A Creator’s Note to “Gatekeepers”
Posted on August 5, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 445 Comments
Which is to say, a note to those (mostly) dudes in geek circles, who decide it’s their job to determine who is geeky enough to enjoy the same entertainments and recreations that they do (hint: If you’re a woman, you start off with a failing grade). Yes, we’ve talked about this before, but they’re still doing it, because apparently some dudes just have a hard time learning.
So this time, let me talk to these dudes from the point of view of being a creator, i.e., one of the people who creates the stuff these (mostly) dudes spend their time defending from the horrible encroaching interest of others (mostly women).
Dudes: Cut that shit out. You’re fucking with my livelihood.
Let’s break this down a bit.
First: I didn’t ask you to be a gatekeeper. Did I, John Scalzi, come up to you and say, “Dude. I am so worried that the wrong people will like my stuff, and by ‘wrong,’ I mean ‘teh womans,’ so if you’re not too busy I totally want to deputize you into the Society of Dudes Keeping Scalzi’s Stuff Safe From Teh Womans”?
No? Then it’s not your job. Quit pretending that it is. When I want your help, I will ask for it. Directly to you. Until then, back off.
Second: I don’t need you to be a gatekeeper. You dudes understand this is my job, right? As in, this is what I do for a living. As in, if I don’t sell what I produce, I don’t pay my mortgage, my kid doesn’t go to college, and my pets start evaluating me for my protein content. Books, which are what I produce, aren’t terribly expensive, and I don’t get to keep every penny of their sale price — I get a percentage. So in order to make money from these books, I have to sell a lot of them. Some of them get sold to geeky dudes. But a lot of them get sold to other people, who aren’t necessarily geeky, or dudes.
When you attempt to gatekeep my work, you’re trying to wave off people I want to have buy my work. If you manage to do this, then congratulations, you’ve made it more difficult for me to be successful with my work, and thus, make more of the work which you also like. Well done you. I’m curious how you think I should feel about people who make it more difficult for me to make a living. Do you think I should feel grateful? Because of the many words I would use to describe how I would feel, “grateful” isn’t one of them.
I write books geek dudes like. But I don’t write books for only geek dudes to like. The difference there is subtle but real. Which brings me to my next point:
Third: Gatekeeping runs entirely counter to my intent as a writer. I’ve always been very clear that I write science fiction that’s meant to be readable to people who aren’t science fiction fans — or as I prefer to think of them, people who don’t know yet that they might like science fiction. Old Man’s War, Redshirts, Fuzzy Nation — all of these books were written with the intent of being readable to outsiders to the genre. To people who are willing to take a chance on trying something other than what they already know they like. I write gateway science fiction — science fiction designed to make the reader want to read more science fiction.
So, when I take the time and effort to create a gateway, to invite people into the genre, and then some dude shows up at that gateway, unasked, telling people they can’t come through unless they can name every Heinlein book in reverse chronological order (or whatever), I am, shall we say, less than pleased. One, demanding that people new to something be versed in all its trivia is stupid (it’s also stupid when they have liked it for some time). Two, assuming that one’s own interests are the only interests that define real geekdom is also stupid.
Three, get the fuck out of my gateway, asshole, I’m working here. Working to expand not only my audience, but the audience for written science fiction and science fiction in general. You are not helping. Go find someone one who really wants to you to gatekeep their work.
But here’s the thing about that:
Fourth: Almost no one wants you to be a gatekeeper. Geek dudes: Do you honestly think Marvel comics, owned by Disney, wants you to harass women away from enjoying the X-Men? Do you think DC Comics, owned by Time Warner, appreciates when you demand a woman present you with a list of every Green Lantern in order to be worthy of “true geekdom”? Do you think Paramount Pictures, owned by Viacom, is grateful that some dude has appointed himself Arbiter of Star Trek Fandom? Do you believe that Tor Books, owned by Macmillan, one of the world’s largest publishers, will pat you on the head for judging any potential customers of their books, including mine? Do you actually understand what it is these corporations do? They produce commercial art. To be widely enjoyed. By as many people as possible.
Moving away from corporations, do you think individual writers and creators really want you to wave away potential fans from their work? Almost all of them are in the same boat as I am, either directly or indirectly dependent on volume of sales for income. They are happy you like their stuff. They would be even happier if not only you liked their stuff. When you attack other people who like their stuff, you’re potentially cutting into their livelihood. You’re not making friends with the people whose work you’re making a centerpiece of your life. You’re hurting them.
Do you think the staff of the conventions you attend are in any way happy when you troll the other attendees? Those attendees go on Twitter and Facebook and blogs and talk about how unfriendly or even dangerous that convention is. Others pick up on that and amplify the complaints. The people who are trying to run the convention have to deal with it and have to apologize for the fact that you are being an asshole, because they are getting some of the blame for it. Who do you think the convention staff would prefer to have as an attendee? The cosplaying woman who is excited to be there and is enthusiastic about the convention, or the geek dude who spends his time shitting all over other people’s enjoyment of a convention, which the staff has invested so much time in to make work?
Nearly every creator wants you to enjoy what they create. Almost none of them want you to police it.
Now, bear in mind that I understand that when you’re off haranguing a woman (or anyone else) on the subject of geek worthiness, you’re not actually thinking of me or any other person or company who makes the work you enjoy and have made a focus of your life. You are effectively working under the assumption that all this stuff just magically appears out of nowhere, a golden store of treasure, of which there is a limited supply, and thus must be defended at all costs against the unworthy, which in this case are usually Teh Womans.
Well, surprise. It doesn’t come out of nowhere; we creators make it. It isn’t a limited resource; we can make enough for anyone who wants it. It doesn’t need to be defended from anybody; we like it when it’s shared as widely as possible, including to Teh Womans.
And as for who is unworthy of it: Well. It’s not the women or anyone else who wants to try it, or who has tried it, liked it, and wants in to get more. It’s the people who are trying their hardest to keep them out.
Please note The Mallet of Loving Correction is in its warming chamber. Be polite to each other, please, and otherwise be aware of the comment policy.
Let me also note that geek culture creators wanting as wide an audience as possible does not mean that geek culture creators are always (or even regularly) good at representing the interests and desires of people other than straight white dudes. And yes, this is a problem. I would submit that is an entirely different discussion, however, and would prefer to keep the discussion focused on the topic of the entry.
Oh, and one more thing: I am aware there is more to geek culture than the interests of the people who create the stuff geeks like. In this particular case, the stuff that creators are making are being used as a cudgel against others. So this is, as they phrase goes, relevant to my interests.
First! Anyway, what brought this on I wonder?
Not being in the “geek” culture, and still have found your work, where are these gatekeepers? Are they on the fence of geek, “heroically” defending the walls yelling inside that there are barbarians at the gate?
I absolutely love this perspective on this issue. As a geek girl, I’m guilty of mostly focusing on making the argument that I shouldn’t have to make the argument that I am “worthy” of liking geek stuff. As a author, I’m kicking myself for not also making the economic argument you just did. Bravo. :)
WoW, just wow.
As *an* author. This is why I need (and adore) my editor.
This is always odd to me. I want the things I like to be as popular as possible so long as my access to them is not denied by that popularity just so more of it will be made.
As a female cosplayer of a certain size, and Costume Panel Coordinator of a large convention in Phoenix, I would like to say HELL YES and thank you, Mr. Scalzi. And please, cosplayers, don’t hesitate to speak up. I once worked at a gaming convention, where a young lady was “found out” by some of the male trolls who harass her online, and they proceeded to harass her in person. She didn’t want to make a fuss, she was just going to go home – which was two states over, this was not a local trip for any of the people involved. Her mother wandered around until she found a female staff member (me), and told me what was going on. I was working Registration, but I had a minion take the desk and walked her right over to the man in charge of security for the convention. He was an older guy who had daughters himself, and let me know he’d damn well take care of it before I ran back to my desk.
Let us know, people. Please. Staff members don’t see everything!
I think you have an unintended double negative in your penultimate paragraph: “isn’t unlimited”.
More like they’re yelling at the “barbarians” to go away, because they aren’t worthy to come inside the walls and hang out in the totally awesome city.
Those of us without a clue would appreciate some background. I want everyone to buy your books and can’t imagine why anyone would want to limit that.
EricS – That’s a pretty accurate description, yes – all the while ignoring the fact that by keeping “the barbarians” out, their store of precious geeky supplies is dwindling because there aren’t enough buyers to support the output of the creators whose work the gatekeepers think they’re protecting. I am now waiting eagerly for someone to make a comic out of that scenario because that’d be brilliant.
I really wonder sometimes if the gatekeepers somehow missed the part where we were all supposed to learn about sharing and not being greedy. Of course, the problem is that they only want to share with “the right people”, with that group being defined on purely arbitrary guidelines.
As Mariah Huehner put it, the quickest way to kill the fandom you love is by hording it to yourself and limiting the audience, because if there aren’t enough people buying into it, it’ll remain niche and ultimately die a quiet death.
Awesome post – minor typo in the second to last paragraph: you said “It isn’t unlimited”, but I think you meant “It isn’t limited”?
Otherwise, as someone who regular tries to introduce friends of all genders to the awesomeness of your writing, I really don’t understand why anyone thinks gate-keeping of this sort is a good idea. Having more people sharing your passions is a good thing!
I found this thoughtful and lovely and as the recent discussion of what is geek and who decides continues throughout many of the forums I follow I find myself thinking of why I claim geek, and nerd and how there have been times I have been denied entrance because I was either a girl or not much of a gamer or any number of reasons. I find it strange that in the literary geek world (my term for geekness that focuses on books, scifi and fantasy) women are not welcomed more than they are, if nothing else statistically girls are bigger readers and schools struggle to get boys to read. I worked at a big box bookstore for a couple years and I was constantly struck by how much more kid lit was being produced for girls than boys and almost all the teen lit was being marketed to girls. It seemed unfair and biased, and for that matter I couldn’t see how the contents of many of the books couldn’t be places within a cover which a 10 year old boy like my nephew would be able to read without the mockery of his peers.
And I see you already fixed the typo before I hit post, sorry.
@EricS: Mostly they are on the internet and at conventions, harassing cosplayers and those found guilty of the crime of “standing in the autograph line while female”.
Particularly hilarious example here: http://seananmcguire.tumblr.com/post/53405298830/wintergrey-geth-metal-frostbackscat-oh-my
EricS – since you’re (presumably, based on your name) a dude, you’re generally going to get a free pass. The geek ‘gatekeepers’ primarily focus on women (although anyone not a Straight White Dude is more likely to get it). Count yourself lucky, and don’t google ‘fake geek girl’ if you want to maintain faith in humanity.
Marc—the unintended double negative is, in fact, a respectable rhetorical figure known as “litotes.”
Maybe a lot of the gatekeeping going on is in hopes of defending some of the genre’s less savory tendencies? I had an acquaintance in the military, for example, who was a huge “comic book nerd” and got apoplectic when one of our female co-workers mocked some of his favorite characters’ costumes for being absurd and sexist. My impression from the argument that followed was that he was *invested* in the sexism, racism, and homophobia that unfortunately still often plague the subculture. For people like him, letting women into the club threatens the Safe Bigotry Zone because they might, Cthulhu forbid, be called on their shitheadery.
May I enter a gentle “ouch” at your conflation of “women” with “people with ovaries”?
Cause there are a whole bunch of us who don’t, or who wish we didn’t, or wish we did, and we’re all women just the same. Some of us trans women, some of us trans men or genderqueer or of any other gender have ovaries; some of us don’t. Sometimes “people with ovaries” means men.
Just…I know, as a writer myself, that it’s fun to reach for the slightly different characterization word, it puts a little intellectual spice on the burger. But if I might gently request, could we add the spice without grating it off the skin of other folks? Gender and genitals are not always related. When one means gender, better to use gender, rather than suggesting that gender be policed by the plumbing configuration.
Thanks for considering it.
The interesting thing is that I read Old Man’s War before my boyfriend did and stuck it in his “to be read” pile because *I* thought he would enjoy it. And I do this quite a bit.
I would feel very bad for all of the geek men if there were no geek women to share in all of that geeky glory out there!
I’m a woman who is an engineer, computer geek, enjoys real science in my science fiction, has gone to plenty of cons, and has never had a problem finding a date/partner for my social life.
From a woman’s point of view, these misogynists can be neutralized by a confident woman with a good sense of humor; they have no defense against humor. The additional good news is that the odds of these bitter misogynists ever procreating is low (tho that likely contributes to their bitterness).
Thank you for your writings and your tweets and blogs!
I thought there was a Klingon proverb “The Mallet of Loving Correction is best used cold”.
I don’t think you really understand. This isn’t about you, or Viacom, or Time-Warner. This is about keeping our space safe from those terrifying, incomprehensible creatures who have breasts, like, RIGHT THERE, and yet get so upset when we point that out.
Besides: what about your promise to the He-Man Woman-Hater’s Club?
When I saw an article title dealing with “gatekeepers,” my expectation was a discussion *starting with* the importance of editors. Which might have been more interesting to read, but probably less useful.
I figured the anxiety was over people (let’s be honest, mostly women) enjoying nerdy pursuits because nerds basically took over pop culture, but still denigrating ‘nerds’.
Which would suggest the only valid pop quiz question was ‘do you, on balance, like being a nerd?’ and would also suggest that any form of self-identification as a nerd or geek counts as a yes. Because that’s clearly not good enough for these people, there is something else going on. The part of my brain that wants The Nine Words That Force Anyone To See Your Point of View doesn’t just want to dismiss it as misogyny and wants to sit one of these people down and really unpack their attitudes.
this is why I’m a hit at parties
I’ve never understood this mindset. I’m a geeky/nerdy dude who was fortunate enough to find a woman who loves me and my geekneas. She doesn’t really enjoy the same sci-fi I do, though, so we don’t discuss books often. Which means when I find someone who does read the same books I do in very happy and get to discuss things with them. Why in the world would anyone want to run that off? Just silly.
Minor note, John: I think this “un” is out of place, at least if you’re trying to indicate that there is not a limited supply:
“It isn’t unlimited; we can make enough for anyone who wants it.”
But other than that: hell yes.
As a woman, a convention planner and a writer…..and a life long geek… I freaking love you, John. :-) Thanks for this post.
The one thing that the self-appointed gatekeepers might not be getting is that woman were once much easier to intimidate. Nowadays, not so much. The world is a much changed and changing place, and there is room for everyone in Geekdom.
Both as a creator and as a person containing ovaries, I thank you!
Ah. Never mind the above.
Except for the “hell yes” part.
I am so massively grateful that I am out of the loop on most of these kinds of things. The only time I see them is when someone I like comments on them, like you have here. There’s a lot to be said for being a workaholic, man. *g*
In other good news, you will be happy to know that I, a person with ovaries, bought a copy of “Redshirts” last week as a birthday present for my friend, Erin, who also has ovaries. And she was very pleased with it. The wheel turns, the circle moves on.
Hell yes! Gatekeepers aren’t needed or wanted. If the Mallet of Loving Correction has some spare time it would be well spent hammering away at those gates and anyone stupid enough to think they need to be guarded.
I love the fact that geekdom is expanding to include women, because they are just as passionate about it if not more so than men. We need to expand, need to get more people involved, until there no longer is geeks and norms, there’s just people.
Oh crap, I made my wife read RedShirts (and Fuzzy Nation, and after she gets over her backlog, the Old Man’s War stuff). I might have even recommended some of his stuff to our other testicular impaired friends. Sorry gatekeeper.
P.S.. I’d love to hear the back story which prompted this.
@Sterlingktb – I don’t think you’re off-base with that theory. I’ve run into the “They’re trying to change geek culture and push the “traditional” fans out!!” crowd a lot, to which I can only ask, “Because you WANT the racist/homophobic/sexist dipshittery to remain NORMAL?? Because you WANT the racist/homophobic/sexist dipshits to STAY?”
The ARGLE BARGLE that tends to follow is… both amusing and facepalm-inducing, to say the least. What it seems to boil down to is, “I’m used to it being this way and I don’t want change! NOOO!!” *followed by lots of feet stamping and throwing of toys.
The sad part about this is that while a lot of the gatekeeping comes from Straight White CisDudes, thanks to internalized misogyny/racism/homophobia/etc., they’re not the only ones crying about being besieged at the gates by the PC-hordes.
This new site might be of relevance to this discussion. It’s for women who work in comic shops. It was founded by Kate Leth, an artist and comic shop worker in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I’ve been fortunate in my nerd life, I think. When I worked in a comic and game shop, my immediate supervisor was a woman, and women have worked in most of the shops I regularly patronize. I’ve also had women in the majority of my RPG groups. I may be a middle-aged white nerd, but the gatekeeper concept is deeply mystifying to me!
@GeekMelang- Like a lot of the people who use the word “traditional”, they’re employing it as a euphemism for less savory things. “Traditional Marriage” often just reflects fear about the un-thought-out ickiness of sodomy, “Traditional Southern Culture” (often phrased as “Heritage” instead, but it’s the same principle) generally refers to vicious totalitarian racism, and so on.
Might be because I live under a rock or am currently, frantically, trying to finish college. But I didn’t know stuff like this went on! Really, I didn’t! I want to be a writer myself (yeah, I know, no big surprise there…) and this would piss me off too! Hopefully this crap ends for you and for everyone else, art should be enjoyed by everyone, not just a select few.
@JDF- Well, it’s much harder to get away with vicious misogynistic jokes when there’s a woman in your RPG group, and for some of these asshats that “safe space” is very dear.
John, surely you realize the cats have *already* evaluated your protein content. Just in case of emergency you know.
A bit ironic guarding the gate against gatekeepers.
I realize you have your reasons for equating women to people with ovaries, but you referred to women that way several times. Equating any gender with any body part is problematic. Not all women have or have ever had ovaries, and some people with ovaries are not women. Plus, I doubt any fake geek girl policing is going on because of the presumed presence of ovaries. And it can only be presumed, unless the person doing the policing has a tricorder handy.
Unrelated note: Why does Firefox not recognize ‘tricorder’ as a word? #fakegeekbrowser
Can I just please make photocopies of this post and pass it out at conventions? Please? I’m so very tired of being discouraged form enjoying something because I’m somehow perceived as lacking some mythical set of “credentials” *sigh*
@John I would also like to know what particular incident, if any, brought on this latest iteration of “please stop kicking people (with ovaries) out of my sandbox.” It seems there are also a few commenters here who have never been clubbed by a cave-nerd and need you to provide some context.
This post also reminds me of those moronic ads for browser games that say things like, “WARNING: For Men Only” and include a rendered character portrait done by someone with a very poor grasp of both human biology and clothing physics. These advertisers *honestly think* they’ll attract an audience with this sort of blatant up-front “gatekeeping”, and the terrifying thing is *they might be right*.
Gosh darnit I get so annoyed with Gatekeepers. They seem especially prevalent [and very hostile to women] in the video gaming spectrum. The unfiltered hate and sexist attitudes that come on comments of some news articles written by women or about female gamers has made me avoid some sites entirely.
Nobody should ever have to defend their love of something. Be it a work of fiction, art, a movie, a game or heck that strange tree that grows on the side of the highway that kinda looks like Uncle Bob.
It should never matter how many in a series you have enjoyed, or if you even finished the first entry. A person can become a die-hard fan before they even open the book’s first page. They have every right to do so and you should welcome them with open arms.
Well said. Especially as a Dad with three daughters. Only about 2 weeks into it and I am wondering why I didn’t follow your blog earlier.
@ Sterlingktb – Plus there are the “Well *I* don’t think this sexist/homophobic/racist dipshittery is a problem. I’ve never experienced it, so clearly other people are making a big deal out of nothing and just need to grow a thicker skin” or the “Well, sexist/racist/homophobic dipshittery isn’t going to go away, so just learn to deal with it already” lines. The implication being that “real fans” will just put up with it and shut up already because they love the fandom and it shouldn’t be “too much of a price to pay” for being a fan. Or that if you’re pointing out these things exist, NOT A REAL FAN because only “real fans” would see the fandom as perfect and awesome and love it as it is, while “fake fans” are looking for things to criticize because they don’t actually love the fandom.
The economic argument against gatekeeping that Scalzi makes is one that I don’t see pointed out more often and I wish I did. There’s the perception still attached to geek culture that it is a niche culture and geekdom is “better” than mainstream culture because fandom has nothing to do with such polluting concepts as commercialism. Nick Mamatas writes about this as well and I have to agree with him that geek culture isn’t devoid of commercialism nor is it actually all that separate from mainstream culture. The success of franchises like Marvel’s Avengers-related films and Transformers (I personally HATED those movies, but they’ve been box office gold) has been based on the fact that they’re made for a wide-ranging, *commercial* market, based on properties that, while associated with nerds and geeks, haven’t been consumed *just* by nerds and geeks. You didn’t have to be a nerd or a geek to play with Transformers toys or Masters of the Universe toys when you were a kid, for instance. There’s this desire to see geek culture as a realm of “pure love” for fandoms, unsullied by such concerns as “money” and “popularity” – to which I call shenanigans. If the inclusion of money and popularity means that there’s more than one comic book store in my neighborhood (and it’s well-stocked with a variety of comics. toys, games, etc), or that I can go out to the store to grab a couple of necessities and come back with a Doctor Who Boggle game to boot, and that Hollywood doesn’t require being under the thrall of mind-controlling mutants to be convinced that my favorite nerdy properties can make them money in film form, I’ll take it.
There’s PLENTY to go around in geek culture. It’s not like we’re actually operating in a culture of scarcity, where there’s only so much of Scalzi’s writing to go around, despite how often the terms “limited edition” and “rare collectible” get thrown around.
I read this post hoping that “Gatekeepers” was directed towards people masquerading as the Jim Butcher character.
In that sense, the article was disappointing. Otherwise, well-written.
You’re having problems with Zuul? Have you considered replacing the mallet with an unlicensed nuclear accelerator?
“Equating any gender with any body part is problematic.”
I was using the “people with ovaries” usage initially to reflect the mindset of the gatekeeper dudes, and then used it subsequently to echo the silliness of the mindset (I had originally put “people with boobs,” but decided that was a bit much). Also, it’s why the “mostly” is there — it’s to be inclusive of (in no particular order) cis women without ovaries, transfolk, and cis men who for whatever reason fail to pass the geek dude entrance requirements. Sorry that was not immediately clear.
(Edited to make the sequence of my thinking clearer)
I had no idea such people existed. I gave my 72 year young Sainted Mother a copy of Old Man’s War and she loved it. “I’ve never read anything quite like that!” It’s now making the rounds with the sisters, who aren’t your average sci-fi readers, either.
So as far as “making it readable to people who aren’t sci-fi fans,” goes, I’d say you knocked that out of the park.
I buy all your stuff at retail, so keep writing.
This is like the chocolate bar Yorkie – I never understood why they introduced the tag line “Not for girls” on their bars. No, really.
Every time I bought one, I said, “That’s OK, I’m not a girl” – because I am over 18.
It’s not as funny as someone clearly thinks it is. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets p’d off by it.
Made me think of this … http://www.dorktower.com/2012/12/04/fake-geek-girl-dork-tower-04-12-12/. You go, Scalz.
Just coming on to post: seriously, geek dudes – do you want *everything* to end up like Firefly? There are enough gatekeepers already.
The economic argument made against “gatekeepers” reminds me of one of the missed points in discussions about Sally Ride and the push for female astronauts: NASA needs lots of money to operate -> politicians allocate that money -> women make up ~50% of the voting population. Why the $%*#! wouldn’t you want to engage that demographic and make it more accessible to them?
Just as with Ride you are always going to get your share of sexist “gatekeepers” but they are shooting themselves in the foot. The more people interested in sci-fi/fantasy, the more $ available for people to create sci-fi/fantasy. Trying to limit that is just counter productive.
@ Sparklepony – I wish I could “like” your comment. Please accept this shiny Internet and spend it wisely.
With respect, John, I think you’re missing the point on the “people with ovaries”. Given that the people who are doing the gatekeeping are not, we presume, doing ultrasounds or some other unusual method of determining the internal organs of strangers, it isn’t “people with ovaries” that are being rejected. It’s “people who aren’t white hetero cis men”.
When you use “people with ovaries” as a stand-in for “women”, you’re supporting the idea of genital essentialism: that people can be defined based on the configuration of their plumbing. Whereas I can tell you for absolute certain that the vast majority of violence and harassment I’ve suffered as a trans woman in some geek communities has not been accompanied by inspection of my underpants.
I’m not saying you can’t ever use it, at all. I’m asking you to consider that in your zeal to take the slightly funnier shot (I totally get that!), you’re winging a lot of the people you’re meaning to defend. And I don’t think that’s who you generally are, or who you want to be, so I mention it.
I won’t bring it up again in the thread unless you say it’s okay, but I did want to make the suggestion that you give it some thought, perhaps? Thanks again for considering.
And let me tell you, the gatekeeper mentality blinds some guys so much that they’re willing to break a two-year-old’s heart because she had the audacity to mistake a fiberglass sculpture of the Flash as “Iwon Man!”
My rage has never been so great as watching my daughter’s face crumple as a neckbeard lectured her in the same tone of voice that’s used when she wants to stick the cat’s tail into the electrical outlet. She loves Iron Man, so I took her to a comic book shop. I had an armload of merch to buy for her, because I am an indulgent mother. I don’t even know where the Iron Man love comes from, because our family isn’t big into comics at all.
She was so confused. She kept saying, “Iwon Man? Four? Hulk?” in smaller, quieter tones because she is so used to grown-ups smiling at her and asking her why she likes her heroes. This man was angry at her. She cried for a good ten minutes after she left, and I cried, too.
This happened two days ago and I’m still shaking with fury.
The only link you have is to an article that is over a year old. If gatekeeping is such a problem shouldn’t there be more evidence of it? Also, I think you focusing on the worst part of Peacock’s argument and ignoring the part that has merit. That being the corporate marketing of geekdom. Peacock says, “Those of us who actually like substance? We’ll be over here celebrating great comics, great games, great art, great movies and great television, because we’re actually attracted to a completely different body part: the brain.” That is a legitimate argument. Scaling something up and commercialzing it changes it, sometimes fundamentally. You seem to be ignoring that part of the argument.
Also too, as General DeGaulle said, “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.” If all the “creators” decided to retire tomorrow it would take about three months to replace them all, probably less. I for one am not worried about an unsupplied demand. So please, all you “creators” out there don’t do us any favors. If the “non-creators” are grinding you down feel free to quit. We will somehow get along with out you.
“A bit ironic guarding the gate against gatekeepers.”
No, not really at all. To be ironic it would need to accomplish the opposite of what it states to do. But at no point does John tell these people not to come (or go, if they can’t stand the mixed company) through the gateway. He says to stop placing themselves into the gate and going the job nobody wants them doing, and does so without nominating himself as a gatekeeper either.
Telling people to stop obstructing the path and obstructing the path while doing so is ironic. Telling people you don’t need their help – and that what they are doing is, in fact, the opposite of help – is not.
Thanks. I agree that women are more (and/or different) than their plumbing. Satirizing the point of view that they are not (and the assumption that all women have them) is part of the point of using it in that context.
Which is to say, I don’t believe we disagree re: gender essentialism and that it’s a dumb thing to do.
I also don’t want this to sidetrack from the point I want to make or have you think I’m not taking the concern seriously, so, let me go edit.
“If gatekeeping is such a problem shouldn’t there be more evidence of it?”
Your first but not only error is in assuming that because I link only to a single post on my own site, that there is not more evidence of the problem out there. Your second but not only error is in assuming that because I link only to a single post on my own site, that there are not other and more recent discussions of the problem here. Your third but not only error is in assuming that I am in some manner a clearing house for all examples of the gatekeeping problem which exist in this world, or that I am obliged to be. Google is your friend.
I am usually moderately sensitive on the gender/biology distinction, given that a statistical majority of my close friends, including my spouse, are trans. And I have no problem with “mostly people with ovaries”, because it is entirely true statistically. I have seen a whole lot of gatekeeping pointed at people who look female, I have seen basically none addressed to any other trait. I don’t see blogs going on at length about the problem with fake geek black guys. I don’t see concerns about all the fake geek queers. Nope, just “fake geek girls”.
And it’s certainly statistically true that the vast majority of girls are people with ovaries. Not all of them, but most of them.
Furthermore, I put it to you that at least some of Our Heroes will immediately stop defending us against a particular “fake” geek upon discovering that she is not the sort of girl who was born with ovaries. You might consider this a bad thing, and certainly it suggests some kind of odd internal inconsistency or a lack of appreciation of the point being made, but… It’s true, and I don’t think it’s such a problem.
John, thank you for engaging in discussion and editing your original post a couple of times after thinking about the points that were made. Your willingness and ability to do that, in service to the substance of what you want to communicate, is one of the things that makes you interesting and your blog very valuable to me.
John – And that’s one of the main reasons I love reading your work. Thank you for listening to fullmetalfeminist & J. Andrews, I want to share this piece but I have transwomen geek friends who might have been hurt by the ovaries line.
bn – “I think you focusing on the worst part of Peacock’s argument and ignoring the part that has merit. That being the corporate marketing of geekdom. Peacock says, “Those of us who actually like substance? We’ll be over here celebrating great comics, great games, great art, great movies and great television, because we’re actually attracted to a completely different body part: the brain.” That is a legitimate argument. Scaling something up and commercialzing it changes it, sometimes fundamentally. You seem to be ignoring that part of the argument.”
I think you’re missing the point that John *doesn’t* find there to be any problem with “corporate marketing of geekdom.” How do you suppose the geeky stuff we like gets sold, much less produced, for our consumption in the first place? If there *wasn’t* a market for geek stuff, there wouldn’t BE geek stuff. Geeky stuff doesn’t just go “poof!” into existence, artists/writers/producers of geeky stuff don’t just put their stuff out there out of the kindness of their hearts. Yes, art has value as art, but artists, writers & producers *need to make a living* which requires marketing their creations – whether they go “corporate” or not is up to them, but “corporate marketing” isn’t an immediate marker that something isn’t “of substance.”
And in any case – SO WHAT if it’s “corporate marketing of geekdom”? How does that affect YOU and YOUR love of geeky things? If something’s “too corporate” for you, don’t buy it – you’re not obligated to like it. But you don’t get to look down on someone who is into something YOU deem “too corporate” and claim that they’re not a real geek just because they’re not liking things that meet YOUR arbitrarily derived standards.
@Andi I actually know the answer to the Yorkie bar one, I had a drink in a bar with one of the ad team behind it. It was equal parts playing to the moronic misogynists who thought their masculinity was bound up in a chunky chocolate bar and equal parts schmuck bait to make women feel rebellious and buy it to spite the tagline (you were meant to feel p’d off with it). By all accounts it worked really well and market penetration in the female chocolate buying demographic increased. It might have been a weasel tactic, but it was a successful one. I’m not sure what that says about marketing or the general public, but I’m sure it isn’t something good.
The only link you have is to an article that is over a year old. If gatekeeping is such a problem shouldn’t there be more evidence of it?
Our host and many others have posted numerous articles about this. If you can’t be arsed to spend 15 seconds doing research, something tells me the problem isn’t on Scalzi.
Peacock says, “Those of us who actually like substance? We’ll be over here celebrating great comics, great games, great art, great movies and great television, because we’re actually attracted to a completely different body part: the brain.” That is a legitimate argument. Scaling something up and commercializing it changes it, sometimes fundamentally. You seem to be ignoring that part of the argument.
Not really. If Peacock had written an article just about commercialization, he would have had a point. It would be a tired, hackneyed point that ignored the rise of independent creation and publishing (to say nothing of wide swaths of economic and social trends), but a point nonetheless. The fact that he had to make it inextricable from “OMG FAKE BOOBZ FAKE GEEK GIRLS GRAR” is the problem.
Also too, as General DeGaulle said, “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.” If all the “creators” decided to retire tomorrow it would take about three months to replace them all, probably less. I for one am not worried about an unsupplied demand. So please, all you “creators” out there don’t do us any favors. If the “non-creators” are grinding you down feel free to quit. We will somehow get along with out you.
Talk about missing the point; i.e. that gatekeepers are making it worse, not better, just by engaging in racist/sexist/homophobic dipshittery. You seem to be ignoring that part of the argument. Or is it because you’d rather RSHD creators won out? You make it hard to tell here.
I have a question for the gatekeepers, or anyone who is knowledgeable on the subject.
What did/do these geeks/gatekeepers do when they discovered that one of their favorite authors was using a pen name and actually had a pair of ovaries?
I am constantly amused when I find out that James is actually Alice or Joe is a minority.
Why would it ever matter in whether I liked and enjoyed a story?
@ Genufett – I just Googled “gatekeeping geek culture” and got a ridiculous number of hits, including that article from Forbes (FORBES!) last year on how gatekeeping is bad business for geek culture. And it was just SO HARD to look for “evidence”!
John, thank you for hearing us. I appreciate your willingness to edit by taking us on good faith that we’re not trying to make your life difficult, even if you don’t agree completely. That’s the kind of thing I hope for in an ally, sincerely.
I put it to you that at least some of Our Heroes will immediately stop defending us against a particular “fake” geek upon discovering that she is not the sort of girl who was born with ovaries.
Seebs, it’s nice that you think that, and/or that’s the experience of the spouse you’re speaking for, but please don’t tell me I haven’t experienced the very thing we’re talking about, nor that I’d have not experienced it if only my abusers knew I was trans. Please. I’ve made a strong effort here to be polite and make suggestions only, but I have to admit I’m typing very carefully at the moment not to make this a 2000-word screed filled with profanity. Just…don’t. You don’t know me, you don’t know my life, just…don’t. It doesn’t bother you; that’s fine. But don’t insist I don’t know what I’m experiencing for the last 35 years, k? Consider, if you will, whether you’re contributing value to a conversation where someone’s expressing feelings of marginalization, when you say, “Well, I don’t see it, so it must not be much of a problem.”
Last words. Thanks again, John, I appreciate your grace in this.
I believe John addressed your concern in a post up-thread.
“I appreciate your willingness to edit by taking us on good faith that we’re not trying to make your life difficult”
Asking me to be aware of the implications of my words is not making my life difficult, I assure you.
Also, at this point I’m going to ask we close out this particular line of discussion so as to focus on the primary discussion at hand. Thanks.
This may be a total aside, but when did this gatekeeping nonsense start? I’m older than a lot of folks here (54) and I’ve played D&D since it first came out as a small, blue and white rule booklet. As a woman, I was always welcomed to play once the guys wrapped their heads around the idea, which took a surprisingly short length of time (“You play??!? You’ve got dice???!? Cool!!!”). There was one group that seemed to have a hard time processing “Woman Here Play Warrior or Ranger” and not “Woman Here Automagically Cleric/Healer”, but I just stood my ground and it worked out fine.
When did these jerks start crawling out of the woodwork thinking they can keep people from joining in? I don’t recall voting them in as the Geek Overloads of Who’s Worthy. *goes to closet to pull out the trusty Mackerel of Greater Thwackage +12*
Snarky Aggie was all, “Oooh, what *should* need gatekeepers?” and was starting to think of genres she can’t understand why anyone likes.
But Old Aggie is trying to be more kind these days, and has told Snarky to “Cool it with the boom-booms” (Ghoulardi reference for all you Clevelanders :-).
Seriously, this is a great post – thanks, John, for speaking so eloquently for so many, once again.
And hey, come to think of it, that Ghoulardi reference was not in vain: In the 60s, just as many girls watched his zany show as boys did! Geek girls have a long an illustrious history.
@SplittingAtoms- Your story made me sad. What an sad, twisted man. Someday, if he’s lucky, he’ll have a two year old he loves, and then maybe he’ll look back on what he did and feel a little shame.
Did he work at that store? If so, I hope you dropped your armload of merchandise and went somewhere else to buy it, and made sure they knew why. (But, as a mother who understands the realities of parenting a two year old… I totally understand if you didn’t!)
Great post, John. Your respect shows no bounds and I like that in a man.
(An aside for other readers of Whatever. Cis-women and men is not acceptable to all people. For example, me. To me, Cis is a word used by transfolk to otherize non-trans folk. There is a huge debate in the lesbian community about its use, with a passion usually dedicated to ‘Oxford comma, yes or wrong. NO YOU’RE WRONG> NO YOU ARE STUPID< I think you get the picture.
I dont recommend you use it in lesbian company unless you full support the term and the history and are ready for an Oxford comma level argument. )
I don’t understand the mindset of these “gatekeepers”. I’m a straight white guy who has been reading sci-fi/fantasy and comic books since I was able to read. When I’m at a con and there’s a woman in line near me, I consider that a Good Thing. Maybe I’m a geek who isn’t that into “geek culture” but personally, I quite enjoy being around women who share similar interests.
To be crass, it’s little wonder why these “gatekeepers” are typically stereotyped as never-gets-laid neckbeards.
@ Bryn – I’m a 35-year-old woman and have been a geek since before being out of diapers, so FWIW – I don’t think it’s that gatekeeping (particularly of the sexist/racist/homophobic dipshittery variety) is all that new of a phenomenon. Nor is the presence of women, POC, LGBTQ and other marginalized groups in geekdom a new thing. I think it’s become more visible because we’ve reached a tipping point where people who are most often targeted by gatekeeping are not keeping silent anymore, so the reason we’re seeing it talked about more is because there is more vocal, visible pushback than there had been before.
On individual levels, not everyone’s experienced gatekeeping in geek spaces due to gender, sexual orientation, race, etc., but on a systemic, institutional level, it’s definitely been there, and almost everyone has stories/experiences to relate about having been targeted by gatekeepers to some degree. The onset of social media has probably influenced this visibility a lot – more people are able to connect and are finding that they’re not the only ones who have experienced these problems – a wider pattern has become visible that wasn’t visible before and most geeks are NOT pleased that the idea of an accepting geekdom – where geeks & nerds are not subjected to the same kind of bullying many (but not all) of us experienced outside of geek spaces – is apparently less of a reality than previously thought. So there are more people speaking out to help bring the reality of geek culture closer to that ideal – but there are also people who liked the way things were and don’t want change.
Well, why should you have to worry about sending your daughter to college? She’s just a girl, after all. They grow into women, and we don’t want THEM doing things like reading or solving maths.
I got extremely lucky in that I don’t think I’ve ever run up against a man trying to talk me down from enjoying something geeky. But then again, I’m not conventionally attractive, either, so it could be either that I’m “invisible” to those kinds of guys or because I’m not too pretty, I’m automatically OK to be a geek? (I’m saying this from their POV, not mine. I know a lot of cute women who are big nerds.)
@Bryn this may be a total aside, but when did this gatekeeping nonsense start? I’m older than a lot of folks here (54)
52 here, and I concur. I was freakin’ OVERJOYED when i went to college and found women who liked the same stuff I liked. I read about all this gatekeeping nonsense and go “WTF is with these kids today?” And GET OFF MY LAWN!
Okay, so speaking as a woman who loves SF and Fantasy but has never gone to any kind of convention…what the heck is going on out there? Are geeky guys at these things demanding a show of penises to prove legitimacy? Are they seriously telling women they don’t belong because they’re women? Which begs the question…why would women who don’t actually like SF be at a convention pretending to like it? To score themselves an awesome geeky guy?? Anybody got a link or something to give me more info on this?
J.D., I was in high school in the 80s and was very happy to have dated a boy who loved “Back to the Future” (my particular sci-fi gateway drug) as much as I did – I think we were the only two people in my tiny high school who ever talked about the movie outside of simply watching it, LOL. Now he turned out to be a jackass, but not for the reason of trying to keep me as a girl out of sci-fi – he seemed pretty happy to find someone he could discuss that and math and science with at the time, as well.
So yeah, I’ve wondered if this is a more recent phenomenon too. I’m 41 and as I said above, I haven’t run into this kind of “gatekeeping” (but I’m not negating it because I have no doubt it exists – I’ve heard other people’s horror stories enough to realize it exists). In fact, I would LOVE to run into a little geekboy trying to tell me I’m not a real fan or some such; my inner Maxine could have some fun with that. ;-)
I suspect that part of this comes from the ongoing ego-induced smarter-than-thou competition that too-often comes with additional sexist baggage when a male geek targets a woman as a competitor.
Gatekeeping is very, very old SciFi culture. You can find references to it back in fanzines and writer correspondence from the 40’s and 50’s. We just tend to call that cultural misogyny what it was, rather than the modern dog whistling topic. Bio Trimble has got great stories about Gatekeeping (and when it doesn’t rear it’s ugly head) from the 70’s early Star Trek conventions.
Dudes: Cut that shit out. You’re fucking with my livelihood.
Well, your first mistake is assuming that gatekeepers are doing it for anyone other than themselves.
The “payoff” of gatekeeping is for the gatekeeper to holdthemselves better than those they exclude. That they use books as their method of testing is about as relevant to them as if they had built a fort out of sofa cushions and declared a “cooty free zone”. Their not doing it for the sofa manufactuer any more than they’re doing it for the creators of the media. They’re doing it for themselves.
homophobes will weep about how gays are “destroying the institution of marriage”. But a some of the biggest homophobic clowns using this excuse are on their second, third, or fourth marriage themselves. They don’t care about marriage. IT’s just a handy bat with which to hit gays with.
Gatekeepers of comics or various other fiction media don’t care about the media they’re gatekeeping. It’s just a handy bat to use to beat up others with. And they’re beating up other people for no other reason than they’re in serious need of finding any way possible to get themselves out from under the bottom of the heap thta they would otherwise be at.
Put another way, gatekeepers are the sort of twits who think their declaration of calling someone “gamma rabbit” is an insult to anyone outside their small world.
The reasons they’re saying “you’re not a real geek” is almost entirely the same as some call a man a “gamma rabbit”. By putting others down, they feel like it somehow magically raises their own status.
@ MacKenzie – at the risk of tooting my own horn, I ran a panel tackling the Fake Geek Girl as sexist gatekeeping issue at a con here in Chicago this past April (very proud to say that we had a line down the hall that was 2x the room capacity). You can view it here: http://www.geekmelange.com/2013/07/full-footage-of-the-exorcising-the-spectre-of-the-fake-geek-girl-panel-now-up/ (I’m really excited we’re continuing the discussion by doing a 2nd iteration of the panel at Chicago Comic Con this weekend!)
And we did a supplementary discussion on a local podcast as well: http://www.chicagonerds.com/fake-geek-girl-panel/
There’s also a fantastic resource of links to the issue from last year that was compiled by one of the women on my panel: http://challengebygeek.com/blog/fake-geek-girls-an-introduction-to-the-nonexistent-phenomenon
From my experience, it seems cosplayers (especially if they’re women) get a huge amount of the “You’re not a real fan, you’re just dressing as X character to get attention!” or “You’re only in cosplay at this con because it’s COOL now!” bullshit – with the twists that if they’re conventionally attractive, they’re not “real geeks” just “attention-seekers” who are there to fool poor nerdy men at the mercy of these women’s sexual powers just to bolster their own egos; whereas women who aren’t conventionally attractive are just there to get attention because unlike in the “real world” they’re considered “prettier” just because they’re women and are taking advantage of man nerds who are clearly desperate to pay attention to anything woman-like – in both cases, the idea is that these “faker geek girls” would never want anything to do with teh poor nerdz menz outside of the con, so hypocrite!!
But even if you’re not a cosplayer, you might still get pegged as “fake” because you’re a woman in geek spaces, period (again, in my experience, it happens more often when you present as stereotypically feminine – I’ve gotten more skepticism about whether or not I’m a “real geek” when I’ve been in a cute dress wearing make up than when I’ve been in a nerdy t-shirt and jeans, and even then, I’ve gotten the wide-eyed “Wow, she DOES know about X” when asked if I’m a fan of whatever’s on my shirt). It doesn’t happen to EVERY woman at a con, but… well, let me put it this way – when I did a panel last year at a con, one of the women on it, who had never before been to a con and was super-excited about being a speaker at her very first one and was proudly wearing her speaker badge on her DOCTOR WHO t-shirt, had a vendor ask her, “Oh, are you just borrowing that badge for the con today?” *HEAD DESK*
“Well, your first mistake is assuming that gatekeepers are doing it for anyone other than themselves.”
The fact they are doing it for themselves is noted in the piece, mind you.
@MacKenzie – There are as many reasons as there are asshole gatekeepers, but the main reason seems to be that they feel that the only reason a woman could possibly be interested the geek/nerd thing is so that she can mock them and what they love. John had a great post on here about 6 mos (?) ago that went into this.
I have never experienced this type of behavior where I live, but we also have the advantage that the largest sci-fi (Star Trek) convention is run by a woman, and the largest fantasy convention is staffed by at least 50% women as well as the head of our con-ops being a woman.
So it’s one part bullying, one part misogyny, and one part elitism? The perfect storm of assholery!
@ MacKenzie – Could I quote your description this weekend at the panel discussion? That’s about the most succinct and straight to the point way of putting the whole lot of shenanigans I’ve seen.
John, is it a defocus on the conversation on hand to just tell you that you’re awesome for the 11:21 am comment? That’s all. You’re awesome.
A basic lesson all older geeks should teach younger ones is “Nothing anyone else does or says regarding something you like or dislike will – or should – take away any of your right to like or dislike it.” It often appears as if many gatekeepers are standing in front of such fragile wisps of opinion, they fear that even a hint of contradiction will blow them away.
I was once asked to remove a review (not even a negative review) from my blog because they person objected to my including it at all. “How would you feel,” he wrote, clearly distressed, “if I said something negative about a series you liked?” I carefully explained that 1) the review was not negative, it merely was less effulgent than he demanded and 2) No one else’s opinion affects my own.
The fact they are doing it for themselves is noted in the piece, mind you
there are times when I wish there were HTML tags (similar to “italics” and “bold”) but instead marked text as “tongue in cheek chastizing, whilst I vehemently agree with you”. This would be one of those times.
ah well. failure mode of clever, I suppose.
@ GeekMelange Oh, I have no doubts of it happening and it makes me sad. I just wondered when it became so widespread. I first got whacked with it playing MMORPGs–you quickly learn that self-identifying as a woman is way more trouble than its worth. :( And then guys point and shout, “See? Women don’t play MMORPGs!”, when of course we do, you just don’t know we’re there. That male char next to you kicking butt? Totally a woman who chose not to deal with the comments from some people and got tired of being jarred out of her immersion by going into battle as a woman wearing high heels and an 18th of a pound of cloth as “armor”.
My curiosity is mainly when did the Great Shift occur? Being accepted as a geek early on helped me deal with other parts of my life where being a woman was being Other. I’m sad that that safe haven is now gone for a lot of younger female geeks. *goes back to playing DiD (Dead is Dead) Skyrim on her Nord female warrior and mentally applauding Bethesda for giving women players actual armor and not eye-candy-for-some.*
This made me laugh so hard. What started as a simple (but very witty and enjoyable) piece about the annoyance of the gatekeeper community, has suddenly become a debate about anything people can think to write about.
I don’t agree that women should be shunned for enjoying Sci-Fi but also recognise that men also get hounded.
“If too many people give their two cents, people will drown in coins.”
Other then that, it was a good read and I look forward to future posts :)
Scott_N – “I don’t agree that women should be shunned for enjoying Sci-Fi but also recognise that men also get hounded.”
Please do point out where any of us have claimed this doesn’t happen. Otherwise that strawman really ought to go back into storage, he’s getting really frayed at the edges.
Bryn – Yeah, being a geek and having geeky friends was a huge support for me, especially going through the storm of teenage years when I was super lonely and spent a LOT of time at the comic book store. Being a geek helped me make friends in college when I left the small social pool of high school and lo and behold, not only were there LOTS of geeks in college, a lot of them were women! (that really helped with excising the internalized misogyny I hadn’t realized I’d developed).
I really don’t think it’s that geek culture isn’t a safe haven for younger geeks so much as it is that more geeks (and this goes across the board in age range) aren’t keeping quiet when it happens, whether it’s having to jump through the “Do you REALLY know who Green Lantern is even though you’re wearing a power ring t-shirt?” hoops or having to deal with being harassed. It sounds loud and sometimes ugly now, but I think (at least I hope) it’s because we’re making it better.
Anyone who tries to wave off someone from reading will incur the Wrath of Teh Librarians. Srsly, this is what we are here for, to provide (among other things) reading materials for everyone to use and enjoy. You aren’t just making John Scalzi’s job harder, you’re making my job harder, and I will go medieval on your buttocks.
Ugh, I hate this problem. I hate when it extends beyond individuals to sub-genres as well. Space Opera isn’t “real” science fiction, that isn’t “real” urban fantasy, etc. etc. etc.
Then if a fan of a “not real” sub-genre tries to come to the party, watch out. For genres to be healthy they have to be broad. Sure it would be great if you could go to a bookstore and have every single book be exactly the type of science fiction you enjoy.
There would also only be seven books on the shelf, they’d be horrible market failures, and the science fiction shelf would disappear altogether.
I think it all comes down to wanting to feel superior, and that’s just pointless.
@SplittingAtoms: I’m a 43 yr. old WoC and I’ve been reading comic books since I was five.
A few years ago I was very excited to find out there was a comics shop across the street from my new job. I went for a visit, fully intending to buy some comics that day, but there followed the most uncomfortable fifteen minutes I have ever experienced in a store of any kind. The white male proprietors stared at me as if I had 3 heads, were reluctant to answer any of my questions on how or where to find things and just made it exceptionally clear to me that I should never have walked in the door.
So I left. I bought nothing.
A couple of years later I was relieved to find out that they had gone out of business, That’s how much I was rattled by that incident. The men in that shop made me feel so unwelcome that I was actually happy that a comics shop had closed.
This gatekeeper for fans thing seems like a relatively recent thing to me as well; 30 years ago, when this stuff was still a fringe activity, I remember that we welcomed anyone who expressed even a vague interest in SF (or D&D, or games, or costuming, etc). Sure, it was much different on the pro level; there were lots of gatekeepers who had narrow visions of who could be a professional in the field,(and had the power to enforce it) but on the fan level, it always seemed like there was a lack of fan level gatekeepers.
Perhaps the emergence of the fan level gatekeepers is tied into the increased popularity of geekdom ?
Gatekeeping has been around for a while. Neil Gaiman was depicting it 20 years ago — in Sandman at the end of A Game of You, when Barbie goes into the comic shop. Gaiman later wrote that he got many earnest letters saying that no comic shops like that had ever existed in the entire history of the world, so gatekeeping denial isn’t exactly new either.
@clouds: Dropped on the counter and out we went. Thank GOD for Amazon Prime and the distraction of ice cream.
@Andy Finkel: Here’s an alternate theory. There have always been geeks who are nice and welcoming, and others who are… less so.
I’m 50 and know about this, but I learned a long time ago to laugh in the face of “gatekeepers”. They don’t know what to do when I do that, especially when others around join in. My daughter does the same thing, but she also has such a great group of friends that laugh with her.
@ TheMadLibrarian – will the gatekeepers incur the wrath of Conan the Librarian? PLEASE??
@ SplittingAtoms & lkeke35 – your stories made me so sad. That’s awful. I loved my local comic store in high school because the owner didn’t treat me like some bizarro alien creature for being in his shop and didn’t let anyone get snide with me when I asked questions about titles I was unfamiliar with (I love Marvel & the X-Men but did there HAVE to be so many crossovers in the 90s??), otherwise I probably would have run eeep!-ing out of the store and never come back. I don’t even want to think about how much money I spent there over the course of 3 years, my pullboxes regularly included graphic novels (I discovered I loved comics as a sophomore). And I have a niece who loves superheroes and is already getting the “but girls don’t like Batman!” crap. :(
Being currently obsessed with Peter Capaldi, who will be playing the next Doctor, and having just discovered his portrayal of the character Malcom Tucker, I can’t help but here this in my head being delivered by Malcom.
As a man with a geeky sister and girlfriend, I welcome our ovaried companions in geekdom.
However, someone HAS to keep out Stephenie Meyer and her ilk. She doesn’t write Science Fiction or Fantasy; she writes Adolescent Girl Sexual Fantasy (the girl is the center of the universe to multiple super-hot men who are constantly expressing their undying love and how she’s the center of their universe to the average-looking girl) dressed up in Fantasy and Science Fiction garb./
Yeah…if you didn’t encounter the gatekeeping 35 years ago, then I’m genuinely pleased for you, but don’t let that convince you that it never happened in those days, or that most geeks were “so interested in having more geeks around” that gatekeeping never happened.
The reason it’s being noticed so much more is, I think, related to the greater popularity of geek culture in a couple of ways:
1) there are more people interested in geekery overall. That means there are more uppity types like me who will actually speak up about the ways in which it sucks, alongside the ways in which it is awesometacular.
2) geek cultures generally being well-integrated with the Internet, such writing it up gets a lot more readers than when we wrote it in our samizdat zines back at the dawn of time, distributed mostly by mail to other samizdat ziners, and destined eventually for the great recycling bin at the depot.
3) the greater number of us living openly and Geeking While Not in the Plurality means we can each see one another more easily, as well, and feel less alone – and thus, more able to speak up when we notice things.
4) the people who weren’t facing the gatekeeping can now actually read people who did face it.
I think gatekeeping has always existed, but it’s hard to grasp to what extent. Early sci-fi was very much a boy’s club, but it’s a chicken-and-the-egg kind of thing. Was it like that because guys had a much higher of interest, or was it because they excluded ladies? Both science and writing were also male-dominated at the time due to institutional barriers, so that didn’t help.
As to the current trend, I think it’s a combination of the sunlight that the internet shines on various overturned rocks and the increased accessibility of “geek culture” to previously non-“geek” consumers of pop culture since the early 2000s. There are a lot of people who have been quite happy to be racist/sexist/homophobic dipshits, and the internet simultaneously exposes them and gives them a pedestal. They’re getting called on it, and it’s becoming more publicized. At the moment there’s kind of a reactionary wave going on, where there’s a lot of public attention and therefore a certain level of pride in being That Guy. The ur-RSHD is a prime example, as well as the vocal authors and/or bloggers that are complaining about political correctness, feminazis, etc. But they’re on the losing side of history, and they know it. Some are delusional, some are angry, some are resigned but want to rage against the dying of the light, and some are just straight-up trolls. It doesn’t matter though, because they’ll be (rightfully) marginalized for being hateful relics. Think of it like gay marriage in the US: it became a very big deal in the mid-2000s, leading to a wave of reactionary laws being passed across the country to outlaw it, and now the pendulum is swinging the other way.
“She doesn’t write Science Fiction or Fantasy; she writes Adolescent Girl Sexual Fantasy”
It all belongs in the pot.
And for the record, Stephenie Meyer, i.e., the woman who inspired an entire generation of adolescent girls to read and enjoy speculative fiction, thus leading to a boom in the genre that’s had benefit far beyond her own books? She’s awesome. So was JK Rowling. And Susan Collins.
However, this is aside to the primary discussion at hand, so let’s go ahead and snip it off here.
I’ve always referred to that as the “magic vagina” genera. 50 Shades is the same thing.
scorpius, with respect? That’s exactly the kind of gatekeeping we’re talking about. You’re doing it, right there:
So: what is inherently “not fantasy” about what you yourself call “Adolescent Girl Sexual Fantasy”? Which word, added to Fantasy, makes it into “not real”?
Is it “Adolescent”? Are there no young adult novels “for boys” in sf/f?
Is it “Girl”? Are there no books which cater to men?
Is it “Sexual”? Because there are no sf/f books which are sexual?
THIS is exactly what people are talking about in policing. Why does it matter that someone wants the tent to include their stuff? Why is it only objectively “real” when it agrees with exactly what you are looking for?
Apologies, John, cross-posted; won’t add to it.
One of the best lines from John’s previous post about how anyone who wants to be a geek gets to be is how a person’s geekdom is *not about you,* it’s about THEM:
“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.”
Just because you don’t like a particular thing doesn’t mean you get to determine that it’s not geeky and that the people who like said thing aren’t doing geeky right – it’s not geeky for you, you don’t like it, and that’s fine, but you don’t get to draw those borders for anyone else besides yourself.
[Deleted because it’s outside the crosspost penumbra, and also on a topic I noted we were done with – JS]
What ever happened to “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
[Deleted for being outside the crosspost limit – JS]
Oh dear. Cross-posted. My apologies!
No worries, Fade.
Re “the corporate marketing of geekdom”:
The people who don’t know fandom (of any kind) at all have always assumed everything we like is crap – that’s why the terms “nerd” and “geek” were invented and adapted, because they wanted a negative word to label us with. We have claimed and reclaimed the words, but that attitude is still there. So it make no difference how much “commercial” material is produced. (It’s all commercial anyway, except fanzines, and Sturgeon’s Law applies everywhere – “90% of everything is crap”.) Even though the outsiders assume, perhaps because of the poorly done stuff, that there is no good stuff, it doesn’t matter. They always have made that assumption anyway. The borderline-quality work, the adapted-for-the-newbies products, may help to interest some people who otherwise might never have come close enough to discover the rest. Gateways are the openings in the wall that let people in.
And yelling at a two-year-old for misidentifying a comic book character? I call that harassment, and I wish it had been taken to convention security.
I am a Boomer who has read SFF since Earl Warren was Chief Justice and this kind of crap going back that far is why I’ve don’t go to cons. I’ve been sexually harassed in public by Big Name Writers, so I don’t go to readings or book signings. I am a hardcore computer gamer, but the women, gay, and foreigner bashing is why I don’t play multiplayer on pub servers anymore and never went on voice. I’ve had nasty comments in book aisles for gender AND age. The only place I’ve never had any grief is at comic book stores (turns out putting money on the counter in a small store goes a long way toward acceptance) and talking to random interested non-geeky people on the street who see my book or T-shirt. I am just worn out on the fight that never seemed to bring any progress. I admire the people who are taking this on now with so much energy and are so effective making geek culture better. Thank you Scalzi and all of you.
As a woman and a geek, I heartily agree with everything he just said.
Also, just a thought for the single male gatekeepers out there: No woman is going to appreciate your incredible store of geek knowledge if it’s delivered in a condescending tone, meaning that we weak women couldn’t possibly understand, but should simply admire you from a distance. Trust me – we’ll keep our distance from you, not the awesome geeky stuff.
One thing I have noticed about the gatekeepers, and noticing them or not, as far as anecdotal experience goes: it doesn’t seem to me nearly as much a generational thing as a matter of scope. And the internet is giving people more scope.
When I wanted to join roleplaying games in college, people were delighted to have me. No hassle there. When I went to a small roleplaying/wargaming convention in college, I ran into people who would hassle me, but just mildly. When I went to Comicon for the first time in college, I had a lot more encounters with people who clearly thought I should not be there, and that it Wasn’t For Critics Me. And a lot of that was just a numbers game. The more people I run into, the more likely I am to run into someone trying to guard the open gates.
The internet means that it’s really easy to run into a lot of those gatekeepers, and for them to throw a lot of chaff in front of the gates, even if their percentage is (god, I hope) fairly small. 99% of the people I ever interacted with on WoW didn’t display any particular issues with women; the 1% making rape jokes in chat and talking about how girls were bad at/didn’t get/shouldn’t play the game? That still made for a lot of frustrating volume. (And made me infinitely grateful for the ban button.) The more I get into geeky pursuits, and the more widely I seek out interesting places to talk about them with other people into said geeky pursuits, the more likely I am to run into someone who doesn’t want me there.
So I think it’s a certain amount of “critical mass gets the pushback”, but also a certain amount of it just being a lot easier for us to run into the gatekeepers than it used to be.
It may sound cliche’ but it seems like the only people really doing this “Shunning” of the “unworthy” are the types who…
1. Have a serious issue speaking with “teh womens”
2. Ogle the cosplayers FIRST, then degrade them later to stroke their own ego.
At least that is what I have seen from personal experience. Which is sad, because the simple fact that more of “teh womens” are showing their geek pride and becoming involved would only HELP them find someone who shares their mutual interests.
It boggles my mind.
[Deleted for being past the crosspost line. Guys, I said this discussion is over – JS]
It’s not new or bigger, the gatekeeping. It actually used to be much, much worse, especially for women. The reasons it seems more prevalent now are because of the Internet and because authors and fans and creators are a lot more vocal now in calling it out, but also because the gate was thrown open wide a long time ago, decades ago, and there is no closing it. And these mostly guys are lamenting that female authors don’t use male pen names much anymore, that the female models no longer necessarily have to put up with a hand on their ass, and that teenage girls are the core audience for manga and know more about it than they do, etc.
The majority of male fans and creators are great and totally bewildered by the idea of gatekeeping. But there’s a percentage, mostly white, of males (and occasional female) age 18-49 who see themselves as knights on an artistic quest to keep out the “peasants.” That is the target demographic which the majority of art creation is made for, and so it seems natural to them that they own it and that they should control judgement and knowledge of it. These fans seem to really, really hate the creators of the art they love, for the most part. The obsession with trivia — which they often have wrong (see Seanan McGuire’s blog and tumblr) or know about only a limited number of subjects — seems to be separate from the creations and more a part of competition — they’re the real athletes and we are amateur wannabes, you see. They get off on the insults they hurl, which is regarded as counting coup (and teenage girls are easy hunting,) while pretending it’s a lofty ideal they are upholding.
And they will lie to keep that fiction going. Joe Peacock did not have a point about commercialism. He was lying and he knew he was lying. He’s a gaming journalist — gaming which for thirty years of its main existence has been products put out by the largest electronic companies on Earth, such as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, to be sold to mass audiences of millions. You don’t get more commercial than gaming in the 1980’s. Every kid, male and female, has played these games in arcades, early video systems, etc. Forty-five percent of the customer base is female, a statistic Peacock knew perfectly well. The companies have had female models at conventions since the 1980’s to live embody game characters, same as the male models whom curiously Peacock and others never bitch about — because males are harder to count coup against. Young females cosplayed game characters also for decades — there are plenty of moms who dressed as the princess from Mario Brothers back in the day. Peacock lies, bn lies. We know they are lying. They know we know. But it is so much a part of their persona, their perception of themselves (and perhaps their problems with others in general,) it is so a part of their idea of winning and triumphing, that they can’t let it go. (I think Nick Mamatas dissected it best: http://nihilistic-kid.livejournal.com/1755841.html )
Any veteran of comic conventions back 1960’s, 1970’s, like Stan Lee, will tell you that back then the conventions were mainly for and full of kids — 9-16 years old who were the core base for comics, which was always mainly commercial. But in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, young college age and twenties readers started becoming a major audience for comics — which led to a recession in the industry — and the male contingent of these took the conventions over (still commercial.) And then they rewrote history and pretended it had always been that way. And so they rage over three generational families that currently fill cons, like the Star Wars family who had a robot operated R2D2 with their five year old riding on it as Princess Leia at a con I was at. They pretend that the female teenagers in costumes are new invaders. They lie. Because our enjoyment of fandom, which most of us have done for decades, apparently ruins their perceptions of themselves. And they are being all so brave to call us out, like lecturing the two year old who loves Iron Man.
There is no purity in creation, or fandom. These people pretend that there is so that they can rig a game they think that they can then win. And it’s not coincidence that the object they feel the need to defeat is so often female (and young.) Because if a lot of females are really good at the game, then winning it doesn’t mean that much anymore. So you have to keep most of the female players out, set the bar high for the entry of females, denounce the mere presence of females as tarnishing the game and making it less elite. (That, and some of them, like Peacock and Harris, clearly have a lot of anger sexual issues towards women.)
So I think that this post will fall on deaf ears of the self-appointed gatekeepers because it requires them to abandon the game and therefore their sense of themselves and their lie of the universe in which they operate. But it’s good because it helps other folk become aware and less tolerant of this sort of play. Most of fandom is incredibly welcoming. I hope people will also blog and talk about positive experiences they have. Because we’re all going through the gate; there is no barrier on Earth that can keep us out.
Great post John Scalzi, good points all. As has been pointed out by others above, I doubt that it will have much of an effect on the target audience; however, even the longest journey begins with a single step. Misogyny isn’t limited to science fiction, but maybe science fiction can help lead us away from misogyny. It’s worth a try, anyway.
It’s funny. I’ve frequently hung out with geeks starting in HS but never really got into a lot of the geeky stuff they did. But because of that when I began attending cons I usually was hanging out with staff members which I think led to me not be asked to prove my geek knowledge (or I’ve been staff myself). When I do find myself alone I look for someone else alone who looks uncomfortable & I join them. In most cases they are so thankful to no longer standout as friendless they don’t test me. But I’ve overheard enough conversations and seen enough men step into women’s space that I know this stuff goes on.
Scalzi I love this line my pets start evaluating me for my protein content I think you need a zazzle store with all the great quotes from your blog available on t-shirts, mugs, & buttons.
Those who “gatekeep” (ew) essentially see themselves as the “Keepers of the Sacred Knowledge”, I suspect, and want to keep it out of the hands of the laity.
If you can only feel good about yourself by demeaning others, and requiring that they prove their worth- then your geekdom is not your biggest problem, dudes!
Sorry to hear about your cancer of the irony
Hmmm….maybe the problem is more noticeable/exacerbated by anonymity or by large groups. When my life as a geek started, it was up-close and personal–small groups of people playing D&D or being in a college Star Wars fan club. (Okay, to be honest, my nerdliness started with playing the French Horn. Yes, I’m a band nerd). I couldn’t afford to attend cons, so everyone I interacted with knew me and I knew them. At a big con or online, you’re anonymous mostly and if you’re a gatekeeperish sort, you might assume a bunch of similarly minded folks would have your back making it easier to be a jackass.
Of course, it’s a double-edged sword; a gatekeeper might feel “brave” enough to be a jerk online or at a con, but that same Internet media makes it easier for people to point out that they’re being a jerk.
Wow. This is great stuff. I am new the the genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I have a degree in Comparative Literature and spent many years reading Big L literature. And though I may not have always enjoyed it I am glad I did so. It was my wife, (who has a Phd. in English) who encouraged me to “for god sakes, read something fun, something with a story.” So I fired up the magic finding machine and one of my first experiences with Science Fiction was “Old Man’s War” and holy shit did I love it. It was a good story. A beginning middle and end. And it was funny, I liked the characters, I liked the setting, the pace, all of it was good. My point is I was immidiately hooked on this genre because of the joyous experience I had reading such a rollicking good yarn. And then I bought a buch of your other books and also a bunch of other Science Fiction and Fantasy books and Horror as well. I’ve been gorging myself on all the fun reading I missed out on. I do not understand Gatekeeping. What horse shit. If I were too meet one of these sad creatures it likely wouldn’t bother me too much but I may try to intervene knowing the potential damage they could cause. I have gone on to, without shame, read the Hunger Games trilogy and for my birthday my wife got me (as a kind of a joke) a Katniss Everdeen action figure. Of course she calls it a doll. Again, I must stress as someone who is new to all this, Science Fiction and Fantasy does have a strong element of hostility. But fuck those guys. And thanks John for being my gateway drug.
I’m that was meant to be arch and clever, but I don’t think it worked.
Assuming you’re talking about the author of The Hunger Games trilogy, it’s Suzanne Collins, not Susan Collins.
This post about the downside of “nerd/geek gatekeeping” (NGK for short) for creators with cross-market appeal is well stated and clear, and I agree with it.
But the creators as a whole, and publishers, are not blameless in creating the environment for NGK. Targeted marketing, with exclusionary overtones, is a time tested and well supported technique in all sorts of industries.
(A couple links that will give you the gist of the mindset involved:
They write things like… “Targeted marketing is, by definition, exclusionary, and that’s a good thing. Many businesses struggle with defining their target market because they don’t want to exclude anyone, out of the fear that they will lose potential customers. Now, in a sense, this is true, but let’s be clear on who we’re talking about here: The outliers. We’re not talking about losing your core consumers; we’re talking about those random people who you didn’t really expect to purchase from you but who, for one reason or another, ended up having a need for your product anyway. Ask yourself this: Are these lost potential customers, these outliers, really bringing in the bulk of your revenue?”
The whole science fiction genre’s publishers and authors and editors collaborated, with numerous exceptions and many not at all self aware, to market their product to a certain segment of their potential market, the individuals with whom they could be more sure of selling a greater percentage of their wares, and created as a side effect this NGK tendency among a certain proportion of that target market. They did this by the cover art they chose, the disguising of female author names, and editorial content choice.
These were not social choices first, but commercial ones. The individuals doing so had the purpose of making more money, not promoting a gender superiority agenda.
So commerce is not necessarily on the heroic side of this issue, although I certainly believe it is for Scalzi and his work.
[INDENT]I am new the the genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I have a degree in Comparative Literature and spent many years reading Big L literature.[/INDENT]
Ah, well then you aren’t new to the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy, since a significant amount of “Big L” literature is science fiction and fantasy. (We call that accidental gatekeeping.) Salman Rushdie, Kate Atkinson, Mo Yan, Doris Lessing, Ursula LeGuin, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Yann Martel, Margaret Atwood, J.R.R. Tolkien — the list goes on and on. Try China Mieville, Peter S. Beagle, Jeff VanderMeer, Hal Duncan, Ray Bradbury, Cathrynne Valente, Iain Banks, etc. and you’ll have some more.
My husband just got me a Song of Ice and Fire Hound bobble head doll for my geek collection. In that collection is also a Mark Twain action figure, a Hobbit doll, and a Bugs Bunny. Literature is a wide gate too and you already came with us through it long ago. :)
Oh shoot, I forgot how to do the quote thing already. I will check the other convo and write it down this time. Sorry about that.
Damn! “First” asked exactly what I wanted to know. Now I have to read ALL the comments…sheesh…
my guess is that the number of gatekeepers over time as a percentage of the total geek community has remained relatively constant. What has changed, I think, is that pre-internet, if a gatekeeper tried to keep his gate, the woman might be more inclined not to communicate it with the rest of the world, because, well, pre-internet made global communication difficult. I think the thing that’s changed is simply that it is so amazingly easy now for a woman to report a gatekeeper experience to the world that people are becoming more aware that it is a problem, and more importantly, women are seeing others with the same experience, and so they’re less likely to feel like they’re outnumbered by the gatekeepers and stay silent.
Anybody who has to limit other people’s enjoyment OF THE SAME THING so they enjoy it more is frankly socially off-kilter. My fear is that they will read this and think you mean someone else, so they must gatekeep harder to protect against THE OTHERS.
One thing I’d like to see is people naming names, and naming places. EG, I’m not sure fr SplittingAtoms first post if it was the vendor or some random passerby who was such a horrendous, kick-in-the-nads-worthy douche-nozzle to the child, but if it was the vendor: store name, store location, description and name if possible, please.
I’d hope that con vendors would have more self-preservation, common sense, or plain old decency, but if not, name the bastards. The quicker they learn a lesson, the better.
bn talks about “commercializing” geek culture and how that destroys the purity of bodily fluids or something.
Since a lot of this so called geek culture is about consuming and being fan of popular culture, which is a commercial enterprise to begin with, what IS your point? You think there are pure artists drawing X-Men who don’t care about money?
Bah, I got tired of purity trolls around 1980 when “London Calling” came out.
I suppose I should clarify. I am new to reading popular Science Fiction and Fantasy. I consider this to be very seperate from the tomes I read in and out of University. For example: “The Hobbit” was a book we read for a class in Fairy Tales or some such thing. By the time I read a description of “third breakfast” and and virtually every peice of fauna in the forest I wanted to punch myself in the cock. This was horrible story telling and the man was in deperate need of an editor or he should have at least put down the blunt for day and clear his head. I know I’m committing sacrilege here but this work did not make me want to to read more like this, but rather made me hate breakfast and plants. And I admit Oryx and Crake and After the Flood were fine peices of writing they were still absolutley no fun. So, though I had been exposed to many of the works you mentioned I consider it all to Big L literature first, with all of its grand nothingness and desperation to demonstrate to the reader how very philisophically insightful the author is. I realize I am over generalizing but I do so to make a point. And then their are the piles and piles of big L literature that are dreadful but deemed superior because of who the author is and not the quality of work. And old dead white men like Charles Dickens are all pretty much banished from all teaching in in English and Comp. Lit. departments. So Mr. Dickens was not on the menu. Even Robertson Davies had to be taught on the sly. And Mr. Scalzi, being a straight white man, would likely never, ever, be enjoyed in a University Comp. Lit. class because of who he is and the qualit of his work. It really is so sad and limiting. So narrow is the thinking. Reading is magic and I want to enjoy the show and I don’t care to know the magician.
*Wild and enthusiastic applause*
(haven’t read the comments yet :D)
just one caveat. if you can’t code and have to use a GUI to do everything on a computer you are not a geek. John your an english major. your not a geek.
I know plenty of women who can code… ‘pros use the command line’.
as a note, 99.9% of the people john is complaining about can’t use the command line. so they should take that for what its worth.
Although people often choose to create things they like, and in which they believe deeply, they also often do it for money. And one can have a decent debate about how much of a role money should play in things, and what lines any one person will or won’t cross for pay, and so forth, but at the end of the day? Artists need to pay their bills too, so please get over being the third understudy in the college production of RENT, That Guy.
On the other hand, I know the difference between “your” and “you’re,” so I’ve got that going for me even if I can’t write code.
Thanks for giving us a non-entertainment-based example of someone trying to establish hilariously arbitrary qualifications for geekdom. It’s a great reminder that sci-fi isn’t the only place this silliness happens.
I don’t think we need to go any further with the coding line of discussion, folks.
just one caveat. if you can’t code and have to use a GUI to do everything on a computer you are not a geek. John your an english major. your not a geek.
Not sure if trolling? In any case, Merriam-Webster’s most applicable definition is “an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity.” At no point does it mention GUIs or command lines. It does, however, cover people who are excited about something to the extent that they express enthusiasm about it.
Sorry John, Right after I posted my reply I realized I was probably just feeding a troll.
To a very small degree, I can understand the reaction of “gatekeepers.” If you happen to have been a geek before the geek culture explosion, at some point you were likely the subject of ridicule and mockery by an attractive girl or girls. I suppose I can understand a knee-jerk, skeptical reaction to seeing similarly attractive women showing up at conventions flying their geek flags. As an aside, my reaction was more of a, “Thank you, Jesus!”
However, if a person fails to immediately recognize that he is engaging in the same type of prejudicial douche-baggery of which he has been on the receiving end, he just might have become the very thing he swore to destroy. Which I think ends badly for the person who does the most whining.
There’s a lot of talk about “commercialization” in the context of gatekeeping, and people seem to be confusing two different things. First, the strict definition: an artist selling art for money, and/or making as many reproductions as they can sell, for the purpose of making a living. If, like me, you lack an estate to invite an artist to come reside at, “commercialization” in this sense is the basically the only way you get to partake in art.
The second definition of “commercialization” seems to refer to the trend over the past few decades of consolidating media companies into ever larger conglomerates in pursuit of ever larger profits. This isn’t really related to the first definition. It also, unlike the first definition, may actually be a problem; geeks (or non-geeks, for that matter) may see things they enjoy get squeezed out because they don’t fit the corporate revenue model. But that’s a problem that won’t be addressed by shrinking the fan base; the broader the geek demographic, the more space there is for independent bookstores, publishers, artists, and creators of all types to find a niche.
[Deleted because well past the crosspost penumbra – JS]
If, like me, you lack an estate to invite an artist to come reside at, “commercialization” in this sense is the basically the only way you get to partake in art.
No, it isn’t. There are plenty of ways to partake in art without monetary exchange required. Some people make art for fun, cover the expenses with an unrelated day job and just give the stuff away.
Historians do this gatekeeping with jargon (as do many other disciplines, I’m told). If you can’t deconstruct the epistemology of the memorialization of the contingent subaltern, then YOU’RE NOTHING. NOTHING! NOT A REAL HISTORIAN.
(Contingent Subaltern is the name of my next band)
@GeekMelange Of course! Glad you liked it!
Three, get the fuck out of my gateway, asshole, I’m working here. Working to expand not only my audience, but the audience for written science fiction and science fiction in general. You are not helping. Go find someone one who really wants to you to gatekeep their work.
Oh, come on – it’s not like you’d expect girls to feel included or enjoy “Old Man’s War”, “The Last Colony” or “Zoe’s S-“, oh wait…
And, slightly more seriously, as a librarian who might be interested in encouraging certain nascent girl geeks, does anyone have any pointers to get them off the Twilight novels and into something a little bit more worthy? I’ve tried Le Guin, but there’s the perception that any older book is by definition boring.
1. I didn’t know that we had started calling this phenomenon gate keeping. I thought the headline was for a discussion about works published by publishers vs. self-published works, which is usually the context in which I see the word being used in geekdom. It is a reasonable term, so I shouldn’t be surprised.
2. I was once a newcomer to an organization, and a woman who was a long-time member took the trouble to welcome me and ask about my interests. I mentioned SF, so she brought up Star Trek. I was willing to discuss Star Trek and was going to suggest that there might be more good stuff yet to be found in other SF. At this point another man sat down at the table and opened with “people who watch Star Trek are stupid because…”. I was so astonished that I cut him off, and and that point the established member fled; her good deed having been thoroughly punished.
No, it isn’t. There are plenty of ways to partake in art without monetary exchange required. Some people make art for fun, cover the expenses with an unrelated day job and just give the stuff away.
True. But in the context of this discussion we are mostly talking about people who have bought comics, books, and/or games, and probably gone to movies so they have been part of the commercialization that they are now complaining about.
The “geek” quizzes given by the gatekeppers are not about fanfic (at least not that I’ve heard) but about canon.
And, slightly more seriously, as a librarian who might be interested in encouraging certain nascent girl geeks, does anyone have any pointers to get them off the Twilight novels and into something a little bit more worthy?
You might try work by Tamora Pierce, David Weber has put out a couple YA books, Steel by Carrie Vaughn, Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines, Poison by Bridget Zinn. I think Chuck Wendig has been doing “crowdsourcing” asking suggestions for different kinds of books – google his name & crowdsourcing.
Bravo! But those self-appointe Gatekeepers will be smart enough to keep their mouths shut so everybody can enjoy whatever they want to like? I hope so…
Phoenician, how new does it have to be? I was surprised at the number of non-geek women in my small town who had read Octavia Butler’s “Kindred” and loved it. (Maybe Oprah featured it? These women often get their book recommendations from Oprah.) It might open your nascents up to other work by Butler and branch out from there. A more genre-type book might be “Fool’s War” by Sarah Zettel, which has a nicely kick-ass female protagonist.
Thanks to the several commenters who have pointed out that women in SFF is not a new thing at all. It may seem like it, but it’s just not so. Women have always been here. Mary Shelley, anyone? It’s not like in the last three or four decades women have suddenly gotten interested in the genre. Far from it.
Allow me to clarify the phrase “commercialization… is basically the only way you get to partake in art.”
I’m using “art” in the broad sense: TV, movies, books, comics, webcomics, video games, architecture, furniture design, etc. What I meant by “basically the only way” is that the vast majority of art I and the people I see around me consume was at some level intended to earn its creator money in one way or another.
Sorry if that wasn’t clear; hopefully that clarifies it.
Piers Anthony’s Xanth stuff is pretty timeless when it comes to young teens. I loved them. My oldest daughter loved ’em, and if my middle daughter ever escapes the clutches of JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins, she’ll love ’em, too.
@ Phoenician in a time of Romans – I suppose it depends on if they are interested in fantasy or sci-fi.
I think the Amber books are great for fantasy. I also like Steven Brust’s Taltos series, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom, Jim Butcher; both Dresden and Alera, Charles deLint, John DeChancie, David Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean and the Elenium and Tamuli, Neil Gaiman (always!), Mercedes Lackey, Melanie Rawn, and then there’s always Charlaine Harris.
For sci-fi you could steer them toward Anne McCaffrey; specifically the Crystal Singer and Pern books. There is also Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series. CJ Cherryh, and CS Friedman. I always recommend Heinlein but that’s because he is my personal favorite.
I forgot Joan Vinge!
…Which just goes to show that Sheldon Cooper isn’t a myth, but an (exaggerated) archetype.
Phoenician in a time of Romans: Also Diana Wynne Jones, Peter Dickinson, Cynthia Voigt, Shannon Hale, Neil Gaiman, Robin McKinley, Jessica Day George, Patricia McKillip, Meredith Ann Pierce and Jane Yolen.
I never understood the “pass a test or I won’t let you do my thing”. Why wouldn’t we WANT everyone to do our thing? The announcement of the new Doctor Who was on NPR this morning for God’s sake! How more mainstream can we be? It’s GREAT!
(Still angry at Fox over Firefly, though. Talk about gatekeeping! Argh.)
I was of the belief gatekeeping was a fairly recent development brought on by the increasing popularity of geekdom. That and the fact that being a geek doesn’t catch nearly the ration of grief it did in my day much less the brutality that was present before my time.
I thought it was a result of the current generation of younger geeks being the same exclusionary douches that the jocks were in my day. Apparently that isn’t true – or at least it’s only an addition to what was already there.
I know saying I never experienced it is about as pointless as saying as a white person I’ve never experienced racism, or as a man I’ve never experienced sexism. The difference being I HAVE witnessed racism and sexism but not gatekeeping.
Again, not denying it – far from it – just curious what kind of bubble I was in to not be aware of it since it’s been around since the dawn of cavegeeks.
We had geeks of the female variety in my circle and nobody offered up any of the dipshittery described here. We were more than happy to bring in anybody that cared to join us.
I went to my first Con back in May and was floored when my more Con-experienced friend warned me to refrain from groping the cosplayers. WTF? You’ve known me for 30 some-odd years and you honestly think I would do something like that? Dude!
That was my introduction into the dipshittery that goes on. Didn’t see any of that at the Con, but it seems like it does happen elsewhere. The Denver Con must be one of the good ones.
You’re still gatekeeping here accidentally. You have been taught a model of “popular” commercial fiction and literary artistic fiction that actually has nothing to do with the shelves in your bookstore. Iain Banks was still considered one of Britain’s most interesting and great writers when he wrote SF as Iain M. Banks and went to conventions. A number of the lions of SFF are studied as literature in universities and elsewhere. Fans of SFF read Atwood, Rushdie and other authors and we don’t regard them as separate. Which is why also Kingsley Amis, whose award-winning work is often comic, and Judith Krantz, whose work is not, are sold on the same bookshelves in the bookstores as fiction. (And it is worth noting that Amis and his ilk are bestsellers, widely read by millions and quite as popularly commercial as any other written fiction.)
So again, you are entering an area of fiction you’ve already been in, because science fiction and fantasy are not separate from literature or fiction just because there may be a SFF section. The bright and shiny covers do not give you one movement, one style, one depth, in SFF or YA. They are not separate countries and the offerings vary widely. (You might be interested in Michael Chabon’s book of essays, Maps and Legends.) I’m only riding you on this because there are quite a lot of authors in SFF who would probably satisfy both your interests. And it is cool that you have a Katniss doll. I need a Katniss doll. Where did she get it?
The gatekeepers we’re dealing with here set up a different sort of ghetto and attempt to portray SFFH as narrow, outlier, outcast and dogmatic — a set fortress into which someone like yourself should have no entrance because you are just dallying they believe. They do not understand that fans are made by the ripple effect, or do and want to limit the number of fans, especially female fans. They tend to obsess about one particular area, and like I said, don’t always know a lot about other areas, and try to set up entrance exams. While these are more annoying than anything else and can be ignored, they spoil the fun.
Fiction, however we judge the worth of an individual work, in whatever art form and platform, is a river, not a fortress. You can’t defend it, you can’t damn it up. Gatekeepers fruitlessly attempt to put stones in the rushing water, consoling themselves that they are at least fighting the good fight before drowning. They’d have a lot more fun if they just went swimming.
Concur, we neither need nor want cultural “gatekeepers”, we may, however, need genre cheerleaders and promoters. While Twilight was good for promoting fantasy involvement, it REALLY needs to be balanced by healthier relationship examples. Please practice “responsible geekery” and help introduce others to alternative perspectives and options.
And, slightly more seriously, as a librarian who might be interested in encouraging certain nascent girl geeks, does anyone have any pointers to get them off the Twilight novels and into something a little bit more worthy? I’ve tried Le Guin, but there’s the perception that any older book is by definition boring.
@Phoenician, I would suggest the Heralds of Valdemar series, starting with Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey. Not super-new, but a great world and that is my favorite trilogy of hers.
I think that Stephanie Meyer wrote in a way that awkward young girls could identify with – seeing yourself as ungraceful, looking at the people around you and thinking they are more beautiful, the frustrations of coming of age, etc. Then the novels just got known and got popular.
The Valdemar books did that for me with a female protagonist that was a child on the cusp of adolescence who felt things very deeply, wanted to be something special, and got caught up in a fantasy where she could become a hero. Also that her deep empathy was her talent and empowered her. There is eventually also some romance and it has a depth and desperation to it that feels meaningful and moving.
I also suggest The Snow Queen and The Summer Queen by Joan D. Vinge. Those are sci-fi, but also with a young woman as protagonist that develops and matures over time, with a robust world and some love story thrown in.
In both cases, the heroines discover who they are, what their role is in creating a better world, and have to become self-reliant. The romance parts are not core to either story, rather one facet to the heroine’s character.
Excellent post! I agree completely.
@ Phoenician: Tamora Pierce. Protector of the Small is the best. Kel is kickass.
In another note, I find myself agreeing with Scorpius again, about the quality of “Twilight” this time. I hate Twilight, because those “books” are (a) that woman’s creepy sexual fantasies written down and published, and, (b) they are highly misogynistic. That’s not to say that Stephanie Meyer and her thralls should be banned from cons or whatever–there’s nothing wrong with being a devoted thrall of an author (note that I myself am such a thrall to Mr. Scalzi, so my opinion may be biased).
Not sure if that last part falls under the banned topic or not–I would like to note, though, that many books marketed at young women are highly regressive and misogynistic.
Oath of Fealty: I hereby swear to take any Malleting or Kittening received by this post in stride, as our gracious host and sovereign overlord would never Mallet a post if it did not deserve the Malleting. Scalzi Ftagn!
We have to be really careful here with trying to move people from one book to another, “more worthy” one. There’s a fine line between, “You enjoyed X? Have you read Y? No? Then you should, ’cause it’s amazing.” and “You enjoyed X? You know it’s not really sci-fi/fantasy/whatever. You need to read Y to really call yourself a sci-fi/fantasy/whatever fan.” In my experience it’s a line that blurs very easily.
In general I’m wary of telling people what they “should” be reading. It’s one thing in an educational setting; educators or parents may have a responsibility to challenge their students. But I have been an avid reader for a couple of decades now, and with respect to books that challenge me vs. books that I simply enjoy, I have a balance that works for me. I don’t need anyone else giving me unsolicited advice on how I should be adjusting that balance. I try to give others the courtesy of assuming that they also have worked out that balance to their own satisfaction and don’t need my take on what books they “have to” read–though I’m always happy to tell them what I’ve liked and why.
The thing is, arbitrary tests of knowledge to qualify as A TRUE FAN isn’t unique to geekdom. Ask anybody with a Favorite Band how they feel about those noobs* who only know that one hit song and shoot you a blank look when you bring up albums that were less commercially successful but were goddamn masterpieces, etc.
* = I don’t actually recommend that you do this.
I am a gatekeeper.
For my son and my daughter. And I will keep any gate they want to go through open. I had my time to explore my life and who I am, now it is their time. I will hold the scifi, fantasy, mystery, romance, true crime, fiction, non-fiction, whatever gates open to them because they deserve it.
And I apply that point of view to anyone. Anywhere. Anytime.
Deny me that, and we will have words.
We have to be really careful here with trying to move people from one book to another, “more worthy” one. There’s a fine line between, “You enjoyed X? Have you read Y? No? Then you should, ’cause it’s amazing.” and “You enjoyed X? You know it’s not really sci-fi/fantasy/whatever. You need to read Y to really call yourself a sci-fi/fantasy/whatever fan.” In my experience it’s a line that blurs very easily.
Indeed – but it’s so worth it on those rare occasions when you see some young person (male or female) come back with their eyes lit up and stuttering with excitement because they enjoyed what you gave to them. I’m not interested in making kids and teens “REAL sf/fantasy fans”; I’m interested in exciting that spark that will keep them reading. Purely for my own employment purposes, of course – we drug dealers require a stream of new addicts to keep on going…
Suggestions noted from all. I may start winnowing down and analysing the authors to see what works and what might be problematical – I personally have serious doubts about the later Xanth books, for example.
What it smells like is good new-fashioned hipsterism. “I was really into that before it got popular. Now I’m into this other new thing that you’ve probably never heard of, which makes me the default expert, and you a perpetual n00b.”
I’ve seen the same effect in other culture-cliques. Heavy metal, goth, alt-anything, SCUBA, mountain biking… There will always be some version of the lifestyle neck beard to tell you you’re doing it wrong and how they were doing it different back in the day before it got popular.
The response should be the same universally. Three easy steps to enjoying whatever it is you enjoy. Point, laugh, and ignore.
I’m a gamer, a network technician, a programmer. My last year of high school, I took three math classes not because I like math, but because I was lazy that year and I knew I could coast and get perfect marks without any effort. Today, one of my hobbies is television; I try to watch just about everything science fiction and fantasy I can find; maybe not everything, but certainly a couple dozen hours a week of SF&F shows.
But I don’t think I’ve ever actually paid money for a comic book. The only time I’ve spent in comic stores is to meet friends to go somewhere else. Collectibles also not my thing; my shelves have books, DVDs, computers and associated peripherals, things I’ve inherited from parents and other family members, and that’s really enough. Any test of “geek” that involves Marvel or DC, I fail.
The problem of gatekeepers goes back to long before I got into fandom. Wasn’t a gender issue when I was younger (SF&F convention fandom was always roughly balanced, and while the gaming population was certainly mostly male, I never met a roleplayer or tabletop gamer who didn’t want women around. But in convention fandom there were cliques, people wanting to cater to whatever their group was, such that media fans and gamers were sometimes being told their interests weren’t important. So I became a barbarian at the gate; I wouldn’t quietly go away when people snubbed my friends. I would always be arguing for a wider fandom where everyone should be welcome.
The “Keepers of the Sacred Knowledge” comment above may be on the point. For me, my fandom has always been very evangelical. When I find a gate, I’ll be there to hold it open.
What you are missing here is that if you can not make a livelihood selling, to me and those like me, the things that I like, then I DON’T CARE if you can make a livelihood. It is not my problem. My problem is to deepen (not broaden) the aspects I find interesting of the things I like. Gatekeeping helps with that, because it keeps matters focused. I am perfectly happy to regularly buy books, or computer games, or wargames, or whatever, from content creators who, of their own free will, choose to make these things in ways I find entertaining. If and when people who prefer different styles of entertainment desire to influence those content creators to modify their output to encompass that different style, it makes the aspects that I like far shallower and less worthwhile.
The last time I tried buying what looked like a spaceships’n’rayguns adventure story, it turned out to be a by-the-numbers formula romance where the woman protagonist was being ardently pursued by various handsome space princes of various types. From flipping through items on the bookstore’s shelves, it looks like fantasy has been almost completely taken over by this, while SF is maybe halfway there.
I used to buy SF/F books regularly as a teenager – sometimes one a week. In the past 10 years, I’ve bought maybe 3. Something that I loved has largely evaporated (or been driven into electronic entertainment, particularly the modding scene – from which of course content creators make no money at all). Then you come along and try to browbeat me into feeling somehow guilty about this? That it is somehow my failing?
No, it’s not.
I will not modify my preferences to suit your short-term economic interests. I will not pretend that it is somehow moral of you to capitalize on women’s wanting to be part of a club, just because they want that clubbiness feeling and can’t stand feeling excluded and don’t care one whit about the actual topic for which the club was created, with the inevitable consequence that the club shortly has no reason to exist independent of any other gossip house, simply so you can make a quick buck.
The bad person here is you, Mr. Scalzi.
Therefore I will not stop indicating to certain people that they are not welcome and their opinions are of no value to me, and I don’t care what your desires are in this regard.
Gatekeeping is a universal human trait. Us vs them. Essential behavior for pack animals living in the wild.
The liberal and civilizing trend is to expand the definition of us: our family becomes our tribe and on to our village, our culture, our nation, our species. Along the way we’ve included totemic, useful and cute animals. Modern life would be otherwise impossible.
We tend to channel this instinct into relatively benign activities; my sports team, our fashion, geek culture. We create phony enemies; thuggish Conservatives and idiotic Liberals are obvious examples. Of course, modern clans have also nurtured much of our cherished culture, including modern science fiction.
Ah, but how to correct annoying clannish behavior? A gentle word, a loving mallet, full-on fury? Ask yourself which method works best on yourself, on those rare occasions when you need correcting.
*resists urge to type screed at obvious Mallet bait*
Thank you Kat. I believe I understand your argument and I have to admit it makes sense. I may be somewhat harsh in my assesment of certain works and reactionary to the exclusion of balance and reason. And I appreciate your definition of what a gatekeeper is and I’m sure I would be excluded by this group because I am a dallying. I now asses a work by how good the story is. How much fun did I have. And in that sense everything should be included. I must attend one of these conventions so I can see some of these specimens discussed in this blog first hand. Like a Star Trekker guy (gatekeepers are screaming) ha ha ha.
My wife ordered the Katnis ACTION FIGURE off Amazon. Everything comes from Amazon doesn’t it? She even has a bow that is detatchable and she’s wearing her deer hide hunting jacket. Christ, I am a little girl. This has been an endless source of amusement for my wife as in pretty much all other areas of my life I am a MAN. And make no apologies for it. But those books are good stories. And so I love them.
@ Phoenician: Other good books for young women: Anything by Jim C. Hines or Dianna Wynne Jones (especially Year of the Griffon). Most modern SF/F has good strong female characters, especially the big names.
There IS this kind of hipster “I liked it before it was cool” snooty superiority thing going on, isn’t there?
And there are two different kinds of gatekeepers: the supply side (editors etc.), who are essential, and the demand side (as discussed here), who are pernicious.
Corey Nader: Wow. Your comment reads like a manifesto of elitist jackholery.
I tend to become a little sad when things I enjoy become very popular. It’s like, I had this thing, and it was mine, and now it has to be everybody’s. There’s some happy medium where a thing (book/author/movie/whatever) is available and there are people to share it with, but still unique. I generally get over it, but I wonder if some gatekeepers are partially motivated by this same feeling (did I qualify that enough?). That they feel that comics, for example, are their special thing, and they need to protect the thing that makes them special by ensuring everyone who wants to share is worthy?
And I should explain, because y’all don’t know me, that I’m not trying to endorse gatekeeping or douchebaggery or sexism, just trying to show a different point of view.
@ Phoenician. I would also suggest Robin McKinley’s Damar duology. The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett; this starts with Wee Free Men. Sabriel by Garth Nix. I echo Tamora Pierce and Diana Wynne Jones (but I’d suggest Chrestomanci or Howl’s Moving castle first). Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. I also enjoyed the Leviathian series by Scott Westerfield. Diane Duane’s Young Wizards books.
To me, having a prominent female character isn’t enough but there should be strong female characters throughout the book and they should not be cardboard cutouts or stereotypes.
No, that’s pretty much the douchebagary in question. Your special thing was never yours, and the special aspect exists only in your head, where it’s nobody’s business but yours. It was just a thing, and still is.
The notion that you are the arbiter of who is and isn’t “worthy” to participate in the not-yours thing is exactly the kind of pathetic classism being discussed here.
So here is me pointing at you, laughing at you, and ignoring your special self.
Is there a Bechdel test for female literary characters?
*passes Floored a carton of popcorn* Here.
@Jerome – I didn’t say I need to find others worthy.
Slightly off-topic here, but I actually liked the anime Howl’s Moving Castle more than the book, partially because I found a bit in the middle to be off-putting, specifically (POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT) where they go to a different world. (END SPOILER ALERT)
YMMV. :) I do second both Tamora Pierce and Diana Wynne Jones as great recs!
RE: Twilight, I think it’s important to point out the problematic elements of popular media. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be done in a “this is not real sci-fi/fantasy” type of way. You can say, “I don’t like Twilight because the way that the relationships are portrayed are disturbing.” Then you can bust out with a list of awesome SFF books that DO portray relationships in a healthy way. Viola! You’ve invited people into the SFF portal *and* you’ve raised consciousness about important issues. It doesn’t have to be either/or.
“Therefore I will not stop indicating to certain people that they are not welcome and their opinions are of no value to me, and I don’t care what your desires are in this regard.”
Well, you certainly have a right to be an unrepentant sexist asshole, Corey, if such is your joy. Thank you for putting a neon sign above your head signaling such. It saves the rest of us time having to winkle you out.
What you have no right to do, however, is to tell “certain people” they are not welcome. It’s not your club, and no one elected you gatekeeper, despite your obvious interest in taking up the job. If you want to start a convention where folks like you can gleefully exclude others, (“UnrepentantSexistAssholeCon I”) go right ahead. Otherwise, all you’re doing is stamping your feet and whining about cooties. Your “help” isn’t wanted by anyone, and you don’t speak for anyone but yourself. No one is obliged to care what you think about their participation in the geek culture.
“What you are missing here is that if you can not make a livelihood selling, to me and those like me, the things that I like, then I DON’T CARE if you can make a livelihood.”
What you are missing here is that I do make a livelihood selling to people who aren’t like you, i.e., unrepentant sexist assholes. So it’s fine that you don’t care; I don’t need you and never have. I do care that unrepentant sexist assholes like you want to make it more difficult for me to sell to the people who do like my stuff, and that you work to make many of them feel uncomfortable at the places where geeks hang out to enjoy themselves. You have no right to do so, and inflicting yourself on these people and telling them they are not welcome is harassment. I do content myself with the idea that generally speaking, if publishers and venues have to choose between the “unrepentantly sexist asshole” audience and “inclusively broad” audience they are going to go for the latter, if for no other reason than the latter presents far less of an issue, liability wise.
Now, shoo, Corey. I wouldn’t want you to sully yourself any further here with the likes of me.
Likewise, I do not recommend others here respond to Mr. Nader. No good will come of it, I am sure.
Corey if you can’t find the kind of books you like I suggest you learn how to use Google, Amazon, and Goodreads as I can assure you there are still plenty of books out there that fit your needs.
Get to know the sales people at the bookstore and talk to them about what you like to read. They can help you find it.
Give us a set of your criteria and I’m sure we can suggest plenty of books.
Oops sorry looks like I cross-posted. Feel free to mallet.
Hey Floored! Aren’t you glad you held out? Scalzi didn’t even use the Mallet!
@Jerome – I think the Bechdel test would apply to literature as well as tv and movie media. Or were you looking for specific examples where the requirements are met?
@Xopher – Honestly, I think I need a cigarette because that was wonderfully satisfying.
As a father of daughters, “I don’t like Twilight because the way that the relationships are portrayed are disturbing” is precisely how I feel. The role of a woman is to catch a man and the point of sex and sexuality is to tame that wild boy. That’s the “magic vagina” effect I mentioned way up-thread. When exposed to my magic vagina, this previously unbreakable bad boy will bend to my will and show me the true love he is capable of giving only to me. It is a horrific message to pass to young women.
Generally, I don’t read a book with an eye for the way relationships, or the role of women, are portrayed. But when it is bad enough to stand out even to me, then I figure it has to be really bad. I can’t stand the movie “Legally Blond” for exactly that reason. Lead character is a straight A honor student (a great role model for girls!) and decides to go to Harvard Law (a great goal!) … so she can get her boyfriend back! (vomit.)
I sometimes wonder if I should feel guilty that watching Scalzi crush trolls is one of the joys of my life. Then I go “Naaah!” and read his crush comment again, giggling.
I’m sure it would apply to literature as well. I was just wondering if there was a compendium of how various works fared. I’m only familiar with the movie lists.
Let’s not wander too far into “Twilight” critiques, please.
@Jerome – I should have known someone on GoodReads would have something. Here’s a link: http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/bechdel-test-passed
That is quite awesome. Many thanks!
I personally didn’t find Julia’s comment to be particularly point-and-laugh worthy. Most people tend towards identifying with certain groups in ways that are exclusionary–otherwise stories of people finding out they’re part of a special group wouldn’t be staples in sf/f. It’s how we deal with those tendencies that makes us either assholes or nice people. So I don’t think that someone who, in a fairly polite way, admits to those tendencies deserves scorn for that.
@corey Nader, you are not looking hard enough then, I find it quite easy to find that sort of stuff when my fancy goes that way. There is just as much as there ever was. I for one am glad of the breadth of the genre nowadays allowing me to experience different things all of which feed into each other to make more.
“so she can get her boyfriend back! (vomit.)”
I would argue that the relationship being depicted between Elle and Warren is meant to be taken as unhealthy and that this makes a huge difference in its “okayness” level–by the end of the movie she does reject him and realize that she enjoys law for its own sake. Of course then the movie turns around and has her fall into Prince Charming aka Emmett’s arms, which muddies the message a bit. Also, there are serious issues with bi invisibility in the movie. So, I’m not saying the movie doesn’t have issues, but I would argue that Elle x Warren is not meant to be seen as healthy; she explicitly grows past her relationship with him and this is celebrated and rewarded.
Just a thought, don’t want to derail the comment thread and/or be a cause for malleting.
(hopes I didn’t fall into the penumbra. No more critiques, I promise)
A friend and I were talking about the gatekeeper mentality in reference to restaurants. If you like a restaurant, you should eat there as often as possible, and tell as many people about it as you can. A restaurant with no one but you and a few close friends as customers won’t last very long. The downside is that you may have to wait once in a while to get in, but waiting to get in is much preferred to not being able to get in because they’ve closed.
If you like an author (or movie, or whatever) you need to share that with as many people as you can. If they can keep their cats in kibble, they will be writing lots more for you to enjoy.
Kat, being IN the penumbra means your comment is OK. Outside it…not so much.
Xopher: thanks for the clarification. :) I did get that confused.
Mike Glyer wrote a story called Glyer “The Men Who Corflued Mohammed” about the result of an attempt to purify fandom. It worked out as well for the main characters as the similar quest worked in the Bester story.
But then she learns that he was never worth it to begin with and she was! She ends up loving Harvard Law, learns to think critically, gains all sorts of self-confidence, and is at the head of her class. Who knows what happened to the worthless ex-boyfriend. I love that message. (Far better than anything in the Xanth books that preach how women have to hide their talents so their husbands don’t feel inferior. Blech.)
Rats. The obvious typo appeared in the above only after I posted, I swear…
re @phonecian the Twilight as a gateway series question (and what to recommend next to teenage girls)
I think an obvious path would then be Sunshine by Robin McKinley… and then you’ve just gone from vampires to Robin McKinley and the whole world opens up. (The Blue Sword was my gateway novel, in fact.)
If you happen to have been a geek before the geek culture explosion, at some point you were likely the subject of ridicule and mockery by an attractive girl or girls.
I wasn’t! I was a quiet, bookish girl and other girls (I cannot recall their level of attractiveness; probably “none” for non-pedophiles) thought I was a bit odd but largely left me alone. It was the boys that were mean to me, that made fun of me for reading and continually got in my face and insulted me. In first through about third grade this was very hurtful, and I did my best to escape it by reading about mythology and about girls who became knights and sorceresses and stuff. When a boy in my fifth-grade class decided I was a witch, I thought that was pretty awesome; I loved witches. I also decided that boys were useless and stupid. Once the “geek culture explosion” happened, all the same dudes who were making fun of me for reading things in elementary school decided that they were all big geeks now for watching Star Wars and playing Pokemon, both of which were just straight up regular POPULAR at the time they came out (my uber-popular jock brother was huge on Pokemon, because he was always on top of all the trends), and started treating ME like the newcomer (especially since I got more attractive somewhere in college) and talking about how they had been terribly ostracized in high school, which is apparently as far back as most geek boys’ memories go, even though there’s usually like 14 years of life before that. However, nobody in the mainstream media has offered me a platform for whinging about any horrible plague of fake-ass newbie geek boys who think they’re so niche for playing video games and have only been nerds since puberty anyway and can’t even *pretend* to participate in a discussion about who is the coolest Tamora Pierce protagonist (it’s Kel). I can come up with douchey gatekeeping nonsense measuring everyone else’s geekiness entirely by how much it mimics my own personal experience too (if your first memory of being ostracized for being a geek involves you being old enough to notice how attractive that person was, you are a latecomer newbie poser!), but somehow I think if I tried, people would just quite rightly point out that I was being totally unreasonable.
Phoenician: I would strongly recommend pointing them towards Cassandra Clare’s “The Mortal Instruments” series; it has all the angsty, uber-intense love geometrical shapes of Twilight, but much stronger female characters, very awesome friendships, and some really fun demon-slaying. It’s also about to get turned into a souped-up movie full of explosions and attractive people. I also strongly recommend the “Tithe” (fairies) and “Curse Workers” (mobsters/con artists with magic powers) trilogies, both by Holly Black.
The belief that women were non-existent in fandom until very late in the 20th century, or that there were no conflicts about women in fandom until recently, are popular but completely inaccurate ideas.
For those interested in the history of women and gender conflicts in the sff community in the US (primarily, with some attention paid to the UK and Australia), I can highly recommend the following two excellent books:
Justine Larbalestier’s THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES: http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2002/08/19/researching-the-battle-of-the-sexes-in-science-fiction/
Helen Merrick’s THE SECRET FEMINST CABAL:
Both make extensive use of primary sources (letter columns and interviews at sf cons), and talk about the literature as well as the culture. Larbalestier’s starts in the1920s, I think, and is organized around “THe Battle of the Sexes” trope. Merrick’s has an excellent overview of Larbalestier’s work, but focuses mostly on the 1960s to present day (including somem discussion of Racefail 09 in the last chapter), focusing on various elements of feminism by science fiction fans.
Both works show pretty strong evidence that any idea that women were a part of sff as a 20th century English language culture in the US and UK from the very beginning (early part of 20th century).
The mostly cis, white, straight male fans complaining about the fake geek girls sound just like the mostly cis, white, straight male fans (including the adolescent Isaac Asimov) complaining about the ickyness of girls bringing sex into their science fiction nearly a century ago.
The bubble of not fitting the stereotype of someone supposedly not into geekdom, so you were unchallenged, and the bubble of not realizing that the women around you may not have been given the sort of welcome you thought they were by other guys. Which puts you in the majority of fans, which is great.
It’s very hard not to try and shove what you value and don’t in geekdom down someone else’s throat. But unless they are your own kids, you have no control and no right to control what teenagers read or what other people champion and like. Champion what you love, but if the only way you can champion it is to denigrate other works of storytelling, I don’t care who you are, expect to get your ear chewed off. The only thing you’re doing is discouraging kids from reading at all or trying SFF because you want it to be on your terms. Which is the essence of gatekeeping and which is futile. Resist, resist, resist.
You’re not a little girl. You are not a little boy. You are a man who has an action figure like most adults in fandom. And The Hunger Games has millions of male teen and adult fans. Here, go crazy: http://www.thinkgeek.com/ Welcome to the Borg and the Cybermen; you’ve been assimilated.
No, no, no, no. There are no gatekeepers in the publishing industry. Editors pluck things they like from the river and go, “Ooo, shiny!” like the rest of us. They don’t try to block the river and they can’t block the river. When the self-publishing side of the industry stops using the stupid word gatekeeper, then it will have finally grown up.
That thing that you enjoyed was already popular. That was how you found it in the first place. It was a large, commercial, popular thing that you didn’t own, which millions enjoyed, and which has simply continued to be popular. The only reason you’re feeling sad is because you created an imaginary parallel universe where it wasn’t popular based on the selective data of a few people around you. Personally, me, I get on a convention floor with 20,000 people, many in costumes, full of booths of shiny stuff, that’s a buzz for me. (As long as they have enough bathrooms.) Sharing fandom with people is way more fun than keeping it to myself. Because what makes me unique is not that I like something, but that I am a fabulous carnival barker in liking it. :) “Did you see the women posing as Weeping Angels? They’re amazing. Nathan Fillion is one of the funniest men on the planet! Let me tell you all about Teen Wolf that my daughter sucked me into! Yes, I do have a ton of older Vertigo comics. Here are which ones I liked.”
Can’t we play with the trolls just every once in awhile? If we promise not to be too flamey about it? (Also, probably need to trademark “UnrepentantSexistAssholeCon I” so the T-shirt artists can get on that.)
If you happen to have been a geek before the geek culture explosion, at some point you were likely the subject of ridicule and mockery by an attractive girl or girls.
As I’m sure others have pointed out, with this type of comment, you erase all women who are fans, as well as policing/shaming based on perceived attractiveness.
That is: as a 58 year old cis queer white middle-class woman who started reading fantasy and sf before first grade (MUSHROOM PLANET, OZ, SPACE CAT), and was an sf and humanities geek BEFORE the geek culture explosion, I was mocked not only by other girls but by a whole slew of boys (back in grade and high school) for reading sf–and the boys were a lot nastier because ICK GIRL COOTIES. I was in Trek fandom during the 1970s when it was assumed any girl was there because of Kirk (ofcourseformeitwasspock), but I could out trivia any man I met on sf book trivia because of twenty plus years of reading the stuff–and then I got a PhD so I can teach sff (which I do, including using the Merrick and Larbalestier works above, and mostly focusing on women writers), and am currently happily involved in online media slash fandoms.
I advise the student sf group at my university–and see them as indications that in all sorts of ways many of the younger fans tend less toward some of the toxic rhetorics and gatekeeping of the fandom circles I was active in during my 20s.
I’m resisting the urge to join in the discussion of who the best Tamora Pierce protagonist is.
Wow, watching Scalzi pwn that n00b troll was better than the strawberries-and-cream filled french toast I just had for dinner.
*kicks back and waits for the Mallet fodder to try again*
@Phoenix – In addition to all the other wonderful books mentioned, Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest series is just plain good fun and makes a great intro to fantasy with a sense of humor, as well as strong female characters and good relationships (and cats, lots of cats). First book is Dealing With Dragons – and the audiobook of it is also great.
Patricia McKillip writes beautiful prose. The Riddlemaster of Hed series has an awesome story, great characterization, and gorgeous use of language.
And my son loved the above books, too, as well as Robin McKinley’s Damar books and Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy.
@SplittingAtoms – your story made me cry. What a miserably unhappy creature someone must be to do that to a toddler :(
Just a small point of clarification about the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test is not a marker of good female characterization. The entire point was to set the bar as low as possible for any kind of meaningful participation by female characters and to note how few movies could even clear that very very low bar. So while it is useful to note which books or films or tv shows do or don’t pass the Bechdel, its hardly an endorsement if something just about manages to clear a bar that has been intentionally set about an inch and a half above the floor.
Also, I second the people who have recommended Tamora Pierce, Diane Duane, Jim Hines, Diana Wynne Jones, Steven Brust, and others. I would add Madeleine L’Engle, Andre Norton, Megan Whalen Turner … there’s a whole lot to discover out there!!
@ecynicalromantic I’m not sure that Cassandra Clare would be an author I’d recommend, given her documented history of plagiarism. Unfortunately, all of the suggested authors I have in mind most likely fall in the “too old time to be interesting bucket.” I do love Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching set. Well,all of Pratchett would be fine for younger readers. I’m an old lady, but had read everything LeGuin had published before I reached high school. Oh, and McKillip – the Riddlemaster trilogy was my favorite at that age.
@ Kat: Kel, hands down. She is my kind of woman–strong, caring, smart, kickass. Plus, she has nice eyes. I have to say that I like a big, strong, brave woman who can save my ass who has nice eyes.
Also, “Lady Knight”, the final battle. No more is needed. She beheaded Blayce and slit Stenmun’s throat, even though Stenmun was six-foot-six, built like an ox, and twice as experienced.
Diane Duane’s ‘Young Wizard’ and ‘Feline Wizards’ interlaced series are great. They are marketed mostly to YA but I’m 58 and have enjoyed them. I started having sf/f read to me before I could read, my Dad was a big SF/fan. Space Cat, OZ, early Heinlein juveniles…we watched Star Trek when it aired for the first time and the whole family wrote to Paramount and NBC during the ‘save Star Trek’ campaigns. In school, when given those lists of words to learn and use in sentences, I wrote what would eventually be known as fan fiction. I attended my first con with a bunch of fellow sf fans from the sf club at the University of Florida. A Star Trek / media con. Our costumes were from Space: 1999. Some people cheered us, others booed. Went to regular sf cons, found that the long time fans didn’t think ST fans were ‘real fans.’ Not until we proved we knew more about sf in general (heh. Not a lot of them at that point had read James Schmitz, McCaffery, Eric Frank Russell…) us girls soon learned to travel at LEAST in pairs, and usually 3 or 4 of us together. Later, I was into anime before it got popular, and was told by media fen that I wasn’t a member of media fandom because I liked anime…sigh. It’s not just the geeky (mostly) male guys trying to protect the boy’s club. As others have said, there are a lot of types and people committing the type of gatekeeping John is talking about…
I’ve never really understood the mindset that drives people to complain that too many people like that thing they like. I came this close to seeing David Sylvian play in Atlanta but the show ended up cancelled for lack of ticket sales, because there are apparently only about five people in the southeastern United States who know who David Sylvian is, yours truly being one of them. I’d rather the show had sold out on me so I could have hit up a scalper and seen the man play.
To Phoenician in a time of Romans, perhaps you might also consider Ellen Klages’ “Green Glass Sea” and “White Sands, Red Menace” as suggested reading for your young geeks. Klages’ YA books are not really SF, not exactly, but they’re fiction, and they’re about some pretty amazing science, they have a great girl geek protagonist, and (bonus points) they’re even historically accurate.
PS – thanks, Mr. Scalzi.
A Wrinkle in Time (L’Engle) was the gateway for many of my generation – and my son’s, also. It’s ageless.
During one finals week at engineering school, someone on my dorm floor was found to have a copy in his room. There ensued a constant stream of us wandering into his room, plunking down on his bed with the book for a few hours, then getting up to let the next friend have their dose of comfort reading.
Man, there are times when I really, really want to be the barbarian.
I’ve seen the gatekeepers. I’m neither impressed nor scared. By any of them.
You know, there are times when I think that sometimes education requires a clue by four.
I’m rather proud that I’ve not tossed some of the guys – and all the ones I’ve met are guys – through the nearest window. (I did watch con organizers escort a couple of gatekeepers from a con once, though. That was fun!)
Thanks once again, Senor Scalzi. I was a geek before the trolls decided that my ladybits prevented such a possibility. I’d also like you to know that I began reading your books AFTER reading your blog which someone posted somewhere for some reason. Basically, I was like, hmm dope feminist ally writes scifi? Let me check out some of said scifi… Now I’m a big fan. I especially enjoyed “human division” and “ghost brigades” .. ;)
((Gatekeepers?, what gatekeepers??))
Not around me. Not around my friends, male and female either. My group’s convention ‘den mother’ for years was a younger lady who worked for one of the comic book companies. She was no-doubt-about-it, bowel-loosening scary when she was crossed.
Jeez, John, I continue to buy your stories because they are good not through any thought that I might better fit in with … whoever. I get that group pressures are alive and well but I have no problem with nodding sagely (if I like the pontificator) or snarling with increasing levels of hostility (when I don’t) and then going on about my business.
I assume your ire is mostly over convention behavior? If so, I have to ask; when have you not seen a large group of excited people get together and not have a little spillage out towards the edges? And when does being geeky and excited not lead to some of the behaviors you cite? Your earlier discussed anti harrassement policy and its enforcement is an excellent idea for the pervs and creeps with perhaps some roving ‘sober’ types wandering around to tamp down on the over excited; as in “dude, you’re being a dick so chill”.
I had visions of church dances that were so dull you ached in sympathy just hearing about them. Really safe though, weren’t they?
Phoenician, I have to add: Sylvia Engdahl. Both “Enchantress from the Stars” and “The Far Side of Evil”. Awesome YA SF.
I can almost sympathize with a bit of Corey’s comment. I’ve had the experience of hitting the SF section at B&N, only to see vampires, elves, and zombies taking up all of the New shelf. And it irked me that it was becoming so hard to find the stuff I liked — it used to be the bulk, and now it was more like a side dish. Being an adult means that I recognize that other readers like stuff that I don’t. It doesn’t mean I get to demand that they go somewhere else. If I have to look harder for what I like, I just appreciate it the more when I find it (I love you, N K Jemisin!).
I’m reading this Note and Comments and I’m seeing the same thing that has lessen my involvement in SFF fandom after 40-some years: The lack of recognition that there are other “gatekeepers” besides the handy scapegoats of “straight, cis, white, males”.
I’ve never felt unwelcomed by “geek guys” at conventions. Yes, there’s been a few jerks but most of them I’ve found to have been attracted to the convention by the fetish wear (and it was fetish BDSM wear, not SFF costumes) and the prospect of a good time.
I have felt pushed out or made to feel unwelcome by social-justice-oriented academics or people who want SFF taken “seriously” and don’t like the costumers (now called cosplayers) because they make SFF look “childish” to others. I was embarrassed last year by the people who ripped Simon Pegg for making a normal male comment about the annual gathering of “slave Princess Leias” at Comic-Con. I was also put off by the people who chewed out Patricia C. Wrede for “Thirteenth Child” on the basis of a current social issue.
In economic terms, I’ve bought fewer new SFF books because they’ve lost that certain boldness and enthusiasm that is sometimes called “Gosh, wow, sense of wonder!” (by Forrest J. Ackerman). I’ve bought some reprints trying to communicate my want using my cold, hard cash but it doesn’t seem to be working.
Well, have at it.
w/regards to the male geeks not wanting girl geeks involved…
As a straight male geek can someone explain the logic behind
“huh? for the first time in our lives we are seeing that there are women who like what we like…. THIS MUST BE STOPPED!”
You’d think it would be welcomed…
It’s the hat trick of assholery!
Good books for the kids, esp. the female kids: Diane Duane, f’r crying out loud. All of her work. Give them the Millennium Edition of the “Young Wizards” series and stand back. (The first book is “So You Want to be a Wizard”.)
A girl and a boy who live in your average American town decide to be wizards — none of this inheriting it by blood stuff — and learn wizardry to save the world while still carrying on their middle-school lives. No love triangles. No unhealthy relationships. Peril, but with optimism.
No misogyny or homophobia in her work (some characters are gay, most aren’t, nobody cares). Buy everything, lest her cats start sizing her up for protein value as well.
I so much love that Robin Reid mentioned The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet!! I read that four times the winter I was eight!
@ Lee: is it just me, or is “Well, have at it” just another phrasing of the “I Fully Expect Abuse” gambit described the very last post?
I think erasing the entire existence of Native American people from the idealized North America of The Thirteenth Child is hardly a “current social issue” considering the history of efforts to erase that very group. I bring that up because it’s an excellent example of how the growing inclusiveness that invites people like me to join SF&F fandom is seen as a reason to pull away by those who liked fandom better when it was more exclusionary. However, exclusionary isn’t the same as exclusive nor is exclusive necessarily a measure of quality, and if fandom being a better place for a wider spectrum of humanity means some people leave rather than be willing to treat members of that wider spectrum as fellow humans, I for one would rather be here than cede the literature of the fantastic and of the future to those who think only a thinly selected demographic are appropriate to share in those dreams and hopes.
(Which is just one of the reasons the post under discussion made me cheer in agreement.)
Engdahl! Yes! Good call!
On the other hand, tickets to almost all of Neil Gaiman’s “Last Signing Tour” venues sold out in lightning time and there’s a lottery for Comic*Con tickets. So yes, too many geeks *can* be a problem to a “get off my lawn” geek. Or even a newbie eager geek.
I’d rather have that problem, though, than more Firefly cancellations.
Shit damn oh bugger – I’m going to have to write all of this up at some stage, aren’t I?
On a lighter note- John I think i’ve discovered more potential charity challenges. I would personally give 50 to charity to see you do #16
Right on, John. The world is serious enough without a bunch of mannish boys trying to make science fiction a ‘respectable’ literary genre. What the hell is wrong with these people? Don’t they get it? Science fiction asks loads of serious questions about the world we live in, but it’s done with an air of possibilities and alternative ideas. It’s where the norm is tossed on its head, and the abnormal becomes the status quo. It’s where we go to get outside the envelope. A real geek embraces change and all things ‘odd’ as surely as the books they love. To do otherwise only exposes them for the lost charlatans they sadly are.
I think most of these so-called gatekeepers are person’ s who are afraid of women!
“If you happen to have been a geek before the geek culture explosion, at some point you were likely the subject of ridicule and mockery by an attractive girl or girls.”
Add another to the column of “I was a geek before the geek culture explosion” who was, point of fact, a straight cisgender Asian/South Pacific Islander woman (born & raised in the US) who subject to ridicule and mockery by attractive BOYS more than by girls *for being into geeky stuff* while she was growing up. I didn’t get gatekeeping crap from women until I got much older. If the idea that men nerds feeling hostile to women (esp if they’re attractive) is understandable because “Mean Girls” made fun of them, I’d like to ask – would it then be ok for me to feel hostile toward men (esp attractive men) in geek spaces because of all those handsome popular boys who made fun of me for reading X-Men in study hall and talking about X-Files at lunch? Because here’s the thing – I *don’t* feel hostile to men, even handsome ones, as a group because it is WRONG to judge and punish an entire gender because you suffered cruelty at the hands of individuals, some of whom happened to be of a particular gender. If I feel any hostility toward men, it’s because I keep running into a whole lot of them who profess sympathy for the crap I can be subjected to for being a woman identifying as geek/nerd but then turn right back around and try to justify that crap being thrown at me.
I’m especially getting REALLY tired of the excuse that this sort of “spillage” is a natural part of geek culture – as if being exclusionary jerks is a natural state of being for geeks and nerds – and so there’s nothing to be done about it. Besides, this can’t be THAT big of a problem because they’ve never seen it, the search results of “gatekeeping geek culture” on Google notwithstanding (Ambivalent in Tokyo, I’m looking at you).
While I see where that line of reasoning is coming from, it absolutely perpetrates the notion that “geek/nerd” automatically defaults to “man/boy” and erases the countless girls and women who ARE geeks and nerds, many of whom had to deal with mockery and ridicule for being nerds and geeks when they were growing up, as well as the notion that it’s GIRLS who were doing all the mocking (seriously, were NONE of those geeky, nerdy boys who “can’t help being suspicious of women nerds” picked on by other boys for being nerds? If they were, why aren’t they looking at other men with the same amount of suspicion and hostility that’s apparently reserved specially for women?). Also, it is bullpuckey justification, however unintentional, of the notion that the more *attractive* (which is an entirely subjective metric, btw) a woman is, the more “understandable” it is that men nerds will react to her with suspicion. Again, given that the dynamic of “popular kids” picking on “nerdy kids” doesn’t exclude the popular boys doing the picking on nerds from being “attractive”, why is there not nearly the same level of vitriol and side-eyeing directed at “attractive” men identifying as nerds as well?
@ Julie – I highly suggest you give this article about falsified fandom and the notion of scarcity in fandom a read, it turned on a lot of lightbulbs for me when I was trying to untangle why I might feel sad about suddenly a lot of people being into the same geeky stuff I liked (and not all in the same way). http://www.themarysue.com/psychology-of-the-fake-geek-girl/
I’m mildly confused. This happens? STILL happens? I guess I’ve been lucky as both 1) A geek girl and 2) a geek who can’t simply rattle off some list of xyz to prove her fandom because my memory just doesn’t work that way. I’ve always had fairly positive interactions with the most hardcore fans – even if my pikachu gets absolutely owned by my friend’s piku in super smash brothers (I dominate MY circle of friends, only fair I should be put in my place by a street fighter fanatic).
So.. I dunno. Maybe I’m just too chill to let jerks bother me or I don’t provoke it but everywhere I’ve gone and shown any interest in a new geeky thing I’ve always had plenty of folks offer to show me the ropes and sate my new curiosity. On that note, I might have to read your books :)
I think a major causal factor here (and really, with xenophobia and bigotry in general) is Sturgeon’s Law combined with the Ultimate Attribution Error.
Human beings are flawed creatures. If you get to know people they can turn out to be nicer than you thought at first glance, (kneejerk misanthropy is wrong) but a significant percentage of people are still going to do dumb or cruel or otherwise flawed things on a regular basis. Of course, this is true of both geeks and non-geeks. Geekdom has never been even remotely capable of filtering out the unpleasant people, just as it has never been capable of filtering out all the poorly written schlock. But people are prone to paying more attention to the flaws in “the other” than flaws in their own group. So when a geek sees a geek acting like an idiot, well that’s just that one guy. When a geek sees a non-geek acting like an idiot, that’s clearly proof that non-geeks are all idiots. And good old fashioned sexism mixes in to attack women even when they are card carrying geeks.
The fact that many “fake geeks” can be unpleasant people gives gategeeper geeks the reassurance that they are right to defend the gates, even though if they turned around they would also notice that “real geeks” can be stupid fucking assholes too.
@Churuya. You scooped me! (yea, what Churuya said!)
@GeekMelange. Ok, you’re now tied with our con den mother in scariness… (I joke. I prefer honest criticism over simple agreement or silence and I admit to indulging in simplistic, dismissive comments that interfere with good dialogue)
My point is that I recognize exuberance as a natural occurrence wherever large groups of excited people gather be the focus S/F, comics, cars, concerts, model airplanes, fuzzies, whatever; this is not just a geek culture phenomenon but it is certainly part of it. How could it not be? Geeks are people, people are sometimes dicks, hug, mallet or ignore them and move on. I expect people attending cons to be so excited they fizz and go on-and-on about just why their passion is the right passion or their path the right one (the ‘spillage’ I had in mind and sorry I wasn’t clear about it) and I find it mostly charming; heck, sometimes I even learn something don’t ya know. It’s in large part why I attend cons versus reading about it online.
Please understand that I DO NOT believe exuberance gives one a pass for being exclusionary or otherwise a dick (though I believe those who really are dicks wake up that way every morning and not just on show days). Where people cross the line and make me or others uncomfortable, I join in friendly debate, or I criticize/support or I relocate or I ask for help according to the level of the problem. What I don’t do is allow someone to control my experiences; guide, absolutely yes, hence my participation in this forum or at any of the group events I attend but they do not own my experience.
I suspect in writing this that my disconnect with the idea of a gatekeeper is a consumer level point of view. The paths given me in pursuing satisfaction are more varied than one would have, say, as a content producer, presenter, performer where one narrow-minded person or group saying yes/no could have a profound effect.
John – Thank you. I don’t know what sparked this. But as a woman and as an SF reader I am so glad you exist. When I like a writer, or a genre or really what ever, I proselytise where possible so that my authors (genre etc) can remain productive as long as possible. I don’t understand why you would claim to love something and not want to share it with everyone.
I must apologise that I haven’t read all the comments mostly because I don’t want to read those like Corey’s.
But I just wanted to appreciate your outspokenness on this.
(It would be lovely to be able to ‘like’ comments or recommend them etc. and to be able to reply to specific comments as well.. Is that something you would look at? And you can Mallet this as off the point because it is and once you’ve seen it it doesn’t need to be here)
Paragraph 1: I laughed *so hard*. Thank you!
Correction to the above: (Actually, line 3, which is somewhat below paragraph 1 is what I laughed at.) (Sorry.)
@N. Martin: no, it’s not just you.
@Ambivalent in Tokyo: no, your disconnect is in your energetic refusal to understand that “it doesn’t happen to me” is not the defining standard for everyone else’s experience and that “move on” is really a useless prescription for dealing with a pernicious, community-wide problem. And it’s a problem that harms the community, not just individuals who are not fortunate enough to have a “den mother” investing personal effort on your behalf.
Kat Goodwin: “It’s very hard not to try and shove what you value and don’t in geekdom down someone else’s throat.”
It’s not about shoving anything down anyone’s throat. It’s about being responsible for what you promote. Be aware of the pernicious aspects of what you like, don’t present singular fandoms as the be all end all. Balance the worst parts of good works with other good works that deal with those issues in a healthier manner. Everything has it’s failings, try to provide a spectrum of complimentary works to those who seek your aid.
As someone who is on a very low income (and has been for the past five years or so), but who still spends her meagre “entertainment” dollars (when she has them; usually after Christmas and birthdays) on geeky stuff, I say unto you, bravo!
To be honest, this economic argument makes a lot of sense. A lot of what I like is the more popular fandoms (LOTR, Final Fantasy VII, Avengers) because, surprise surprise, they’re both cheaper and a lot more accessible to me as a fan in a relatively isolated city (Perth, Western Australia) with a very low budget. I position my Avengers fandom within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because I can’t afford to chase up multiple decades of comic book canon. The DVDs are available in the supermarkets for about $25 about six months after the films hit the cinema screen, and my local supermarket is much more readily accessible than the nearest comic shop. I stopped collecting X-men comics when they stopped being readily accessible in newsagents back in the early 1990s, because the nearest comic shop to me at the time was in the city centre, and I really didn’t have the time to devote to travelling back and forth every month to find out whether there were any new comics in. I really don’t have the money to import unique collectibles for some of my other fandoms unless I suddenly win big in Lotto (and for that I have to meet the gods half-way and actually spend money on a ticket… which I’m reluctant to do). I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy since literally before I can remember (I really can’t remember what age I was when I first read the Narnia books; I suspect I was about six or so), and when I actually have the time and money, I visit the specialist science fiction and fantasy bookshops in my city (so, about once a year, these days). But in the meantime, I’ll grab whatever’s available from the big second-hand book distributors, and the chain bookstores, and the remainders trolleys at the newsagents, because that’s what I can access and that’s what I can afford.
The more “exclusive” something becomes, the less accessible it is. I play D&D online because that was available for free (and it is actually playable for free, although the experience is better if you purchase the paid content); the last D&D manuals I bought were back before 4th edition was released (and I decided not to buy 4th edition because the manuals here in WA cost something like $60 each, and I don’t have that kind of money to spend on a game I’m not actively playing). I buy very low end computer games (when I can afford to) because that way I can play them for longer on the system I own; and I’m still playing games I bought back in the 1990s because they still run on my current Win7 laptop without overstressing it – unlike the latest and greatest games (plus, of course, back in the 1990s, the developers hadn’t quite solidified everything into the current “FPS or nothing” stream which seems so popular – there was still a reasonable range of genres available, and some alternatives to Doom and Wolfenstein). I gave up on WoW when they introduced some updates which meant my then-laptop couldn’t handle the graphics (basically “high end graphics card or GTFO” seemed to be the attitude. I chose GTFO, and stopped giving Blizzard my money).
To be honest, economic gatekeeping is probably enough to keep me firmly on the outer when it comes to a lot of geekery. The other sort doesn’t even have a chance to hit.
GeekMelange – I think you have a point there about the use of social media to collaborate, or at least compare stories. I suspect this is part of what has driven the negative reaction to so many different types of bullying and privilege-asserting behaviours lately (misogyny, sexism, racism, gatekeeping of all sorts and at all levels of society). Basically, instead of thinking “oh, this just happened to me, I must be the weirdo” and slinking away to be ashamed of themselves in a corner, people are comparing notes, and finding what they might previously have thought was a unique event is actually a widespread pattern of behaviour, perpetrated by a loud (but small) minority of any group. The majority of geeky men don’t actually mind women participating in their geeky hobbies (quite a few actually enthusiastically welcome them) – the ones who do the gatekeeping are a minority, but they’re a vocal one, and they’re the ones who keep trying (as Greg points out) to show they’re better than someone else at something (anything). As Fadeaccompli points out, it’s a matter of volume – the smaller the group, the less likely you are to be faced with the truly obnoxious “gatekeeper” type; the larger the group, the more likely they are to show up.
So, what to do about it? Well, guys (blokes, fellows, men), this is where you can help. At present, these self-proclaimed gatekeepers are convincing themselves they speak for the majority when they voice their exclusionary opinions. So, if you see something, or hear something, say something – preferably to the guy attempting to gatekeep – and make it clear to him that he doesn’t speak for you. Faced with enough dissenting opinions from people apparently Just Like Them, the self-appointed gatekeepers may start to question whether their services are truly “appreciated” by the wider community. Which, in my opinion at least, would be a Good Thing.
I have lived in Boston for lo these many years and have often lauded it as the best place to be a geek. (Or “one of the best”). Because we have such a density of geekdom, and such a wide range of it, that you can actually kick out members of the tribe who are behaving badly. Guy in your gaming group start espousing sexist asshattery? Out he goes! And there is always another gamer to take his place.
I grew up in a small suburban town where there were five gamers and if I wanted to game, I had to put up with the fact that the major thing the guys did, when they weren’t “on stage”, was try to throw dice down my bra. Never mind the in-game harassment or the fact that all five of the guys wanted to date me or… or…. or…
I much prefer a wider geek pool from which to draw members and that’s why I LURVE LURVE the “geek explosion.” Yay! More choice = fewer asshats! Less an issue for me, because I live in Boston, but I think about the 13 year old girls out there who now can game without getting dice down their goddamned bras and I do a little dance.
And as for Tammy Pierce, c’mon, it’s obvious that **TRIS** is the best heroine. Girl causes earthquakes and lightning storms! Kel is awesome but Tris *stopped the tides.* (Winks, ducks, and runs for cover.)
Here is my one question test for Geek Gatekeeping:
“Can you dig it?”
If the answer is yes, come on in, you’re welcome here. If the answer is no, come on in, you’re welcome here. Don’t mind the debris on the floor because I blew the gate up. :)
@mikebrendan – EXACTLY!
I try to be an enabler rather than a limiter. “You like x?! Have you tried Y?! NO? C’mon!”
Sometimes I wonder why people think High School Cliques should continue past graduation. You’re DAMAGED if you still think that way as an adult.
Not sure which character that is–is she from the Tortall books? Because I have, unfortunately, only read those.
Points in Kel’s favor: Her villainous nemeses are realistic, chilling, and the best-written of all Tamora Pierce villains. Kel is totally kickass despite being an unpowered human, and she works her ass off to be better than the idiot males around her so that the idiot conservatives of the country will finally accept her being a knight. Plus, she pwned two full knights as a what, second-year squire? The bit where she pwned Ansil of Groten was just glorious.
Points in favor of, say, Allana the Lioness: She fought a god, or at least a god-like being. She killed an epic sorcerer as a fresh knight who refused to use her powers. She’s short, yet she still kicks ass. Of course, she has epic magic powers to back her up, which is kind of a mitigating factor, and her villains are a little overdone. (Roger and his insane plans, anyone?) Most of Tamora Pierce’s characters are this way, with some epic destiny and seriously otherworldly or unrealistic villains or allies. Kel, and to a lesser extent Beka Cooper, is grounded and realistic, with villains and allies that one can picture actually existing.
Kel is the best because she is kickass and kills a psychopathic, child-killing mage despite having no powers. It’s easy to be a hero if you have leet magic abilities, but less so if every hit point you have, you earned the hard way. Plus, her various animal hangers-on are cute–I cry every time a sparrow dies, every time I read the books.
Ahhhh okay I can no longer resist.
My absolute favorite Pierce protagonist is Beka because she’s a commoner and she works as a police officer. Almost all of Pierce’s protagonists end up being very “noble-like,” which is fine, but Beka is different enough that she’s interesting. (For example, she doesn’t talk like a noble for the most part. Not that talking like a noble is a bad thing, but Beka’s difference makes her unique and interesting.) I also happen to absolutely love a good police procedural novel, and Beka Cooper’s story is basically that set in a fantasy world. Also, I absolutely love Beka’s clear sense of right and wrong, especially when she’s talking/thinking about the right way to do her job. Even though she spent her formative years in a slum, she exudes moral authority, and the contrast between her and most of the other characters in her environment is awesome.
I will concede that Kel is a boss.
Sadly, I also haven’t read anything but the Tortall books. I’m working my way through Pierce’s entire catalog, but I’m also in college, work full-time, have a three-year-old, and am seven months pregnant. I’m hoping to grab some more of her books for reading material while I’m recovering postpartum. I’ll at least have some time to read while I’m nursing. :)
@ megpie71 – “So, what to do about it? Well, guys (blokes, fellows, men), this is where you can help. At present, these self-proclaimed gatekeepers are convincing themselves they speak for the majority when they voice their exclusionary opinions. So, if you see something, or hear something, say something – preferably to the guy attempting to gatekeep – and make it clear to him that he doesn’t speak for you.”
YES YES THIS!! We didn’t get around to making that point or discussing the need for allies to speak up (because women simply can’t fight back against this problem alone, nor should we be fighting this alone) at the last panel and I’m going to be sure to bring this up on Sunday.
It’s really good to see pieces like John’s and this one by Peter Woodworth (http://peterwoodworth.com/2013/07/29/table-manners-guys-we-need-to-talk/), talking about how women getting the lion’s share of “prove you’re a geek!” is a problem and how men nerds can be supportive, speak up and address this issue as well. And bonus points for doing it in a way that doesn’t presume to speak for women or make themselves an authority on women’s experiences. Because as much as I hate to admit it, there are definitely portions of the “Well, I get there’s a problem, but what can I do (except feel guilty)?” and “I don’t see how this is a serious problem” nerds who just won’t listen or take what *women* say about this seriously enough but will listen if other men nerds say, “Yes, it IS a problem and here’s why and what you can do.”
Ah, heck…I wound up posting this comment on the wrong thread first time…it really belongs here but I don’t believe I can delete it over on the other thread…
I think some (not all by any stretch) of this stuff comes from the roots of nerd/geek culture. Mostly socially awkward young guys. Most of them learned that their one ‘power’ was that they were smart and could digest and cough up reams of facts better than most. I remember the ritual back when I was in college where two of these critters would meet (and at time I was one of them) and the trivia/facts/analysis smack-down would ensue. Sometimes they’d finish up as friends, sometimes they’d wind up walking away angry and upset. Generally back then it was relatively symmetrical. I think with the base of things nerdy broadening this has become a much more problematic interaction. Instead of a hard-core SF reader going toe to toe with a hard core fantasy reader about whose favorite character is best/more powerful/shiniest you get a twenty year deep immersion nerd who still hasn’t found the social graces starting in on someone who just went to their first con out of curiosity and neither wants to engage in that sort of contest nor understands the roots of the interaction. I think many of us have grow older and grown up/mellowed and help to dilute this a bit, but I would expect that there are still plenty of thirty somethings who haven’t gotten there yet and whether they’re really trying to play gatekeeper wind up coming across as combative and scary…
Added to the list of Whatever posts that have become standard responses to A Certain Type of Person.
@ Kat: Beka’s awesome, but I have to say that her books are a little too dark for me. Also, Tunstall’s betrayal in book 3 is a little forced and ruined the book for me. I SO wanted him to have a happy ending.
I have to say that I really like Pierce’s portrayal of romance, especially in Protector of the Small. It was hilarious when Raoul went out with Buri to avoid getting married, and ended up (a) sleeping with her that night and (b) marrying her in the next book. He can run, but he can’t hide from his perfect romantic match! (And they are perfect matches–the fact that he’s huge, a little clumsy and badass, and she’s small, dexterous, and kickass, plus their shared love of sleeping in tents and hatred of pomp and comfort–damn it, they’re so cute when they’re together!)
Kyle Wilson: “the roots of nerd/geek culture. Mostly socially awkward young guys.” Who were apparently, even then, either cluelessly or willfully ignoring the fact that PLENTY of nerds and geeks were female. Just read the comments above. So these socially awkward young guys engaged in a DSW they could win, to make themselves feel powerful–yes, that’s a human impulse. But it was a DSW all the same, a contest between males.
“Generally back then it was relatively symmetrical.” Tell that to the women who were, back then, the girl geeks you were apparently oblivious to. Even now, you’re framing it as a socially awkward male geek versus a newbie, gender unspecified. Apparently, you’re thinking this happens to male and female con-newbies alike. If you have read the rest of the comments, you should be aware that this isn’t the dynamic being discussed.
@BW When I was young enough to be part of that crowd, the folks I ran with didn’t have many/any females in the group. Perhaps we did scare them off, perhaps we just didn’t know how to make them feel welcome. When I was in my teens, I was rather oblivious to how to interact with the women around me, more’s the pity. I’ve grown up since then. I am framing this as at least partly a gender neutral issue. I’d strongly suspect that there are plenty of newly minted male nerds who are turned off on the scene by running into someone who wants to play dominance trivia games with them. It isn’t pretty when someone wields their knowledge as a club in order to make themselves feel more powerful or in control of the situation, but I’m pretty sure that it isn’t gender specific all of the time. For those folks, I would council patience, education and guidance. They’re not in the class of the sexual harassment creepers that have been discussed here previously. They’re immature and insecure and acting out to try to show that they’re worthy. Sometimes this spills over onto those who are just there to have a fun time. Intervention is always appropriate in such cases, but I’d be aware of it with regard to both genders.
@ Ambivalent in Tokyo – I’m really not that scary, I swear! I’m a perfectly cromulent person! Well, you know, unless I get subjected to any of the gatekeeping or see it happening – because while I didn’t speak up about it when I was younger, I am now older and crankier and thus more willing to pull out Ripley’s duct-taped flamethrower/grenade launching rifle when necessary. I think mythago’s reply to your statement about why you might be disconnected from this says pretty much everything I would have said, so I’ll just leave it with this: 1) I hope you give more thought as to why it might be that you’re simply not seeing this happen; and 2) please think more on mythago’s point about why saying “just move on” is dismissive and not helpful (hint: it sounds A LOT like what women are told about how they should “just deal” with things like street harassment).
@ Kristen Grace – “Maybe I’m just too chill to let jerks bother me or I don’t provoke it but everywhere I’ve gone and shown any interest in a new geeky thing I’ve always had plenty of folks offer to show me the ropes and sate my new curiosity.”
I just need to point out that there is NO justification, ever, for anyone bullying or harassing you or anyone else. That sort of behavior is NOT “provoked”, by you or anyone else – being called a “fake geek (girl)”, being subjected to gatekeeping crap, is NOT the fault of the person being targeted. Nobody provokes this stupidity or brings it on themselves. The only “provocation” the racist/sexist/homophobic dipshits need to be dipshits to you is the fact that you are there and they don’t want you to be even though you have every right to share in that space, that fandom, that identity as a geek and/or nerd.
@Kyle Wilson: “…the roots of nerd/geek culture. Mostly socially awkward young guys… Generally back then it was relatively symmetrical.” *HEAD DESK* Nerds who are not straight white cisgender dudes are NOT freaking unicorns whose existence has just been discovered. We’ve been here the whole time. We’ve been marginalized and relatively silenced *until now* (which should tell you that no, the gatekeeping being aimed at geeks has NOT been “symmetrical” at all) – which is why this ridiculous myth that nerd/geek culture was mostly comprised of straight white cisgender dudes “back then” keeps getting trotted out as if it’s perfectly natural for them to be reacting with hostility to these new interlopers.
I can give some insight to this for me as far as restaurants are concerned (since they have been brought up). I have mild social anxiety, and it is sometimes downright uncomfortable for me to be in loud, crowded restaurants. One local restaurant was mistaken by my friends for “my favorite” because I went there a lot. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was good, and most of the time my favorite was packed and this restaurant was empty, so I’d go there, simply because the popularity of my favorite would effectively drive me away.
Admittedly, that this good restaurant was seemingly always empty was a concern of mine for several years. Eventually, it did close, and was replaced with a more expensive restaurant less suitable to my (vegetarian) needs, so I’ve moved on to another restaurant of lesser popularity.
Fortunately, books, comics, games, etc are much less likely to trigger social anxiety, so the fact that a geeky thing is popular isn’t in and of itself a sufficient condition to drive me away. (Popular geeky cons, on the other hand, may be an issue.) And I certainly don’t feel the need to drive others away from good things.
(As far as gatekeeping out women, I grew up around a lot of geeky SF/F loving women, including my own mother. In my 42 years, it would never have occurred to me that women are fake geeks.)
@GeekMelange Not suggesting that active aggression is ever acceptable. Suggesting that some of the (at least thirty years ago when I was in engineering school) overly aggressive questioning behavior isn’t intended as exclusionary. There are jerks out there and anyone who says that you’re not enough of a nerd to make the cut is just plain out of line. Someone who decides to question the authenticity of your cosplay or get into a heated discussion of whether your opinions on a given topic are correct can also be taken as telling you you’re not good enough. In my experience, a chunk of those folks (perhaps the majority) aren’t trying to smack you down, they’re playing ‘I know things about this stuff too’ in an often overly aggressive way. This CAN drive people off (male or female, mainstream or other) and is a problem, but it is different from someone trying to exclude people. When I was in high school it would have been great to have a wider group of folks in the nerdy kids circle. I suspect that half of the problem was that we didn’t know how to engage others who would have been great to connect with and that our actions likely rebuffed some approaches that were made. I wish that I had learned the self confidence necessary to listen to what others had to say and accept that not every difference of opinion has to turn into a heated discussion back then…all concerned would likely have had a better time of things. It took until well into my college years before I got there. It changed my world, made me a better person and I’ve now been married to someone who also loves fantastic fiction for the last 23 years. Not all of the folks who scare people off are trying to. Not sure how to tell the difference (though as I said, anyone who explicitly says they are can be taken at their word) but in my opinion the difference is important…
I am also becoming frustrated with the type of people whose reaction to these topics is “I’ve never seen this kinda of thing happen. Therefore it doesn’t happen. Therefore you are all oversensitive, whiny softcocks.” It’s one thing to be unaware or only vaguely of this unsavoury aspect of the geek world (as I was before I started reading this blog and others). It’s quite another to extrapolate My Experience = The Only Experience = Everyone’s Experience (paraphrasing Kat there).
I particularly struggle with this at the moment because the worst examples I encounter (FTF anyway) are some of my closest friends. I hang out with a varied (in personality and location) group of mostly white, mostly male, mostly straight geeks. Without a doubt they are all amazing, intelligent, emotionally-balanced (more or less) humans who have no problems seeing women as equals and whose opinions I greatly respect. And yet there are a couple I now regularly get into arguments with, since I came to the conclusion that feminism is neither a dirty word nor outdated, because their view is that the institutions and issues I rail against do not exisit or no longer exist. Which is correct only within the group itself! It’s so much easier when you can just can call out a clear RSHD and walk away, secure in the knowledge you’re not missing anything worthwhile. Sigh.
John – I’m starting to lose count of how many sleep-hours have disappeared into this time-vortex you call a blog…
Also – when it comes to Tamora Pierce, Alanna will always be my favourite although I have a soft spot for Kel too.
And GeekMelange I want to steal “Nerds who are not straight white cisgender dudes are NOT freaking unicorns whose existence has just been discovered.” :)
and to MoggyBreath and GeekMelange I know that “Nerds who are not straight white cisgender dudes are NOT freaking unicorns whose existence has just been discovered.” and suspect that there may have been plenty of people that I’d love to have met who I/we failed to make welcome back in my younger days.
I suspect I’m not the only person around who regrets only becoming reasonably civilized towards the end of my education (when my circle of frequent contacts contracted substantially due to work and family obligations). I am suggesting that we distinguish between folks who are clueless (and can be helped) and those who are malicious (and should be dealt with). I lost a few male friends back in the day due to overly aggressive nerdisms…I have no idea how many others potential friends steered clear before I realized they were around.
@John: to be fair to you, I think you taught yourself some HTML. For an english major that is pretty impressive. Yes its a backhanded compliment. You code HTML better than I can write a novel. Now if you start blogging about how you built yourself an application to manage your writing, I will be in awe of you.
I was trying to point out that most of the ‘gatekeepers’ are knuckleheads. I know plenty of women with far more marketable geek skills that they have. They would probably be intimidated by female coders since many of them earn 6 figure salaries. While your gatekeepers probably don’t have much else in they’re lives. I find it laughable when guys who don’t have any marketable, geek skills, can look down their noses at people.
per John’s request, I’m dropping the coding stuff. I should have been clearer in where I was going with this.
@ moggybreath – please feel free! Mackenzie is letting me use the awesome phrase they came up with earlier up thread, so consider this passing it forward. :)
I also now want to screen a T-shirt that says: “I’m a geek. I’m a woman. I am NOT a freaking unicorn.” But until then, I’ll just settle for wearing my Doubleclicks “There are no fake geeks, only real jerks” T-shirt to my panel at Chicago Comic Con. bwahahaha!
@ Kyle Wilson: “In my experience, a chunk of those folks (perhaps the majority) aren’t trying to smack you down, they’re playing ‘I know things about this stuff too’ in an often overly aggressive way. This CAN drive people off (male or female, mainstream or other) and is a problem, but it is different from someone trying to exclude people.”
There’s a saying that “Intent isn’t magic” and I think that applies here. Even if those overly aggressive “prove it!” types are just “playing” and don’t mean to be exclusionary, their behavior is still functionally exclusionary as that’s EXACTLY the kind of behavior that’s caused the “fake geek girl” crap & gatekeeping applied to anyone not a straight white cisgender dude resulting in people feeling like they’re being excluded. And yes, there is a big difference in how it is applied to women rather than men thanks to the pre-existing perception that women’s “validity” as geeks is naturally more suspect than men’s because of the whole “geek/nerd” defaulting to “men” to the point where we say “geeks and girl geeks” instead of JUST geeks, both men & women. Bottom line, no one should HAVE to prove anything about their cred, what they know or their enthusiasm in order to participate in geek spaces. What might look like “overly aggressive playing” to you, feels damn well like “smacking down meant to exclude” to others – in fact, that’s EXACTLY what it’s felt like when it’s done to me, even though I *understand* that someone’s just being an overly aggressive dick, so please don’t tell me that I don’t know what’s going on or that I don’t understand what the dynamic is.
@GeekMelange I never intended to tell you what you know or don’t know. I was trying to talk to my experience and the range of causes fr the problem. I’ll not complain if you (or anyone else) pushes back hard on anyone who hassles you. If they’re just clueless it may even help them learn to be better behaved in the future. Your ‘validity’ in any domain is what you make of it. Folks who are insecure themselves and trying too hard to assert their own ‘cred’ are likely some of the worst inadvertent offenders. Dealing with them in a way that pulls them into civilized society will make us all better. Taking every insecure youngster that compensates by shoving his or her own legitimacy down everyone else’s throats into the outer darkness won’t help.
Kyle Wilson: “For those folks, I would council patience, education and guidance.”
Kyle, this is the message women have been given for so long that it shouldn’t be surprising when we reject it (not to mention possibly reacting with fury). Don’t tell women that they should be patient and allow themselves to be bullied for a little longer until they can educate and guide their bulliers to better social skills. Just don’t. It’s putting the feelings and needs of the bulliers above those of the bullied. And it’s not the responsibility of the women who are being bullied *because they are women* (again: read read read the comments and links to women’s experiences) to do anything to help the poor menz who haven’t learned social skills.
Trying to reframe this as gender-neutral seems to be more comfortable for you, because it lets you fit this issue into a paradigm you can understand and explain. What would happen if you tried to think about this as a problem women have faced for a very long time, even while you were blissfully unaware of shutting them out back when you were a young geek? What if you opened yourself to the possibility that there’s this whole world of experience women have been testifying to in these comments, similar comment threads, and their own blogs that you are just as oblivious to as you were to those female geeks back then? Then instead of explaining to them why they are interpreting the behavior wrong and they should take pity on the socially inept, maybe accept that they know more about being harassed for their gender than you do and not dismiss their concerns or try to make them gender neutral when the culture in which these things are happening is not gender neutral.
@BW Ok…I give. Outside my experience and I can’t comment. May very well have been guilty many years ago of excluding without understanding. Can’t fix what one is not aware of.
Push back, lash out, exclude as you see fit (certainly is your right). Taking pissy teens and twenty somethings and kicking them out of cons and fandom because they’re not playing nice and don’t get it doesn’t seem like it will help the situation. Having someone take them aside and tell them in no uncertain terms that they’re being an ass and need to chill seems like a better idea to me, but I’m playing in easy mode so…
@ BW – damn. You beat me to it and said it all beautifully. Please accept these internet cookies (with the option for bacon & chocolate).
@ Kyle Wilson – I understand your intention is to be helpful and that you don’t like this exclusionary bullshit at all. That’s not the problem I’ve had with what you’ve been saying. But nothing you are suggesting – that “it’s just overly aggressive play, it’s not meant to be exclusionary” and “I would council patience, education and guidance” is actually helpful for exactly the reasons BW has outlined. Women (and other marginalized groups subjected to this crap) understand that in many cases it’s not *meant* to be exclusionary – and it doesn’t matter because that’s what that behavior ends up doing. When it’s what you experience time after time after time when all you want to do is get your geek on and have fun, and when you try to explain how it’s causing you to NOT have fun and how much it HURTS, but are told “Well, if you’d just be more patient and try educating these people” (because clearly they’re not going to learn unless we kindly take them by the hand and “show them the way” which shouldn’t be a trying, frustrating, time-consuming experience at all /sarcasm) – well, “wearying” and “discouraging” are understatements for what it feels like.
I am tired of being told that if I “just understood where this was coming from” I’d be able to deal with it “better,” and by the way, I should try this and this and this, as if I haven’t tried ALL those things and understood “where it was coming from” at all even though I’ve experienced this and had to deal with it in one form or another for 35 years.
It will help the situation if it keeps the cons from being a venue for that kind of behavior. If a person’s behavior is egregious enough that they get kicked out, then hell yes, they should be gone.
I haven’t seen con rules that preclude people from having interactions with people they don’t know, so I don’t think you can get kicked out for simply talking to a stranger. But if the interactions become such that a participant or witness complains to con staff, who investigate and find that ejection is warranted, why *wouldn’t* it be a good idea to have the person leave? I don’t think ejection is required in the case of complaints. If you find that a con’s rules are too stringent, complain to the con organizers.
So maybe a wee bit of false choice fallacy in your scenario?
Thanks so much for this post. Growing up being the only fantasy reading girl among my friends, and then going online to encounter a lot of gatekeeping bullshit, I internalised the fake geek girl. I thought that because I didn’t know every fantasy and sci-fi book in the world, I wasn’t allowed to call myself a geek. I thought that because I only watched the Star Wars movies and didn’t know much about the extended universe, I was a big fat poser. I’ve been reading graphic novels for a while, but never read a Marvel or DC one until recently, because I was afraid that if I would tell anyone I read a Batwoman comic, I would be bombarded with questions assessing my geekdom, and branding me a attention-seeking wannabe because I wouldn’t know the extended history of every member of the Batfamily (and that’s ignoring for a moment that being from Belgium, living three hours away from the nearest comic book shop and not having a credit card/a lot of money during my teenage years inherently excluded me from a lot of geek culture).
Back to my point before a sappy soundtrack starts playing: thanks for writing about this. If I could have read a post like this when I was 15 years old, it would have saved me a lot of headaches and anxiousness.
@kyle before continuing this discussion you might want to go read a couple links which might help you understand why the tone of the women responding to you is getting more and more hostile. You are unfortunately coming off as mansplaining
Women when faced with a man explaining to us how to continue to calmly deal with jerks as we’ve done… Well in my case for 46 years without seeing much change in the rape/abuse/treating us as objects culture gets a bit frustrating.
The above links are posted for your benefit. To help you in having rational conversations with women about topics related to women and our experiences.
Oh and the jerks quizzing girls: not necessarily a youngster just as likely to be a guy my own age or older.
“I am tired of being told that if I “just understood where this was coming from” I’d be able to deal with it “better,” and by the way, I should try this and this and this, as if I haven’t tried ALL those things and understood “where it was coming from” at all even though I’ve experienced this and had to deal with it in one form or another for 35 years.”
40 years plus of dealing with it here. And I am also not a unicorn. Although I will confess to having let the crap drive me out of many geek spaces. Its exciting to me to see more and more people starting to stand up and say no I won’t leave, you are just going to have to learn to deal.
@Kyle Wilson. If you want to take young geek guys aside and try to educate them into better manners you are entirely at liberty to do so, and it may even help. Go for it. They may listen better to you. Or not.
At the same time there might be some very interesting things to be learned from continuing to talk and listen with all the women who are saying to you, hey we were here all along. How were we here all along but you didn’t see us? How does that work? Learning more about that would be at least as useful in making geekdom a more inclusive place.
@Floored: Ah, I see. I actually did like the darkness of Beka’s story and Tunstall’s betrayal worked for me. I can see how it wouldn’t work for some readers, especially in the context of Pierce’s other work, which is much more lighthearted than Beka’s trilogy.
You definitely aren’t the only one who squee’d at Raoul x Buri though. :D
@Kyle: “Just be patient and educate” tends to cause the berserk response in women because a lot of us do spend a lot of time being patient and educating, but there are a lot of people who need educating and some of them are rather rude about it. I tend to triage my efforts towards educating people who are make a baseline effort to be decent when they have something they need education on.
Yes it would be better if we all had endless stores of patience and wisdom for dealing with people who are rude and belligerent, but we don’t. (Sorry)
Also, I think you underestimate the amount of time can be sucked away by arguing with people who don’t really care to change or be educated. If I argued with every person who stopped me and interrogated me about my credentials, I would spend my entire time in discussion. If I stop and educate, I lose that time, which I could have spent doing things like attending panels, having fun with friends, etc. This is, in effect, a punishment imposed on me–because I am a woman in a geek space, I am stopped and questioned about my right to be there, and if I decide to try to explain why it is wrong to stop me, I lose my time.
I would argue that I am not morally obligated to help someone who is “misguided.” If I decide to spend my time helping them, that’s good! Well done me! And I can get where you would get from that “this is the right thing to do.” It’s certainly a nice thing to do. I gave up my time to try to improve this person’s life, and that makes me a better person than I would have been if I hadn’t given up my time.
What I absolutely hate hate hate is when someone takes this to the extreme and says, “Well, if you don’t help them, you’re just excluding people and being hostile/contributing to the problem/not helping.” Saying something like that imparts a sense of moral judgement against me–the wronged party–for protecting my boundaries and my time. It’s saying, “It it wrong for you to make sure that you have time to enjoy yourself. You must instead be the educator because it is the right thing to do–no matter the consequences to you.”
People who gatekeep are the ones who are doing bad things, and if them doing bad things causes them some pain then maybe they’ll learn next time. In any case, it’s not my job as the wronged party to suffer the punishment of not being able to enjoy myself so that someone like you can feel like I’m doing the right thing. If education is paramount to you, then it’s fine if you devote yourself to education, but please don’t exert social pressure on marginalized people to adopt the same set of priorities as you.
@Kyle Wilson — I don’t expect to have to educate anyone over the age of five on how to treat others with respect. I don’t buy the excuse of ignorance coming from an adult. Playing well with others gets covered in kindergarten and elementary school, even if one’s parents failed at home training. The education you’re suggesting women give gatekeepers should rightly have been done years before, and not by us.
I will also add that someone getting ostracized for bad behavior does not necessarily mean that they get stopped in their personal growth.
Back in 2008 there was this thing called the Open Source Boob Project which caused quite a stir. Scalzi will probably remember this, he weighed in for it and I think that his view was ultimately the correct one. Anyway, for those of you who didn’t hear about this, I recommend not googling unless you feel like you’ve got some spare time for some ire. Long story short, some geeks did some things at a con which lots of people jumped all over them for. Again, google at your own risk. Really.
His blog post got 1300 comments and nearly all of them were angry. I wondered what happened to theferrett after that. Did he become entrenched and bitter? Did he continue to bemoan the incident years later? Some of those comments were pretty bad and went over some lines that I think were wrong to cross. So, I wondered, and I searched.
It turns out that he wrote this last year: http://www.theferrett.com/ferrettworks/2012/08/can-i-buy-you-a-coffee/ I would argue that from that post, it would seem he that took some time to think and came to a different conclusion. He talks about how women don’t like to be hit on and harassed extremely cogently. The fact that he was yelled at in 2008 for hitting on women did not cause him to fall into an endless cycle of unhappiness and anger at evil feminists.
Good for him. I can honestly say that I find him to be someone I would trust to really think about issues that are brought to his attention. I’m glad to have him as an ally, even after the OBSP debacle, which I was extremely discouraged by. So, thank you, theferrett!
(Yes, I did double-check, and he is the same person. Here’s proof: http://theferrett.livejournal.com/1839357.html)
So, clearly not all people are turned away from growth when they encounter anger. I’m sure we can argue back and forth about how many people are turned away vs. how many people aren’t, but it’s clearly not all.
I had a gym teacher in High School who was what I’d consider a Saint on earth. When a particularly obnoxious boy kept teasing one of the girls in class who was very, very well endowed about her “huge cow boobs” while we were doing track and field…he took him aside… and I overheard him saying… “Say stuff to women like that now… and you’re going to guarantee that you ain’t never gonna see a pair of those up close and in person…with a real live woman attached.”
Coach Olson… my hero.
Makes you wish that sort of stupidity was genetic… because eventually it would be self-limiting. No?
@All I understand that I haven’t walked a mile in your shoes. I also understand that many are tired of dealing with the crap that is going on out there.
I agree with very harsh treatment for folks over 25 or 30 (by which time anyone who’s going to learn should have learned) who’re messing with people this way. I’ll accept that this is mostly going to be man hassling women, but the policy should be gender neutral to deal with all cases.
I believe that using harsh measures (ejection from a con, banning from sites and such) on younger folks who haven’t actively demonstrated that they get what they’re doing is just going to either maintain the problem (as they’ll likely become one of those 30 somethings who are a settled problem). If we don’t (as a group) give a mild kick to these kids (and these days under 25 seems like it qualifies) then the problem will go on. If the culture is going to change we need to be active in trying to change it (and this falls more heavily on men who get it than on women who are the targets as they’re the ones most likely to have the leverage to collar the unaware and try to straighten them out).
For any individual, it is your right to tell anyone who’s annoying you to leave you alone and go away. If you’re upset that they’re being an ass then feel free to shame them by letting your friends and acquaintances know what a dick they are. If you’re one of their friends I’d certainly encourage you to haul them aside and tell them what an ass they’ve just been.
oh, and yeah I do see myself at 15 as being quite capable of having been the sort to tell someone in great detail why their Star Trek uniform was wrong or how their interpretation of the tech form Ringworld was messed up. Personally I don’t think I personally would have dealt any differently with a man than with a woman, but from here at 48 years of age I cringe for my younger self. Part of why I’ve tried to express myself here…I see plenty of unrepentant assholes out there, but suspect there are plenty of young Kyles around as well. From a personal perspective I’d rather that some guy pull them aside and help them learn than that con security gets called and boots them out of the building…
Wow, that’s a lot of words being put in my mouth. No, I’m not denying that female geeks existed before it became paradoxically cool to be a geek. I’m also not “erasing” anyone. If I actually had that capability, geek girls would be the last place I’d be breaking out the art gum (but Congress would look different). I was just offering a theory of what may be going on in the mind of a gatekeeper because it could be useful in helping to nudge them toward a more mature attitude.
I certainly wasn’t commenting in a way that could have applied to every possible situation. That said, it was my experience that geekdom in the 80’s and 90’s, was composed of significantly more men than women. I suspect others may have noted the same. I commented based on what I suspected would apply in the majority of cases, namely, that gatekeepers were males who may have suffered some sort of bullying, leading to their wildly inappropriate behavior. I still don’t think I’m making huge leaps here.
While I think my post is representative of the majority of instances, I agree that it would have been better not to be gender specific in indicating a gatekeeper and perceived bully/target of gatekeeping. Yes, gatekeepers (both male or female) could absolutely react the same way toward males who seem to be outside the gatekeeper’s perceived “norms” of geekdom.
@kyle When it comes to harassment the policies are gender neutral or are becoming gender neutral.
But the rest of the stuff we are talking about is not gender/race neutral for a reason. It’s because this crap rarely happens to white cis males.
Please take some time to read the links I gave you. To read more of this blog. To learn more about the problem. We’ve heard your argument our entire lives. What we are doing is trying to find real solutions as the past “try to educate” “just let it slide” “toughen up” has failed us.
We want to be able to have fun. We want to be treated as equal human beings. We don’t want to keep having this same discussion over and over and over again. It may be new to you but I’ve been having it with guys since I was 5… I was a bit of a brat and old for my age.
@Kyle: We all agree that it would be a better outcome if a guy pulled another guy aside and warned him that gatekeeping behavior would get him ostracized and/or thrown out. What happens if no such guy is available, though? Before policies that ejected people who behaved that way, the victim of that behavior was required to defend herself and had no allies to help her.
What you seem to be arguing is that we should go back to the time where women are harassed/stopped and interrogated and the people doing the harassing are able to continue with their behavior essentially unchecked because they didn’t mean to harass and they’ll grow out of it in a decade or so. Now I realize that objectively you are probably not arguing for that, but are reacting to the possibility that someone like younger you could have been kicked out of geek space and you don’t like that thought.
However, allowing men to harass with impunity has the same effect as kicking women out of geek space: why should we want to go somewhere where all of our time is taken up arguing with people we have no recourse against over and over again? So is it better that women who didn’t do anything wrong should be kicked out of geek space, or that men who harass women should be kicked out of geek space? I’m glad you grew out of it, but I’d rather stick up for the woman who isn’t bothering anyone because she didn’t do anything wrong in the first place.
I hope that explains where I’m coming from.
I guess I’m not clear on what the proposed policies would be then. Real solution past ‘educate’ suggests some sort of formal policy to sanction anyone who transgresses. I’ve noted that I’m personally on board with major sanctions against folks who overtly tell others that they’re not worthy in so many words, adults who should know better in general (somewhere around 25 strikes me as reasonable) and anyone who won’t go away when they’re told the conversation is over.
This leaves younger people who are upsetting folks by telling them that their ideas or appearance aren’t ‘good enough’. This can be really obnoxious, no question.
Since I’ve suggested various versions of ‘take him aside and give him a talk’ and ‘name and shame as an ass’, I’m still not sure what you’re suggesting is necessary. I could certainly go for having guys (since this appears to be a men problem primarily) who are designated as a sort of adult supervision and to whom problems can be referred for the ‘collar and talk’ part. This would also help to tag those who can’t learn from their first offense and allow for escalation.
@ literallyneil – “That said, it was my experience that geekdom in the 80′s and 90′s, was composed of significantly more men than women. I suspect others may have noted the same. I commented based on what I suspected would apply in the majority of cases, namely, that gatekeepers were males who may have suffered some sort of bullying, leading to their wildly inappropriate behavior. I still don’t think I’m making huge leaps here.”
That may be your experience, but considering the VAST number of women who have been speaking up about being geeks “back in the day”, still making the leaps that gatekeepers are men (not all men are male btw) who suffered some sort of bullying as a cause for their behavior seems… ill-advised. Just because *YOU* didn’t see them, doesn’t mean they weren’t there – and frankly, there are a lot of good reasons why those girls and women back in the day who were geeks probably didn’t want to make themselves all that visible in the first place.
Also, listen to the number of women who mention that they were bullied as geeks and nerds, too. Girl geeks didn’t have a “get out of jail free” card for that crap and by continuing to push the narrative that a lot of these gatekeeper geeks were men “who may have suffered some sort of bullying” you *are* erasing the experience of women who were bullied as geeks, too.
And not ALL geeks were bullied growing up, as deeply embedded in the geek culture narrative that experience is. Not everyone who was bullied grows up to BE a bully, and not being bullied doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be a dipshit bully to others.
I’ll let you in on a little secret – those gatekeeper bullies in geek culture? A lot of them are men, but they’re not ALL men, women do that shit, too (and I’ve been on the receiving end of it). Know why it’s still sexist even if the gatekeeping isn’t limited to just one gender? 1) The gatekeeping due to gender issue is almost entirely directed at *women* (and again, plenty of evidence demonstrating this actually happens MOSTLY to women); 2) the women doing this gatekeeping are utilizing the same sexist language and behavior of the men gatekeeping: “She’s too pretty to be a real geek,” “At least I’m not GIRLY like those other geek girls, I’m better cuz like one of the boys” “I’m not like those whiny women complaining about being harassed, I’m tough, I can take it.” Be around internalized misogyny long enough and you’ll start to recognize it, especially if you were saying the same things yourself, once.
@kyle Scalzi suggest in the post itself people just not do “gate keeping”. I’m more than happy to ask someone “who appointed them “gatekeeper””. I rarely attend cons where I’m not either a volunteer or friends with the current or past con-head/many of the con committee members so I know who to go to if there is a problem… I might be the one of the people grabbed.
What is being said is that guys need to step up when they see this behavior among their friends or directed at their friends. We need to feel safe when we do speak up.
What is being said is women don’t need men telling us to teach men how to behave appropriately. That was someone else’s job (parents/teachers/coaches/community leaders/church leaders) when they were growing up.
We appear to be wandering into a general discussion of harassment issues, which is beyond the scope of this particular comment thread. Let’s reel it in, please.
@Kyle: Your concern seems to lie with the perception that someone doing this will just get kicked out of a con immediately. Actually, from what I’ve heard from con security professionals, what happens instead is exactly what you’re describing: that person gets pulled off to the side, spoken with, given advice and guidelines, and maybe told to avoid the person in the future. It’s only when behavior is egregious that someone is immediately booted out and banned.
(reels it in)
@Kyle Wilson: I think the disconnect is in the “Take him aside and give him the talk” part of your suggestion, also designating adult supervision to address the problem. The post this comment thread sprouted from IS the talk, as are the examples given throughout the comments. Also, regarding that adult supervision, you are familiar with the Mallet of Loving Correction, aren’t you?
Saying the obnoxious teen you’re positing is entitled to having his poor behavior explained, rather than figuring it out by enduring negative consequences when he fails comes off as advocating in favor of his entitlement.
“That said, it was my experience that geekdom in the 80′s and 90′s, was composed of significantly more men than women. I suspect others may have noted the same.”
@literallyneil. I understand that was your experience. Do you understand that the reason you had the experience of there being significantly more men than women in the geekspaces you hung out in during 80’s and 90’s is that women were being excluded? Not that we weren’t interested in the content, that we were being silenced and/or pushed out into other spaces where you didn’t meet or see us. We aren’t new. This isn’t something women have just started to take an interest in.
@ Kyle – There was a piece on Captain Awkward’s blog the other day, ostensibly about how to deal with mansplaining (and I want to make clear that I am not linking to this entry because several people here have indicated that they feel you’re engaging in this, even unintentionally, because I think you are trying to do the right thing and it is a good thing that you are listening to the people here and continuing to engage). The part of Capt. Awkward’s response to the letter that I want to point out is a very, very thought-provoking statement about needing to consider exactly *whose peace we are keeping* when we are asked to stay silent, to ignore hurt and harm, and what that says about whose comfort we – as individuals, as groups, as cultures – actually value:
“When powerful people are treated with “Boys will be boys” or “What did you expect?” or “That’s just how people are” kid gloves, allowed to endlessly derail conversations or enforce tone arguments, and the people who raise the questions of injustice and fuckery are treated as “impolite”, “attention-seeking” people who “take things too personally,” “play the race card,” “play the victim card”, and ruin everyone’s “fun,” it makes a powerful statement about who is important. You can’t solve injustice until you admit and truthfully reckon with injustice. If we have the expectation that our institutions will always cater to the wealthy, the white, the able-bodied, the cis-gendered, the straight, and the male and treat people who point out the cracks in that system with contempt and silencing and pleas to be nicer and “keep the peace” (not to mention outright denial that there is a problem), we become the problem. We are saying that this state of affairs is “the peace” that is worth keeping, and acting like the peace isn’t broken over and over again with every instance of injustice, white supremacy, inaccessibility, ableism, transphobia, etc. The peace has already been broken. The emperor has no clothes. I realize this is a digression, but the next time you find yourself pleading with someone to be quiet in order to “keep the peace,” think very hard about whose peace is being kept and at what cost.”
This is very much related to all the objections I have seen in relation to con harassment policies (“Why do we need to kick an offender out?” for example), as well as advice to women (and anyone of marginalized groups) who have been targeted by harassers, bullies and gatekeepers, that they should just “be patient” “gently educate” “let it go”, etc.
It is extremely important to *think* about just whose comfort it is you are prioritizing – is it the victim (who is often a societally marginalized person) or the perpetrator (who is often a person of privilege in relation to the victim)?
In that case I think we’re in violent agreement.
I was a bit thrown by responses to my suggestions that someone take younger offenders with milder gatekeeping offenses aside and give them a talking to that suggested that education wasn’t sufficient and that more needed to be done in such cases. I would see con security or some other volunteer taking someone aside and letting them know that they’re out of line and in what way as education and perfectly appropriate.
If they keep at it then certainly show them the door (and an explicit policy to make this clear would help…particularly if the younger ones have older and wiser heads to point it out to them in advance).
Thank you for the eloquence again John.
I still remember when I was a little girl being told by cousins I couldn’t get into their D&D game because… I was a girrrrl. Sure, they were in their teens, and I was maybe 7 years old, but I did in fact hear that again, about various geekly things, right through to the present day.
I also worked for a time at a comics/anime store, and had to deal with the occasional gatekeeper who’d try convincing a (usually) girl to not buy, and did have to deal with people (usually men) shocked that I was a woman, working a comic/anime store, and I knew about/liked more than ‘just’ shoujo. (Of course, what the hell, if I /did/ only like the shoujos/dramas and things that were ‘girly’ I still would’ve belonged there.)
I lucked out with my successful gaming groups I found when older, thankfully- but I know I was lucky to find the groups I did, from stories of friends, even of women in those group, talking about past ones. I also have been on chatrooms/the internet steadily since the 80’s, and any of the ones saying they’d never encountered anything til recently are lucky indeed.
Remember all those tired “OMG A GIRL ON THE INTERNET?!” jokes? They were part of this gatekeeping. They still /are/ part of it. Underneath the joking aspect, there is that disdain, and that ‘keep out’ sign. Finding ‘a girl on the internet’ in a chatroom or old BBS or a new MMO is spotting ye olde unicorn- but turns out if the joker thinks it’s cool, they usually only think it’s cool until we disagree with them, or surprise them.
Reels it in.
@ Angie – “Remember all those tired “OMG A GIRL ON THE INTERNET?!” jokes? They were part of this gatekeeping. They still /are/ part of it. Underneath the joking aspect, there is that disdain, and that ‘keep out’ sign.”
Oh good GAWD, yes. The “OMG GIRL WHO LIKES GEEK STUFF!” joke variations are so old they’d make Methuselah feel young. They’re why I constantly end up face-palming whenever they show up on Big Bang Theory, because that “disdain” isn’t as subtle or hidden as the show-writers seem to think it is.
GeekMelange – Thank you so much for the link to the Captain Awkward post. Not just for the stuff about “whose peace are you being asked to keep?” and “It was already awkward FOR YOU, what others seem to want is that it keep being awkward FOR YOU so it doesn’t have to be awkward FOR THEM,” though that in and of itself is worth any price of admission. But those really detailed and thorough scenario breakdowns comprise a freakin’ survival guide for dealing with that one family member who always wants to pick a fight because it’s so entertaining for them to bait me with their racism and their hateful politics and watch me get mad about it. I need this for pretty much all of life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
(And why I haven’t already been reading Captain Awkward on a regular basis is a mystery to me.)
@ Nicole – NP. Glad you’re finding it really useful! She really is an awesome regular read.
The geeky fandom that comes to mind that I’ve been passionately a part of despite its being (once upon a time, seemingly) male-dominated is the music of Rush. The joke always used to be that a typical Rush concert was attended by “a bunch of nerdy guys and the girlfriends they managed to drag along.” I’m happy to report that the concert I recently attended had, at a glance, men and women in the audience in equal proportions–at least, that’s the strong impression I get from dodging the crowd on the concourse during intermission. I also saw a good handful of children. Yay, multigenerational fandom!
When I was in my teens and participated in several online fan groups/mailing lists/etc., I remember being astounded by one Real True Fan’s complaint about the above-mentioned Guys Who Drag Their Girlfriends Along. He was convinced the dragged-along girlfriends (which was how he identified every woman at the show) were taking up prime seats that ought by all rights to be occupied by other Real True Fans (which he always identified as male). You know the script. Yadda yadda yadda.
But the real kicker, the bit that had my jaw dropping: “This one chick I saw, she was actually dancing to the drum solo. Talk about not getting it!”
Got that? The sign of NOT being a Real True Rush Fan was… dancing. To Neil Peart’s drumming.
To which, several replies:
1) Obviously she’s enjoying herself, so it’s great that she’s there!
2) Peart’s drum solos are incredibly danceable. They’ve got rhythm and melody, and they meander through quite a few fun musical styles. If they make you want to boogie, give in to tempation and boogie down.
3) If you think the only proper way to appreciate the drum solo is by air-drumming along, just tell yourself that she’s full-body air-drumming. OK? Deal.
This very recent concert, there were no less than 3 drum solos, and I spotted people of both apparent genders dancing during every single one of them. And one of them was me. So there.
@GeekMelange – I’ve acknowledged that being gender specific in my original post was not helpful. I’m pretty sure that horse is dead; time to move along.
My general point was that some number of humans who engage in gatekeeping may be gatekeeping as an irrational reaction to previous mistreatment by other humans who would perhaps be considered attractive by a randomly selected grouping of humans at a ratio greater than 1:2. As a result of this theory, I believe it may be useful to try pointing out to the humans who engage in gatekeeping that by targeting other humans who would perhaps be considered attractive by a randomly selected grouping of humans at a ratio greater than 1:2, but are distinct from those in the original >1:2 group, they are possibly unwittingly engaging in behaviors that puts them in the same negative behavioral category as the original >1:2 group. More than 51% but possibly not 100% of humans do not enjoy being compared morally to other humans by whom they have been mistreated.
I’d be happy to hear alternative or additional theories, since I acknowledge that my theory would only apply to a percentage of situations less than 100.
@literallyneil how would you suggest implementing your theory in real-life when faced by said gatekeeper?
There are those above who seem to think that “gatekeeping” is a new thing, that Back In the Day we were all so terribly inclusive.
Then why did Alice Sheldon have to claim her name was James Tiptree Jr.? Why did Catherine Moore have to write as “C. L.”? Why did Dorothy Fontana have to be credited on “Star Trek” as D. C. Fontana?
And for the record, as a white straight male (not sure what this “cis” thing is), I was never harassed by the attractive girls in my teenage years. (For one thing, that would have required them to acknowledge my existence… :) ) I *was* subjected to bullying, from verbal abuse to physical beatings, from other white males, who at least claimed to be straight as well (I have no personal knowledge of their inclinations, nor, quite frankly, any interest), because I was “too smart” – but the girls never even bothered to belittle me.
I did ask my (bisexual, black) wife on her way out the door to work if she’d ever experienced gatekeeping; the answer was strongly affirmative, but she didn’t have time to relate any of the actual experiences to me.
@Nicole J. – I think if I tried to air-drum one of Neil’s solos, it would *require* my entire body to do so. Man’s insanely good at what he does. (It was said once that the true measure of Rush is the fact that Alex Lifeson, who would be acknowledged as the front man in any other band due to his amazing guitar skills, can be overshadowed by the other two members of the band.)
@literallyneil: “My general point was that some number of humans who engage in gatekeeping may be gatekeeping as an irrational reaction to previous mistreatment by other humans who would perhaps be considered attractive by a randomly selected grouping of humans at a ratio greater than 1:2. As a result of this theory, I believe it may be useful to try pointing out to the humans who engage in gatekeeping that by targeting other humans who would perhaps be considered attractive by a randomly selected grouping of humans at a ratio greater than 1:2, but are distinct from those in the original >1:2 group, they are possibly unwittingly engaging in behaviors that puts them in the same negative behavioral category as the original >1:2 group.”
The opportunity cost for pointing this out is much higher than the opportunity cost for simply rejecting the human in question and moving on. Since the human I have rejected is the one engaging in bad behavior and not me, the fault lies with said human. Costs should be borne by those humans who bear fault in the situation more than with humans who do not bear faults. Ergo, me deciding to opt for a lower opportunity cost behavior is not morally wrong even if me bearing the higher opportunity cost could potentially result in a better outcome for the human I have rejected. That human did bad behavior and should bear the costs for the bad behavior more than me, the human’s victim.
@ literallyneil – Kat has neatly summed up what my reply would have been: “That human did bad behavior and should bear the costs for the bad behavior more than me, the human’s victim.”
I’m just going to point back to the portion from the Captain Awkward piece that I posted upthread and ask that you please consider exactly what kind of dynamic you are supporting and whose comfort you’re really looking out for by telling the people who get the lion’s share of this bad behavior that the costs of attempting to correct bad behavior aren’t that much to bear rather than putting that cost squarely on the shoulders of those who are behaving badly.
@Kyle Wilson: I can understand a desire for con spaces to be welcoming to the young. I’m curious why this discussion is only focused on young men, though. What about the young woman who goes to her very first con and is the subjected to gatekeeping behavior? She might not be asked to leave the con, but there’s a reasonable chance that she’ll feel that she does in fact need to leave it.
In any case, I disagree with the theory that gatekeeping is primarily an offense of the young that is being policed by older people. I only have online experiences to rely upon, but I’ve seen it come from a wide variety of people, many of them well over the age of 25 or so. In contrast, I would say that a good bit of gatekeeping behavior ends up being directed at young women.
I’d suggest telling said gatekeeper to go _________. Using your favorite and/or most creative pejoratives to fill in the blank.
It is not your job to fix that person’s malfunction. The hint needs to be dropped by others in the person’s peer group who have some influence. If it was a friend of mine, you can bet that I’d have the discussion before that friend embarrassed me by association. John is doing an outstanding service by using his status in the geek community to create awareness (and share his disapproval) to influence sci-fi fans who look up to him.
I maintain that a glimpse into the source of the behavior, whether reasonable or not, would be instructive in how to approach the person about it. “Don’t be a Dick” isn’t specific enough for some folks.
The reason I was focused on the younger folks in my later comments is that I agree completely that anyone older than 25 or so should be expected to behave properly right up front and malleting or being asked to leave a con on the first offense seems reasonable. The reason for the focus on young men is that people up thread made it clear that this is virtually always a male on female problem. The women clearly have done nothing wrong. The men need some sort of corrective action.
For younger and less clearly intentional offenses I’d like to see some sort of yellow card with a clear explanation (ideally provided by someone older who may command more attention from the offender) of what the did wrong and why they should correct their behavior. If someone can be set on the right path I’d like to see them get there. Second offenses start to look intentional (or at least the person isn’t responding to mild correction) and harsher measures make sense.
I think a clear policy about this sort of thing and consistent enforcement (with an intermediate stage before ejection/banning in lesser cases) would make everything better.
@Kyle Wilson: I’d agree that not everyone should be asked to leave every con for every mild violation of etiquette. From the standpoint of writing clear, fair rules, we can’t have exceptions for only young violators, but I don’t have any reason to believe that cons are unreasonably enforcing zero tolerance policies in a way that makes no room for giving out warnings.
If you do wish to donate your time to educating young men who you feel are nudging down the wrong path, that’s entirely your decision. I’d frankly rather spend my time letting young women know that the gatekeepers don’t speak for everyone in fandom, and that they don’t feel that they need to leave a con or drift away from fandom because a small group of men don’t think they’re good enough. As you point out, these young women have done nothing wrong. I’m far more concerned with the prospect of them souring on geekdom than that of their harassers drifting away from it because the community wasn’t sufficiently gentle in educating them how to behave in public.
@ literallyneil – “I’d suggest telling said gatekeeper to go _________. Using your favorite and/or most creative pejoratives to fill in the blank.”
Would love to. Have on done so on occasion. But I would NEVER presume to tell another person, especially women and/or people from marginalized groups, that they should do the same. There are several reasons for this, but since I’m a woman and this is the concern topmost in my head when I consider this option, I’ll give you a good one: There is a considerable risk that if I tell a gatekeeper (especially if it’s a man) to go !@#$!@ himself, he’ll retaliate, possibly violently. And on top of that, even though *he* was the instigator and he assaulted me, thanks to the ever-so-lovely consequences of living in a culture that tends to blame the victim, I can guarantee you I’ll get hit with “Well, he was being a jerk, but you didn’t have to push him, why didn’t you just ignore him?” variety of “it’s your fault he attacked you” when *I was standing up for myself.* The ugly flipside of that being if I *didn’t* tell the gatekeeper dipshit to go @#$! himself and was upset about it, I’d be getting EXACTLY THE SAME DAMN RESPONSE YOU’RE GIVING, which is “You should have told him to @#$!@ off. Why didn’t you stand up for yourself?”
It doesn’t matter that violent reaction would likely result in said gatekeeper dipshit’s expulsion (or not, given how often the “he didn’t mean it, he’s sorry, he won’t do it again” line gets trotted out b/c why should that dipshit have HIS con-going experience “ruined” “just because he lost his temper?” That’d be just so SAD!), the fact would be that the violent reaction *happened* – and the risk and fear of that happening, with the resulting scenario I outlined a distinct possibility, is often one that women don’t want to take, for obvious reasons. Women make this risk calculation in our heads practically every time there’s a confrontation involved to a degree and in a way that many men (most often straight white cisgender men) simply don’t have to deal with and thus don’t take into account when they well-meaningly but unhelpfully give the advice of “Well just tell him to !@#~ off!” Telling a guy to !##$@ off has differing risks as to the result depending on who’s being told to @#$! off and who’s doing the telling.
“I maintain that a glimpse into the source of the behavior, whether reasonable or not, would be instructive in how to approach the person about it. “Don’t be a Dick” isn’t specific enough for some folks.”
What needs to be specific about “don’t be an asshole”? And again, it’s not that we don’t know the source of the behavior – for the billionth time, WE KNOW! Many of us have been there with the bullying and the social outcasting, even though we weren’t boys. We KNOW the scars and hurt and temptation to be suspicious that can result from being bullied. Talking to us as if we don’t know that, as if we’d never thought of it, is insultingly paternalistic. It does not matter whether or not someone is bullying people because they were bullied – you do not wonder “Why is this person hitting me? Maybe if I know what caused their behavior I can get them to stop” while you’re being hit, you want them to STOP. What matters is that they are bullying people and they need to stop, period – after they’ve stopped? Maybe then we can talk about why.
No, I will not. You’re still trying to tell other fans how to experience their fandom. It’s not particularly different from the self-appointed gatekeepers who think all fans should take SF very seriously, etc. And when it’s directed at adults directing female teens on what to read, and at female fans on how they should be “responsible” fans, it’s plain old gendersplaining, the kind that’s particularly aimed at making women and female teens into the form the person considers acceptable (and usually has to do with how they don’t do relationships, make life choices and interact with culture at all correctly.) You do what you like yourself, but expect blowback when you lecture about how other fans should deal with their interests.
One of the big reasons so many people think there’s been an “explosion” of popularity and an “explosion” of female fans is simply because fewer fans are putting up with others telling them how to be fans and what they should find interesting and worthy, and fewer female fans are putting up with being lectured at about Twilight or anything else, by men or women. They are being more vocal and open about their fandom. And they don’t share your values about what are the “worst” parts of their stuff, or even that their stuff has “worst” and “pernicious” aspects, so your cheerleading plan doesn’t interest them for themselves. So again, you’re trying to shape the river; not going to work.
Kat: It depends on whether the gatekeeper is courting controversy — scoring points (and clicks which bring money like with Mr. Peacock) as the brave rebel who says what needs to be said, or if the person is someone who mistakenly got a bug up the butt and if enough rocks drop on his (or her) head, no matter how angry he may still be, he accepts that it sounded stupid and isn’t going to play in the community anymore. The Ferret would be in the latter category. It’s kind of like climate change. There’s the group that initially is confused and then realizes the climate has changed, and there are the climate deniers who think the old ways of pretending female fans weren’t there, etc., should stay in effect and that fighting that fight is essential to their status and self-worth as fans, even though it is hopeless and needlessly damaging to those around them. Even a hardened gatekeeper, though, can be turned, (they usually retreat as Peacock did to the stance that they are just trying to start a conversation — which always seems to include how female teens in costumes make them horny.) And because of that, really most cons are full of happy and cooperative fans. (Well except maybe gaming? They seem to be stuck in the 1980’s so far but they are a younger industry.)
I’m actually not that concerned about gentle here as we do need to get the guys attention. Just proportionate and very to the point. One talking to by con security or the blog host that covers what you did, why it was wrong and the consequences if you do it again. Get an affirmative response from the guy and then record his ‘yellow card’ against his badge number. If he can’t put the pieces together at that point and keeps it up then move him along.
I’m not so concerned about young men drifting away from fandom as I am with them metastasizing into older guys who retain the same attitudes but with a more sophisticated handle on how to be asses without triggering consequences. A confused young man who can be nudged into becoming a decent middle-aged man within fandom is a bigger step towards solving the problem (and can himself help with the nextg generation) than a guy who dropped out of fandom because ‘those guys just didn’t understand him’ and who still has an axe to grind. I’m not sure you could have a break point at 24, but we have many laws that handle 18 or 21 as a boundary. Perhaps either of those would work. Once you’re old enough to buy alcohol you’re old enough to know better.
BTW…I’m not addressing harassment here…I have a much lower tolerance for creepers than I do for guys who might make someone feel excluded or unwanted. You can make someone feel unwanted by mistake, you can’t creep on someone by accident.
@Kat Goodwin: RE: The Ferrett vs. Mr. Peacock and differences between them, that is an excellent point. I’m going to think about it some more and do some more research. I know Mr. Peacock came back (at least I think he did? not sure I’m thinking of the same person you’re talking about, but I think I am) and was pretty resistant to changing his mind, even going so far as to come and argue with people here. Based just on him, I’d say that there are some people who are just not going to change their mind no matter what, no matter how patiently or non-patiently things are explained to them . . . but it may be that I’m getting hung up on him individually as an example. So, more research needed, but good point and I’ll be thinking about it.
As a geeky woman, who was once a geeky girl, I think a lot of the problem is that we feel betrayed by the geeky men and boys that we thought should be our natural allies. It turns out that they never realized we existed, and still never notice us unless we grew up to be pretty (in which case we’re now “fake”). I have little sympathy for the “hot girls were mean to me so I have to be mean now” mentality.
My first encounter with SF (that I remember; I’ve been told my first drive-in movie was Empire Strikes Back) was the TV miniseries “V”, which led me to the book and an obsession with the later TV series. I was 9 and a dork and I didn’t care. When I was 12, an older boy on the school bus snatched my copy of Restaurant at the End of the Universe out of my hands and shoved it down his pants. At that point, I was old enough to care, so I read my McCaffrey and Adams in private after that. It wasn’t until I joined the military at 23 that I really found my people, the LRPers and D&Ders, and booksluts.
The thing about the gatekeepers is that they always have some arbitrary and shifting standard for who qualifies as a geek. Pwn them on Star Trek trivia and they’ll switch to comics. It’s an unwinnable game, but it’s a game that they shouldn’t make people play because it’s bullshit.Geekdom is about sharing what you love, so the gatekeepers are the ones doing it wrong.
@Kyle Wilson: My continuing problem with this line of thought is the same as my objection to discussions of how developmental disabilities and social awkwardness in relation to harassment at cons.
Why are these discussions always, always, always about how a given factor (in this case youth) makes it harder for men to follow rules? Why don’t we ever talk about how the exact same factors – being on the autism spectrum, being socially awkward, being young, being new to fandom, whatever – make it more likely that a woman will be victimized? When we’re talking about people donating their time to educate others, why isn’t more of it spent talking about how we can better inform young (or whatever other risk factor) women of their rights?
I don’t generally object to your ideas about voluntarily educating others (though setting a limit on con rules at 18 or 21 would simply persuade me to never, ever attend a con that allowed people under those ages), but why must all of our effort into being understanding and educational be directed at the victimizers?
GeekMelange – Yes, certainly, I am the one being insulting. I am not the person who jumped to the conclusion that because I didn’t mention geek girls existing prior to the pop culture explosion, I think they didn’t exist. Wrong. I learned my love for all things geek from my sci-fi obsessed mother. Believe me, I was always aware.
I admitted that I ought to have given a gender neutral example because, indeed, anyone can be a gatekeeper and you continued on with your thinly veiled implications of sexism.
Next, you didn’t even bother to learn my point of view before you assumed that I would expect the victims of gatekeeping to explain why gatekeeping is wrong to the perpetrators. You went straight to your talking points because you were so sure you knew what was coming next.
Now you’re literally adding words to my comments to give them a distinctly different connotation.
If you bothered listening to me rather than just attacking the straw man you created in your head, I suspect we could have had a good discussion that we both could have been better off for having had. Instead you assumed the worst of intentions and went from there.
You know why it went down like that?
It’s not my job to explain why.
Deep breaths, everyone. Don’t make me turn this comment thread around.
Kat: When you’re an older guy obsessed with teenage girls, it’s apparently very difficult to let it go. :) But Peacock was a bit shocked that Scalzi did not side with his creed and did pull out the isn’t it great that we’re having this conversation that I started bit several times. Ultimately, I don’t care why someone is gatekeeping. It’s not my problem. And I don’t care why they say that they are stopping, what rationale, as long as they stop. Besides misogamy and the rest, the main reason that people do this is their fundamental belief that if something they don’t like is popular (especially a “girl” something,) then something they like has to die or be ruined. This is a cockeyed, totally irrational belief, but very seldom does actual data countersway it. But if enough people point out that it’s a cockeyed, totally irrational belief, then the person has to come up with something. Either they drop the belief, or they partially retreat. Only a tiny percentage are going to cling to it over time.
In this case we’re not talking about ignoring the younger guys, we’re talking about having security give then a talking to and take their badge number down on the first offense. Am I correct in taking your comments to indicate that if a 14 year old makes someone feel unwanted by pointing out that their cosplay outfit isn’t accurate and lacks the good sense to know when to stop making their point that they should be ejected from the con and banned?
Given that we aren’t talking about exterminating these folks, I’m suggesting that as a group we should attempt to salvage those who may be salvageable. Boot them from a con right up front and you’re going to set those attitudes in stone by the time they’re grown. Set some guidelines, enforce them evenhandedly and make sure that repeat offenses and those who should know better don’t get given a pass.
Using poor socialization to excuse harassment is inexcusable. Using it as a reason to work on rude and unintentionally hurtful behavior in a teen or early twenties guy is in a whole different category in my opinion. Just walking past someone and talking loudly to your buddy about how crappy their costume is can make someone feel seriously unwelcome. At the same time I suspect that most teens are perfectly capable of doing this without realizing how much hurt they can cause. Having con staff keep an eye on this sort of thing and with rules in place to address it can make at least some of these folks aware that they need to shape up.
Having a yellow card option for adults is just asking for the more malicious members of fandom to game the second chance. Thus I’d be inclined to have some sort of age cutoff (blunt though such a choice may be).
@ literallyneil – here’s the thing. I don’t think you’re one of the bad guys. I really don’t. And that’s honestly what’s the most frustrating part. I didn’t put words in your mouth, but I did try to show you why what you were saying as helpful suggestions – and I do think that you believe you’re trying to be helpful – are problematic and why you should try to reconsider them. Yes, I’m frustrated and angry, because of how often the suggestions you gave have gotten tossed around and when it’s pointed out how “Hey, that thing you’re saying trying to be helpful? It’s actually not and here’s why and it’s really frustrating that we have to explain this a lot” more often than not, the response is “Why are you getting mad at me? I’m not one of the bad guys!” That stuff hurts. I really wish you would consider that, but that’s up to you. I don’t think there’s anything more about it that I can say.
@Kyle Wilson: I see my attempts to shift the discussion to talking about victims are going to be in vain, so I’ll abandon them and provide a final response to the neverending topic of the poor, young men in question.
I don’t think there’s any way to enforce con rules based on a sliding scale of age. If you’re too young to follow the rules of a social space, then I would say you’re too young to be there without being accompanied by an adult. Someone who approaches a cosplayer to criticize her costume as being inaccurate could receive either a warning or a request to leave, depending on how aggressive the interaction becomes. I don’t think it matters if the harasser is 14 or 44, though. And if the 14-year-old’s attitudes become set in stone, so be it. He can be asked to leave at every con he attempts to attend.
Incidentally, while I’m now in my early 30s, I know lots of men and women in their early 20s. I think most of them would be insulted by the idea that they can’t follow a list of rules or that they’re vastly more socially inappropriate than older people.
Also in regard to Mr Scalzi’s point that the gatekeepers are doing the creators no favors- its not only that they are keeping out people (often but not exclusively women) who might want to buy the creators work, they are silencing people (obnew) who already buy it and like it. Gate keeping doesn’t just keep away possible new fans.It makes exitsting fans feel less willing to enthusiastically endorse the things they love to others. Because the cost/benefit calculation doesn’t compute.
@ Bun – One of the saddest things I’ve heard is from friends (and this has come from women, a couple of men and queer friends) tell me that while they likes a lot of the same geeky stuff I do, they’re just not comfortable with calling herself a geek or a nerd because of how toxic the culture now feels to them because of bad experiences they’ve had with being harassed/having friends who were harassed for “not being the right kind of geek” or even just existing as a geek who is not a straight white cisgender dude. And they don’t want to use the label for themselves because doing so would feel like it’s endorsing a culture that they’re just not comfortable with, even though they have individual friends who they enjoy being geeks with and fandoms they enjoy geeking out over. I respect their choice, no matter how sad it makes me, and I really can’t blame them for feeling that way.
*calling themselves. Typo. Sigh.
As to the women, put rules in place that allow them to report and sanction folks who are trouble. Take these reports seriously and act on them. Try to make the sanction fit the offense. If the women still can’t feel comfortable in such a space then I’m not sure what can be done to help. You’ve indicated that you don’t think educating young men is a worthwhile goal…they either get it by their early teens or they should not be going to cons or other similar public places. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to pursue adults only cons where unruly teens are not permitted and folks who might be made uncomfortable by some of them can feel safe…not sure…there may already be such venues in place. I feel for people who are uncomfortable in uncontrolled public spaces. I understand that the possibility that someone may be offensive is off-putting. Past a point this becomes hard to accommodate.
Also I can actually spell existing when not typing on a phone.
@Kyle Wilson: I’m going to compare your reaction to the problem of young men with that of young women. When faced with the possibility that young men might feel unfairly excluded from a con after behaving badly and then harden their attitudes toward women fans, your recommendation was for con to expend resources and for the community to donate their time to implement a system to pull these young men aside and educate them.
When faced with the possibility that young women might feel unfairly targeted even though they have done nothing wrong, your recommendation is to put some rules in place. What about education and community involvement? Why not have the con staff make a special effort to make sure young and new fans are aware of their rights? Why not encourage volunteers to intervene when young women are feeling excluded to remind them that the rest of the community welcomes them? Why not attempt to understand that if you’re a teenage girl, having a peer engage in gatekeeping behavior toward you feels just the same as (or even worse than) having a middle-aged man do the same? You’re not suggesting anywhere near the same level of effort, concern, or even empathy, and to me, it signals which group is a higher priority.
I am again going to reiterate that I truly do not think that obnoxious teenagers are the primary source of this problem.
Kat Goodwin “You do what you like yourself, but expect blowback when you lecture about how other fans should deal with their interests.”
I’m doing what some of my more engaged female friends have convinced me is the responsible thing to do. If you take me explaining my own position as some sort of condemnation or proscription on your own behavior, I can’t really help that. I would prefer people be given the option to make there own choices rather than being blinder-ed into any singular role purely on account of their only exposure to fandom being polarized in some aspect. In particular, I’d rather not encourage young men to adopt stalking and abuse as a means of romance simply because it’s the roll model they are presented with. That actively endangers my fellow geeks.
“Am I correct in taking your comments to indicate that if a 14 year old makes someone feel unwanted by pointing out that their cosplay outfit isn’t accurate and lacks the good sense to know when to stop making their point that they should be ejected from the con…”
Speaking as the mother of one of those ‘poor misunderstood young men with (fill in the blank for communication/social issue – in my son’s case it’s nonverbal learning disability)’ – YES. YES! If I, as a parent, did not do a good enough job educating/monitoring my child so ‘poor little Johnny’ kept on being an obnoxious @#$%$#, THROW. THEM (and ME!). OUT. It’s something called ‘consequences’, and no one else should have to suffer them except the @#%$ involved, and if underage, the people (generally parents) who should be (but are failing at) supervising them.
As a parent, it’s MY job to educate him on appropriate behavior – not of the poor person who’s getting an earfull of crap! MY job to make sure when it’s appropriate to comment on an outfit, or if it’s EVER appropriate, and stop unwanted behavior making someone elses day/weekend totally ruined.
@kyle I’m with @eselle in saying that this problem is more likely among older con goers than young men.
Young men have grown up in a culture where being a geek is cool. They are used to women being into similar geeky stuff.
It’s guys in my generation and older that are more likely to be the problem. I graduated in 1985. I had friends that played D&D but they never invited me to join in… Help work on their cars, play computer games, yes but no D&D that was for boys.
I’ve worked for a number software companies and I assure you geeky guys in their early 20s are capable of socially appropriate behavior. I think it’s reasonable to expect guys to be able to behave appropriately in social spaces that I have every reason to believe can do it in other spaces.
If the problem is with older men then drop the hammer on them. No problem there. They’re old enough to know better. If they behave badly then escort them to the door or wield the ban hammer for a blog.
For everyone else, I’d love to see some active engagement with all concerned. Support the kids and make them feel included. Make it clear up front that sniping and snarky comments won’t be accepted. Post the rules and post them visibly.
“Post the rules and post them visibly.”
@Floored — As long as Mr. Scalzi doesn’t mind the derail into Tammy Pierce’s novels…. Yes, Tris is from her Circle of Magic books. The series is less popular for some reason I’ve never been able to determine, but I prefer it to Tortall (making me almost unique among her fans). The first quartet skews younger than Tortall, but the second quartet gets darker, and the third one has some really very adult themes. Tortall is great, I love it, but it’s not innovative or even well thought out. She’s fixing it as she goes, but the Circle of Magic world was fully thought-out from the first day. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth your time, IMHO.
@DameB: I think on your recommendation I’ll put it higher on my list! :) Sounds like I’ll go for it, because one of my big problems with the Tortall series is that she has had to do a lot retconning as the series goes on.
@scalzi it does seem like I’ve heard Post the rules and post them visibly. somewhere before… Maybe even here on this blog a few times. I’m all in favor of well created rules, posted on con websites, and posted visibly around the con.
Yes, you can. Because you didn’t talk about your own views about what you felt you wanted to do for yourself. You told me I and all fans should be responsible, I should be critical of what I like, etc. Go back and look at your choice of words, the sentences I quoted in my last post. You probably didn’t even notice you were doing it. Since you got the should’s from your female friends, it was probably just repetition on your part. You were talking about yourself “I” as “you.” But my entire point was that you were in fact lecturing about responsible fandom and uttering the dire warnings of what would happen if we didn’t do it too, and that many will react unfavorably to that. And that women get an awful lot of lecturing at them about how they should be fans or responsible adults or clean a stove, etc., from both men and women.
Fans have no responsibility to teen fans or anyone else on recommending books. My own view is that the hysteria over Twilight (Meyer’s version of Beauty and the Beast,) is largely the sort of concern trolling that society likes to do with teenage girls, especially in regards to any passing sexual interest they might have, which is apparently very frightening, and occasionally with teenage boys too. It’s the won’t someone protect the children syndrome. And I am firmly of the belief for myself that teens are far more likely to be readers if I let them read what they want and find interesting, including things their friends might be reading or watching, don’t try to steer them, etc.
So that’s something that can be debated and discussed. But there’s a difference between that and labeling a particular view of fiction as the responsible approach to fiction. Now that I know that it was regurgitated lecturing, I get where it’s coming from. But the reality is that you and I are unlikely to agree about what is pernicious and what is responsible fiction to be recommended or even on the concept of responsible fiction.
We do agree on the reality that no one fandom is the be all end all. The gatekeepers sometimes don’t.
@Floored by Scalzi’s Awesomeness – please don’t post spoilers, especially not in threads recommending books to people who haven’t read them (though I completely agree with your criticism of the 3rd Beka book – my son and I were both very disappointed in it).
We both think that the absolute best of all Pierce’s work are the tow Trickster books, which we’ve both re-read several times.
First off, thanks for the response. I think by my follow up I had internally elided having written “please practice”, and with that context, what I was thinking of as descriptive of me came out as prescriptive, in part because it’s prescriptive for me. My apologies.
Kat Goodwin “But the reality is that you and I are unlikely to agree about what is pernicious and what is responsible fiction to be recommended or even on the concept of responsible fiction.”
I don’t think I took the position that there is specific responsible fictions to be recommended over others, more that all works have issues and that it is the position of those practicing “responsible geekery” to make recommendations that broaden horizons, in part to mitigate or make apparent by contrast the issues in works.
I wish someone had taken it on themselves to introduce me to Tamora Pierce and Iain M Banks a decade ago when I was looking for new things to read, instead of helping keep me locked in to John Ringo and David Weber in a bit of an echo chamber, not because I dislike them, but because, in the absence of contrast, it can be hard to have perspective on the issues with their works sufficient to avoid internalizing those issues.
“Perhaps it would be worthwhile to pursue adults only cons where unruly teens are not permitted and folks who might be made uncomfortable by some of them can feel safe…not sure…there may already be such venues in place.”
Why make decent and civilized behavior the norm of a small subgroup of cons, as opposed to trying to change the general environment?
Because it might alienate assholes of some nebulous age who then get huffy and leave? Because oh, gee, any social gathering would be so much less fun without *those* guys.
A saying from my younger days comes to mind here…something about “good riddance to bad rubbish”. Or possibly the one about not letting the door hit you where the good Lord split you.
@ mgwa: 1: Oops, sorry. I need to stop doing that.
2. Glad to find someone else who agrees! I SO wanted Tunstall and Sabine to have a happy ending.
@ DameB: I really liked how POTS expands upon and explains the Tortall world, and makes it seem more real and unique. The real-world bases are still obvious, but the culture really becomes defined in that series.
And in Tamora Pierce’s defense, she thought up Tortall when she was quite young. Only one person was great at world-building from the start, and that’s Brandon Sanderson.
*apologies with winking smiley for mentioning Mr. Scalzi’s arch-nemesis*
@Floored: we were less upset by it not being a happy ending than by the breaking of character – there was nothing in any of the preceding books that would lead one to expect that kind of behavior. We loved the first two books but felt she got lost in the last one, which was very disappointing.
Steven Menke: While Twilight was good for promoting fantasy involvement, it REALLY needs to be balanced by healthier relationship examples. Please practice “responsible geekery” and help introduce others to alternative perspectives and options.
Kat Goodwin: It’s very hard not to try and shove what you value and don’t in geekdom down someone else’s throat.
Steven, you shoving mcshover shovington.
“Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”
Ack! My throat!
I have an offbeat rec for intro-to-SFF, and that is the “Mark Reads” video series. He does Twilight, Harry Potter, and Protector of the Small (among many others) and he is hilariously entertaining. Warning: he frequently drops the F-bomb.
He also produces “Mark Watches” videos, including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Doctor Who” and “Firefly”.
I was introduced to him when someone hired him to read our host’s “Shadow War of the Night Dragon, Part One: The Dead City” live on video, without giving him any info about the text ahead of time. His head nearly exploded. This was actually more or less Oshiro’s introduction to SFF, and that he survived and went on to become a fan is tribute to his mental flexibility. (Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72ZFIDcbNZ8)
I’m tickled by the Tamora Pierce conversation in the comments . . . I’m old school and Alanna will always be my favorite because she was the first kick-ass female I ever encountered on the shelves. On the subject of gatekeepers, a lot of it feels like the kid who demands to have a boys only club and winds up with a party of one lurking alone in their tree fort. Being a librarian for kids, I get a little skip of joy in my heart whenever I can talk up a science fiction book or come across a reader looking for fantasy or science fiction stuff they haven’t discovered yet.
I may not love all the stuff that’s become hugely popular, but I recognize its value.
Mr. Scalzi, there are another sort of gatekeepers, and we’re keeping the gates open and trying to get the material into new readers hands. I’ve never turned a person away from a book they want to read. (though I mightily advised the 5 year old that came in requesting Moby Dick that hie might find it a bit of a challenge). There’s more than enough variety out there for everyone to find something they like or love and no earthly reason to keep others out of the club.
@Kat Godwin: Knowing the history of the word, I shy away from employing the term “hysteria” if I can help it. YMMV
People should not be told not to read Twilight; they should be warned that it has known adverse side effects in a small percentage of consumers and to seek help if they think they have had a reaction to its prose. Most people will have no reaction whatsoever.
@ mgwa: Valid point. It was a major diversion from the character as presented earlier in the trilogy. I hope that her next book is better.
@Kyle Wilson: You do realize that your concern about all the confused young men (who just need a little compassion and patience, ladies!) is contradicted by your very first comment on the subject?
According to you, in that very first comment, these guys are very deliberately and intentionally attempting a ‘smackdown’ of the other person in order to display their own power. They are doing so knowing that the other person may walk away angry and upset. They’re not, as you improbably suggest, really incapable of understanding that others are less immersed then they are. They’re simply engaging in a dominance game, and instead of physical strength the rules of the game are “I am smarter and fan-ier than you.”
You’ve also been astonishingly reluctant to consider that when there is a particularly widespread and ugly gendered version of this behavior, it’s not simply a “confused” guy failing to notice that he’s one of the snowflakes in the avalanche. It’s the geeky equivalent of guys screaming obscenities at a woman as they drive by in a car. It’s dominance behavior because she’s a woman, and she needs to be put in her place. Period.
Also, seriously, while this may be outside your experience, it’s 100% because you choose to keep it that way. The way you learn things outside your experience is to listen to others and try to put themselves in their shoes, instead of yes-butting and constantly trying to bring the conversation around the jerk’s needs.
Speaking of which, there’s a very simple way to teach people not to be assholes; it’s called “logical consequences”. If you are a dick, people will not want to be around you. If you are a dick in somebody else’s venue (like a con), people will ask you to leave. If you stop being a dick, people will like having you around. I find it very hard to accept this argument that a “confused young man” is stupider than a kindergartner, and thus cannot possibly grasp the concept of a harassment policy – which is really a grown-up version of “If you are mean and do not behave well, you can’t go out at recess.”
As this was a common game between young men when I was a teen nerd, I don’t see a gender issue there. There have always been assholes in the community. We have always worked around them, shamed them, avoided them. The fact that they’re also assholes to young women sucks. The young women and the community need to deal with these guys and we as a community need to make sure that there are consequences they face when they do this to someone who can’t give it right back.
I’ve been clear all through about that. I do think that the consequence should be harsher when adults do it than when teens do it as adults should clearly know better. I’ve also been clear that overt offenses by anyone of any gender and any age should be squashed. I’m not sure what your point is. Do you disagree that on a first offense that is judged relatively mild, a teen should be taken aside by security, given a stern talking to and told that a second offense will result in their being walked to the door? Should the consequences be more severe than simply kicking an adult out of the con if they go there? It seems as if some of the folks responding to my comments haven’t been reading what I’ve said here. I have not been suggesting we just let them walk. I have been suggesting that we need to try to firmly shove kids who are slightly off base back on track and get adults and flagrant kids who do this kind of crap out of circulation…
@Mythago. I appreciate that intellectually you can run circles around me and perhaps to a lesser degree around folks like Kyle but rationality does not change nature. People and their baser sorts are a renewable resource; there is no way in hell that we are not going to have to continuously and repeatedly deal with the lower sorts on a daily basis short of shutting yourself off in a monastery or its equivalent. My earlier argument is that it is better to take matters into your own hands than to hope and pray that people will somehow magically transform into unicorns. Don’t wait for change; make change. and the best way in my mind is to decide internally that you will not recognize gatekeepers as such but make and pursue your own path.
It’s a great fantasy to want people as a group to be nice but it is empowering and effective to not plan on it.
and I’ll say it again… I rather enjoy the spirit and innocence of the youth that so often stand forth and proclaim “so it is!” even when they are emphatically wrong. Otherwise it is just us crusty old folks complaining about how life sucks.
you want people to fall into line? well guess what?, I don’t and like it or not you have to deal with people like me whether you like it or not.
@Mythago: They’re simply engaging in a dominance game, and instead of physical strength the rules of the game are “I am smarter and fan-ier than you.”
Right. I’ve seen this in tabletops. A lot. To the point where, after the third minute of a rules argument, I will generally offer rulers to all of the participants, because a) we know each other fairly well, and b) I’m old and cranky and do not feel the need to be tactful about this.
Frankly? If the move to stop gatekeeping results in public geekboy pissing contests becoming less socially acceptable, that’s what we here in the Land of Having At Least Marginal Social Skills know as an awesome bonus feature.
@Kyle Wilson: Well, you’re the one who decided to bring the sad tale of your woeful inadequate youth into it, and to go all Helen Lovejoy WILL NOBODY THINK OF THE EXTREMELY DORKY CHILDREN at us, so…no, I’ve been reading the comments you make. Speaking only for myself, I think they come off as extremely self-pitying and derailing, and far more concerned for the offenders than the victims, particularly when nobody had proposed any specific rules or penalties beforehand.
Good lord…my woefully inadequate youth. Really?
I wasn’t an ideal teen. I think I did ok on balance, I’ve admitted I was probably unaware of many things going on around me. I was insensitive to a number of people that I regret being insensitive to (most were male, but that doesn’t make it any better). I can’t imagine that others don’t have incidents they’re less than proud of from their teen years, I’ve just tried to be honest about it. I got better and learned as I grew up. I call bullshit on the self pitying thing.
I hear people responding to me with comments that suggest that young women are delicate flowers who must be protected from criticism and same age assholes because they’ll be shattered by the experience and turned off on various life experiences by the pain and suffering. I have a sixteen year old daughter who I am sure would comfortably hold her own against anyone who decided to give her crap. I know enough about her friends to certain that most of them would do the same.
I’m concerned about raising a generation of kids who do better than we did when I was young. That involves education, carrots, sticks, guidance, punishment. I think that insecure kids who wield their knowledge as a stick to make themselves feel better need help and so do insecure kids who have a hard time with conflict. Make rules clear and evident. Educate the young ones, both the aggressive ones and the shy ones. Eliminate overt aggression and make sure that the adults involved are kept in line.
Now, hang on a moment! I am 16, and I would NEVER even THINK of deeming myself worthy of determining who is and who is not a geek. Brushing off gatekeepers as “oh, they’re just young and immature” is frankly insulting to me, because that mindset ignores older gatekeepers and the fact that gatekeeping is not a form of immaturity, but a form of being an asshole.
My 2 cents.
Kyle, do you also believe that consequences should differ if the person who was subjected to the behavior was a teen, considering that the experience is likely be more distressing for a 14-year-old girl than for a 24-year-old woman? If the age of the perp is taken into account, why not also the age of the victim, given that the effect on a younger victim is more severe? It’s not clear to me why the age of the perp is the only age that is important. I’m not saying that girls are fragile flowers and boys are obnoxious assholes. Like you, I am arguing that age and developmental level are factors in one’s experience of the world, and if the boy’s age should be taken into account, then so should the gilr’s.
One problem with an age-graded set of rules (even if it’s just your version, in which only the age and developmental level of the perp matter and those of the victim are disregarded) is that it puts a lot of responsibility on con staff, who already have a lot to take care of. Their first concern in these cases, as it should be, is making the con space as safe as possible for attendees. Schooling a teenager adds to their work without guaranteeing that no further harassment will take place. If he does it again and is then escorted out, he has still harmed another innocent party who would not otherwise have been harmed. That ought to be more important to con staff than the boy’s social development.
Another aspect that your plan does not address is restitution for those who were harmed the perp. If the con staff should be held responsible for schooling teenagers, they should also be responsible for ensuring that the damaged party is made whole (to use a legal term). Otherwise, the system is still all about the needs of the boy, while all the victim gets is–what, an apology? a hope (with no guarantee, if he is allowed to remain) that she won’t have to deal with him again? She has already been harmed, and your scheme doesn’t even try to make her whole. It’s all about the boy and devoting scarce resources to something that is not the responsibility of con staff. Attendees’ safety IS the con staff’s responsibility, and if they err on the side of ejecting an individual who might behave better if given a chance, that’s is indeed unfortunate, in a minor way, since it is a consequence of his own behavior. If the individual is allowed to remain and does harass another person, that’s unfortunate in a major way, because he harmed another innocent person and the con staff allowed it to happen, thus failing in their responsibility to the con. It seems to me that the victim, as the ENTIRELY innocent party, should be the person whose needs are attended to above the perp’s. If there is any time or energy left over from determining what would make the victim whole, maybe some of it can go to the perp, at the staff’s discretion. IMO, it should include some way to *guarantee* the boy’s behavior: He can remain if accompanied at all times by a parent, for example, and the parent guarantees his behavior, in writing and perhaps by paying a fine, since money seems to talk louder than words sometimes. But unless there is some guarantee, there’s only a hope, and it leaves open the possibility that one or more other innocent parties will be harmed because of the staff’s decision to give him a partial pass.
This is still about gatekeeping, IMO. The message that would be given to those being harassed for not doing it right is that the person who harassed has needs that trump the victim’s and this is not a safe space for the victim. The message given to the boy who is made to leave is that his behavior isn’t appropriate, and one hopes that the staff would give him that talking to on the way to the door. If he decides that fandom is not for him because he’s not allowed to browbeat people, that’s still not as bad, IMO, as people deciding as fandom is not for them because they’re being browbeaten for not doing it right.
@Kyle: Well, your first post here was all about how sometimes young boys just do this because they don’t know any better and when you were a kid you blah blah fling blooey blah poor misunderstood nerd teenagers. So if your intention wasn’t Oh The Dickensian Pain of My Childhood, it sure as hell came across that way.
Sure, I did dipshit things as a teenager. But I try not to bring them up as arguments for why assholes under a certain age are more to be pitied than censured.
“I hear people responding to me with comments that suggest that young women are delicate flowers who must be protected from criticism and same age assholes because they’ll be shattered by the experience and turned off on various life experiences by the pain and suffering. ”
Oh, good. The argument where saying people should behave better makes you a wimp. We hadn’t heard that one this thread.
First of all, being able to cope with or fight back against fuckwaddery doesn’t make the fuckwaddery in question any better, or any less worth calling out.
Second, many more people are much better able to cope/hold their own/etc when the culture is giving them support.
Third, being turned off to an experience because people are dicks does not make you a “delicate flower”. It makes you a human being who figures life’s short and you might as well spend it around decent people.
“I’m concerned about raising a generation of kids who do better than we did when I was young.”
Good for you. I’m concerned about making existing geek society a more pleasant space for people who aren’t chest-thumping fountains of entitled nerdrage.
These aren’t incompatible. In fact, I’d argue that a big part of raising a better generation is teaching kids that actions have consequences and the rest of the world is not full of unpaid kindergarten teachers who will gently explain why they did wrong and try to understand their delicate souls.
I don’t think anyone here argued for a lifetime ban, unless I missed it. I don’t see what’s wrong with a staff member walking the kid to the door while telling him, “Look, dude, you broke the rules, so you’re done for this year. It’s really bad manners to harangue people, and whether their costume is correct or they don’t know all about your favorite thing [or whatever] is none of your business. You were trying to make it your business in a way that’s against the con rules. Go home and figure out how you can do better, and come back next year and do better.”
I have no issue with target age being taken into account. We’re working at the margins here in any case. I’ve also been clear, repeatedly that I feel ‘you don’t belong here’ and ‘your costume sucks’ type comments are beyond the pale from anyone and I’m on board with such hard core assholery being hammered hard.
What I don’t buy is that a teen who enters into conversation with another teen and upsets them by pointing out flaws (costume, reasoning, knowledge) or who makes a comment in passing (that bat’leth looks like it was made of foam core and duct-tape) that upsets someone should receive such a harsh judgement on the first offense. I do think that they should be made aware of the harm they have done and put on notice that they won’t get a second pass.
The scary for me is that I can see my teenage daughter making an insensitive remark that ruins someone’s day. We’ve tried to raise her to be civilized, but she’s certainly still working on making sure that the filter between her brain and her mouth gets engaged properly. I could easily see her talking with someone and enumerating all of the areas where better technique with the sewing machine or different materials would have made for a better costume while failing to notice that the other person was becoming upset. Were I in the area, I’d be the one taking her aside and suggesting that she needed to be more sensitive. If a con kicked her out, I wouldn’t fight it, but I’d much prefer that she was forced to face the problem directly and then allowed to practice what she’d been told for the balance of the con.
There are clearly judgement calls to be made here. The line between two people arguing trivia that gets out of hand and leaves one of the participants feeling upset and someone actively working to make someone feel unwanted with a trivia barrage needs to be parsed. Takes a bit of delicacy on the edges by con staff…but then most things involving humans do.
I suspect that a little parental work with shy kids would help in some cases as well. I know they’re the victims here, but letting them know that they will be supported if they push back verbally and that con staff is there to help if things get out of hand would be useful.
Also letting them know that they don’t have to push back verbally if they prefer not to but can ask con staff for help regardless of the situation would be useful.
I agree that minors should get pulled aside and talked to. I think it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between those who when pulled aside react “Oops – I didn’t realize I was doing that. I’ll be more careful now.” and those who’s reaction is “what’s wrong that, s/he deserved it” and something in between. The former deserve a 2nd chance, one which includes first making an apology to the person they wronged. The latter should be escorted out the door.
Teens are still learning, and they are more likely to internalize a message said nicely and with a chance to do better than by being hit with inflexible harsh punishment.
Reblogged this on The Motley Chronicles and commented:
Great post – Guess I’m clueless and assumed fans would want everyone to read great work by artists they love. Since that’s not the case, here are some thoughts to arm yourself before the next book signing or convention.
@BW: You beat me to it!
@Kyle: I can see what you’re encouraging, but it sounds an awful lot like “toughen up if you want to play with us.” I’m certain that’s not your intention, but letting people – regardless of age – know they’ll be supported if they push back verbally is not as different as you might think from “you’re on your own.” It just continues an assumption that a part of being a fan means having to defend your fandom, and if that debate slides into insulting or derogatory language that’s an acceptable part of being in a community. That’s fine if you’re debating with friends or acquaintances you know well and can feel comfortable getting rougher with, but a lot of gatekeeping involves strangers confronting strangers. Even if it’s verbal and not physical, willingness to push back shouldn’t be the cost of entry. That just perpetuates the idea that the gatekeeping is OK, and taking your knocks is just an expected part of being a fan.
@mikes75 I really like what you said there – “willingness to push back shouldn’t be the price of entry.”
When I was a teen I likely would have walked away rather than push back. Well in fact I generally did.
Not because I was weak or delicate or shy or lacking self confidence – or at least not any more than any other teen. Rather, because pissing contests with mean people who don’t listen aren’t my idea of a good time – then or now.
This conversation has also had a number of participants claiming that this should not be gender neutral as a policy. I find that troubling as in the end it says that young ladies aren’t tough enough or knowledgeable enough to play with the guys. I think that whatever rules get drafted need to be symmetric (even if the result is mostly enforcement of males giving crap to females) and enforced evenhandedly.
In my experience, male on male discussions (star trek vs star wars is one I remember personally) can get very heated and very asymmetric. Having the same discussion with a female nerd should have no more hazards associated with it than the same conversation with another guy.
I do believe that people need (and kids need to learn) to ‘use their words’ (as we’ve often told our daughter) when borderline cases come up. If you’re not concerned for your safety and you don’t want to continue with a conversation then I do think men or women need to speak up (or leave if that is convenient). Tell the other person that you’re done with it and if they then don’t stop and/or leave the area you’re well within your rights to ask con security for a hand (and at that point they’re well past the toss ’em out point).
My intention, ultimately, is that young ladies and young men find that they can interact without different rules for each gender. If you tell guys that they can get into heated discussions with other guys freely, but that with women they’re at risk of being kicked out because they upset someone they’ll take the obvious (but wrong) lesson from that. Being a dick to anyone should be strongly discouraged.
All of this is at the margins. I’m pretty sure that we’ve been agreed for some time that clearly dickish behavior and any crappy behavior by an adult is reasonable grounds to be asked to leave.
Walk away falls within my intent with ‘push back’. If you’re in a spot where you can do so that is probably the right choice. If you’re in a line talking with someone then the best case is probably that they let it drop and either stay silent or try talking to someone else.
Kyle, “My intention, ultimately, is that young ladies and young men find that they can interact without different rules for each gender.”
That is devoutly to be wished, IMO. Determining what the rules are and who sets them is a bit tricky, though, don’t you think? For example, how do you propose society impress upon guys that heated discussion is not the default mode? Or were you proposing that the guy mode should be the default and girls should adopt this mode?
@BW Women should speak (or leave if that is more comfortable for them). If you don’t like where the conversation is going, tell that to the person you’re talking to. If they don’t honor your request or you feel threatened then escalate. If you decide that young women aren’t capable of engaging with young men on an equal footing then you’ve lost before you start.
I can only assume that your answer means that you propose that the guy mode should be the default and females should adopt it. Sorry, but no.
I’m not saying that young women can’t engage with young men on an equal footing. I’m saying that engaging on a heated/challenge footing is not the only mode of satisfying discourse and I don’t accept that it’s the default.. If you think that women who prefer other modes aren’t “capable.” I assure you that you are quite wrong. I engage in challenge/heated discourse when necessary, which it usually isn’t, fortunately. I prefer the type in which people talk about their views without making it into a contest. I learn more that way, I’m able to express disagreement quite comfortably without things turning into a size war of any kind, and I find it both stimulating and pleasant. I know men who are happy to engage in that way, women who are as well, and I much prefer their company to that of people of any gender who require a heated exchange for it to be satisfying for them. I have a couple of relatives who really relish heated debate. I understand that it’s fun for them, and I don’t think that they are “incapable” of other kinds of discourse. I just leave them to it and find people who are more interesting for me to talk to.
I’m not going to name names, but there are individuals who post in these threads who seem to be most comfortable with the challenge mode. I find their posts less engaging–and less persuasive in general–than those who can see other viewpoints than their own and discuss them amicably without heat or challenge. YMMV, obviously. I’m just saying that the mode you seem to be setting forth as the desired default is not the only mode and there is no obvious reason–in fact, no reason I can see other than “guys like it that way”–why it should be the default.
Oh, and I don’t lump you, Kyle, in the unnamed group in my last paragraph above. For one thing, I don’t recall your name from earlier threads (which says more about me than you, if you’ve been a long-time commenter). More important, I do see you engaging with other people’s ideas seriously and not just hammering on your own, which one or two others routinely seem unable to manage.
@Kyle, I think folks are having issues with the gender neutral language because a lot of this behavior is consciously or unconsciously deployed to exclude women from these spaces by men. It’s not just a matter of not knowing how to behave or misbehaving, it’s a political matter. Someone earlier brought up Merrick and Larbalestier’s work on the subject, which does a good job of spelling out the history of this.
Are we going around and round to no great benefit at this point? If so, we might consider wrapping up.
You’ll run into all sorts. I’m suggesting that when you run into someone whose style you find unpleasant you end the encounter without having them ejected from the venue if they are otherwise respectful (insults and verbal assaults are well beyond what I’d consider heated discussion). Politely ending a conversation that you’re not enjoying is one thing. Asking that security take a hand because you don’t want to say ‘I’m not enjoying where this conversation is going’ is another entirely.
In my opinion you are entitled to feel safe and to end any interaction immediately when you decide it isn’t to your taste or it upsets you. You are not entitled to walk away from a ‘guy mode’ discussion and anonymously have security eject the person.
If you want to socially sanction folks whose styles you don’t like then that is your privilege. If you want security to take action against people whose conversational style isn’t to you liking that crosses a line for me. If the other party ends the conversation when asked and the conversation didn’t dive down to the level of insults or personal attacks then you take a deep breath and get on with your life.
I’m pretty sure that most young people out there can handle this. Any who can’t need to work on it because even in same gender domains you’ll run into people whose style you find upsetting or unpleasant.
As long as the interaction is basically respectful and ends on request of one of the parties (and to me this is the line between heated and ranting) everyone should be capable of coping, expressing their preferences and enjoying the balance of the day…
Yeah, I think this has more than run its course. I’ll bow out at this point. I don’t think there is much more to be said. It has been a thought provoking thread though and thanks for the posting that got it started.
I think there’s been a drift into the arena of conversations, which are shared experiences. Gatekeeping, on the other hand, is never about starting a conversation, it’s about ending the involvement a perceived interloper. The problem is the behavior of people who inherently do not want their toys played with by the new kid unless they prove themselves worthy.
I’ve invested literally thousands of dollars in all stripe of SFF related media for years, but if you tried to make me prove my fandom, I would solidly fail. I misquote Monty Python routines, the gold standard of quotable material. That shouldn’t keep me from watching Monty Python or cosplaying as Sir Robin if I chose to do so. Luckily it would never come up since, oddly, something about my appearance precludes that from happening. Maybe it’s because I know I’d inherently fail a challenge, but I see no reason why anyone should have to run a gauntlet to buy a comic book or attend a signing.
So, I have to say that while I’ve had a couple twitter run-ins with you over the White Male privilege piece (not over the content but how it was delivered), I do highly agree with the opinions of this article.
The part that always gets me is similar to the whole gay marriage debate: how does anybody else enjoying their particular past-time affect or threaten the person being a gatekeeper?
The whole you-can’t-enjoy-comics-because-you’re-a-woman-and-it-somehow-threatens-me thing…it boggles my mind.
Seriously, why the fuck should they care? If anything, they should embrace it, as this article is conveying, as its simply a win-win for everyone involved.
Some part of it is, I believe, subtractive masculinity – the idea that “masculine” and “feminine” are mutually exclusive territories, and any occupation or pastime in which women engage is thereby feminine, and thus taboo for men. (better explained here: http://doctorscience.blogspot.com/2007/11/gay-hatin-and-subtractive-masculinity.html)
If women are legitimately present in geek-space, then geek-space is feminine and men must abandon geek-space or cease to be men themselves. So: furious, irrational gatekeeping, attempts to drive the invader from the field, and insistence that all the geek girls must be fake.
Just wondering what you make of DC being their own gatekeeper and keeping out the kids.Obviously they’ve decided that they don’t want money except from a certain demographic of geekdom.
Feel free to knock this back; in my brain it’s not a tangent, but that’s because I’m reading 45 year olds as “45 year old straight white males,”
Wow, talk about pissing up a rope. Everything you say is true, but that sort of “deep nerd” is hard-wired to do that stuff – to flex their topical hubris on whatever subject they deem worthy, against anyone “unworthy.” I’ve seen it in sci-fi, paper games, video games, paintball, model railroading…you name it! This kind of BS is why I got so turned off to D&D in high school that the whole world of RPGs turns my stomach to this day. Those sorts of guys are why there’s a loathsome character based on them on The Simpsons (“worst blog post, ever” to paraphrase) I wish you a lot of luck with this, but really, come on, this problem is as old as geekdom itself.
SeaTeaPea: So? Are you saying they’re completely unable to learn and grow as people? Even if that’s the case, so what? If they CAN learn better, suffering the consequences for harassing people will teach them, and people at that convention will not be harassed by them. And if they CAN’T learn better, then eventually they’ll get banned from whichever convention they like to harass people at, and people at that convention will not be harassed by them. Win-win. Because you know what? I don’t feel sorry for harassers. I feel sorry for the people they drive away.
I am still recovering from playing D&D two years ago with a bunch of guys and one that started quizzing me on Star Wars with random questions I would have needed an Encyclopedia to find. Very bitter experience.Great article.
Steven Metke: I appreciate that you were willing to listen to your female friends and to consider the discussion here. (And to be clear, I was not putting you in the category of gatekeepers who are the subject of this thread.) Any confusion was the result of my poorly articulating myself.
Except that there are no “known adverse side effects” to anyone. There is in fact a massive government study that showed that books, films, games, etc. have little to no effect on teen violence, dysfunction and gun use, as opposed to real life factors such as access to guns, peers, environment and family. Blaming art for corrupting young minds is an old game and the media particularly likes to play it as concern trolling over teenage females. So substitute a synonym for hysteria that isn’t gender connected or disrespectful to mental illness sufferers as you like, but the sentiment remains the same. The book harms no one. Issues about it can be discussed, other books can be recommended, but I find the simplistic and falsified interpretations of Twilight (a book of which I’m not a fan,) and other romantic works to be part of systemic social misogyny that gets highly annoying.
I’m not saying Metke or yourself or anyone should like the book or other romances or even avoid warning teenage girls that you think they have heads full of hormonal treacle and must be carefully trained to avoid any complex story with no discussion so that they won’t let a guy bash their head in. (Even though such stories have nothing to do with why a troubled girl might do that.) I’m objecting to the notion that I should have to go around warning young girls not to read these books on the grounds of something that I think is ridiculous because other people are quite sure it’s true and teen female behavior must therefore be constrained. (And the media believes that such warnings sell their product.) And that if I don’t, I’m not being a responsible fan or female or whatever. So no, I don’t agree that they should be warned. But you go do what you feel you have to do. Just don’t be surprised, again, when a teenage girl or adult fan you’re harassing about it tells you to fuck off. That was my main point.
What part of if women take matters into their own hands they can get killed did you not get? You’re victim blaming. The fact that it’s not my job to fix gatekeepers is not the same as believing unicorns will come into existence. Those who feel that they can help by confronting and that it is safe for them to do so should do as they see fit, without violence. Those who feel that they can’t, don’t have to. And change remarkably does come from that. It’s a collective shift that requires dealing with all the social factors involved, not A-Team fantasies of avengers. (Though I do love me some Mr. T and Murdoch.) As has been noted, modes of operating on this issue (including the mode here,) come in many forms and rely on circumstances involved. It’s not a one size fits all solution.
In this particular forum, I’m confrontational over some issues, to one degree or another. Some people don’t like that, and the risks of it are something I assess every time I decide to post here. In other circumstances I’m not confrontational. It’s a situational reading. Scalzi recently tweeted the tweet of a woman blogger who received the threat that her house would be firebombed at a particular time. I’m pretty certain that whatever she wrote that got that threat (which was hopefully fake,) if she even wrote anything particularly, was not that confrontational. For a lot of gatekeepers, the mere presence of women is enough, and some of those gatekeepers, like Peacock, Harris and that other comics dude, have a certain amount of power or influence in certain venues. Others are simply physically dangerous. Deciding for women or others what they should do when they’re gatekept is not a solution.
Kyle: “You are not entitled to walk away from a ‘guy mode’ discussion and anonymously have security eject the person.” Good thing I haven’t asked for that then, eh? Not for myself or for anyone else. I’m not aware of situations in which this has happened, and I saw no one here proposing it. I think we’re closer in our views on this than might be apparent, in fact. Thank you for the discussion.
@BW Thanks, I think we are. I enjoyed the give and take here and my thoughts on the matter became substantially clearer as the discussion went on. I’m not sure that you were the one who said it, but someone suggested that the upset party should not have to say anything before going to security to have someone ejected. That seemed excessive to me. Sorry if I pushed back in the wrong direction.
Reblogged this on Jeffrey N. Baker and commented:
Scalzi has something great to say to those people that feel that only they can decide who is worthy enough to like any particular nerdy book, movie, or cartoon. As a creator of these things I will agree with John, please stop.
Kat Goodwin: I think it is interesting that you left out all the parts of my post that undermine your contentions. I said I would NOT tell anybody to not read Twilight. I said that because I have no interest in controlling what other people read. The “adverse effects” part was clearly tongue in cheek and was underlined by my assertion that most people will not be affected by the prose in any way, i.e. because it is too inert to have lasting effect. There might be some magical book that would cause teenage girls to change their lives for the worse; I don’t think Twilight is it. (People may have unrealistic or damaging ideas about romantic relationships; I doubt the fiction they read has much to do with that. Certainly it does not explain why they would be susceptible in the first place.) You might also note I never said “teenage girls” and I never spelled out what the adverse effects might be. For the record, if there are people out there whose mental equilibria can be wobbled by these books, I personally would not assume they were overwhelmingly adolescent or female.
In other words, I was just looking for a cute way to say the books are crap, but read them if you like. I have often read crap, often knowing it was so and enjoying it on some level anyway. (I have even read stuff that catered to some self serving and/or not particularly admirable aspect of my imagination; I have it on good authority that perfectly respectable women occasionally do the same.) If I went around telling girls/women, don’t read Twilight, it will dissolve what’s left of your soft female brain, they would be right to tell me to F*** Off. If the subject comes up and I say what I think of the franchise, then (gasp) I am talking WITH a female in a whatchamacallit, intellectually discursive sort of way. (Most of the people I know who think Twilight should not be read by girls are women and self-described feminists.* They may have a point and it might be more appropriate for them (for many reasons) to make it than it would be for a man to do so, but I don’t agree with them.)
Judging by your past form, your counter is going to be that you have the right to read me as you see fit (otherwise known as just making stuff up about me) because of your past experiences with others, etc. One I find that a weak argument in general, but second, my comment on “hysteria” signalled that I am allergic to the idea of psychoanalyzing women for their own good and paternalism in general. You are not just filling in blanks here; you are actively disputing that I mean what I say. My response to that is basically going to be the same as your putative teen age reader’s to your putative “me.”
And yeah, using the word hysteria in this context and then acting like the language you choose is no big deal, kind of misogynist. Particularly the second part. It’s one thing to just speak loosely; it’s another to dismiss the idea and make it my problem like you did in your response. If you happened to use the expression “peanut gallery” in a discussion about race, I would not think you were being a jerk, But if someone responded, hey, think about what that actually means historically and you said “yeah, whatever, just pick something else in your own mind,” I would start to revise my opinion of you.
*I am not making a judgement on whether they are in fact feminists or “good” femnists; I am just noting the fact that they identify as feminists while making these arguments.
Did not get that at all. Sometimes that happens with tongue in cheek. It’s happened to me with tongue in cheek. You *seemed* to be scolding me for saying I found the media to be concern trolling about this in reference to my conversation with Steven Metke. So I missed the joke. My apologies.
So I should not psychoanalyze women, but you pscyhoanalyzing me is fine? Umm… Look, we all do a certain amount of psychoanalyzing here with each other’s posts and Scalzi’s posts for that matter. I try to go by the words that people post, but that includes me pointing out sometimes that those words might not come across quite the way that the poster thinks they are. And people have done that with me as well, and often rightly so — I’ve been schooled here about transgender issues and women of color re the feminist movement for two — which is why I didn’t object to your saying that hysteria wasn’t maybe the best term to use for what I was specifically looking at. And sometimes we do misinterpret each other words, such as my completely missing and not finding clear your tongue in cheek.
Or you missing that my use of the word hysteria referred not to individual women raising objections to things that they found in Twilight (psychoanalyzing,) but to *society’s* tendency to concern troll about teenage girls and pre-teen girls, their sexuality, and the fact that some of them like Justin Bieber and Twilight, etc.; and the social tendency as expressed particularly in the controversy-chasing media to portray teenage and pre-teen girls as a mass of idiotic, hormonal victims who have to be saved from themselves by severely controlling what they might see and hear. And *in my opinion,* this sort of thing happens to be part of the male dominated society that we have and is closely related to the concept of girl