This is essentially on my mind whenever I do anything related to my interests, particularly when it’s something within “the male demographic,” because obviously, as a girl I’m meant to only be interested in Jersey Shore or The Only Way Is Chelsea. If you’re a girl and you like Star Trek or Star Wars, then you’re going against the grain by actually knowing the damn difference, and beyond that, it’s pretty much incomprehensible. Though many would make an exception in Star Wars. Apparently we’re allowed to like Episode 1.
The strange thing is, I’ve found when talking to guys about geeky things, there is a huge discrepancy between the online geek community, and guys I meet in real life; through work, university, etc. The difference being that in real life, there is much less patronising. Recently at the pub with some of my coworkers, once the group dwindled down to four of us, with myself being the only girl, my cosplaying days were brought up (okay, meeting Leonard Nimoy is actually a highlight of my life, and if you give me leeway, ANY leeway at all, I will take it and I will bring it up, can’t help it.) And with the guys from work it was more of a surprise that I used to run around in an original series Starfleet science uniform, tribble, phaser and tricorder too. Which is fair enough, I imagine the thought process is along the lines of ‘you have green hair, and a multitude of piercings, most of which I’m pretty damn sure your mother doesn’t approve of. I could guess you being a Marilyn Manson fan, but Star Trek?’ My geekiness isn’t generally obvious. Well. Unless I’m wearing one of my Star Wars sneakers, that should clue people in a bit but… My point here is that these guys, who themselves probably get a lot of their own skewed looks amongst the ‘normal’ populace due to tattoos, piercings, funky hair etc, or just being really really really tall *coughDavecough* were merely surprised because it’s not obvious from the outside, or maybe because I don’t adhere to what society thinks a geeky girl should look like, should they even exist. Because we don’t actually exist, apparently. Ignoring for example, the Star Trek Oh No They Didn’t community on livejournal which is almost all women, and over 10,000 strong. Don’t exist indeed.
However. Online communities. For some reason, guys (and to be honest, some girls too), get in front of the computer screen and lose track of reality. Or maybe it’s the joy of being anonymous, so you can troll as much as you like. The only time this line is blurred is at conventions, but perhaps because it is a geek haven, internet anonymity rules still apply.
When I first started going to conventions it was because, obviously, I love sci-fi. Going to a place with like-minded people, where I can buy rare fandom related goodies, meet people whose careers formed my childhood and subsequent years that actually, formed who I am today and on top of that, I can dress up as someone from my favourite series. It was all so positive positive positive. The first time I didn’t dress up, I wasn’t going to just jump right in there. I had to check it out first, see how it’s done, what you do. See what the protocols were. I was also all about meeting Leonard Nimoy, nothing else mattered. I was mostly ignored, I was just yet another person in the masses churning round the rugby stadium temporarily converted into a sci-fi haven. But then I started dressing up with my friend. Suddenly things weren’t quite so fun and innocent.
It started around the time this picture was taken. It was fun. Though my ideas of actually being an introvert were tested quite extensively. We started a game of counting how many times we’d be asked for photos. We lost count. It wasn’t a big deal at first, I mean, pretty much everyone in costume was constantly being asked for photos, it’s normal, part of the fun. But then came the lechery. Yes, I’m in a Starfleet uniform, no, that does not give you the right to grab my ass. This is something you brush off though, you don’t dwell on it too much. You tell the ass to fuck off and then you move on.
Then however, I started checking the event forums after the conventions were over. It’s a great place where people can talk about what they did, how much fun they had, who they met, and even, getting in touch with people you met in passing and wanted to get to know better. Then other threads started popping up.
“Which cosplay girl was the hottest this weekend?”
I see. Apparently I was entered in a beauty pageant. And the comments! “There were those two Starfleet girls!” Aww, they noticed us! How nice! “Yeah man, I liked the red one! She has way bigger boobs” Well. Okay. “So true, her skirt was shorter too!” “Nah, the blue one was way better, and she wasn’t wearing black tights so you could see her legs better!“
My happy dressing up fun time was just a geeky version of a pageant apparently. THIS IS WHY GIRLS FORM THEIR OWN GIRL ONLY FANDOM COMMUNITIES. You don’t deserve them in yours. It’s not even just the objectification, it’s the fact that we’re somehow meant to be in direct competition with each other. Me and Alice went for fun, we love Star Trek, so we dressed up, just for the damn hell of it. And because it amused George Takei to call us his yeomen. And because it amused John Barrowman because of the fandom clash. It’s also a handy way of identifying people from the same fandoms. And we were there together. Having the experience together. We weren’t there to outdo each other. I go online and apparently we were there to outdo each other.
Guys, you’re a social group that’s still made fun of in society. You get beaten up in schools. And everyone jokes that you’re going to be virgins forever. So why would you make girls -who like the same things you do and don’t judge you for being a geek- uncomfortable in your communities. It’s hard enough having to constantly prove our geek qualifications, because otherwise we’re not even considered part of the community – we have to prove we like the stuff, while the guys have a god earned right. In various forums I frequented half the time I found that I was talking to guys who knew much less than me on topics such as Star Trek or Star Wars were always part of the group, whereas every time people realised I was a girl, I’d be bombarded with very intricate questions those guys couldn’t answer, and if I couldn’t remember USS Potemkin’s registry number off the top of my head, I was obviously not in the right place, ‘run along and find yourself a my little pony community.’
The only time this happens in the realms of real life, is in Warhammer Workshops. Just thinking about it makes me rage like I’ve never raged before. A girl cannot walk into a workshop and be treated like a guy. A staff member will walk up to you, and will assume you know shit-all. “Do you even know what warhammer is?” Of course not! I just wondered in after following a trail of pink sparkles. Well done. I will never grace your shop with my custom ever again.
During a stunt meant to promote the launch of the online Star Trek game, which was an attempt to get a record in the Guinness book of records for most people in Star Trek costume – we did get it, though it was beaten quickly by the Americans. Unsurprising really. Few people knew about it, it was on Chinese New Year AND Valentine’s Day, and on top of that, during a weekend. Travelling on the weekend in London is horrendous at best. Like the conventions, there were a few guys objectifying the girls, but all in all, everyone was in it together, freezing our collective Starfleet, Borg, Klingon, Vulcan and Ferengi asses off in February. A rainy February. Though some of us skirt wearing trekkies were smart and wore thermals. Mmmm. Sexy.
Afterwards, one of the Star Trek fansites covering the event posted pictures and reviews, all nice and respectful. In the comments however, pageant judging started. Nothing as nice as looking at the guys and girls and judging their costume attempts. No. It was all about our collective assets under our uniforms and so on. Luckily not everyone is a douche, and after making a comment on twitter about it, the guys from the fansite told everyone off for their objectifying. Which was nice. That was the day I won an XBox at the record breaking raffle, oh yes.
It’s been so long ago I can’t remember the photographer’s name, he did a good job, though at the time we were somewhat worried…
The main point of this rant is this: if you genuinely want to interact with girls who share the same interests as you, stop chasing them away! If we love Star Trek, we want to talk about it with everyone. But if the guys make us feel patronised and as if we have to prove ourselves, not just as fans but as women in general, we’re just going to go off and make communities just for the girls. And we have. It suits us just fine. We can talk BAMF and GQMF to our heart’s content. We’re not off on our own because we’re all ‘girl power! no boiz kthnxbye’. We’re on our own because we don’t compare each other, and make each other feel unattractive or lacking in something, when all we really want to do is talk about our favourite fandoms.
So guys. There are plenty of geeky girls who enjoy all the stuff you do, and if you stop treating us like a rare species that you want to poke and prod and patronisingly teach to walk and talk, then you might just meet one.
If, however, you need to feel superior to someone. Stop complaining that you can’t get a girlfriend who understands you.
I think until conventions stop feeling like I’m being forced into a beauty pageant, I won’t be cosplaying. It’s just safer not to get involved. I also have William Shatner to thank, as he made me realise that when meeting your idol, you can still have a conversation and be memorable without having dressed up. I’m sure his reaction to us dressed up wouldn’t have been as awesome as George Takei’s anyway. Oh Myyyyyyyy. But then, even he talked to us not because of our uniforms, or his love for our tribbles, but actually, because we had a chat in Japanese. Other talents, for. the. win.