Be Aggressive: $1.12 Sharpie Craft and My Weekend at C2E2

— Me, by the Tower of T-shirts. The bottom of the sign says #c2e2 and #idiots

C2E2, for the uninitiated is the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. Three days of major comic publishers, indie companies, independent artists, nerdy crafters and truly awesome guests (this past year’s short list included Alex Ross, Patton Oswald, Kevin Smith, Felicia Day, Julie Newmar, Peter Davison, Chandler Riggs…)

As the weekend my friend Bobbie affectionately dubbed “Nerd Camp” came and went, I got to admire a lot of people’s art, continue my own experiments with painting and cross stitch (more on that later) and, on the last day, go out in search of Sharpies and poster board for an inspired, impromptu project. Not my happiest in conception but I’m proud of it.

This has been percolating in me for quite some time but it finally came to a head on Saturday night while, of all things, waiting in line for the Evening with Kevin Smith event. By some twisted stroke of luck, Bobbie and I ended up with a teenage tag-along who ranted about imaginary favoritism between classes of ticket holders (we were all general admission), what should and shouldn’t be in Clerks III and — his favorite topic — what all the cosplayers were wearing. He was by himself, naturally, and, while leering at a Zatanna cosplayer (who was also a VIP ticket-holder) proceeded to sneer and say “I bet she doesn’t even know what a nubian is!”


I suspect the whole “fake fangirl” or “fake geek girl” myth has always been around to an extent, but I didn’t really become aware of it until this past year. Historically, it falls under the same Western misogynist umbrella as “women don’t really like sports!” and “women aren’t really interested in getting an education!” Apparently, we’re all just hanging around to trap some poor, befuddled young man into thinking we share a common interest, give him a boner and then leave him hanging with only his hand and photos of beautiful alien women to console himself with. It’s the product of men who secretly suspect every beautiful woman (every woman period, really) is just waiting for the opportunity to laugh at him behind his back and the result is an atmosphere that is inhospitable and, at times, hostile to people who have EVERY RIGHT TO BE THERE.

It was on my mind all night Saturday — not just because of the kid. This particular strain of sexism in fandom has become enough of a problem that C2E2 had a panel addressing it the following morning (Exorcising the Spectre of the Fake Geek Girl), their second in as many years. A Harley Quinn cosplayer we’d been chatting with at the Smith event told me about male fans who’d stopped to take photos of her, then proceeded to quiz her on both the character she was dressed as and the DC Universe as a whole. When she couldn’t answer every question, they were smug and dismissive. This wasn’t about unmasking pretentious behavior. This was men, young and old, stopping to indulge their hormones and then externalizing their own shame at doing so and their fear that the young woman dressed up was actually there to laugh at them. I suspect Freud would have approved. Also Ted Bundy.

— Fighting gender stereotypes with the D20 Girls

I wanted to know what other people thought about it. I wanted to see how people reacted and what their reaction said about their opinion of fangirls, geek girls and women in general. The sign took me ten minutes to make and cost $1.21 at the drug store. Bobbie and Aaron both gave me the idea to clip the sign to my badge lanyard so I could keep it visible and remain hands free throughout the day.

No real punches were actually given out (a few staged ones, yes), but I did get a reaction: I got hugs and thank yous, smiles and high fives and photo ops, some of which were with male and female cosplayers who had put a LOT more time and energy into what they were wearing than what I had. I talked to a lot of them about fandom and inclusiveness and what complete, unnecessary bastards people can be. And, through these interactions, was able to reclaim a little of the community the “fake geek girl” mythologists and misogynists seem so eager to chip away.

My favorite reaction by far came from Peter Davison, the actor who played the Fifth Doctor on Doctor Who. When I went up to get his autograph, the crew member assigned to his table high-fived me, which started a conversation about my sign and what it meant.

“Why would anyone say that?” he asked. I stumbled over my answer a little and, to be honest, couldn’t tell you exactly what was said (I am forever jelly-kneed in the face of lovely Englishmen) but I did my best to articulate my point.

“Basically, they just can’t get a date,” said the man who, two minutes earlier, had no idea a “fake geek girl” myth even existed, let alone why anyone would start one.

Right on, Doctor. Right on.


~ by blackmoodcraft on April 29, 2013.

5 Responses to “Be Aggressive: $1.12 Sharpie Craft and My Weekend at C2E2”

  1. Oh my goodness I think the Mermaid Man cosplay is the best thing I have EVER seen. ❤
    On a more serious note, I also agree that this "girls can't be real fans" stuff is absolute nonsense. Nobody questions the validity of a dude wearing a Spiderman Tshirt, who cares if he's never read a single comic or seen any of the tv shows or movies? But if a girl wears one she better know every issue from every universe, every bit of dialogue from every tv show and every movie line from both series BY HEART or she doesn't deserve to be a fan. That's not right.

    • Isn’t that awesome?! I’m not even that familiar with Adventure Time but it was exciting to see so many young women and girls cosplaying as the characters.

      The fake fangirl thing really irks me — I grew up in a Trekkie and DC household. My father’s first choice for my name was a BSG character (Athena) and his second choice was a Dark Shadows character (Angelique). I grew up with my godfather’s son who was a Whovian, Babylon Five fan and a fan of Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert’s Dune series. I remember being in college and cutting class to swing by the comics shop that was nearby and having twelve-year-old boys *glare* at me from behind the shelves — because I was an adult with a vagina and I clearly didn’t belong there… I was annoyed but that was easy to ignore. I never felt I had to discuss my nerd cred, certainly not to men and boys. Not when I had been surrounded by nerdy men and boys my entire life.

      And it all seems to be tied to this idea of women as sexual objects for the enjoyment of men. None of these guys are calling the ten-year-olds dressed as Wonder Woman and Princess Bubblegum “fake geek girls.”

  2. Oh man, I’m really disappointed I didn’t see you walking around with that sign because that’s brilliant. I’m the one who organized the fake geek girl panel & one of the panel speakers. We were thrilled C2E2 gave us the space (albeit a small one – we felt so bad for all the people who came to the panel & couldn’t get in because HOLY GIANT LINES, BATMAN!) to talk about this issue because clearly there’s a desire to tackle this thing. One of the panelists wrote a great comprehensive overview of the issue ( which is excellent background for anyone who’s not familiar with why it was such a big deal, especially after last year.

    I had actually run a panel at C2E2 2012 talking about gender intersecting with geek culture & art/media, which was an awesome discussion, but many of us on the panel wanted to address some of the more difficult issues we’d run into in geek culture, like the need to “prove” our cred – and wouldn’t you know it, a few months later, the internet blew up & we had the topic we were determined to do at C2E2 2013.

    FYI – the link you have for the panel is actually to the pre-panel podcast interview we did with Chicago Nerd Social Club (who helped sponsor & support the panel), not the *actual* C2E2 discussion panel itself. It’s a really good supplemental discussion to the panel, but the actual audio recording of the panel was recorded by Bleeding Cool and can be found here: (scroll to the bottom).

    We also had the whole panel video recorded and will have it edited into a longer presentation including interviews with the panelists & audience, which we’re hoping to screen at some point but will have available for viewing on the CNSC website ( and my website as well.

    • Thanks for the awesome reply (and the awesome panel)! I was excited when people told me it was standing room only to get in — the fact that so many people attending were aware and wanted to talk about it was wonderful to hear. I went ahead and updated the link for it.

  3. And that’s absolutely awesome you educated Peter Davidson that this problem even exists (I’m not surprised he was taken aback by it and was nice about it, he just seems like such a lovely person). I’d have been tongue-tied, too!! John Scalzi was at C2E2 as well and his “Who Gets to be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants To” piece was one of the major inspirations for the panel and I was really nervous about getting to meet him but he was also really supportive about the panel and about pushing back against this idiocy as well.

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