainstream spotlight. Superheroes dominate movie screens and lunch boxes, shows like “Doctor Who” and “Star Trek” are enjoying a resurgence of fan interest, events like Comicon are extremely popular, and fandom culture, a community of like-minded fans joining together to create and communicate, all have established geekiness as something fun and accessible. No longer must you hide your affinity for manga or Marvel; there’s a place for everyone in the growing community of nerds, geeks, and experts around you. That is, unless you’re a teenage girl. Fandoms and nerd culture have been growing more and more hostile towards young female fans in the last few years, to the point where participating in fandom is made impossible for some. The phrase “fake geek girl” has become a buzzword in pop culture discussion.

The Internet is a particular breeding ground for hate, as shown through the meme “Idiot Nerd Girl.” This particular vitriol is directed at teenage girls because it is a widespread belief that they’re only engaging in nerdy activity for attention. Tara Tiger Brown, a writer for Forbes, said that “pretentious females who have labeled themselves as a ‘geek girl’ figured out that guys will pay a lot of attention to them if they proclaim they are reading comics or playing video games.” This assumption that the interest of young women is faked for the male gaze may stem from the fiercely protective nature of nerd culture. This possessiveness may stem from the time where nerdiness was less accepted; geeks may be afraid of criticism and immediately jump to the defensive to protect it from others.  Knowledge is also used to gain status within a fandom, so beginners can often get scared away from an interest without even getting to experience it because of bullies within the group.

Teenage girls are especially easy targets to this snobbery because they generally have less exposure to popular culture deemed “nerdy,” and haven’t been able to establish themselves within the subculture. But in a world where the perceptions are quickly changing, this argument falls apart. So where is this hostility coming from? According to Noah Berlatsky of the Atlantic online journal, “’Fake Geek Girls’ paranoia is about male insecurity, not female duplicity.” He describes the targeted group  as “girls who are clearly too hot—or just too girl—to be dressed as Batgirl or clutching light sabers.” It’s the idea that genuine interest directly correlates with how attractive a fan is; if a woman is too pretty, she can’t be a nerd. It’s a confusing and pointless rhetoric with no foundations other than the flustered and angry shaking fists of unconfident fanboys, and it’s hurting the community. As a result of this inhospitality, we’re isolating an entire demographic of new fans and losing a major part of the next generation of pop culture consumers. The girls who are currently being discouraged and ostracized could be the new creators and innovators of pop culture, but they aren’t getting a chance to find out or cultivate their interest. What it comes down to is sexism and entitlement within the community. It’s alright to be protective of interests, but the pop culture community needs to be inclusive and accepting of young fans.