If you've been following The Battle of the Fake Geek Girl at all, you probably already know who ALB is. Her flaming pink hair of righteousness has been all over the Web since her succinct video takedown of misogyny in the geek world,"Fake Geek Girls" debuted. IRL, ALB is Angelina, a Canadian illustrator and blogger. She was kind enough to answer a couple of my questions over the Web (for we are nothing if not women of our time). Here's some of what she has to say about all this "Fake Geek Girl" tomfoolery.
Katrina: I just wrapped up a piece for our blog about false binaries in “The Battle of the Fake Geek Girl”, and the role that labels play in the conflict. It seems that the trouble always begins when one group (in this case, geek naysayers) tries to categorize another group (in this case, “fake” geek girls) as “not-them”. What has your own experience been with the geek/nerd subculture and its labels? Do you consider yourself to be a geek girl, and furthermore, do you think that the labels of “geek” and “not geek” need to exist at all?
ALB: I don't consider myself a "geek girl", but I don't consider myself anything. It was never by conscious effort, but I haven't found masking taping a label onto myself to produce positive results of any kind. I just like what I like, and I don't apologize for it to anyone. However, some of my interests fall under the category of "geekdom" so whenever the name is mentioned my ears perk up, because there's a good chance you're speaking my language. But don't get me wrong, if "geek" is someone's identity, then more power to them! Every human on this earth feels a need to belong, even in small ways. So I think that at times labels, such as geek, can help people find others who share similar interests or levels of passion about a subject. What makes the difference is when labels are placed on you, versus labels you construct and choose for yourself.
Katrina: Your video, “Fake Geek Girls” is making its way around the Web like wildfire. It’s my personal favorite takedown of the whole "Fake Geek Girl" debacle. What did you initially want viewers to come away with, after watching your video?
ALB: I didn't really know what I wanted to accomplish with this video. I was just angry. And frustrated. Because Tony Harris's rant, as ridiculous as it was, represented a tangible piece of evidence of what I, and other people, have been experiencing for years. I just needed to express myself, and to talk, and create dialogue. And to be honest, I didn't think it would take off the way I did. But I think that speaks to my point- people, especially women, could relate with what I was saying, meaning it's a widespread problem. I guess now, after the fact, I can say that I want viewers, especially certain men in the geek community, to self evaluate with an honest heart.
Katrina: Have you ever felt personally attacked for being a girl who is interested in things within the geek subculture? How has your interaction with the realm of all things geeky been altered because of this negativity (if at all), and how do you combat the naysayers?
ALB: I've never been attacked in real life, only online, but that speaks to the cowardice of certain individuals. What I have experienced though, is normalized sexism. Asking to join a D&D group in high school, and being turned down because they didn't want to "have to deal with women". Asking for help in a comic book store and being talked down to as a result. Constant and endless quizzing from men once they find out I'm interested in a fandom they participate in. It's discouraging, sure. I'm not sure if it's my personality, or the way I was brought up, or something else, but it never made me want to give up. In fact, it made me want to be there even more. If you tell me I can't do something, or that I'm not welcome, I'm going to do it. So in a way, I think the best way to combat this behaviour is to exist. To be seen, be heard, and to not back out or leave, even when being bullied. To support and encourage other women to pursue whatever interests they want. To demand safe and respective "geeky" environments.
Katrina: What advice would you give a younger girl who is interested in exploring the geek subculture, but who may be feeling put-off by all this recent insanity?
ALB: To younger girls, I say, jump! Take the leap and bust in. Because there is so much wonderfulness to be had. Don't let anyone tell you that you don't know enough, or you're too new, because at some point they were too. Everyone was once where you are, no one is born an expert. You're aloud to like whatever you want. And if anyone tells you otherwise, pull a Big Barda and push them aside with one hand.
Katrina: Finally, what’s your wildest fantasy/impossible dream/ultimate hope for the end of this conflict? Where does the geek subculture go from here, in terms of being a more inclusive and far less hostile body? What can women do to contribute meaningfully despite the backlash?
ALB: My dream? Oh man! I think I want, and this sounds really simple but just hear me on this one- listening. I want the protective geekdom fenceholders to listen. And not just listen, but UNDERSTAND. Because no one likes feeling excluded. Everyone just wants to belong. And at the end of the day, isn't that the point of this subculture? If this is where someone feels they fit in, shouldn't we let them? We all, women included, need to look at ourselves and say, is the mindset I'm promoting elitist? And if so, what does that say about the relationship I have with others, and myself? I think that's one of the problems with labelling yourself, once you do, it can become your whole identity. And if someone you don't agree with wants to wear your identity too, you can feel personally threatened, like they're trying to take something away from you. But they aren't, not really. They just want to belong. And there is room for everyone in this sandbox.
There are way too many other excellent tidbits of ALB wisdom out there on the Web to fit into a single blog post, so you should check her out on Facebook, Twitter, and Etsy. And for those of you who missed her original video, here it is for your viewing pleasure!