I’ve been making a lot of lady geek friends lately, which is turning out great so far. For the foreseeable future I am just Not That Interested in making friends with male geeks. I’ve made a couple of dudely acquaintances, but for the most part I’m just going to keep the other half at a bit of a distance, at least until I can figure about a better strategy. Why, you ask? WELL.
Somehow I keep ending up in this situation in which some dude, like, decides I am to play the love interest in his plot, or the damsel in his knighthood story, or whatever the hell RPG he’s got playing in his brain that I haven’t the faintest clue or damn about, or whatever. Or maybe he’s a status-conscious guy that perceives his connection to me in terms of how it reflects his ego, or likes to verbally “spar” so he can attempt to prove the delusory notion that he’s the smartest person in the room, or whatever.
And then because I don’t care (or even know), I go off-script. And then, of course, the rapidity with which I turn from love interest/damsel/ego satellite to villainess gives me whiplash.
But it’s not over then. At best, say, guy friends stop speaking to me because this dude marked me as his territory and he is really persistent in not giving up. Or if the ensuing dust-up is bad enough, I am ousted from the social group. At the very least, I am forced to deal with his petulant fee-fees because I didn’t accede to his Important Man Thoughts And Desires while most everyone else’s sympathies are firmly in the guy’s favor because how dare I play the protagonist in my own story rather than a tertiary character in his?
And sometimes it’s still not over. Sometimes I make the mistake of being latched to some little alpha of the neighborhood Geektown, or the best friend of one. You know what happens then, right? All of a sudden, instead of one guy who’s made himself my problem, I’ve got a nasty little army targeting me that engages somewhere along a continuum of escalating violence: smears. Harassment. Intimidation. Threats. Breaking into my apartment and stealing my motherfucking comics.
You couldn’t possibly be that guy, right? Well, probably not. But I bet you’re friends with one, because they’re not terribly uncommon. And it’s quite possible that you look the other way when one of them treats a woman like this, particularly if he has more social capital than she or he’s your closer friend. Or, in the stunning hypocrisy often displayed by sycophants that will do anything to appease the perceived alpha in your social group, you’ve already done it and retconned reality in your brain to her deserving it.
Or maybe you’re one of the good ones.
How do I know?
The truth is, I don’t. I don’t know if you’re an incorrigible douche. And chances are if you’re reading this I consider you worth taking a risk on. But I’m done with the benefit of the doubt. One instance of, say, verbally abusing your female friend because she likes her Sparkly Unicorn Books better than your Dragon Sword Books and I’m out. (Bonus points if you say that her response of “That’s sexist” is meaner than being such an egregious ass in the first place. Has happened.) Give me a sign that you consider my autonomy, my dignity, and my right to not be harassed as less important than your precious feels and you know the saying about the proverbial door.
I’ve been reading about the nasty sexist events in fandom from the past few weeks — the WisCon harassment reporting fail that resulted in the target being smeared and lied about because WisCon, and the Boston lady who is undergoing the same thing right now because these dudes throw the bestest parties and how dare she “make drama” about her attacker being invited — and it’s the same crap. The same social power dynamics that result in some woman being targeted and subsequently dragged through the mud and, as if the original events weren’t bad enough, all of a sudden she’s receiving all this ambient harassment and is hurt even worse.
I don’t know enough about the convention scene to know what to do about it — I still haven’t actually been to one — but from what I can gather a woman’s complaint about a dude hurting her is taken seriously to a given extent that exists in an inverse relationship to how well the guy is liked, how much clout he has in the industry, and his aggregate level of social capital otherwise. If you peruse the blogsphere about the events of this week, you’ll see several women who are mentioning vaguely that people have hurt them at these things, ones who are obviously terrified of speaking out because of what happens when you’re a troublemaker. When you rock the boat. When you *snort* make a party foul.
If I can ever manage to do the whole convention thing, it’s clear that I’ll have to do my homework. But for now I’ll just have to do what I can to protect myself from this sort of thing ever happening to me personally again — because we’re talking about at least six times over fewer than ten non-consecutive years that I’ve participated in geeky social spaces — and as far as I can tell, that means endeavoring to do what is in my power to ensure that I don’t get too high on any guy’s radar.
To ensure that some dude doesn’t turn me into his manic pixie dream girl.
And it should go without saying but some geeky women are feckless, nasty pieces of work as well. I’ve been harassed by some, truly viciously in some cases, and violently in one — with such stunning frequency that the most recent occurrence was this weekend in fact. In every single one of those cases, however, there was a common denominator.
I’ll leave you to guess what it is.