Monday, September 13, 2010

Geek and Gamer Girls Video

Many of you may or may not have heard about the "controversy" regarding the music video Geek and Gamer Girls. This parody video of Katy Perry's California Girls has sparked a familiar debate regarding the objectification of geek girls and the failure to represent geek girls of differing shapes and sizes. You can read a little about this debate at Edgar of all Trades' blog.

Stephanie's Take:

As a geek/nerdy girl that has spent quite some time studying feminist theory in undergrad and grad school I think this problem is too complicated to simply have a black or white answer. To put it simply, women are objectified regardless of their interests. A lot of people argue that we do it to ourselves, while others argue that we have no choice but to behave/dress the way we do if we want to be recognized in both social and work environments because this is how society tells us to dress/act/etc. Both responses are too simplified and I personally struggle with my own opinion on this issue frequently in my day-to-day life.

I don't want to generalize about all women so I will speak for myself. I am a woman that has something of an hourglass figure. I don't necessarily look like the typical stereotype of geek girls that are supposedly frumpy and don't care about their appearance. I like to dress up, I don't wear a ton of make-up but I do wear it daily, and I love to get my hair done. On the other hand, I definitely do not look like the girls in that music video. I don't work out nearly enough in order to have those bodies and I'm okay with that. Because of my middle ground, a lot of people do not immediately expect me to be a massive fangirl/geek, but I am. Until I started to let my freak flag fly more, most of my friends would have never pegged me as the kind of girl that would sit in my apartment all night playing an ARG or that would spend money on Doctor Who & Death (from the Sandman) posters or Serenity action figures. I don't "look" like a nerd but I am a complete and unapologetic fangirl/geek/nerd, whatever you want to call it.

I think the problem with this discussion is that we expect nerd girls to be treated differently than most other women. There are tons of women out there that do not have ideal bodies or look like the girls in that music video. They also don't get the proper attention from the media that they deserve either. I'm not saying that is okay. Far from it. However, the song California Girls that these geek girls are parodying? Not completely accurate about all CA girls. I can tell you one thing, I definitely do not wear Daisy Dukes or a bikini while I walk around the beach. Unfortunately, though, that is what sells in the media for the most part. Those images are used to objectify lots of women. I think we've made some progress lately, what with the Dove ads and shows like "Huge." Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go and this counts for all women, not just nerds. I think for us to argue that we need to represent all nerd girls of all different shapes and sizes is a valid argument but unlikely to happen until all media recognizes women of different shapes, sizes, and race.

Unfortunately, women are objectified regardless of their "category." I feel that making a particularly huge fuss over this particular music video means that we expect geek girls to get different attention than other normal women that don't look like these models but also aren't geeks. This does not mean that I am happy with the fact that the Booth Babes at Comic Con do not even remotely strike me as nerds nor that I'm happy with the fact that a model gets to help sell TV shows or comics that I love just because they look like what society deems as "sexy." I'm not and I am super pissed that I can't volunteer at booths because I'm not the "ideal." However, as Jackie states below, we can't say with certainty that none of these women are nerds and it is not fair to condemn them all based on this generalization because then we really aren't any better than them (I know, cliched response but it's true). It just means that I don't think we need to jump down the throats of fellow geeks that want to make a parody video just because they all happen to look like what society deems as "ideal beauty." I'm not saying I love this video. It's a parody but other than their costumes there isn't much for me to be geeked out over in the video. Nevertheless, let's work on making women less objectified in all genres and media texts, not just in our own little nerd haven.

Jackie's Take:

These seem like two different subjects to debate here: the objectification of women, in general; and the glorification of nerd culture, using the "beautiful" people to portray iconoclastic characters and ideas rather than those who actually love and appreciate those things.

When it comes to objectifying women, it's simply always going to happen. It's ingrained in humans to mate and reproduce, and continue our species.. so naturally, looking at potential mates that are appealing to the eye is a common practice. This goes for both sides, but is far more seen as demeaning to women. Of course, there are those who are offended by this, and those who find it empowering in a sense. As Stephanie mentioned, this is not a black and white situation.

Now.. the more pressing, and directly related topic here is how nerdom is being cashed in on as it's brought into pop culture. The common booth babe is drop-dead gorgeous, but has no basis for the Kirk vs Picard debate. They're there to sell you merch. This is okay to a lot of drooling nerds, but what it comes down to is what's more appealing to you: silicon breasts, or an interesting, engaging conversation. This goes for women, too. For me, personally, the tipping point in the decision to date my last boyfriend was that he was more than okay with watching old Batman cartoons with me on a lazy Saturday morning. It's a huge generalization to say that all booth babes are completely uninterested in actual nerd culture, but the general consensus is that they're nothing more than a pretty face.

Bringing these two subjects back together, with regards to the video in question: my issue here is that they show more bare bodies covered with console controls than they do comics and gameplay. The music, not only was not very good at all, and not original. It seems to me that we, as geek girls, could do better. More power to them for embracing their nerd roots, but relying on 'sex sells' to push the video (even choosing that particular Katy Perry song to parody adds to this) is a little lower than our standards should be.

The main reason we did this post in this format is because we really want this to become an open, friendly discussion on this issue and other issues about nerd/geek girls. Please comment and be respectful of different opinions :)


  1. I agree that as far as concentration on beautiful people goes nerd women aren't objectified more than any others.
    My problem with the objectification/self-objectification of nerds is that their interests or their nerdiness is looked at as a sexual feature instead of one belonging to character.
    When I, say, make a Star Trek lightbulb joke in front of a man who considers himself a nerd but has not been aware that I am immersed in that culture, usually the response is an increase in my romantic/sexual potential to him that completely overshadows the content of what I had been saying.
    It doesn't matter what I say or like, the only thing that matters is that I identified myself as nerdy which only serves to increase my fuckability or whatever.
    And that is what is happening in this video as well. Their nerdiness is used (by themselves) to increase the sexual worth of their bodies to people in that culture.
    I'm with Jackie when she says she would like to see more focus on actual interests and I would like to add that I want to see those interests treated as interests and not as pure sex-appeal.

  2. Really great point Iris! I never even considered that element of this argument but it's completely true. Thankfully most of my guy friends are like brothers to me so I haven't experience this too much in my friendships but I have definitely experienced this in work environments. Also the assumption that one of the only reason I like certain things are because of the sexy boys. While I appreciate a good looking man, I also love BSG for what it was, a brilliantly thought-out, well-written scifi series.

  3. I didn't really dig the song. Frankly, if you're trying to hit all of the nerd categories in a song like that you have to enunciate.
    I realize that that seems like a weird response to it, but yeah... It bothered me.
    Honestly, people are going to hate on something regardless of what they know about it. The internet is chock full of first impressions and anonymous fucktards that believe that their opinions are really cared for.
    I don't care if the girls in the video are gamers. Do I feel that they represent girly gamer geeks? No. Am upset that they posted this up on the internet? No. I enjoyed it for what it was... a dreadful parody of a dreadful song. The parts of the song that I could understand easily had me giggling. It's an inside joke, and if it happens to bring converts into the fold of the enormous nerd blanket of nerdliness... Good. It makes finding things a hell of a lot easier.
    That's right Barnes & Noble near my home. Your comic book section is SHIT. I said it.

  4. Oh man, Barnes & Noble and Borders suffer from shitty comic book sections. But I digress... :)

  5. To rethink my statement a bit... I haven't really acknowledged the parody element in there. I haven't seen the original and I don't want to so I guess I am not entirely qualified.

    But it could be that my previous point is their point and they are poking fun of women who sexualize their interests, drawing their inspiration from something like this

    But if this is their point, I somehow subjectively feel that they are perpetuating it as much as criticizing it.

  6. "That's right Barnes & Noble near my home. Your comic book section is SHIT. I said it." hahaha.. this cracked me right up.

    I definitely agree with you that bringing more people over to the nerdy side is great. My concern there, though, is what inspiration they draw from it. If it's that they legitimately enjoy games, and science, and well-told sci-fi.. AWESOME. Not only does that make these things more widely available, but also encourages more people to create this kind of thing. But, personally, i'm sick of seeing little girls running around in TMNT shirts that are two sizes too small just for attention, when they couldn't tell the different between Raphael and Donatello.

    Iris - the original song they're parodying is kind of the epitome of self-objectification there.. but, and of course this is just my own take on it, i do not think the parody is actively attempting to combat that element (or crack on that aspect of it) so much as just use that melody and style to keep it in the spectrum of pop culture. Also, Iris, I know this is a subject you're very well-versed on, not only in your academic studies, but in your regular, every day life.. so thank you, very much, for sharing your opinion on it.

  7. Iris, as Jackie said the original song/video is exactly that and I don't think Katy Perry was doing it "tongue-in-cheek" (especially considering she had Snoop Dogg on the song too). This fact, I suppose, further emphasizes my point as well about how women in general are objectified still in the media. Honestly, I'm sick and tired in general of seeing little girls running around in shirts two sizes too small for them regardless of what is on them. Little girls in halter tops when they haven't even hit puberty is just wrong.

    I would also like to thank you for your opinion!

  8. Personally (and I always find my opinion is the minority among fellow members of the vaginal variety), I like it. I think it is fun and was never meant to be taken seriously. It is a parody after all.

    It doesn't matter where we (women) go, we are going to be checked out. And the same goes for men. There seems to be the double-standard that exists where it is okay to objectify men (Old Spice commercials anyone or have you gone to a "women's night" at a strip joint compared to "men's night").

    I see this (Gamer Girls video) as no different than the obvious sexiness and sexual innuendo in both "The Guild" music videos: "Do You Want To Date My Avatar" and "Game On".

    I do however, agree with the not liking the idea of people cashing in on geek/nerd culture. Even that is a little paradoxical for me, as it is nice that the larger world is accepting us but now it appears as if people are applying the labels "geek" and "nerd" to themselves just to be "cool".

    If you are secure with your sex and sexuality, I see no issue with using it. After all, I thought the whole idea behind equality is that we get to choose what we do in life, how we choose to do and what happens to our own bodies. It now seems more women than men are telling other women what is and is not acceptable for them to want/do.

    I do have the same issues with Booth Babes. Well let me clarify, I have issues with Booth Babes who are not actually nerds/geeks and do not know the product.


    ... just saying...

  10. Exactly, CranialSpasm. I don't know how I forgot about that forum post over on the Node. I didn't see any men getting upset over us women drooling all over them and calling them hot. Instead, they joined in the discussion.

  11. I can't help having a lady boner over half of the guys in the shows I watch (plus Mike Phirman. He's on everyone's list.). Being attracted to something is something we all deal with. It's the whole "judging the book by it's cover" mentality. We're all guilty of it. If it's not the attractiveness of a certain gender, it's the crisp landscape, or the sparkling thunderbolt being shot out of fingers. We, as humans, are visual.
    Trust me, not every guy would find those girls attractive. Everyone has their own wants/desires/attractions.

  12. Oops... I seem to have walked into a conversation I have no business weighing in on. Eh, screw it. I'm already here. Might as well dig in.

    So here I am, all male and stuff, with a quick comment from the other side of the fence:

    In this particular case, the girls in question *are* gamers. They're nerd chicks. Exhibit A:

    They happen also to be 'classically' hot chicks. The stuff of Maxim Magazine spreads and whatnot. I can't help but feel bad that they're being chastised by members of their own community on account of their attractiveness. The implication is that gamer chicks *should* look more average. That's not a debate for game culture alone - it's a debate for the world at large.

    The fact is, there are average looking people and very attractive people in gamer culture, in sports culture, in government, in the sciences, and so on; the spread exists no matter how you prefer to slice up your demographics.

    It seems counterproductive to say that these girls have less of a right to claim membership in the geek/nerd community on account of their attractiveness.

  13. Yay! We have boys in the conversation!

    "We, as humans, are visual.
    Trust me, not every guy would find those girls attractive. Everyone has their own wants/desires/attractions." - I love this because it is somewhat true. I have one guy friend who actually does not find those kind of women attractive. He's a massive nerd, mind you, but he loves more voluptuous women.

    And, regardless of what I said before, I may love a lot of shows for their quality (like BSG and The Wire) but I also love shows for their quality AND their sexy men (Supernatural). I don't want people to think that I don't like objectifying men too :)

  14. Honestly, I'd pay someone five dollars for the opportunity to be objectified. It looks like fun!


  15. I think saying there will always be objectification because of our biology is a bit of a cop out. Finding someone hot =/= objectification.

  16. My point is not necessarily that saying there will always be objectification because of our biology but just that there will always be objectification of all women, not just nerds, as long as modern culture is the way it is. It's not special just to nerd girls. Objectification happens in all elements of society and I am not quite sure how to suggest we fix that. I don't think we can fix it separately for nerd women until it's "fixed" for all people. Wishy-washy, yes...but I don't see any quick fix.

    I think the more important point that a lot of people are pointing out is the concern over what is happening to the image of a "nerd" in pop culture on a larger scale. I think this is an entirely separate discussion just waiting to happen :)

  17. the women in this video ARE Geeks why do we hold being pretty against them. Why do women get upset and scream objectification when a pretty girl accomplishes anything? We live in a universe where beauty is valued, please name me one place that beauty is not revered !! Might not be our version of beauty but it that cultures version. Why do people seek to minimize pretty girls accomplishments as if they may not have worked hard and suffered to obtain success or goals. This video "represents" four girls all with significant "Geek Cred". Been to comic con.. the ratio of pretty girls to not so "classically attractive" 2 to 1 ratio of hot guys to not so hot (& dude looks like a serial killer) 10 to 1 at comic con.

    Why can people just chill out laugh at the Plethora of geek/nerd references they wedged WELL into one song & smile at how Uber-Geek Seth Green and his wife seem to be truly in love in this video and PS: she met him when she kicked HIS ass at Star Wars trivia

  18. The music was "unoriginal" because it was a based on the Katy Perry song. A parody of a song is essentially the same song with different lyrics, so that isn't something that you should critique it with. As for choosing that song in particular, I believe there couldn't have been a more apt selection. The song "California Girls" is about a stereotype (blonde, tan, "sexy" girls) which is viewed as *originating* in CA, not that every girl from CA fits this description. However, I am not defending the Perry song, rather the TU one. It is particularly appropriate for two primary reasons: 1) both are about the sex appeal of a particular group of women (whether for better or worse is a separate debate entirely), and 2) where as the original reinforces a stereotype, the latter shatters one.
    As for doubting the "geekiness" of Team Unicorn's members, the fact that they wrote the lyrics entirely themselves (and, more importantly, that they are coherent), in addition to the fact that all of the props, at least (I don't know about the costumes), came entirely from the members' own PERSONAL collections.

    Additionally, I believe that the point of the video wasn't so much to show that there are geek girls at all. This is a known fact to any who have a semblance of common sense. Rather, I believe that it is to show that this population contains members who are considered conventially "attractive" as well.
    Currently, nerdiness is viewed as "uncool". Likely, the easiest way to change this is to show that people who are both attractive, and even marginally famous are proud of this quality. The populace at large is a rather simple minded organism privy to the power of suggestion from the right sources. If famous, attractive people say that nerdiness is cool, then it quickly becomes such.

    Finally, I don't pretend to honestly believe that this video was made with this express goal in mind. I believe its primary purpose was comedy. Looking at the backgrounds of Team Unicorn's members, my theory seems to be supported. Concerning the particularly controversial scene - the one in which (Michelle Boyd?) is lying on a pile of comics, games, and other paraphenelia while random floating objects cover certain areas - I will say that while, personally, I'd think that wearing a (changing each time it is seen, as was done in the original) revealing outfit with some obvious connection to some video game, comic, etc. would have been better while producing a similar effect. However, again referencing the background of Clare Grant (Robot Chicken), it would seem that humour was their primary intent.