Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's Dog Ears feature an argument about feminism in geekery as well as the ethics of breaking news via social media sites:


Enbrethiliel said...


Before I get on the fence or off the fence about anything, I like to know where the fence is! So what, exactly, is "Geek Culture"?

I've always found "geek" to be a versatile word for anyone who knows a lot of seemingly useless things about something which mainstream pop culture says he's not supposed to like so much. So we have computer geeks, movie geeks, Tolkien geeks, etc.

On the other hand, if "geek" refers only to lovers of Fantasy who are also often gamers . . . Then I have to say that one of my best friends falls into that category and she'd be surprised to hear that "geek culture" might not be female friendly. Both her sisters are also gamers (World of Warcraft), and they've never had the sense of being in a man's world.

Also, I'm a bit miffed that nearly that entire analysis of women characters in geekdom was based on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Tolkien didn't write for geeks any more than J.K. Rowling does, and I doubt that geeks make up his biggest fan base. (Yet I suppose I could get away with calling him a philology geek!)

Enbrethiliel said...


I want to say something about book signings. Do I do it here or on your last post about it?

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

I think that Jezebel was expanding from a Tolkien-focus to a general geek-focus to make discussion a little broader, but I will say that things that are "classic" science fiction or fantasy have generally been created by men and are therefore slightly skewed. (The same thing can be said about most types of literature or pop culture, so I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb here.) True though this may be, however, I don't think that the entire genre is tainted with mysogyny.

Plus, despite the abundance of questionable representations of women, there are so many examples of strong female characters (Firefly, Tamora Pierce novels, etc.) that I can find examples of geekery I enjoy without worrying about the hyper-sexualized images of women in comic books.

(I agree with you about the vagueness of the term "geek," by the way. I'm still a little unsure about the difference between a geek and a nerd.)

And you can write about book signings wherever you like. I'm easy. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


On geeks vs. nerds:

I'm no expert, but I don't think you'll ever have a "Fantasy nerd." The term seems to have strong academic connotations. Geeks, on the other hand, have a wider range of passions. I think both groups have equally poor social skills.

Then again, perhaps "geek" is just the new "nerd"?

On book signings:

I once read an article by an author who abhorred book signings. Apparently, unless you're a really huge celebrity in a big city bookstore, hardly any fans show up, and it can be demoralising.

It made me remember a scene from the 90s movie Big Bully. Rick Moranis plays an author who sits in a bookstore all day and does nothing more significant than direct patrons to the aisle where they can find the latest Stephen King! He does get to sell and sign one book . . . but only after he tricks the reader into believing that the plot is similar to that of King's Pet Sematery! =P

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

I feel so bad for local authors when they have a table set up for a book signing because no one EVER stops by. Sometimes I'll take pity on them and listen to their spiel, but I so rarely buy books that I'm not willing to shell out $25 for a book that's (as one local author described his tour de force) "a romantic thriller with a touch of adventure and supernaturalism."

Homero said...

I went to the SLO Book Festival a few months ago, and it was not as sad as I thought it was going to be, but I really didn't see all that many people actually purchase anything.

Also, to offer my own two cents in regards to what exactly "geek" is. I'd define it as an individual who has an inordante amount of knowledge about a subject, usually tivial or related to popular culture, though not always; these individuals are usually social apt, with the exception of when the subject of his or her interest comes to the forfront.

A nerd, while somewhat similar to a geek, is different in distinct ways. Like the geek, a nerd will possess a large amount of knowledge about a particular subject, or related subjects. Unlike the geek, however, the nerd's knowlege is largly academic or highly scientific and/or esoteric. The nerd, unlike the geek, disavows social interaction, and perfers to be alone or with others that are similar.

While the geek may be able to 'pass' in society as a whole (indeed, most are suprised to find that action movie star Vin Disel is a high level D and D player) the nerd is socially inept.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

I bow to your obviously superior knowledge.

Interesting to note, then, that I've always considered myself a nerd. Maybe I'll change my self-classification, since it takes most people a while to figure out just how much of a dork I really am.

Enbrethiliel said...


Well, there's another term that may need some clarification! What's the difference between a nerd and a dork, Lindsay? ;)

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

While difficult to define, I'd say that someone who has a "literary" blog and participates in the nerdiest of extreme sports (caving) may qualify. I'd also say that someone who's out of touch with most of popular culture (due to not owning a television) and named her cat after a Jane Austen character might also qualify. As I fulfill all four of these qualifications, I'd say I'm a shoe-in. :)

More on this to come, I think. Now you all have me thinking over the philosophical ramifications of using "geek" or "nerd" or "dork." I just have to gather my evidence for a post on the subject. :)

Homero said...

Wait, caving is a sport? Cheerleading, I can understand...

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

It's an EXTREME sport, thank you so very much indeed.

Of course, it's an extreme sport with geologists, so you take your life in your hands just climbing into a car with one of them driving:

Geologist: "Hey, is that a hole in the wall of the canyon?"


Cozy Book Nook said...

Lindsay, your personal criteria for dorkdom makes you seem interesting and cool to me-- well maybe not the no tv-- but I watch very little tv myself.

Well, I call hubby a 'dork' when he is being obtuse. Don't think you are obtuse, Lindsay. So maybe not a dork. Or maybe dork has different connotations depending on region.

I've always been a Tolkien fan- even love the Silmarillion. Can't say that I've ever felt slighted as a female or had difficulty imagining myself in that world. Never considered Tolkien to be mysogynistic. Wonder what that means? Am I not feminist enough? Am I too confident and secure to see it? Am I just not as perceptive as others? Hmm.. time for deep thinking, I guess.


Lindsay-with-an-A said...

Lesa, I think there are varying shades of mysogyny, and the Tolkien argument is based on the fact that there are so few women in his books and the ones that are there do so little for the plot. (This is slightly different in the movies, since Peter Jackson amped up all the women's parts.)

I've heard the same thing said about Sesame Street, funny as that sounds. You have Cookie Monster, Grover, Elmo, Big Bird, the Snufflupugus, Oscar the Grouch, Kermit the Frog, Telly, and many other very memorable male characters. I can't remember the name of one female muppet on Sesame Street, though, because there weren't very many "interesting" female characters who got a lot of air time.

Does that make Sesame Street sexist? Maybe. Do I still have very fond memories of it and encourage kids to watch it if they absolutely have to watch tv? Absolutely. In (my view of) the big scheme of things, the lack of female representation on the screen is less important than teaching kids the letter of the day.

Enbrethiliel said...


Well . . . I remember Prairie Dawn . . . but she wasn't very memorable, so I guess that "proves" that Sesame Street is sexist!

Ha! Seriously, I think Jim Henson's main objective was to create colourful and memorable muppets whom children would learn from and be amused by--and he definitely achieved that. That those muppets happen to be mostly male (Can muppets even be anatomically correct?) is totally peripheral, and anyone who focusses on that totally misses the magic of Sesame Street.

PS--You know, when I was younger, I thought Big Bird was a "girl"!

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

I'm still not entirely convinced that Elmo wasn't originally a girl. I have a sneaking suspicion they accidentally referred to Elmo as a "she" in an episode and it just stuck, because I could SWEAR Elmo was a girl when I was a kid.

Sesame Street was also the first place (on television) that I was introduced to the idea of nonconformity to societal gender roles, in the Monsterpiece Theater performance of GUYS AND DOLLS. After all, "Some girls like to play with / Some girls like to play with trucks!"

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