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“I didn’t actually say this. And if someone had said it to me, I would have disagreed somewhat vehemently.”
Yesterday, John Scalzi posted a righteous smackdown upon those who cry “fake geek girl” and demand proof of geek cred whenever someone engages in geeky behavior while also having the nerve to be female. His smackdownery was in response to a specific editorial written by a guy named Peacock, but also sums up well the feelings a lot of us have had over the past months as more geeky gals have stood up and pushed back against the phenomenon.
As someone who is not a gal but is of the general opinion that gals are awesome, I stood and applauded at this. On reflection this morning, however, I remembered that I have myself encountered, and commented upon, exactly the sort of “fake geek gal” Mr. Peacock was describing. She was at Dragon*Con, some years ago now, sitting at a table adjacent to mine, and well… let me just quote from my LiveJournal entry at the time…
Sales were slow on Saturday, so late in the day I crafted a new “BMSIBYF” ["Buy my stuff, I'll be your friend!"-- a running gag of mine at cons] sign out of bristol, tape, and extra cardboard and went back to the campy grin technique. Immediately sales picked up, and by midday Sunday, I’d made lots of new friends.
This caught the roving eye of the booth bunny next door. I have only a passing familiarity with the group who was next to us, but like so many of the people at D*C (and even more at Comic-Con) they are an indy comics shop who are Not Dark Horse and Not Image Comics, if you see what I mean. Demons in spandex and leather-trenchcoat vigilantes, that kind of thing. Their table had fairly brisk traffic, but their only product as far as I could make out was a $20 shirt with their company logo on it– not exactly an item calculated to set the congoing public on fire.
Thus, they had a booth bunny, a latter-day Betty Boop who appeared to be in her early twenties, with abs and eyeliner and auburn-in-a-bottle hair, who would take turns sitting on their table and lying on her stomach on their table, batting her eyelids at the people who walked by. Unfortunately for our neighbors, even having a booth bunny was not enough to make a $20 shirt bearing an indy comics label logo an attractive commodity, and sales were suffering. Meanwhile, 85% of the people who came back to our little corner and spotted me smiling happily and holding up my silly little handmade sign, would at least laugh, and a good 50% would then come over to the table and even if they didn’t so much as buy a button, they’d walk away having heard of NeverNever and The Suburban Jungle and remembering me as the “buy my stuff sign guy.” Several people who’d never heard of my work still wanted pictures of me with my sign.
Well, not knowing the booth bunny I can’t really ascribe motives to her, but I got the distinct vibe that she was jealous. At a lull in the proceedings, she sidled over to our table, batted her eyes at me, and cooed, “Could I borrow your sign for a little while?”
Halfway between annoyed and amused, I responded, “Wellll … I dunnoooo…” In the past, I’ve been approached in exactly that same manner by people who then proceeded to punch me in the face and take my lunch money. But she assured me that she only wanted it for ten minutes, so I acquiesced. And, having learned from bitter experience that discipline is paramount in these situations, made an exact note of the time.
So she took the “Buy my stuff! I’ll be your friend!” sign, hiked up her midriff-tied torn-off t-shirt, and started posing with it and telling people, “GOSH, if you buy our SHIRT, I’ll be your FRIEND! What more could you WANT?” [A business partner at the time], being susceptible to booth bunnies and insufficiently clad females in general, took the opportunity to take several pictures of her.
Not a sale.
After eight minutes of the fanboys not noticing the difference between her with the sign and her without it, their continued insistence on not buying the shirt no matter how much they stood around and ogled her, and my answering queries of “You gave her your sign?” with a casual, “Yup … she’s got six minutes left!” she apparently got disgusted and handed it back to me.
“Here,” she said. “I guess I’m just not as cute as you are.”
Now here’s the thing: I’ve been going to Dragon*Con for over ten years. Of the thousands upon thousands of women I’ve met or seen at Dragon*Con, regardless of whether they were supermodel types or not, this gal is the only one I have ever encountered who seemed to actually hold geeks in contempt and only be there with the purpose of being gawked at. (Technically she was there to sell books, as she was the model the artist had used to base his heroine on; I don’t know if she was getting a cut of book sales or what. The gawking was intended to lead to book selling, not actually the desired goal in and of itself.)
So it’s not like “fake geek girls” are exactly a rampant epidemic.
On top of which, and this is the part that gets me, can you blame the gal? By wearing her ridiculous outfit and posing in her ridiculous poses and doing that duckface, she got crowds of hormonal nerd zombies to line up at her table, staring and making Beavis and Butthead noises. If the table had been stocked with a $10 book instead of a $20 shirt, I have no doubt they would have made a killing that day from all the troglodytes going “Uhhh… hot chick… me give money…”
Meanwhile, a perfectly nice and real, genuine, bona fide geek gal artist of my acquaintance who was across the aisle was being roundly ignored by those same troglodytes, because she wasn’t vamping it up but instead sitting there, drawing and smiling quietly at anyone who walked past. If Mr. Peacock feels insulted that “I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence,” maybe he should be railing at the troglodytes who create that environment rather than the occasional (and frankly rare) woman who tries to capitalize on it.
Those are the real “pox on our culture,” Mr. Peacock.
Just a heads-up, I am not at SDCC, but some of my buttons are! Moonbase Press, dealer L-02 in the small press section (a.k.a, John Lotshaw, Bill Holbrook, and the ever-awesome Mammallamadevil) are carrying several of my button designs, including the pictured “Fear of Strangers” button, the Ponytastic “Button of Charisma +4,” and the newly-debuting “CONTENTS: Awesome + Win” button. At $2.50, they’re way cheaper than yet another Exclusive Spider-Man Statuette!
While you’re there, say hello to Kerry, Bill, and /JPL for me!
“Who am I? …I could be anybody.”
–Johnny Depp, Rango
One of my upcoming projects in the next few weeks is to come up with a new look and feel for my business cards, which need a serious updating, if for no other reason that the only website they’ve got on ‘em is The Suburban Jungle. As much as I love SJ and always will, we’re coming up on three years since the comic finished, and it’s time for me to get a little more current.
Only problem is, I don’t have any idea what to do for it. A good business card, besides giving all of the relevant information, should give some capsulized form of self, something that sums up who you are and what you’re about, for the people who will be looking at the card later and thinking, “Oh yeah, who was that guy?” But lately, well, I don’t have a meaningful idea of what “self” I would want to give the world. My current card is a good summary of who I was, ten years ago, and who I have been, but to an extent that surprises me, I can’t put a finger on who I am now.
They told me, “Just be yourself!” So I did. Now they say, “Please be anyone else.”
Of course, ask a zen practitioner, and they’d probably applaud. The whole point of zen is to lose your sense of self, right? Does that mean I’m enlightened? ’cause I sure don’t feel enlightened. If anything, I feel sorta shapeless and incoherent.
Some years ago now I had a major emotional meltdown over the course of several months, facing all sorts of truths about myself that I’d shoved away, thoughts and ideas and experiences I’d repressed to the point of not even remembering I’d had them. This was not a fun thing to go through. In point of fact, it was awful, but it needed doing. But I think there is residual trauma from that, or something related to it, that’s making me very flinchy about committing to anything now. To take a position on something, requires defending it. To define myself as X, means that if X is later revealed as somehow undesirable, to be stuck with it. So far am I from being of the desirable zen-style “no mind,” I am instead vapor-locked in indecision.
Who am I? I could be anybody.
Of course, all social beings wear a mask– most introverts even moreso, and “reinvention” is nothing more than discarding an old mask in favor of a new one. Can I just make up a new “Gneech” and put him on, like putting on a new coat? Is that phony? Is it any more or less phony than everyday life always is and has been since birth? I don’t know. There’s a Cary Grant quote, which I had at hand once but have since been unable to find again, which says (paraphrased): All style begins with imitation. You do something repetitively until you assimilate it and it effortlessly and seamlessly becomes your own.
That’s true of a lot more than style: it’s true of art, it’s true of skill, it’s true of modes of speech, it’s true of just about everything. So, like Rango, who “put on” the cowboy persona until he finally actually became that persona, should my goal be to pick things that I see as positive and desirable and “put them on” until they become me?
And in the case of business cards, should I stare at a bunch of other designs and pick out elements I like from each to see what I can synthesize into a design of my own?
I think I think about this stuff too much.
I have taken a leap of faith and registered for Midwest Furfest 2012, November 16-18 in Chicago. The leap of faith is that I’ll have vacation time again by then– various unanticipated personal crises have conspired to put me in the red on that score recently, but with 4-5 months to catch up and save up, hopefully I’ll be all right. I also went ahead and booked a hotel room.
The dealer room is full, which means I’ll have to try for the artist alley. The last time I was at MFF (two? three? venues ago), the dealer room always sucked and the artist alley was the place to be, anyhow. I’m told by various reputable sources that it’s much better these days, but that the artist alley is also just fine, so we’ll see how it goes.
Besides the fact that I haven’t been there in several years (which is itself reason enough to go), MFF will be filling in for both Dragon*Con and Further Confusion for me. With both of those officially not happening, I imagine that I’ll be kinda jonesing for a con by that point.
That also means there will be a biiiiig empty space between MFF and AC 2013 that will want filling. I’m not sure what will go there, yet.