I was going to write something about the latest misogynistic asshole behavior in the con-going “geek” community (Nick Mamatas has a good blog post about it here, but then I remembered that I don’t go to cons, don’t cosplay, don’t do any of that community stuff. Whenever I read about one of these problems, my initial response is I hope those people can fix that shit, because that sounds awful. As far as I’m concerned, it has nothing to do with me.
However (you knew there’d be a “however’), it does make me think of a single-panel cartoon I read when I was a kid. Here’s the setup: a pair of hippies are standing in the street with their frayed cut-off jeans and jacket, looking at a store window display showing those same clothes for sale at substantial prices. I don’t remember the joke written beneath but I can still see the dismay on those characters’ faces. The things they valued had been co-opted for the mainstream.
We’ve seen it over and over, from rap songs in McDonald’s commercials to dreamcatchers for sale in home decorating stores. Have a subculture? Does it seem cool enough to break out into the mainstream? Soon your cultural identifiers will be for sale at Hot Topic.
This doesn’t seem to work the same way within the geek community, largely because it defines itself primarily through the type of mass media entertainments it consumes. I never see geeks upset about their favorite thing for sale: Tardis bookshelf? Enterprise tree ornaments? Lord of the Rings Lego set? Awesome! They snap up their credit cards.
That’s because geeks are a marketing category that thinks of itself as a subculture. Their communal activities center on movies, books, TV shows–whether they’re made in this country or another–and seeing these consumed by non-geeks as well as geeks isn’t a co-opting. It’s conquest. “We won,” I heard Greg Bear say at the NW Bookfest some years ago, and to prove it he cited box office figures.
And yet they still feel co-opted. They still write the screeds Nick talked about.
The surprising thing isn’t the misogyny. That’s rampant in every part of our culture and I look forward to the day that we shame it out of existence. The surprising thing is the talk about “attention” especially the idea that good-looking women are attention whores who just want geeks to look at them. Anyone who wants to see THE AVENGERS on opening weekend is welcome. Come spend your money! Geeks will have their credit cards out, too.
But their attention is the most precious commodity they have. Attention is the coin of the realm. Attention confers ownership.
It shouldn’t surprise me that a certain segment of the population is wedded to the idea that the time and energy they spend looking is incredibly valuable, but it does.
Obligatory disclaimer: I don’t hate cons or look down on them or whatever. I’m just not interested. It’s great that other people like and value them, but I’d rather be at home with my family.