The myth of the Fake Geek Girl and her perfidious sister, the Fake Gamer Girl, is like a pervasive popcultural weed. No sooner has the concept been debunked, uprooted and flung on the fire in one quarter than it springs up again in another, its scrappy rootlets osmosing sustenance from the plentiful strata of sexism, misogyny and wilful misunderstanding that underlie most internet forums. Such women, we’re told time and again, are whores and dilettantes: users who care about comics, games, cosplay or whatever other subset of geekdom you’d care to name only insofar as it allows them to manipulate the emotions (and, consequently, wallets) of shy nerdy boys so overwhelmed by the prospect of Actual Live Women that they promptly forget their dignity and roll over like dogs, unaware that the heartless objects of their unrequited affections are collectively giggling behind their perfectly manicured hands and mispronouncing Boba Fett on purpose. It’s like some bizarre high school revenge fantasy where the hot, popular girl who humiliated the geeky boy later tries to ingratiate herself with him for her own nefarious purposes by pretending to like Star Trek, but finds herself thwarted when, instead of falling for her sirenlike charms, he calls her a bitch in front of the whole school and somehow ends up a hero, pronouncing loudly all the while that she wasn’t REALLY hot, anyway.

It is, in short, misogynistic piffle of the highest order; but given our cultural obsession with blaming women for the abuse and sexual harassment they routinely receive, as though the act of simply being female in predominantly or traditionally male spaces is always and inherently an intolerable provocation, I started wondering: how does this logic hold in digital spaces, where one’s biological sex and gender expression are so easily concealed – or even altered – by the click of a button?

To be clear: the assumption that biological sex and gender expression are always obvious IRL – or worse, that they should be obvious – is part of the same problem. Violent, aggressive transphobia doesn’t care whether you’re a white, straight, cisgendered male Redditor who’s cross-dressing as part of a theatre performance or a trans woman of colour out walking with friends: if you don’t look “right” – where “right” means “visually conforming to a narrow gender binary, such that you meet the approval of your antagonists” – then the danger is very real, and frequently fatal. Trans, nonbinary and genderfluid individuals – and particularly those who are poor, women of colour and/or sex workers – are all too commonly the subjects of street harassment, aggression and abuse; hardly a surprising state of affairs, when the idea of a small boy carrying a purse, let alone wearing a feminine Halloween costume, is apparently a sign of the End Times, but the phenomenon is a harrowing indictment of our culture nonetheless. Small wonder, then, that it’s comparatively rare for men to cross-dress IRL in order to experience the male gaze for themselves – as one man recently did in Egypt, to help raise awareness about sexism and street harassment – when the potential consequences could well be more brutal than enlightening.

But online, it’s a different question entirely. Online, you can easily change or conceal your gender identity, whether that means adopting an androgynous username, trying out a professional pseudonym, actively pretending to be a different person on social media, or opting to play a genderswapped character in an MMORPG.  And when it comes to analysing instances of sexual harassment online, what makes these examples so fascinating isn’t just the ease or regularity with which they occur, but the fact that internet users who either present as or are assumed to be female are still unquestioningly treated as women – with all the sexism and social baggage that entails – even when the harassers know how easy it is for the real end-user to lie. That being so, if the men who perpetrate misogyny and sexual harassment online justify their actions on the basis of female provocation – if they believe their targets deserve their scorn, not just for being female, but for being obviously, offensively and stereotypically female – then to what extent do their actions really result, not from any inherent feminine badness, but from confirmation bias, given that they also routinely behave this way towards individuals who are, in fact, male?

Consider, for instance, the experience of Boulet, a male cartoonist who, at one point, posted his work online under a female pseudonym and was stunned by the number of insulting, sexualised and misogynistic comments “she” received, having never experienced the like while posting art under his own name. More recently, a man who pretended to be a woman on OK Cupid – with the aim, ironically enough, of proving to a female friend that online dating was easy for women – quit after only two hours, shocked and disgusted by the deluge of gratuitous, aggressively sexual messages he received. And just last week, a male friend mentioned to me that, since he’s started playing a female character in an online game, he’s been getting hit on by other players – not grossly, but enough that he’s noticed the difference. That exchange prompted me to go on Twitter and ask if any other guys who’d had similar experiences would be willing to share them; what came back, however, was an even more interesting anecdote, wherein a female gamer noted that several men of her acquaintance have preferred to play as – and pretended to be – women in MMORPG environments specifically in order to scam male players.

Which opened up a rather breathtaking possibility: what if the respective myths of the Fake Geek Girl and Fake Gamer Girl are actively being perpetuated, not through the whore-user predations of evil ladies, but because a cynical, sexist subset of male geeks are using stereotypical, strawman portrayals of women to manipulate their peers? If this is what’s happening even some of the time, then not only might it account for the massive dissonance between female experiences in male-dominated gaming spaces (as documented by sites like Fat, Ugly or Slutty and Not In The Kitchen Anymore) and male accounts of the same exchanges, but for the ongoing pervasiveness of the stereotype. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I mused, to have some data on that!

So I went and did some research. And guess what? There is data.

According to a 2008 study by Zaheer Hussain and Mark D. Griffiths, which was written up in their joint paper, Online Virtual Environments and the Psychology of Gender Swapping, 57% of gamers have played gender-swapped characters in MMORPGs. Broken down further, the statistic revealed that 54% of men had played female characters, while a massive 68% of women had played male characters. (Which suggests the rather interesting possibility that, at least some of the time, you’d be better off assuming that the majority of female characters are, in fact, being played by men, more of which later.) Similarly, when asked to explain their decision to play a character of the opposite gender, there’s a marked difference in the responses given by the men and women surveyed. One woman reported having made a male character “because I was tired of creepy guys hitting on my female characters”, while another noted:

“I make a male character and don’t let anyone know I’m female in real life. It’s interesting how different people treat you when they think you are male”.

By contrast, two men openly admitted to playing female characters in order to get special treatment from other men. “If you make your character a woman, men tend to treat you FAR better,” said one, while another remarked:

“If you play a chick and know what the usual nerd wants to read you will get free items… which in turn I pass them to my other male characters… very simple. Nerd + Boob = Loot.”

Interestingly, a different study from 2003 – published as Online computer gaming: a comparison of adolescent and adult gamers, by M.D. Griffiths, Mark N. O. Davies and Darren Chappell – found that “adolescent gamers were significantly more likely to be male [and] significantly less likely to gender-swap”, with only 45.5% of adolescents gender-swapping compared to 61.8% of adults  – which detail, when put together with the subsequent study, might suggest that the sort of man who plays as a female character in order to manipulate desperate male geeks is more likely to be an adult. However, given that only 6.8% of adolescent gamers surveyed were female, compared to 20.4% of the adults, the reverse could also be true, as implied by the fact that the Nerd + Boob = Loot respondent was only twenty. It’s also worth noting that, according to Nick Yee’s comprehensive 2001 study of Everquest players, The Norrathian Scrolls: A Study of Everquest:

“There was no significant effect in gender of the participant. The gender of the presented character [however] produced a significant effect… and it was found that female characters received significantly more assistance than male characters… It was also found that female players offered significantly less assistance to male characters than male players offered to female characters.”   

In other words, while female players were treating male characters and female characters more or less identically, male players were disproportionately favouring female characters regardless of who was playing them. The same study also noted (my emphasis) that:

“[while] female players who did gender-bend were significantly more likely to do so for gender exploration… male players who did gender-bend were slightly more likely to do so because of in-game advantages

The direction of the gender-bending also produced a significant effect, and it was found the male-to-female gender-bending was significantly more troubling than female-to-male gender-bending…

When asked whether they found their characters of the opposite gender were being treated differently, both male and female players talked about the in-game advantages that came with being a female character… Female characters who have tried playing male characters commented that male characters were treated more seriously, and given more respect.

When asked whether they had learned anything about the opposite gender, many male players talked about what they learned from being constantly harassed by male characters Thus, about 48% of the female characters you meet in the game are actually played by male players.

Let me break that last bit down for you: even though nearly half the female characters were played by men, male players were still not only offering female characters special perks on such an epic scale that many men were playing as women purely to gain advantage over other guys, but the men who were playing male characters were sexually harassing both men AND women in equal measure, so focussed on the character’s gender that they forgot that the player’s might be different. So even though some women who played female characters received spill-over perks on the basis of their presumed gender, so too did many men, who did so, not as the result of playing as their own gender, but through the deliberate manipulation of the sexist assumptions of other male players. The women, meanwhile, despite the “perks” of playing as themselves, were opting for male characters in large numbers in order to avoid the constant sexual harassment of male players.

I could list more studies, but I think I’ve made my point: that the twin myths of the manipulative Fake Geek Girl and Fake Gamer Girl are rooted, not in female cruelty, but in male sexism. By setting female geeks on a pedestal while sexually harassing them as a matter of course, male geeks have created the very system they’re now so angrily raging against: one where many women, deterred by the culture of misogyny in gaming and other digital spaces, either disguise their gender or steer clear altogether, such that their thwarted harassers place a premium on “real” female company. This in turn leads to a manipulative subculture of opportunistic men pretending to be women in order to gain advantage over their male peers, who, somewhat understandably, grow angry and jaded at this treatment. Rather than blaming their troubles on individual users, however, these men generalise their experiences as being typical of all women in geekdom; actual female geeks are attacked, misogyny pervades, and the cycle is complete when women, once again, are driven away by each new wave of sexism.

That being so, the idea that some inherent, toxic femaleness is the ultimate cause of male sexism is proven absurd: it’s all just a misogynistic shell-game of confirmation bias, one where merely seeming female, regardless of one’s actual gender expression, is enough to prompt the sort of harassment, abuse and belittlement that women are told is an unmistakable consequence of our biology and socialisation; a hateful, inherent cocktail that no man should be able to imitate. Misogyny isn’t about what women are, therefore, but about what men perceive women to be. That’s nothing new, of course; the many prejudicial ways culture has of declaring the feminine inferior and the inferior feminine are as old as the proverbial hills. But now, perhaps, with the emergence of digital spaces – when it’s easier than ever for men to assume the unquestioned mantle of female and see what happens next; and when, as a consequence, the inability of sexually interested men online to magically distinguish men from women should surely prove that coquettish, improper female behaviour isn’t the cause of sexual harassment – we can finally start to move forwards. 

  1. Reblogged this on The World According to Life and commented:
    Just because I don’t know everything about the fandom, doesn’t mean I am no less a fan. These shy, nerdy, geeky boys also need to learn that world (and the fandom) does not revolve around them.

  2. Gaie Sebold says:

    Absolutely intriguing – thank you! I’ve never played online – only live action, where this kind of gender-swapping is, at least in the systems I’ve played, much less possible. Gender-swapping in those spaces is generally by NPC’s and done as a joke (much ugly-sister style camping up etc.). Which says quite a lot about the underlying attitudes, I suspect. Although these are systems with a fair few women reffing and in fighting roles, there’s sadly still a lot of entrenched, unexamined misogyny, homophobia, etc. It will be interesting to see if cultural shifts in the digital geekspace not only take place but eventually leak through…

    • Iain Hall says:

      I have had some experience playing GTAV online and as its a third person action/shooter where you spend a great deal of time looking at the back of your character I have for most of that time used a female avatar, not because I think that it gives me any advantage over other players (it doesn’t because I get killed a lot) but simply because I find it more pleasing to watch a female form of my avatar as I move through the game. In GTAV I have found that the majority of players are male but a good number of the online avatars are female from my listening to the online audio exchanges I would think that the number of females who play the game would be less than 10%.

      Anyway the point that I am making is that when it comes to gaming what each player finds attractive may well play a greater part in the way that they chose and develop their avatars than any calculating quest for advantage in the virtual world.

  3. Natalie L. says:

    This is a fantastic analysis. There’s also a tendency in some MMORPGs to assuming that characters of certain classes are being played by women regardless of the character’s gender–typically healing classes but also sometimes ranged DPS as well.

    There’s also the issue of, in games like World of Warcraft, the insistence on voice chat during raids (can be anywhere from 10-40 people)–this can also serve to identify the women from the men and I have, in the past, known a lot of women who claim to not have a microphone so they don’t have to talk and out themselves.

    I used to play an MMORPG and definitely saw a lot of the behaviors you describe happen, along with the occasional woman who served to “prove” that all women are manipulative and willing to trade on their gender for favors or special treatment (I used to be in a relationship with a woman who openly admitted to me that she did this).

  4. Because that’s what the idea of the “fake geek girl” is all about, right? “Oh, she’s just doing that for the attention.” Which, by the way, is also a thing said when women claim they’ve been raped, or beaten by people close to them; it’s one of the foundational assumptions behind the reasoning that women lie or will lie about being raped to get abortions; it is the idea that excuses the behavior of a society that minimizes the concerns of women.

  5. Lyssabits says:

    When I first started playing online games I definitely saw the preferential treatment women got as well as the expected quid pro quo. I was completely turned off by the whole situation. If you accepted help but didn’t “follow through” you were a tease, if you did you were a slut.The Madona/Whore complex is alive and well online too. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I opted to take the “bitch” position most of the time, accepting no help and granting no favors, maintaining a modicum of respect among my peers, even as they cursed at me. The fact that my reputation was based on how much I flirted and not my skill as a gamer was intensely irritating. I tried a male character once and definitely found the other players more hostile, aggressive, less forgiving of mistakes. But the interactions weren’t weighted with the constant calculus of trying to be friendly but not TOO friendly. It was definitely interesting. No one ever doubted I was the gender I presented myself as.

    10 years I was wrapping up my stint on World of Warcraft and by then NO ONE BELIEVED ME if I told them I was a woman. “Girls don’t play games.” The people who said this to me were invariably younger than me. (They also didn’t believe people as old as 29 were playing WoW 😉 ) It was sort of an appalling setback, I thought, that the younger generation seemed less inclined to believe that there were gamer girls at all. I was one of a few girls who I knew played games in High School but I thought our numbers were growing. I certainly watched more and more women get into the games I was playing, a lot of them older than me and playing for the first time. It was awesome. But I guess we’ve all gone underground now to avoid the bullshit. Or in my case, left online for single player games. 😉 I play a little Mass Effect 3 multiplayer on the rare occasion that both my kids are asleep and the friends I like to pla with are around. I never ever play with random people anymore.

  6. Erich K says:

    Thanks Foz, this was really interesting. As a lifelong gamer and in-game gender-bender (via avatar/class/whathaveyou though never pretending to be anything but a cis male when asked), the gender of ingame avatars has become only a weak signal at best regarding the gender of the player. As the gaming community gets older, I imagine we’ll continue to see ingame avatars become less and less informative, and the “nerd + boobs = loot” equation become less relevant. I’d hazard a guess that most of the victims of such scams were adolescents themselves. One thing that came to mind after reading your piece is that there is a different signal that I use to confidently identify some players as male: a combined high level of skill and dedication to the game. I don’t know if this is some kind of reverse-fake-gamer-girl syndrome on my part, but by-and-large the most accomplished gamers are male (though I can think of some striking counter examples, like a trans woman who plays sc2 professionally, and is among the best sc2 professionals at that: ), and so if I see someone is clearly a very serious gamer, I assume they are male. I can think of a case where one such person that I played with went to lengths to avoid outing their real gender, such as using the already mentioned excuse of not having a mic (in this case, to hide their maleness, rather than the other way around), but I never doubted for a second that they were male (due to their skill and dedication), which was revealed to be the truth when I met them IRL. Anyway, I just thought that was an interesting related note.

    • Lise says:

      One thing that came to mind after reading your piece is that there is a different signal that I use to confidently identify some players as male: a combined high level of skill and dedication to the game.

      Woah woah woah. Can I call this bullshit out?

      I used to play WoW. I quit playing WoW because of harassment, actually–because even though I had a male toon, I had to be on voice chat for raids, and once my trash-ass guildmates knew I was female, everything changed.

      But I challenge you to prove that, at the time I quit (early in WotLK), I was a “less dedicated” player. I knew my class inside and out. I hung out on the Elitist Jerks forums, doing theorycrafting for my spec. I practiced on test dummies to try to get my rotation just right. I read all kinds of strategy pages; watched boss fight videos; led raids.

      Skill-wise, I was probably not nearly as strong a player as some of my guildmates, but I was also playing a very unforgiving class and spec. (Afflic lock in the days when that meant managing gazillion dots, all of which had to have near-100% uptime and couldn’t be clipped AT ALL). I think very little of my relative position on the DPS charts had to do with this here sandy vagina.

      While I will accept that you might have trouble finding individual women in the echelons of professional gaming (which is such a rarefied sample as to be completely meaningless), I think you need to rethink why that is. It might be because women are still expected to do most of the housework, child-rearing, and hold down a job, and perhaps don’t have as much time for gaming. It might just be because of shitty attitudes like this. But it is NOT due to inherent lack of dedication or skill.

      • Erich K says:

        I don’t understand how you read a shitty attitude into my post, or how my use of the phrase “most accomplished gamers” refers only to professional gaming. Or why I need to prove anything about you, this person who I do not know in the slightest. Or when I even guessed, or made even the slightest suggestion, as to _why_ there aren’t many women in professional gaming. Or a number of other things about how you’ve read my post.

        • Lise says:

          “I identify people as male or female based on their skill at gaming” == “Women are less skilled/dedicated at gaming” == shitty attitude

          I sincerely hope someone surprises you in this regard some day.

          • Erich K says:

            Perhaps my initial use of the phrase “identify as male” was erroneous. I’m not sure what exactly is implied by the use of “identify” in the context of this topic. My intention was to convey something more like the phrasing I used the second time around, that I’m sometimes liable to make assumptions about things I don’t know, given what information I do have—assumptions that I recognize as fallible. If this is no different than the “identify” you’re unhappy with, then I’m just an ignoramus, confused about what’s at issue.

            Separately, unlike many people I actually like surprises, so I hope so too!

      • meishuu says:

        Thank you! As a woman who is a dedicated gamer (but not a “professional”) I found his comment to be nothing but bullshit.

      • tinyorc says:

        ” if I see someone is clearly a very serious gamer, I assume they are male. ”
        “but I never doubted for a second that they were male (due to their skill and dedication), which was revealed to be the truth when I met them IRL.”

        You seem to be suffering from quite an inflated case of confirmation bias.

        As a lifelong gamer, I assume you’ve encounters hundreds and hundreds of other players and there’s been many instances where you had no way of knowing whether they were male or female, apart from your sexist assumptions based on skill levels. And if you honestly think that “more skilled and dedicated = obviously male” is not sexist assumption, then you are part of the problem.

  7. Charming2020 says:

    What I love most about the 20 year old pretend-female is that he uses the female character to collect goodies, but then passes them on to his male characters. He wants the goodies, but he doesn’t want to play the female character primarily.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Yeah, I noticed that, too. He doesn’t even want to invest in the female character as an avatar – she’s just a tool for getting his male avatars better stuff.

  8. […] And Foz Meadows is on top form yet again, with “Seeming Female: Gender in Digital Spaces”: […]

  9. […] Meadows has a brilliant post up today abut the phenomenon of people who play gender-swapped characters in online games. […]

  10. Rin says:

    Thanks for this. I had no idea it was common for men to play female characters for advantages, but I know that this is not true for all cases where a male player’s using a female avatar. For example, I’ve heard male players say that playing as FemShepard is a lot more interesting than playing as Male Shepard for them because of changes in-game. I’m sure there are other cases where players found it more interesting to play as a female, so I wouldn’t assume that males playing as female characters are sexist. I’m not saying you implied that. Just wanted to make it clear, even though I get annoyed myself when people are discussing a problem for women and someone feels the need to defend men. I just think sometimes these men playing as females are the least sexist because they don’t find it “emasculating” to play female characters, not that they deserve cookies for this or something, lol.

    It’s a real shame women have to go voiceless online too in order to avoid harassment.

  11. kaigou says:

    So basically, the issue isn’t that of Fake-Gamer Girl, but of Fake-Girl Gamer. Hm.

  12. […] Seeming Female: Gender In Digital Spaces – Foz Meadows digs into gender expectations and the spectre of the “fake geek/gamer girl” and pretty much proves that it’s all projection. […]

  13. I’ve been playing MMO’s for quite a while, and with either-gendered avatars for pretty much the entire time. Now, I never played WOW (Started with City of Heroes, then Warhammer Online, and currently playing SWTOR) but I never really noticed much difference in treatment. (which is just anecdotal of course) I wonder if this kind of thing varies by game/culture?

  14. Tim says:

    Reblogged this on Turn the Page and commented:
    Excellent read about gamers of all genders and how each is perceived in games. I admittedly gender swap in video games, but mine goes back to playing Tribes 2, Unreal Tournament and other FPS games. Female characters seemed faster, they didn’t lumber like the male characters, and overall they just looked sleeker.

  15. […]  Seeming Female: Gender In Digital Spaces […]

  16. […] Seeming Female: Gender In Digital Spaces […]

  17. Hi there. Interesting post. I play FFXIV: A Realm Reborn and am part of a Free Company (guild) where gender of either character or IRL doesn’t seem to matter. I have wondered about the genders IRL of some of my FC mates, but ultimately it doesn’t matter; they are solid players almost always willing to help other FC peeps out, regardless of their character gender or perceived IRL gender. I have a female DPS character (lancer/dragoon) and have experienced no harassment, even after making it known that I am a female IRL. I never felt the need to hide my IRL gender as it was never an issue. I also played Guild Wars 2 with a female DPS character and had a similar positive experience. I know that harassment and gendered treatment happens in games, and I know that I am quite lucky in my gaming experience. Knowing this is what kept me from playing online games for a very long time.

    While I largely support the argument of this post, I do have a few issues with it. First, it is necessary to know the number of male players compared to female players (a definition caveat: when I say “male” or “female” players, I mean players who identify as such.) You give quite a bit of data about character genders and gender-swapped characters, but without knowing the percentages of female and male players, it’s harder to understand the correlation between gender IRL and character gender. Knowing this becomes especially important when you say that

    “…the statistic revealed that 54% of men had played female characters, while a massive 68% of women had played male characters. (Which suggests the rather interesting possibility that, at least some of the time, you’d be better off assuming that the majority of female characters are, in fact, being played by men…).”

    What does that mean for the break down of female vs. male players? Based on these numbers alone, it seems that most male characters are in fact played by female players. For this aspect of your argument to make sense, we need to understand just how many female players there are compared to male players. Unfortunately, the numbers suggested in the adult vs. adolescents study is not adequate because that study was done for a specific query. What this post needs are straight numbers for male vs female players in online gaming. It feels like a big oversight.

    This issue leads to an interesting possibility that is not explored at all in your post and is the second thing I find problematic. If you are suggesting that there is a significant amount of gender swapping in characters going on and that by and large the sexist treatment/harassment is being done by male characters to female characters, then isn’t it possible that female players, as male characters, are doing at least some of the harassing?

    By excluding any discussion of this as well as any data on it, this post assumes that female players, as either male or female characters, won’t/don’t harass other players, male or female. Misogyny and sexism are by definition perpetrated against women, but they are not by definition only perpetrated by men. To assume what female players with the ability to adopt male power by portraying themselves as male characters in game space do or do not do in online game space both limits their possibilities and defines for them what is or is not acceptable, which perpetuates exactly what this post argues against: that there are acceptable ways for women to be/behave in gaming space and anyone who doesn’t fit that definition is false.

    Finally, concluding that “females players treat male and female characters more or less identically” simply because “‘female players offered significantly less assistance to male characters'” ignores the fact that female players might be offering significantly more assistance to female characters (any information on this was excluded from the quote). If this is happening, then it means the exact opposite of your conclusion; it means that there is a gender bias among female players as well.

    Perhaps these points necessitate their own post with as much research and data as this post. However, the exclusion of these possibilities skews your argument and it both ignores and negatively defines what women might actually be doing in online gaming spaces. This is a fascinating area of study; it is also a gender theory dialogue-changer because of the possibility it offers both men and women to explore other identities. The results are not always positive, as you have shown. It would be wonderful to have a discussion about what women do with the assumption of male power in online gaming spaces. To assume by exclusion that they are not doing the same things as male players continues to place female players in a box. We want out of the box.

  18. […] Foz Meadows, who coincidentally would be another great pick for the best fan writer Hugo, has a fasc…. Turns out that approximately half of all players of MMORPGs play characters of a different gender and that those who engage in the sort of behaviour in MMORPGs that “fake geek girls” are often accused of, i.e. using their feminine wiles to trick men and scam them out of something, are mostly male players playing female avatars. Meanwhile, many women prefer to play as male characters, because they are tired of the harrassment and sexist crap they get when playing as women. […]

  19. Joanna says:

    Great article. Pardon the horn-tooting, but here’s another bit of scholarship reaffirming your points: my informal and now old ramble on gender play in online poker. Nothing new really, but as much as I found playing as female uncomfortable then, the cynical online gamer in me (the one that counts an XBL session without hearing the word “bitch” as a good one…oh wait that never happens) now kinda thinks I should have taken the bastards for all that they were worth.

    I appreciate your hopeful tone at the end and think changes to online gaming spaces will probably come slowly and one at a time. It is all we can hope for, really, because the alternatives — become inured, or play into it — are what we have now.

    There was also some good work published out of MIT some years ago on online poker, online gaming, and gender but I don’t have names handy; lmk if you’re interested and I’ll check my thesis biblio. Cheers

  20. Yahong says:

    This is actually incredible. Being able to apply the foundations of misogyny to the fake geek girl concept as you do really makes it clear that the vicious cycle of the concept is really fuelled by sexism, and it’s especially interesting considering the medium in which is takes place. Thanks so much for this enlightening post!

  21. laurajosephineauthor says:

    My boyfriend often plays as a female character (now that it’s available) on his favourite FPS MMORPG (hope those acronyms are right but if they aren’t, I suppose I’m ‘just’ a girl gamer) for the simple reason that the other boys get quite annoyed at being shot by a girl. Because in this game there aren’t many advantages you can give over players apart from not shooting them, he isn’t treated in a flattering way. But he’s good at the game and enjoys listening to young voices pop and squeak in fury that they just “got PWND by that chick, dude!”

  22. […] article on Britain’s housing issues from James Meek in the London Review of Books. Seeming Female: Gender In Digital Spaces – Some interesting data on how men react to female characters in online gaming, regardless of […]

  23. […] Seeming Female: Gender in Digital Space – So at this point we all know that Fake Geek Girl  is largely a myth, the fever dream of an adult nerd with a subconscious desire to punish all women for that one time a hot girl ignored him at summer camp. But the always excellent Foz Meadows posits an interesting theory: what if she does exist? What if she exists and what if she is a literal invention of male gamers? “What if the respective myths of the Fake Geek Girl and Fake Gamer Girl are actively being perpetuated, not through the whore-user predations of evil ladies, but because a cynical, sexist subset of male geeks are using stereotypical, strawman portrayals of women to manipulate their peers? ” It sounds far-fetched, but the numbers add up and in the performance of gender in digital spaces is a strange and elusive beast. […]

  24. Wayne says:

    A lot of what you’re talking about, pretending to be female for free gear , comes from muds too. Muds are the text based ancestors of mmorpgs. Perhaps they are as old as text anonyminity and the internet itself.

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