Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

Playing Dress-Up

So there's this thing, where people (generally men) complain about women who are not real geeks dressing in skimpy outfits in order to get attention from the real male geeks who are so starved for female companionship that they'll take anything, including these not-actually-attractive scantily-clad women.


You'll note that this manages to insult all involved parties at once: the women for being unattractive and slutty, the men for being desperate and manipulable. Perhaps that's intentional; the point of many rants is to make the ranter feel smugly superior, and nothing says 'superiority' like 'all y'all are inferior to me', right?

Here, have a bunch of links.

Back in July: "Booth babes need not apply", a blog post on about how female cosplayers are ruining conventions.

Friday/Saturday: "You're not a nerd; you're a whore who found glasses" (link includes original post plus a bunch of back and forth between the original poster and one of the people who objected to it.

From Monday: Tony Harris vs cosplayers. (Reproduced in this article for non-Facebook link).

And some antidotes to all that:

John Scalzi's July response to "Booth babes need not apply": "Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be".

Christopher Wright's response to Tony Harris

Ursula Vernon's response to the Dirk Manning & Tony Harris kerfluffle

My first thought about all this was "I have nothing to add". Between Scalzi and Wright and Vernon, that's pretty much all the important stuff. Geekdom does not need gatekeepers and women get to dress how they want and people not them do not get a say in the matter. 'nuf said.

And it should be.


The thing is, for all their able defense, none of these people are not-very-attractive-women who wear skimpy outfits to get attention from nerds.

And I am.

And maybe I need to speak for myself.

To begin: I like the way I look. I like my long hair and my large chest and my hourglass figure and my short legs and long neck and my smile with one crooked tooth and my bumpy nose and the silver-grey strands shot through my mousey-brown hair. This is me. I like me. I am not a supermodel or a movie star. I am not thin or gorgeous. I am 42 and short and overweight and I am generally OK with that. I still like the way I look. I like the way I look in fancy evening gowns and lingerie and leather bodysuits and even spandex.

I go to cons to play dress-up. I don't even cosplay. I play dress-up just like little girls do, with random clothing tossed together and declared a pretty pretty princess and strutted about in for a little while and then changed in favor of something else. Sometimes I wear outfits that expose no skin except my face. More often I wear skimpy things.

I play dress-up for attention. I want people* to look at me, to admire my costume and to talk to me about -- whatever, really. Nerd things. I do not go to cons because it is easy to get the attention of male nerds but because these are my people. I am at home among sf&f fans and gamers and furries. Almost all of my leisure time is devoted to nerd culture: playing video games, reading sf&f, writing fantasy, watching sf&f films and TV shows, RPing furries, reading blogs by others in the fandom (often not about fannish interests, mind), etc.

* In my experience, wearing pretty and/or skimpy outfits works perfectly well for getting positive attention from women too.

So I shouldn't take it personally. If someone is talking about women who are contemptuous of nerd culture while pandering to it, that's so not me.

And yet.

It still bothers me, personally. Even aside from the abstract dislike of judging people by what they wear or what their perceived true interests are.

I am reminded of all those feminists who get mad at men for being defensive when they talk about bad behaviors: "If you're not doing this, we're not talking about you!" Am I doing the same thing, in taking this as a personal attack?

And yet.

I am a not-very-attractive woman who was walking around in a leather bodysuit and fishnets on Friday night, having a wonderful time, wondering "why has it been so long since I did this?"

And now I remember why.

Christopher Wright wrote about high school in his rant, and I understand why. Because the diatribe against people like me for wearing skimpy outfits and at the men who enjoy it is just as stupid as all the insults I heard in high school. And just like in high school, I know I should not care what these people think. And just like in high school, knowing that does not really help.

The trouble isn't the one guy I've never met complaining about it, or the thousands of guys I've never met going 'right ON!' It's that nagging worry, from all those early years of being an ugly duckling, that this is what many people I do know think of me, only they have the common decency not to say it.


But that is my problem.

Mostly, I think that it's fine if people don't like dressing up and don't like it when other people do. Personally, I don't like football or drinking or gardening or any of a thousand other hobbies. Other people don't need to like mine. But it would be awfully nice if they could let me enjoy mine in peace.
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