Saturday, July 28, 2012

Geeks bearing gifts

I sort of bumped into this by accident, but the discussion is kind of fascinating. It's about the whole question of "what is geekiness, and who gets to decide?"

Let me start by nailing up my qualifications.

I was a sort of geeky nerd dork in high school and college.
I was fairly introverted until my sophomore year in college, had a decent but very limited set of social skills, and was clueless as to the value of physical exercise and sports in general not so much as a path to mens sane in corpore sano but as a route to wider social skills and adulthood in general.

I was a geek in the John Scalzi sense; I was a deeply immersed fan of militaria and tabletop wargaming (at a time when war in general - this was the Seventies, remember - and gaming were both in deep cover). I was a comic fan and cartoonist, and a science-fiction freak at a time when both genres are still pretty much outside the mainstream.

I got decent grades (without throating, though - I was stunned to find out that you actually had to WORK hard to get decent grades in college, and my GPA reflected that).

I loved women (hmmm...still do. Must be something to think about there) but between my social ineptitude and intellectual immaturity was unable to do much more than fantasize about having female friends, much less an actual "girlfriend".

And in that I'm sure I was in a hell of a lot of company.

So one the Scalzi Scale I was, oh, probably about 64% geek, 5% nerd, and 31% dork.

But I grew up, and out of my awkwardness. Found that my passions had worked their way into the mainstream. Figured out how to talk to women not as life support systems for vaginae (vaginas? What the hell is plural of "vagina" and does anyone every have the occasion to use it?) but as people, and found out that they're often - not always; it's kind of shocking that for as nice an example of structural design a woman can be as compared to us hairy Y-chromosome type how they can be just as big a jerk as we can be - fascinating as people. People in the have-interesting-ideas-about-things sense and in the enjoyable-as-companions sense.
I even found a woman (well, women, actually, but no more than one at a time; I am not from Havana!) who I liked and liked me enough to form a long term relationship with.

And that was nice.

But in some ways, I'm still that geeknerddork.
I still enjoy wargaming, which is something that I fortunately share with my son. I am an uncloseted science-fiction fan, which is something that I fortunately share with my wife.

But...I'm NOT a big enough geek to go to comic or sci-fi conventions without feeling horribly self-conscious about it, though.
If I were, though, and if I ran into the "booth babes" that this character "Joe Peacock" ran into in San Diego I would a) probably react with a mild sort of "gee...I sure hope she doesn't feel silly having to dress up like that to make a living..." and b) simply enjoy the pretty lady's pretty prettiness.

But, then, I wouldn't be "Joe Peacock".
(Is it me, or does that sound like the name of some guy playing one of the non-non-fucking roles in one of those softcore (i.e. non-fucking) porn films? [Have you ever seen one of those things? They tend to turn up on some of the weaker cable channels, places like Showtime. There's never any actual, y'know, sex - or, for that matter, any actual male or female junk visible - but the lead actors get naked and rub their junk-areas together and moan a lot.]
Perhaps the most classic of the genre is something called "Tarzeena; Jiggle In The Jungle" and should you care you can say I said so. Hell, the scene in which the mad doctor bursts into the prison-break scene and instructs the actor in the mind-controlled-Tabonga-the-gorilla costume to "Kill them all before they escape! And make sure you do a good job; nobody appreciates sloppy work!" alone is worth the price of admission.)
Anyway, this Peacock - sorry, I promise to try and not giggle the next time I say that - guy is all pissy about these pretty costumed ladies because, apparently, they're not there to be all geeky at all!
Now, like I said, I just don't have the stones (or the obsessive level of fandom) to go to a comic convention dressed up like Batman, or a 501st Legion trooper from Star Wars, or Erwin Rommel, forchrissakes.

But I understand that some of us sometimes have to let that Inner Geek go wild. And that some of us are sometimes women(like the gal at the link - she's fun, and funny, and her site is well worth the visit, trust me). And that some of those women like to go wild with the costumes at the conventions.
(The image below is one of Amy Mebberson's "Pocket Princess" cartoons, BTW, and as a Disney-movie-raised-kid and a lover of all things adorable they just tickle the ass offa me. I've GOT to show them to Missy, the princess-lover...)
And, frankly, that's fine. The world's too big to get all inquisitorial about what other people do with their time, their money, or themselves.

But apparently this isn't OK with this Peacock...okay, OKAY, I said it'd try, I didn't say I wouldn't giggle...guy unless they're TRUE geek-girls. The dress-up-booth-babes apparently offend geek-boys because they're there to...tease them, or something. They're not "real", meaning, I can only suppose, that the fact they're there somehow...cheapens? Degrades? Mocks? the true spirit of uber-geekiness that this Peacock (snort! SORRY!) dude and his fellow genuine-geeks represent.

Anyway, all of this got me thinking about the genuine but bizarrely human...need, is all I can come up with, to find some reason for slagging off on other people for things that those people do that do no material harm - neither break the leg nor pick the pocket - of the slagger-offer. Sometimes it's harmless, like Joe Peacock (mmmrphmsnert! I give up...) ripping on women he doesn't approve of.

Sometimes, it's not.

Sometimes it's about preventing lovers from ever being together in public. Sometimes it's about "slut-shaming" other lovers, or witch-hunts for imaginary religious enemies, or finding reasons for afflicting the "undeserving" afflicted, or hating on and bullying people who don't have the ability to successfully fight back.

But trivial or malign, it's beyond just a crime. It's a mistake.

Because I'm convinced that the sort of person who can spout this sort of self-justifying inanity is the sort of person who can be persuaded to acquiesce and eventually participate in, first, injustice and then, perhaps, even cruelty. OR atrocity.

Because first they came for the cosplayers...
Anyway, I can't say it better than Scalzi, so I won't try:
So what if her geekiness is not your own? So what if she isn’t into the geek life as deeply as you believe you are, or that you think she should be? So what if she doesn’t have a geek love of the things you have a geek love for? Is the appropriate response to those facts to call her gross, and a poacher, and maintain that she’s only in it to be slavered over by dudes who (in your unwarranted condescension) you judge to be not nearly as enlightened to the ways of geek women as you? Or would a more appropriate response be to say “great costume,” and maybe welcome her into the parts of geekdom that you love, so that she might possibly grow to love them too? What do you gain from complaining about her fakey fake fakeness, except a momentary and entirely erroneous feeling of geek superiority, coupled with a permanent record of your sexism against women who you don’t see being the right kind of geek?

These are your choices. Although actually there’s a third choice: Just let her be to do her thing. Because here’s a funny fact: Her geekdom is not about you. At all. It’s about her.

Geekdom is personal. Geekdom varies from person to person. There are as many ways to be a geek as there are people who love a thing and love sharing that thing with others. You don’t get to define their geekdom. They don’t get to define yours. What you can do is share your expression of geekdom with others. Maybe they will get you, and maybe they won’t. If they do, great. If they don’t, that’s their problem and not yours.

Be your own geek. Love what you love. Share it with anyone who will listen.

One other thing: There is no Speaker for the Geeks. Not Joe Peacock, not me, not anyone. If anyone tells you that there’s a right way to be a geek, or that someone else is not a geek, or shouldn’t be seen as a geek — or that you are not a geek — you can tell them to fuck right off. They don’t get a vote on your geekdom. Go cosplay, or play filk, or read that Doctor Who novel or whatever it is you want to do. Geekdom is flat. There is no hierarchy. There is no leveling up required, or secret handshake, or entrance examination. There’s just you.

Anyone can be a geek. Any way they want to. That means you too. Whoever you are.
Are we good? Great, because you gotta excuse me; my son has got my 3rd Guards Tank Army caught in a hell of a pincer and I've gotta get some Sturmoviks airborne, and quick.
Ni shagu nazad!, damn it, boy...


Leon said...

Oh Chief, table top gaming, don't get your boy into it. It's like crack for geeks and nerds. I've acquired enough lead to cast enough bullets for WW2. And 99% is still unpainted.

As for Peacock, he's a misogynistic prat. There's a current problem with 'geeks' in that a significant percentage are whining about not being able to talk to girls because their geeks and then foaming at the mouth at 'geek' girls for not being legit. It smacks of 5yr olds and their 'boys only' treehouse. I'd suggest he's just angry from having a name like 'Peacock' and having to go through public school - that name would make anyone bitter.

FDChief said...

The boy and are are in the middle of an "Axis and Allies" phase, Leon, and what's ridiculous and infuriating is that the 9-year-old routinely kicks the ass of the guy with 22 years of military service.

Perhaps the U.S. is fortunate that I never went to OCS.

And, yeah, I kinda got that about the Peacock.

I mean, the thing is that he might have had the germ of a good post if he'd been willing to speculate about the kind of geek-boy who would WANT to mingle with a woman hired to dress up in a Star Trek Klingon warrior outfit solely as eye-candy, and what is says about aspects of geek-guy culture that makes the hiring of said woman profitable for the booth owners.

But instead he seems to feel like geek-girls are supposed to be at the con to mingle with HIM, and is pissed off because the booth babes are just there for the paycheck and the geek-girls are there for themselves and not for his enjoyment.

I think Scalzi takes him apart pretty thoroughly.

But I see my little guy becoming the sort of gaming-geek-boy I was, and I'd like to think that geekdom has evolved since my time to the sort of place where the kiddo can meet a sweet geek-girl who loves gaming and sci-fi and D&D and fantasy as much as he does - and the two can SHARE their geeky loves...rather than him getting encouraged to be all Peacocky in the He-Man Woman Hater's Club...

basilbeast said...

Another voice on the subject I happened to catch a couple of days ago.

So, Tars Tarkas' wife? You never have said if you caught John Carter and whether or not you like it. Geek depression, here.

As for the plural of "vagina". The Latin word for the sheath of a sword, made immortal by the heroic story of 2 nameless Roman NCOs, Pullo and Vorenus, until Caesar decided to highlight and personalize his nameless minions and the series "Rome" came into being.

As the study of Latin continues to fade from view and becomes nameless to the vast majority, the plurals of her nouns continue to become Anglicized. It used to be, when I was younger, one would always see "nova & novae", "nebula & nebulae", but no longer.

Shit, "agendas"!!, really??

And again, geek to geek, John Carter?


FDChief said...

Basil: Finally saw it. Sorry, not in love. Decent actioner, liked the characters, actually enjoyed the way the show plays out where you don't know more than Carter does when he arrives in a confusing civil war and has to figure it out.

Draggy in lots of places - especially at first - and sometimes the chaos really WAS too much - saw it on DVD and had to run back several times to catch things I couldn't understand.

I really wanted to like this guy Kitsch (terrible name!) but I was just kinda meh about him; he wasn't the awesome character I wanted him to be. I really wanted more out of his romance with Dejah, or with his bromance with Tars Tarkas, but I just didn't like the guy the way I liked his character on Friday Night Lights...

Great eye-candy. And I did appreciate the way the director chose not to dumb-down the Martian oddities that ERB created.

But overall?

Not as bad as the bad reviews had me to expect, but not as good as I'd hoped from how jazzed you are about it...

FDChief said...

I should say this: seeing the Tharks in actions WAS wicked cool. I loved the Green Martians when I read the books (my faves outside Dejah, and she was the pneumatic ideal of a 12-year-old boy, so, go figure) and I have to say, it was total geeky bliss to see them howling into battle on-screen.

basilbeast said...

That's fine. Part of the fun of movies is knowing what folk you know think about them.

And thanx for your link to Tars Tarkas' wife, who reviewed JC as well.

She's a riot, I saw Depps' Dark Shadows and her review. Great stuff.


Leon said...

Chief, just a geeky suggestion for when your son is ready to move to the next level of blowing sh*t up with miniatures. I'd suggest taking a look at a set of rules called Crossfire by Arty Conliffe. It's a WW2 company-level game that focuses primarily on infantry.

I think it does a good job of capturing the 'feel' of combat without having pages and pages of rules. It's also not miniature heavy (roughly 35-45 figs per company) but you'll need specific numbers of some figs (mg's, radiomen, leaders). You can handle battalion level fights as well (though you're gonna need considerable space for that).

There are rules for tanks but while they're powerful they won't dominate the game.

I'd give it a gander.

basilbeast said...

More Portland geekiness