Geek Girls Rule! #236 – Male and Female Gaze in Nerd Culture

I’ve been nattering on a bunch about fangirls, celebrity culture seen through the nerd filter and attraction, be it to celebrities or people you might actually meet and interact with on a deeper level, and how those two types of attraction should ideally differ.  And that has me thinking a lot about why Fangirl culture is the way it is.

I’ve mentioned, most dudes when you ask them why they like an actress will begin and end the conversation with, “Because she’s hot, duh.”  Most, not all.  But a lot of guys will stop there.  An indeterminate number of nerd guys will maybe add a qualifier, like “She’s a hot, curvy redhead, who plays the accordion!” But that’s seen as more of a bonus than the reason to be into her.

When you ask women, especially Fangirls, about why they like an actor, actress, acting person of indeterminate gender, they may well START with hot, but will rapidly move on to “talented, smart, funny, supports the environment, rescues kittens…”

Why is that?

Because, as women in this culture, we are used to having to justify our attractions, and lack thereof, constantly.  I mean, why do you think the line, “What’s he got that I ain’t got?” or a modern variant is such a staple of romantic comedies?  It’s because women are constantly asked to justify their choices, and in this society physical sexual attraction is rarely considered “enough” of a reason for a woman to want someone.

If we don’t want to date someone, we’re expected to come up with a doctoral dissertation’s worth of reasons, which said dude will then attempt to talk us out of.  Do not let this happen to you, ladies.  No more reasons.  No means No and that’s all the reason you need.  Especially since we are so conditioned in this society to couch our refusal in mealy-mouthed, “nice” terms that won’t hurt a dude’s feelings and are ludicrously easy to “reason” us out of.

Granted, there’s a reason for that.  Every woman I know, regardless of her location on some imaginary “hotness” meter, has had a dude react badly to her refusal.  Most of the time we just get yelled at, called a “bitch” or “cunt,” maybe have a drink thrown at us or spit on, but sometimes it does get very, very violent.  And while it would be nice if violent psychopaths all wore a uniform so you could tell them from actual relatively normal dudes, they don’t.  So we have no way of knowing which you’re going to be: that dude who just called us a cunt, or the guy about which tomorrow’s newscast will start, “He was a quiet man, the neighbors said he kept to himself…”

So whether we’re turning a guy down, or trying to make time with a guy, we find ourselves justifying these things in our heads immediately, because we know at some point someone is going to demand we explain ourselves.  Oh, guys, you think I’m kidding, but pay close attention to your female friends and acquaintances and your own reactions.  Girls, also pay attention, because if some guy you hang out with questions every dude you try to get with, you probably have a “Nice Guy ™” on your hands, and we’ve talked about those before.  And the first person who starts their reply with, “But what if I’m a genuinely nice guy…” gets ban-hammered, because you lack reading comprehension skills and have not paid any attention to volumes written on the internet about that particular phenomenon. Google it.

Where was I?  So, yeah, it’s only natural that the justifying bleeds over into our attractions to people we’ll likely never meet and never have a shot at.  It’s conditioning.  I mean, why can’t I just say, “Look, David Bowie’s voice makes my panties fall off and I just want him to read me Lord Byron’s poetry until I orgasm from the sheer power of his vocal chords and then have him make sweet love to me?”  Why do I then immediately feel the need to go on about the genius of his lyrics and music (they are), or anything else?  Why did I have to scour interviews with Jason Statham to figure out if he was “smart enough” to justify the crush, or Isabella Rossellini, or Vin Diesel, or Kristen Vangsness, or Matthew Gray Gubler, or Christina Hendricks, or Tom Fucking Hiddleston?  WHY?

Why can’t I just pull a dude move and be content with pretty?  Why do all my celebrity crushes require homework for fuck’s sake?  Why do I, and countless other women, feel the need to research like obsessive freaks just so we can say, “Well, yeah, he’s hot, but did you know he did a master’s dissertation on the societal structures of classical Macedonia that was revolutionary?”  Yes, I’m totally pulling that out of my ass.  (Hey, it would impress the hell out of me.)

So, even though we Nerd Girls like to think that we’ve broken a lot of society’s programming (we have), there’s an assload more of it that’s soaked so far into our DNA we don’t even realize it.

That was Part I of the problem.

Part II of the problem is “Internalized Misogyny.”  We’ve spent our whole lives either not able or not wanting to be like those “normal girls.”  You know, the shallow, pretty ones who made our lives hell in high school and jr. high.  So if “shallow” people only like someone for their surface attraction, then we have to be “better” than that… Even if we really aren’t.  (Why Nerd Girls have taken this to heart, when so many Nerd Boys haven’t, I don’t know.)  So we take the societal requirement for women to justify their attractions, and we add to it some ramped up desires to not be “shallow” (bad), and voila, you have a recipe for obsessive internet searches and exhaustive research.

So, what do you guys think?  Do you find yourselves justifying your crushes, even on celebrities you’ll never meet?

Now, this is not to say that doing all that obsessive research is a bad thing.  I mean, without my tendency to research the shit out of everything I’m interested in I probably never would have seen the films Basquiat, Romeo is Bleeding, or Dead Man (Michael Wincott), Mesmer or Perfume* (Alan Rickman), Green Pornos (Isabella Rossellini, trust me, these are awesome), or found the works of Henning Mankell** through the Wallander Series (Tom Hiddleston).

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*Which is odd, because I read the novel when it first came out and loved it, but hadn’t realized they’d made a movie until the Rickman-mania hit.
**I think I’ve mentioned before, but SF/F is not my first genre love.  It’s Mystery.  I love when I can find a new, good mystery author.

2 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule! #236 – Male and Female Gaze in Nerd Culture

  1. If you have found yourself justifying, he is a gay married guy on another continent, my husband doesn’t feel the least bit threatened by him…. during any conversation… 😉

  2. Not really related to what I was discussing, but definitely a cute comeback for certain situations. Thank you!

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