Copyright © 2011 JennKL Photography (www.JennKL.com)

Going into the Oh, You Sexy Geek panel on Thursday morning, I was excited by the prospect of seeing some of the latest attacks on the concept of women as geeks dissected. The panelists were knowledgeable and varied: Bonnie Burton, Adrianne Curry, Jill Pantozzi, Clare Grant, Kiala Kazebee, Clare Kramer and Jennifer K. Stuller are steeped in geek cred.

Unfortunately, there are two things that soured some of the discussion for me: Ms. Stuller (ironically or not,) referring to herself as a, “Humorless feminist,” and late arrival to the panel, Chris Gore, talking about being willing to stick his penis in any member of the panel.

I can take a joke, but that summed up the problem for me pretty succintly. The misogyny and pre/proscriptivism that we get from external media sources is driving the continued marginalization of women as geeks. I also felt that Ms. Stuller’s inference wasn’t simply that she was there as the academic, legitimate voice of, “Humorless,” i.e., “Serious,” feminism, but that the rest of the women on the panel somehow weren’t. I don’t know Mr. Gore or Ms. Stuller, and I’d like to think these were simply bad jokes gone awry, but if they aren’t. . . these extremes are exactly why this panel exists.

So I’m rejecting the premise. Can women be geeks and be sexy? Let’s ask Nathan Fillion how being a sexy geek is working out for him. Are hot starlets pandering to a geek audience? Oh, hey, John Barrowman says he’s a lifelong sci-fi geek, let’s ask him if he’s pandering. My rule is this: unless it is a direct biological function, asking someone of any gender whether they’re capable of being x, y, or z is unacceptable.

The panel was too short, and Chris Gore’s flippant comments felt like they derailed a conversation that was turning over at least a few of the issues faced by women in the geek community. I’ve never met Mr. Gore and I’m not ascribing a motive, but tacky doesn’t begin to describe that remark.

If a man looks at a woman while thinking he’d like to screw her and simultaneously thinks that she can’t possibly be an authentic geek, there’s the breakdown in a nutshell. If women look at other women and think that because men will want to screw them, or because women look like they don’t mind men thinking they want to screw them, they can’t possibly be an authentic geek, are two sides of the same coin. There’s no one way to geek, or be a woman, but I’ll be damned if people don’t keep trying to say there is.

I found most of the discussion productive, but the fact is: there are so many intersections when it comes to simply being women, that when we’re talking about being geeky women, let alone sexy, geeky women, it’s the big red button of overload. There’s not enough time to cover everything in a meaningful way. I also felt that with so many panelists, it was hard to ensure that everyone got equal time. Bonnie and Adrianne were obviously the most extroverted members of the panel, and addressed the questions asked by both moderator Katrina Hill and the audience, with blunt aplomb.

Some women just identify as geeks, without the qualifier. This is no more or less valid than my choice to identify specifically as a geek girl, because I want recognition that I’m both. That we see repetitious questioning of women’s geek credibility, and then see the marginalizing of attractive women who claim to be geeks, is and will always be absurd.

Copyright © 2011 JennKL Photography (www.JennKL.com)

A high point for me, among all the discussion of cosplay, comic book characters’ costumes, and the what is sexy/is sexy okay for female geeks, was some discussion of why there aren’t more sexualized male characters in geek media. I loved that the panel, most prominently Bonnie Burton and Adrianne Curry acknowledged how underserved the female gaze is. Yes, we do need more scantily-clad men in comics and cosplay. The female presence at SDCC is growing, and if we’re not at least half the attendance numbers already, then that day is coming soon. Again, it’s time to reject the premise that we’re in the minority. We’re not. We’re half the audience. Some of us consider ourselves sexy, some of us don’t. Some of us want to be, some of us don’t. Some of us are more introverted, some are extroverted. None of those things determine our value as people, as women, or as geeks.

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