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"Geek Girls" and the Problem of Self-Objectification

The problem then, isn’t that women are objectifying themselves. That’s like holding a panel asking if women are “liberating themselves or pandering to men” for wearing mascara/high heels/Spanx/bras, curling or straightening their hair, or shaving their legs and underarms. Because it’s easy to blame women, right? It’s easy to say that if women don’t want to be objectified, they shouldn’t dress sexy or do the beauty work asked of them.
And it’s easy to get angry at “Team Unicorn” for so obviously pandering to the male gaze and framing themselves as sex objects for male geeks. It’s easy to hate Olivia Munn and point to her as everything that is wrong with geek women or geek culture. It’s easy to roll your eyes at the ubiquitous sexy cosplayers, and blame them for the objectification of women in geek cultures.
But the actions of women are not the cause of their objectification. Women have a lot of good reasons to perform beauty work and to dress sexy, especially in the sexist cultures represented at your average con. Women aren’t the problem, whether they crossplay and eschew femininity altogether or they pull out the sexy Leia costume. The problem is that women who dress sexy, who frame themselves as sex objects, are rewarded by geek culture for doing so. They get attention, approval, and recognition from the culture when they dress as sexy Leia (or any sexy geek thing). They have pictures taken of them at cons, and they get posted and reposted on the internet. They are recognized as geeks (and generally as somewhat authentic geeks, even if they aren’t talked about that way) and welcomed into the community (maybe not as full members, but at least as desirable). There’s nothing wrong with wanting attention and approval in one’s community. What cosplayer and geek wouldn’t want those things? What female geek doesn’t want to be welcomed into the community with enthusiasm and excitement (instead of derided as a harpy feminist or annoying squeeing fangirl)? The problem, then, isn’t what women do, but a culture in which the only way that women can be recognized as a desirable part of the culture is when they participate by making themselves consumable sexy objects for geek men.
…

Because geek cultures often think of themselves as countercultural, they don’t usually believe they are tainted by the sexism, racism, ableism, ageism, ad naseum that infect popular culture. And there are entire blogsthat prove that nonsense untrue.
This whole conversation needs to change focus. Individual geeks and cosplayers have their own reasons for dressing as they do or presenting themselves as they do. Those reasons can indeed involve their thinking that dressing as sexy Leia is empowering, for whatever reason. And we shouldn’t be dismissing those reasons. But the trend of sexy geek cosplaying, the trend of geek women objectifying and sexualizing themselves, that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. We need to be talking about this as a problem of our culture, not a problem that women bring upon themselves.
Click on above link to read the full article.
*I went to Comic-Con this year, and from what I’ve seen, the vast majority of girls “geek out” in non-self-objectifying ways. However, I definitely saw the sexy cosplaying occurrence with several women. I think the most important part of this article is that it addresses why women dress in objectifying ways  - because they are rewarded and given “positive” attention for doing so. It is a human instinct to want to be liked and gain the approval of others - but when our culture gives women a narrow range of dehumanizing ways to be “valued,” we need to recognize the injustice of that and work towards change. (Because it’s not just in the geek community: it’s everywhere.)

"Geek Girls" and the Problem of Self-Objectification

The problem then, isn’t that women are objectifying themselves. That’s like holding a panel asking if women are “liberating themselves or pandering to men” for wearing mascara/high heels/Spanx/bras, curling or straightening their hair, or shaving their legs and underarms. Because it’s easy to blame women, right? It’s easy to say that if women don’t want to be objectified, they shouldn’t dress sexy or do the beauty work asked of them.

And it’s easy to get angry at “Team Unicorn” for so obviously pandering to the male gaze and framing themselves as sex objects for male geeks. It’s easy to hate Olivia Munn and point to her as everything that is wrong with geek women or geek culture. It’s easy to roll your eyes at the ubiquitous sexy cosplayers, and blame them for the objectification of women in geek cultures.

But the actions of women are not the cause of their objectification. Women have a lot of good reasons to perform beauty work and to dress sexy, especially in the sexist cultures represented at your average con. Women aren’t the problem, whether they crossplay and eschew femininity altogether or they pull out the sexy Leia costume. The problem is that women who dress sexy, who frame themselves as sex objects, are rewarded by geek culture for doing soThey get attention, approval, and recognition from the culture when they dress as sexy Leia (or any sexy geek thing). They have pictures taken of them at cons, and they get posted and reposted on the internet. They are recognized as geeks (and generally as somewhat authentic geeks, even if they aren’t talked about that way) and welcomed into the community (maybe not as full members, but at least as desirable). There’s nothing wrong with wanting attention and approval in one’s community. What cosplayer and geek wouldn’t want those things? What female geek doesn’t want to be welcomed into the community with enthusiasm and excitement (instead of derided as a harpy feminist or annoying squeeing fangirl)? The problem, then, isn’t what women do, but a culture in which the only way that women can be recognized as a desirable part of the culture is when they participate by making themselves consumable sexy objects for geek men.

Because geek cultures often think of themselves as countercultural, they don’t usually believe they are tainted by the sexism, racism, ableism, ageism, ad naseum that infect popular culture. And there are entire blogsthat prove that nonsense untrue.

This whole conversation needs to change focus. Individual geeks and cosplayers have their own reasons for dressing as they do or presenting themselves as they do. Those reasons can indeed involve their thinking that dressing as sexy Leia is empowering, for whatever reason. And we shouldn’t be dismissing those reasons. But the trend of sexy geek cosplaying, the trend of geek women objectifying and sexualizing themselves, that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. We need to be talking about this as a problem of our culture, not a problem that women bring upon themselves.

Click on above link to read the full article.

*I went to Comic-Con this year, and from what I’ve seen, the vast majority of girls “geek out” in non-self-objectifying ways. However, I definitely saw the sexy cosplaying occurrence with several women. I think the most important part of this article is that it addresses why women dress in objectifying ways  - because they are rewarded and given “positive” attention for doing so. It is a human instinct to want to be liked and gain the approval of others - but when our culture gives women a narrow range of dehumanizing ways to be “valued,” we need to recognize the injustice of that and work towards change. (Because it’s not just in the geek community: it’s everywhere.)

Filed under comic con comic-con slave leia princess leia sexy geek star wars cosplay costume objectification geek girl sexualize sexy cosplay

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