So Geekosystem recently announced the upcoming launch of its sister site for ladies, hilariously (to me, at least) called The Mary Sue, and readers are… skeptical, to say the least. Some good points were made:
“I find the idea that I experience Star Wars or video games differently because I need tampons to be more than a little insulting.”
“Wow, really? It hadn’t occurred to me that THIS site was for men. I thought it was for GEEKS.”
“Why this need for gender stratification? I’m female and perfectly capable of enjoying geekosystem. I loved how there were male and female contributors here and how gender isn’t made a big deal out of, I’m offended that you feel the need to cordon off girl geeks from guy geeks.”
Not to mention the highly unfortunate copy in the site’s description: “an entertainment/news site for the the geeky girl, from the ones who love The Lord of the Rings but have never actually read the books, to the ones who want to know which movie stars are going to be at Comic Con, to those planning out their Minecraft cross stitch samplers.”
Really? Movie stars? That’s what you think we’re into? Sure, cross-stitching is totally rad, but you might want to save the semi-ironic stereotypes until after you’ve proven that you’re savvy enough to get your own jokes.
Now, unlike some of the less optimistic commenters, I think that a site for geeky women could be pretty awesome. Women, after all, tend to be systematically excluded from a lot of nerdy communities, both on- and offline, and we need our own spaces just to make up for that. The thing is, though, that this doesn’t seem to be the point of The Mary Sue at all. Geekosystem isn’t much of a community, so there isn’t much to be excluded from. It’s also about as “general interest” as a site could get without being Cracked.com (which I love, so STFU), and if its editors think that geek girls aren’t interested in inanimate objects that look like faces or suitcases filled with brass knuckles and whiskey, then I definitely don’t trust them to run a site for us.
On the other hand, there are some interests that are… specific to geek women, if not exclusive to us, that Geekosystem might shy away from talking about for fear of being deemed “gay” or “girly” by its less open-minded readers. And having spaces of our own does allow nerdy women to deconstruct the sexism and misogyny that run rampant in a lot of geek communities. But the fact is that we already have communities in which to discuss these things – from slash fiction to, well, the potentially oppressive nature of slash fiction – and they tend to do so in much more depth than I’d ever expect from a website that consists mostly of image macros and YouTube videos.
The question is, then, is The Mary Sue going to be Geekosystem-lite, with less science and more pictures of Tahmoh Penikett, or is it actually going to be a space in which lady geeks can form a community free from the shit that we deal with in the dudeosphere? And, perhaps more importantly, do we need either? Because there are plenty of spaces in which to discuss geek culture’s gender problems, and if I want to see Mr. Penikett take his shirt off, well, I can just watch Battlestar Galactica reruns. And more than anything, I really, really don’t want to see Geekosystem turn into a boys’ club. There aren’t nearly enough woman-friendly sites outside the feminist blogosphere. There’s an ongoing assumption that most sites that are not specifically for women are dudes-only spaces, where misogyny is king and if you don’t like it then you’re a humourless bitch. Having a women’s “sister site” only reinforces that assumption. And while Hipster Gandalf is awesome, I don’t think he’s awesome enough to make wading through sexist comments worthwhile.
In conclusion: The Mary Sue will probably be pretty great, but you know what would be even better? Cross-stitch patterns on Geekosystem.