Only Good On Paper by Andrea
This woman’s MUCH more than just being a hot redhead.
Geek guys? Can we talk? I promise, it won’t take long.
This geek chick has a bone to pick with you. Not a major one, but one that she’s been noticing more and more in recent years. One that is really starting to grate on her nerves. And considering how even-tempered I tend to be, that’s saying something. And I do apologize to the geek guys who have to read through this, but do not display this behavior. Could y’all maybe perform an intervention with your brother geeks who do things like this? Please?
Well, enough stalling, I’ll jump right into it. The major issue/pet peeve/thing I’m writing about is the tendency some geek guys have of utterly objectifying the fictional characters they fixate on. Believe me, if I had a nickel for every time I saw a geek guy do this, or heard a geek guy say things like this, or display this behavior in any other fashion, I wouldn’t have to worry about taking out student loans for my schooling.
What set this bit of writing in motion? A FB status update by an acquaintance that ended with him stating he figured he was due his very own ‘smokin’ hot redhead’ Mara Jade.
…Um, no. Just no. Here’s why.
The first thought I had when reading that update was ‘Yes. And what would happen if you met her for a date, and she decided you weren’t the guy for her? What then?’
The second thought I had -immediately following the first- was ‘Oh, silly me. In your warped view of women, she wouldn’t have a mind to decide with. She’d be your smokin’ hot, red-headed blow-up doll, nothing more than an object you can fixate on without a thought to the substance beneath the appearance.’
Sounds like I’m overreacting, you say? Maybe not so much. Sadly, there are many geek guys like this one out there, they are far from rare. And even more sadly, their views on fictional women are a big part of why geek culture can seem so hostile to female geeks of all stripes.
Does this mean I hate the idea of crushes on fictional characters? Of course not. If asked, I’ll joke about how you’ll pry my crush on Mr. Darcy from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ out of my cold, dead heart with an icepick. Like many, many people out there, I love and admire fictional characters of all types, sizes, and backgrounds. I’ve swooned over Aragorn and Legolas, wanted to be a Jedi alongside Luke Skywalker, wished I could have destroyed the Star Forge alongside Revan and Carth Onasi, dreamed I could form Voltron along with Keith, Lance, and the team…I could go on and on about fictional characters I’ve fangirled over.
The one thing I don’t do, however? Is objectify them.
Objectification is such a dirty, dangerous thing to do in any culture. It’s especially bad in geek culture, where the pool is already so small and concentrated. To objectify means that the subject is not treated as though they have their own autonomy, their own agency. They are treated as a ‘prize’ to be won and fawned over, rather than a living, breathing individual with their own mind and their own free will. At worst, they’re treated as though their own wants and needs are frivolous, and need to be decided on for them by those ‘who should know better’.
Um, sorry, but no. As you can probably guess, I have a HUGE issue with this. I have a major issue with taking away someone else’s power, speech, or autonomy for one’s own amusement. That’s me talking as a person, not simply as either a geek or a young woman (or a female geek). I would call this out the same way if things were reversed, and I saw rampant objectification of men to the same degree I see it done to women.
Back on-topic, why do I see geek guys objectifying fictional characters as such a huge deal? It isn’t like they’re real, feeling people, so it shouldn’t be so problematic, right? Err…in a fantasy, utopia-style world I’d agree. But we don’t live in Utopia, we live in this reality. And geek guys who objectify women can cause quite a bit of real-life havoc, for two main reasons.
First is the entitlement they show in their objectification. As I alluded to before with my acquaintance and his fixating on Mara Jade, nowhere in there do I sense any sort of desire to treat her as though she were a real person. There’s just the bloated entitlement of ‘I want her (or an equivalent facsimile), so she should be mine!’. Which is fine and dandy until you realize the guys who think like this often are the ones you least want to see in relationships. Through personal experience, I’ve found that guys who show the most entitlement in their ‘character crushes’ tend to be the ones who expect the world without working for it. They’re the types who want a relationship, but refuse to put any effort into making it work, or they only make it work so long as they’re getting something out of the deal. Then, when the relationship ends, they’re usually the first to point fingers at their ex, blaming them for everything falling apart, even when the other person was desperately trying to keep things going. Tell me, is this the kind of person you want to see having a relationship? The kind who doesn’t even know how to treat the other party with respect if there’s nothing in it for them?
Secondly, it takes away the accomplishments of that person, and distills them down to ‘how hot/sexy/f*ckable/etc are they?’, which completely removes any sort of personality and self from that person. Back up to Mara Jade, an attitude like that shows no regard for her or her character. She is a strong, capable individual who fights passionately for what she believes in -first as an Emperor’s Hand, then as a Jedi- fiercely protects those she loves, and will sacrifice everything to ensure the safety and stability of the galaxy. The fact she just happens to do all of this while being a beautiful woman is secondary; she could save the world with a buzz cut and while wearing a trash bag and I’d still admire her. Mara Jade is not Mara Jade because she’s a beautiful redhead, she’s Mara Jade because that’s who she is. Her looks have no bearing on that equation, it’s all about her as an individual (albeit an individual within the confines of the stories she’s present in.)
And that’s true of Mr. Darcy, of Aragorn and Legolas, of the Voltron Force…of any characters I know, love, and admire. Who they are presented as and what they accomplish with what they are given makes them stand out and be who they are. Their looks have no bearing on them as characters. I can appreciate a pretty face on either sex, but I’ll keep walking if it’s all style and no substance.
So you’re probably wondering ‘What about geek girls who objectify male characters?’ at about this point. While I admit I don’t see it nearly as often as I do geek guys objectifying female characters, I have seen it. And when I’ve seen it, it seems overwhelmingly like an even stronger condemnation of the guys who do it. From what I’ve personally observed, the girl geeks who participate objectification are (for the most part) much younger and much less mature. Hey, we can all admit to going through that ‘Squee for a pretty face and ignore the fact there’s nothing else of note’ phase. I know I did. Also, these girl geeks largely outgrew the shallow fixation, while guy geeks tend to hang onto their practices for longer and longer spans of time. When the girls can grow out of behavior like this while the guys seriously lag behind, there’s something really wrong.
In closing, a thought for those entitled, objectifying geek guys out there. If you really feel you’re so entitled to having your very own Mara Jade, go buy a blow-up doll, slap a red wig on it, and name it ‘Mara Jade’. Otherwise, grow up and learn to appreciate everything a strong, smart, beautiful woman brings to the table…and yes, that’s more than her hair color or her cup size or how good she might be in bed. Believe me, we real-world women will thank you for it.
andrea @ scarlet-rhapsody.com
…MUCH more than a pretty face.