The Myth and Legacy of the Fake Geek Girl Phenomenon

I’ve been exposed to superheroes from a young age because I grew up with two brothers, and something we could all agree on was that superheroes were always cool. But when I started becoming more interested in specific characters, I felt overwhelmed and a little scared by the sheer amount of comic books out there and how I would be perceived as a woman wanting to read Batman comics. I know this sounds quite laughable, but the first impression I had of the comic book community was how much of an exclusive boy's club it was made out to be. Because of this, I pushed off visiting a comic shop in person for a while and just stuck to the media that I was familiar with. When I finally took a chance and visited a comic shop near my house, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t humiliated for entering without any prior knowledge of DC, Marvel, or even Image for that matter.  I’m sure my experience and worries are shared between many and stem from one common theme: the fake geek girl phenomenon.

Clint Bustrillos

Old, Persisting Trends

While mainly a common trend in the early 2010s, sexism within geek subcultures is still prevalent. So what does it mean to be a fake geek girl? The term is meant to divide women who enjoy geek culture into two categories: the ugly social outcasts, unworthy of the male gaze but actually knowledgeable in their respective subcultures; and the beautiful women who claim to be interested in comics, video games, or other media to attract men. Such a divide leads to blatant gatekeeping, that if you are a woman who enjoys geek culture, you must prove your worth to be accepted. This gatekeeping has been illustrated countless times, following the same general format— an example would be a man asking me, “Oh, you like Batman? Name every major character that has appeared in Detective Comics since Batman’s first appearance in 1939.” It’s an impossible task that has shown up everywhere across all fan communities. If I cannot answer the question, that more often than not the asker would not be able to answer themselves, it is declared that I am faking it, and am not really interested in comics.

This is how this phenomenon was portrayed in the media I consume; frustrated artists turn to their craft and illustrate their experiences within geek communities, and when their own works are posted on the internet, this divide is spread like wildfire. All this does is harm the geek community as a whole, as keeping certain people away stunts the growth of pop culture. The sad reality of it all is that nothing has changed. Sure, we don’t really hear this specific term anymore, but take a look at the expectations and stereotype of the “gamer girl.” Women who livestream their gameplay have certain expectations of beauty set upon them and then are constantly harassed by their audience. There is nothing welcoming for a woman in geek subcultures.

game controller sitting near a keyboard Photo by VanDulti from Pixabay

Is it even worth it?

My advice is to ignore the sexism. It’s a very, very loud part of the community, but when you manage to get past the unfriendly gate, you get the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and experience amazing art, from casual fan-artists to renowned professionals. There’s so much to offer, so much to learn and absorb; if you ask me, it’s so worth it. I’ve made so many good memories attending comic conventions and bonding with others who enjoy the same titles I do. It’s the little things that are so great, like making a good friend because they saw your nerdy shirt, and picking up on subtle references to other popular shows. I wouldn’t give up all the fun I’ve had from comics and video games for anything. I wish for others to do the same: take a chance and explore what there is to offer. I know how crazy it can be at first. The hardest question of all is, where do you start?

Finding the Best Geekery for You

It’s best to start with what genres you like, and what kind of media you’re looking for. Do you want a podcast rooted in fantasy or an interactive sci-fi video game? Going from there you can usually find recommendations of popular titles for your interest easily online. A really good way to soak up lore associated with various titles is to go to YouTube: many channels offer videos ranging from summarizing major stories in certain comic labels, narrating play-throughs of specific routes in video games, or explaining tricky rules associated with various role-playing games.

If you’re looking for recommendations right away, I highly recommend the comic omnibus editions available in the graphic novel section of Barnes&Noble. Classic must-read titles for those looking for the drama and grit of Batman titles include Under the Red Hood and Hush. If you’re looking for something a little less serious with more girl power, I highly recommend Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell. The dynamic between these two super-heroines is hilarious and quite relatable.

                And lastly, don’t be afraid to find your local comic book shop and ask for recommendations! I promise you, the staff don’t bite!