"Geek Girl" Stereotype Bingo

Inspired by this post at Feminist Gamers and this post on The IRIS Network forums, I decided to take an old post of mine and turn it into a bingo scorecard.

Stereotype Bingo

Basically the rules are that when you see a media article, blog post, or anything else talking about women in relation to a geeky hobby (gaming, technology, science, etc) you pull out this scorecard and mark down which points the article touches on. If you get three in a row (diagonal counts), you win! If you get blackout, you win even more!

What do you win? Well, the satisfaction of knowing that you have made fun of yet another stupid article on women geeks. You can also link your scorecard (and any post that you made in relation to the bingo — using the scorecard isn’t mandatory, but I think it’s a cute visual) on this thread and, if you do a post, I might just highlight it here or on TIN’s forums.

Another Not-So-Bad GF List

How to Get Your Girlfriend to Play Video Games is one of the better lists out there. I am still not, and will never be, a fan of these lists, but if I had to put together a list of GF lists that I don’t think encourage misogyny, this would be on it.

The list author takes a lighthearted tone, reminds the reader that the woman in question may already have experience in games, and focuses on tailoring the experience towards the individual woman’s personal tastes and treating her as a partner rather than something you need to shut up between sexual exploits.

I am still unhappy with the frame of “girlfriend” — not all gamers looking to avail themselves on this kind of advice are heterosexual men; what about the guys with boyfriends, the girls with boyfriends, and the girls with girlfriends? Nothing on this list is inherently gender or sexual orientation specific. A little neutral language could go a long way in making it widely accessible to all. That, and if you want to emphasize certain messages for certain audiences, you can start the article off as neutral and mix up the terms of address to be explicitly inclusive of all gamers who want to share their hobby with their non-gaming SO’s.

There is also one part of it that made me cringe. The “shoe-shopping” reference. Up until then the article had been completely without reliance on stereotypes — indeed it would often start with the stereotypical advice and then turn it on its head in order to remind the reader that his girlfriend was a human being not a caricature of feminine ideals.

And then we get to the wonderful point of, “if you want to introduce your partner into a hobby, be prepared to reciprocate the experience”. Women have a wide variety of hobbies — even if we limit ourselves to the stereotypically feminine, there is sewing/knitting, doing something creative (ceramics, drawing, painting, writing, etc), reading and discussing novels, etc — so why, oh why, does it always come down to, “omg women r teh shop-a-holics!!!11eleven”? Seriously. Women != shopping.

Furthermore, liking shopping doesn’t equal seeing it as a hobby, or that every list directed at guys about women needs to point out how much we women love shopping. Presenting shopping as a hobby, rather than something women need to do and therefore find ways to enjoy, isn’t just unrealistic (yes, these women do exist, but I would dare say they aren’t representative of the majority of women and therefore shouldn’t be used to represent women as a whole in every damn list), it’s downright insulting when that’s always the stereotype these guys are being spoon fed.

Okay, I have spent the majority of this short post expounding on the issues I have with the list. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s one of the better ones: I obviously do. Two bad points out of the entire list ain’t bad. But “ain’t bad” doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be better, and it’s up to us as readers to exercise our critical thinking skills on everything we read, especially the ones that we’re inclined to give a pass to because they are overall good.

Good Idea, Bad Idea: Girlfriend List Satire

I am a huge fan of satire. Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” was a delightful read. Irony is my bread and butter and I appreciate it when people can use it to great effect. But, therein lies the rub: most people can’t use it to great effect. Most people can’t even use it properly. Heck, I’m not even sure that I could effectively satirize something, which is one reason why I stick to only short bursts of sarcasm.

And yet one of the most common responses I get when I criticize a girlfriend list is that it’s a “joke”, a “satire”. That may be so, but for the satire to succeed then it needs to be more than vicious criticism of something, it needs to question a person’s assumptions about the nature of the subject at hand. Because otherwise what you’re left with is a piece of vitriol that is offensive without being thought provoking. Continue reading

A Not-So-Bad GF List

I don’t have time to get into it full on, but this list by Bill Ward called 15 simple rules for getting your girlfriend to play D&D actually isn’t as bad as it sounds. Partially because some of it seems like common sense for including a person new to your party, but also because it actually has a reason for being a list targeted towards women and not just first-time gamers.


All too often, male players tend to think that any female player at the table is a joke, or worse, as someone to drive off. Here’s a clue: if you want your SO to play, then treat her with respect, and don’t allow the other players to treat her poorly. It doesn’t matter if the DM does give you a special crystal. BTW, in a game at GenCon back in 1999, my wife, a veteran Battletech player who preferred lighter mechs, was picked on as the only girl playing in a tournament game. While three guys were picking on her (“She obviously can’t play if she chose a light mech!”) tried to remove “the girl” from the “man’s game”, she quietly fumed… and when the time came, she self destructed her mech, taking them with her (she might have beaten any of them in a 1-on-1 battle; she’s good, AND lucky). They were, to use her phrase, “Losers in every sense of the word.” After reading this, she wanted it known that she ejected safely and saved her pilot. The other players, not so much….

Wow, dismantaling stereotypes rather than reinforcing them? Confronting sexism head on instead of playing off of it and pretending that you created satire? Could this be the fabled perfect list?

Well, I’m not ready to take that step quite yet. The capitalizing off of a “girlfriend” image when it’s a combination of advice for including new players and some specific points geared towards not driving off potential new specifically female players gets a “so-so” from me. I’m willing to give it a pass because Ward actually addresses sexism and doesn’t rely on stereotypes of women to make his point (even when the point would have made it very easy to do so). On the occassion that a stereotype does pop up there is at very least an acknowledgement of it as such, although there is one occassoin where he uses his wife’s agreement to backup his use of a stereotype (“heaven help me for the stereotype, but this is Rebecca’s thoughts, too”).

But! I digress. Overall the article strikes me as well written. In the end, I’m not sure if I’m giving it too much of a pass because of the kind of drek I see regularly (some links of which are waiting for me to look at in my inbox, submitted by a sadistic reader) or if it actually did pretty much get things right. Either way, I’d recommend this as a pattern for people who can’t be pursuaded out of writing a Girlfriend List (or some equivalent).

The Ultimate Wii Shopping List: So Close to Getting It Right

As you all should know now by the Girlfriend Lists category (which I plug at every opportunity), I have a passing interest in the presentation and language of gift guides. So, y’all can imagine how excited I got when I saw The Ultimate Wii Shopping List by Mitchell Saltzman and realized that it broke the categories down not by gender, but rather by budget, casual, and hardcore gamers. Joy!

I clicked excitedly through the pages — not because I am looking for recommendations for whenever I get my Wii, but because, golly gosh, there was so much beautiful gender-neutral language! Witness the amazing address of “you” without adding “boys” or “men”. Marvel at the lack of condescending language like “ladies” when talking about accessories for the console! Swoon over the lack of stereotyping to justify recommendations! I mean, jeez, Saltzman uses aspects like actual gameplay and comparison to previous games in order to explain his recommendations! Novel!

When I got to the second page, I was asking myself, “Could this be love? Have I finally found the elusive perfectly gender neutral gaming guide? Is it time to hang up my critic’s hat and admit that I’ve been defeated?”

But, fear not, loyal readers who obviously love (and love to hate!) my scathing wit. This otherwise perfect guide had a hiccup on page three; the title for the section is Hardcore Wii Fanboy. Please, Saltzman, tell me that you weren’t using gender neutral langauge because you assumed “male as default” for gamers? It would make me cry.

Still, if you can mentally turn the “Fanboy” into “Fan” (the only instance of a gendered word in the entire thing! Wah!), then I’d say that this guide should be the template for anyone who is going to write a guide of any kind. So, Saltzman, if you ever read this (hey, I’ve been e-mailed by the creators of lists before, it’s not impossible!), then thanks for the good job, but next time is there any chance you could remember that not all hardcore fans are guys? This hardcore gamer would certainly appreciate it.

Via digg.

When he loves the console more than you

In her post, Frustrations of a Growing Up Gamer, Ariel has been musing about what growing up means for her gamer status. I can definitely identify with her struggle, and it’s worth a read for any adults finding that growing up changes the way that they interact with their fandom.

One thing she said really struck a chord with me for reasons other than personal gamer issues:

I want to protect what I have: I don’t ever want someone to come over to spend time with a machine instead of me.

Photo by Female TechAs a matter of principle, I constantly rail on the Girlfriend Lists. What Ariel said above is something that I think lies at the heart of these lists: No one likes it when their partner is more interested in an object than in them.

I say this as an avid gamer, who has spent countless hours playing all sorts of video games with not only my partners of the time, but also my friends and my family. Heck, I sat down and helped my sister’s husband beat Blood Rayne 2 when I was visiting with her, and then we took turns playing some Terminator 3 game that he rented. So, really, I know what it is to love the video games. Because I do, I really do.

But, I gotta say, one of the things that sticks in my mind about my first boyfriend was that he liked video games more than he liked me. And, mind you, I was a gamer long before he and I got involved. I remember the first time I flew out to see him (he went to school in New York and I was still in highschool in Miami), he spent the entire weekend playing Street Fighter Alpha 2. I couldn’t even play it with him because fighting games were the only kind of game he played consistently, so I couldn’t even begin to hold my own against him.

He may sound like an extreme case, but from what I’ve seen of gamer message boards, it’s exactly that type that the Girlfriend Lists cater to. These lists pretend that you can have your cake and eat it too — slavish devotion to gaming, easy access to sex and emotional comfort that a girlfriend provides, and a hot gamer chick who you can brag to your buddies about. Except that it turns these guys’ (potential) girlfriend into another object for amusement and social status, and — especially these days — most girls and women don’t stick around very long after they start getting treated like that.

Hence the “need” for the Girlfriend Lists, I suppose. Now that seems like a vicious cycle, now, doesn’t it?

Erik Larsen on getting non-comic book readers into the fandom

Get thee to the kitchen, Goddess!(Two short posts involving comics, it must be procrastination weekend!)

Out of the mouth of Erik “I think women’s issues with comics are all about the boobies” Larsen, we actually get some surprising insight on the difficulty of finding the right comic book for someone who doesn’t read comics. Sure, true to form, I found the tone of the article to be at times condescending to women and I rolled my eyes at his little quip about not wanting another “lecture” on why certain books will likely turn female readers off, which, of course, he oversimplifies the reason as being that the book is “loaded with sex and violence.” Yes, Mr. Larsen, it’s the “sex and violence” not, you know, the way that powerful women are often second fiddle to the men in their lives, or inappropriately sexualized and then killed off and forgotten when convenient, or anything like that.

Anyway, if you can get past his dismaying attitude towards women, I think his ongoing quest to get a “non-comic book reader” is pretty darn insightful:

I mean, I want to share. I really do. Comics have been such a delight to me over the years. They’ve kept me entertained and enthralled. They’ve lifted my spirits and broken my heart and touched my soul. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried and all the rest. You know, you’ve read them. A good comic book is better than damned near anything but things are subjective, I realize. While I might get a charge out of “Devil Dinosaur” or “Jimmy Olsen” or the “Dingbats of Danger Street,” I realize that those books aren’t universally cherished.

Let me pull out that last important bit: I realize that those books aren’t universally cherished. Right there. That. What all those Girlfriend List articles don’t get: you can’t assume someone’s taste based off their gender, race, or any other part because we’re all individuals with our own likes and dislikes. The closest you’re gonna get is if there’s a theme that a person enjoys you might be able to interest them in comics of a similar theme. Period.

No, wait, there’s something else I want to focus on beyond the above. It’s where he says this: I mean, I want to share. I really do. Comics have been such a delight to me over the years. See that, kids? Mr. Larsen doesn’t want to get his (presumably) significant other into it as a way to shut her up when they’re not having sex, but because he enjoys it and wants to share that enjoyment with another human being. Novel!

By the way, thank you, Mr. Larsen, for recognizing that just because the person involved happens to be female, it’s not a “woman” thing, but rather a comic fan versus non-comic fan thing. Seriously, seeing that warmed my little, ice-cold heart.

How To Get Your Girlfriend Into Your Fandom

It is apparently an unending problem for geeky men that their girlfriends, who may or may not be geeks, get upset when their boyfriends jilt them for their geek obsession. So I, in my infinite wisdom, and only parly inspired by this post have decided to make the definitive list on getting your girlfriend into your fandom, whatever it may be. So, boys, please pay attention!

Quit yer whining and realize that it’s okay if your SO doesn’t share all of your hobbies.

I mean, there was a reason that you decided to date her in the first place, right? Like her personality, intelligence, the ability for y’all to click on other levels? Maybe if you, I don’t know, focused on that instead of substituting your geeky hobby for actual quality time, you’d find that geeks can coexist with non-geeks on a romantic level.

So, remember, the world does not end if she doesn’t play games or read comics or whatever.


More "Girlfriend List" Idiocy

This time from IGN.com. It’s a month old, but it’s new to me (thanks, Ragnell). I have my “for ‘her'” category, but I’m really starting to feel like I need one specifically for “The Girlfriend List Idiocy” because this is just ridiculous. People rarely tell us “What Men Want” because it’s assumed to be too diverse in the vast majority of subjects, and yet over and over again these “What Women Want” lists crop up. You, out of my geekdom!

Anyway, here’s what I sent via their contact form:

Articles like these are precisely why I avoid your site. I am an avid geek – a gamer, comics fan, and into reading and writing about said geekery. I am exactly what your magazine/site targets, except for that inconvenient aspect of being female.

Women are not some collective Hive Vagina. You can no more recommend good books for us than you can for men — and the only “Books/Games/Whatever for Your Boyfriend” lists I have seen are parodies of the overabundant stereotyical “Girlfriend Lists”.

Listen, I’m sure the list was made and posted with the best intentions. But, please, from one geek to another: please stop. I’m not some mysterious creature to be tamed with your list of books. I — and every other woman, geek or no — am an individual. A human being.

When you publish lists like that, you erase our humanity by assuming that we’re all the same.

Ragnell, the evil sadist who sent me the link in the first place, has posted her reply here. It’s pithy and to the point, and if you want to laugh instead of cry/fume, go read it.