Oh, You Sexy Geek! Panel Recap from the Ink-Stained Amazon

on July 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

Last week I attended my fourth Comic Con as a professional. For those who don’t know me, I’m a feminist media critic, pop culture historian, comics scholar, member of the Whedon Studies Association, public speaker, freelance writer, author, and programming director for GeekGirlCon.

One of my passions is making critical thinking fun and accessible. I believe it’s important to ask questions about the media we consume, as well as enjoy, because we are shaped by culture, just as we shape it.

I also believe that criticism does not automatically mean condemnation. (For example, I love the entirely problematic television series, True Blood.)

I was asked to participate on the “Oh, You Sexy Geek” panel by moderator and organizer, Kat Hill (aka Action Flick Chick) along with Bonnie Burton (Grrl.com and Star Wars Craft Book), 
Adrianne Curry (America’s Next Top Model), Clare Grant (Team Unicorn, “G33k & G4m3r Girls”), 
Kiala Kazebee (Nerdist.com), 
Clare Kramer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), 
Nerdy Bird – Jill Pantozzi (“Has Boobs, Reads Comics”), and
 Chris Gore (G4).

I almost didn’t. I respect the women involved, but my main concern was that any criticism about sexuality and gender in the Geek Girl community is immediately interpreted as an “attack” and a decree that “women should not be allowed to do that” rather than the suggestion that when we present ourselves as sexual, we’re interpreted as sexual objects. Or that anyone who suggests that empowerment for the one is not empowerment for the many is just a mean, feminist/not-feminist, jealous, prude who doesn’t like other women. When really, these conversations are so much more complicated – or to my mind they should be.

I also debated whether I wanted to use this opportunity to promote (or destroy) my career. Certainly, more people would know about my work after the session, but I wasn’t sure this was the venue I wanted to use to gain exposure. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to participate in a conversation. Different people have different ideas about whether or not it was an actual discussion and I’ll let readers peruse those responses via the attached links themselves. It’s important to me to present several different ways of considering something, so that you can draw your own conclusions. I’ll also update this post if a video recording of the panel is posted. (I was told it was to be professionally recorded, and apparently, it wasn’t – boo.)

Additionally, I want to stress that I really admire, Kat, for continuing to present and consider an array of opinions, but regardless of her intentions that doesn’t mean that everyone adheres to the idea that we can be supporters of each other even if we have different opinions. And that saddens me as someone who works to create female community. I’m not speaking about any of the panelists – who have been supportive – but to some of the responses online.

This particular discussion went as I expected it to. Most everyone maintained a degree of respect, though there were times when I definitely felt that some voices dominated the conversation. Now, sometimes conversations steer in certain directions; things move quickly, and occasionally erratically, on a panel – especially in front of a GIANT audience. Conversation can be difficult, and understanding takes both time, and learning not just how to listen, but how to listen to what the other is saying. What is their perspective? Where is it coming from and why? Are you saying the same thing but with words so different that it sounds like you are arguing? Is this why suggesting asking questions about why we do what we do, and what the real-world effects are is interpreted as an attack?

I’m glad I got to say a few things that were important to me – and from the response I’ve gotten, important to many of you as well. Thank you for speaking up – it’s incredibly difficult when you know your voice is in the minority. But I also want to stress that I feel it’s important to respect difference of opinion, as well as those who express it. All I can hope for is that I receive the same courtesy.

Because there isn’t video, I wanted to just recap some of the questions that were posed in the session.

Does displaying the sexiness of fangirls benefit or demean them? When geek girls show off, are they liberating themselves or pandering to men? Do some “fake fangirls” blend sex appeal with nerdiness just to appeal to the growing geek/nerd market, or is that question itself unfair? How about sexy fanboys? And what’s up with all the Slave Leias?

And to be honest, I can’t remember all we covered.

But questions I wanted to include in the discussion were:

What IS sexy? (And when we say something is sexy – are we only talking about a specific type of sexy?)

What is the benefit of women making media vs. participating in media that’s being made?

How, or in what ways, are heteronormative depictions of “sexy” damaging?

If geek girls, especially prominent geek girls, are willing to show themselves as objects of male fantasy, why would male-dominated industries such as comics, film, or even television, bother to represent women as anything else? (Additionally, there is a post-feminist idea that if a woman does something, and is okay with it, then that somehow automatically makes it feminist. If something is empowering for the one, is it necessarily empowering for the many?)

Where is the line between exploitation and empowerment?

How can we disagree with each other and still move forward as a community?

I didn’t really want to talk about the “Slave Leia” outfit because that’s one of those issues where people aren’t going to be amenable to critical discussion surrounding it. As I said in my book: Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology:

The “Slave Leia” outfit—as it has come to be known—ensures her status not as an icon of female empowerment and political influence (as she was in the first, and arguably second, film installments) but as an object of heterosexual male fantasy. The pervasive, and perverse, popularity of the outfit is seen throughout popular culture––from parades of “Slave Leias” at Comic Con International to Ross Gellar of the television series Friends admitting it’s one of his sexual fantasies. Admittedly, Leia’s bikini is memorable precisely because it ignited a generation of young boys’ first “funny feelings” and thus serves as nostalgia for sexual awakening. But it’s also troublesome that an outfit a powerful woman was forced to wear in a tactic meant to demean and objectify her, and in which she may have been sexually assaulted (her captor, Jabba, does feel her up with his suggestive tail), has become one of the dominant images of Leia.

In my opinion it’s not hot – it’s demeaning. And that’s because it’s intended to be demeaning. It’s not an outfit that Leia chose as an expression of empowerment or sexuality. The “Slave ” outfit was was forced upon Leia because she was being held as a slave. (And didn’t Carrie Fisher admittedly have an eating disorder – the kind that such exploitative outfits contribute to?) And if it were truly empowering, wouldn’t Leia have freed the other slaves on Jabba’s sail barge?!?!?

Feminism is about changing social and political systems of oppression – not about saving yourself.

(Don’t get me started on the problematic and unexamined use of the word “slave” in reference to sexual arousal.)

Kat brought up the subject of a photo someone sent her of her seven year old daughter in the notorious “Slave Leia” outfit and asked what we thought about that. One panelist’s response to was to joke, “Was she hot?” Another noted that Europe has less Puritanical views regarding the human body, and when I suggested that was different from sexualizing a child, I was asked what I would tell my daughter if she said that was her favorite character? (I never got a chance to answer, but a conversation would definitely be involved. I also came home and read this post on Jezebel about Dance Moms and why it’s important for little girls to be “hot” – to be clear, not what the panelist was saying, just a suggestion that what we say does matter.)

I’m not jealous. I’m not a prude. And I don’t have a problem with skimpy outfits per se. I haven’t put anyone “down” for wearing a costume – or questioned their personal empowerment – and I certainly support women’s right to wear what they want. Especially to wear what they want without being sexually harassed.

What I have a problem with is the emphasis on conventional expressions of sexuality in cosplay being the dominant option. I have a problem with women’s bodies being used to sell product (as in booth babes). And I have a problem with the idea that those options are all we have because that’s the only way women are drawn or portrayed in popular entertainment media. One of the comments I heard on the panel was along the lines of “What are we supposed to do when that’s how the characters we love are drawn or dressed?” [Head. Desk.]

It was also suggested that we simply ignore media we don’t like. Ignoring it won’t make it go away, and it won’t change the status quo. Only talking about it will.

I agree with this assertion from “Feminist in Wonderland: The Women of Comic Con” on The WIP via Ms. that:

“What matters is not whether we wear the seven-inch heels. What matters is whether we have asked ourselves—why do we wear them? If we have not addressed that question, then this is objectification, and it holds all of us back.”

I haven’t heard any feminists assert that feminism is about telling other women what to do, or wear, so don’t know where that response is coming from (see Twitter). But I believe we do need to examine the cultural messages marketed and received by media. We need to teach our children how to read entertainment. And we need to open up our definitions of what is sexy by representing diverse body types, races, ethnicities and sexualities as sexy – as well as emphasizing that sexuality is something to be explored, but not everything has to be “sexy.”

If people are going to make hyperbolic statements about how “if feminism is this or that then count me out” (also, see Twitter) – I’ll play along and say that if feminism is about accepting the status quo and never challenging oppressive systems or asking questions, then I’d like to be counted out of that definition of feminist politics.

I’m also continually frustrated by the post-feminist attitude that cries “If it’s empowering for me, then it’s feminist.” That’s an individualistic and privileged perception that does nothing for feminist activism or social justice.

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one. (Yeah. I quoted Spock.)

I also don’t believe that either asking critical questions or difference of opinion is girl-on-girl hate. It was suggested by panelists that women are just bitches and that we are hard-wired to hate each other. I absolutely do not believe this.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’ve just been fortunate to be part of female community and have female mentors. Each year at both Wondercon and Comic Con, cartoonist and herstorian, Trina Robbins and I get together with other women comics scholars for lunch and conversation. Trina has been a wonderful mentor, and is always gracious and available whenever I need research advice, an introduction, or a pull quote. I look to her, and women like her, for inspiration about the kind of woman I’d like to be.

I also believe in fomenting sisterhood through community – something wonderful that is happening through GeekGirlCon.

All in all, I got to name check some of my favorite feminist (and feminist influenced) organizations including Reel Grrls, Bitch Media, Girl Scouts, and GeekGirlCon. I also got to mention Whedonesque Burlesque, where sexy and geeky – the topics we were exploring on the panel – had come together in a creative expression of wonderfully diverse representations of sexuality.

I’m glad I had the chance to try to say something about women and body image, the sexualization of our daughters, understanding media images, and the necessity of creating media making opportunities for women. In trying to expand our definitions of what is beauty and what is sexy, I tried to ask why people who are adamant that the “Slave Leia” outfit is empowering say that they would wear it “if” they had the body. If it’s so empowering, why must you be denied such empowerment?

All of that said, I am horrified that some of my co-panelists found Chris Gore’s comment that he’d like to stick his “penis into every woman on the panel” amusing. His behavior was reprehensible and his comment (which he alternately joked was a “compliment” and “satire”) was completely and totally out of line. It was inappropriate given the context of panel, and not knowing sexual history/orientation of his co-panelists. It felt like street harassment in which someone yells “nice ass” and then calls me a “bitch” for not smiling/lightening up. A couple of people have asked why “the feminists” didn’t say anything. I can’t speak for Kiala – but I can say that it wasn’t my panel, and that it was the moderator’s job to address it. Any comment from me would validate his “humor,” and reinforce the “humorless feminist” label I had tried to joke about – and which was later suggested as the problem of anyone who didn’t get the joke via Gore’s Twitter feed, along with accusations of sexual repression.

Finally, a lot of people have been praising Seth Green as the best part of the panel. I’m also very appreciative of what Seth got the chance to say (even though he admittedly hijacked our panel for several minutes – Oh, Oz . . .) but want to note that:

– The most memorable and praised part of a panel of women is something a dude said.

– Seth said many things I’d been attempting to say through the entire session. Thing is, many of my comments were talked over, and suggestions deflected with humor, but Seth was listened to and respected because he’s a celebrity. Once the conversation got away from him, I brought up the Girl Scouts PSA as a way of attempting to steer the conversation back to the issues at hand.

I’m glad people are talking about various issues involved, and hope the conversations remain civil and enlightening. In fact, I’m going to say here and now, that with the exception of Gore, I respect my co-panelists on the Oh, You Sexy Geek panel and their opinions, no matter how much I might disagree with, or perhaps simply misunderstand, them. If you plan to comment on this post, I ask that you remain civil. I’m the moderator in this space, and I don’t mind if you disagree with me, but if you aren’t being thoughtful, or are being negative rather than critical, I will not approve your comment.

I also would like to say that I’m sure I’m not the only one that didn’t get to say everything they wanted to in our limited time together. What I would like to conclude with is two documentary trailers that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

The first is for a film called Miss Representation (the tagline is, “You can’t be what you can’t see).


Newest Miss Representation Trailer (2011 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection) from on Vimeo.

The second is for History of the Universe as told by Wonder Woman (full disclosure, yeah, I’m in it).

I invite you to watch these and think about the idea that we can’t be what we can’t see, what it is that we are seeing, and how it affects American culture and politics.

Recaps/Reports/Related Reading on the Oh, You Sexy Geek Panel

Oh You Sexy Geek: Live Blog event #SDCC

Feminist Fatale: Comic-Con Recap: Oh, You Sexy Geek!

Jennifer de Guzman: Comic-Con 2011: Oh, You Sexy Geek Recap

Jennifer de Guzman: Oh, You Sexy Geek: The Responses

Angel-Headed Hipster: Hey, You Sexy Geek

It’s not just atheists with a diversity problem…

Stellar Four: The Origins of the Slave Leia Costume

San Diego Comic-Con 2011 Recap (Episode II: Attack of the Princess Naked)

ifanboy SDCC 2011: Panel Report

Costume Drama: Cosplay or Can’t Play, by Bonnie Burton

MTV Geek (Quoted every panelist but me and Clare Kramer – and misspelled Kiala’s name. Thanks, MTV Geek!)

NBC San Diego: Get Your Hands Off My Spandex! (completely misquoted/misunderstood me)

CLARE-ified: Oh, You Sexy Geek! – Comic-Con 2011

Ladies Rule the Day at Comic-Con Thursday

Re-Orientation: Sex and Gender in the Modern World: Oh, You Sexy Geek: SDCC Panel, Gender, Sexuality, And Feminist Waves

Racialicious: On Geekdom and Privilege: Sympathy For The ‘Pretty’?

Ms. Magazine: A Feminist Visits Comic Conhttp://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2011/07/26/a-feminist-visits-comic-con/

Seattle City Arts: Game Changers

#FFF Fake Fangirl Friday Follow-Up: Oh, You Sexy Geek! San Diego Comic-Con Panel Reactions and Controversies

34 Responses to “Oh, You Sexy Geek! Panel Recap from the Ink-Stained Amazon”

  1. Thanks for taking the time to post this Jennifer, it was well thought out. I so wish we had had the time to explore not just all the issues brought up but the ones you specifically mentioned. I respect you in the utmost even if we don’t always have the same point of view.

  2. Thank you Jill – I have much respect for you too. And we’d never learn anything or grow as people if we all had the same point of view!

  3. kristenmchugh22 says:

    I’ll say first, that I agree with many of the points you may not have had a chance to bring up. What I find incredibly problematic is the idea that a woman can’t be empowered by dressing in a way *she* finds sexy, regardless of whether that fits into socially conventional/media-approved forms of sexiness, and further: that what one woman finds empowering doesn’t matter. In negating the individual’s choice, and saying, “The needs of the many,” you’re endorsing a form of feminism that is just as, if not more oppressive, than the patri/kyriarchy. When we talk about sexuality and expression, it can’t be just about empowering those whom we *view* as marginalized, if a cisgendered, white, heteronormative woman feels sexy in a Slave Leia outfit, or if an Asian Trans-Woman feels sexy wielding a whip as Catwoman, or an asexual-demi-romantic person feels sexy in a Jayne Hat, nobody else gets to make that decision for them. “The Greater Good,” is a myth.
    None of us can define what we view as sexy or what makes us feel sexy, for anyone else. To assume that we can, is privilege run wild. There are much larger discussions that we need to have in both the geek and mainstream society. Body-policing, (which I felt Bonnie Burton and Adrianne Curry both addressed with on-point humor,) and slut-shaming, are tools that are frequently used against women by women. The origin of the panel, was partly the FilmDrunk piece, which was picked up and amplified by a female journalist at Salon, and the fact that women who are considered conventionally attractive are assumed to be pandering(i.e. whoring,) to geek culture, while women in geek culture are assumed to be ugly. Neither is true.

    I appreciate that you’ve elaborated on some points you wished to cover. However, I cannot help but disagree with the assertions you’re making about what is and isn’t acceptable as an individual’s choice. Conflating the ability to achieve social justice with a woman’s choice to wear four-inch heels, or show off cleavage is shaky ground, at best. To correlate to larger feminist issues, such as reproductive choice, or rape culture: when you say that a woman choosing to express her sexuality by wearing a slave outfit *must* be disempowered because she’s being objectified, you’re actually feeding into the idea that individual women have no right to full agency. You’re feeding into the idea that because a woman dresses a certain way, she must want a man to stick his penis in her. You’re feeding into the idea that a woman’s body is public property, because she’s not capable of making decisions for herself. The reasons for removing agency don’t matter, what matters is that the agency is being removed.

    I couldn’t disagree more if I tried.

  4. As a 71 year old who “fought” in that first feminist wave of the 1960s, as a fan of the original Wonder Woman, and as the mother of a feminist son (The One True b!X),I have to applaud this post and say that, these days, too often I feel that I am back in the 60s, frightened to see the misunderstanding that too many young women seem to have about the difference between feelings of sexual power and the attainment of real personal power. It’s disturbing to realize that comic art hasn’t evolved much since the 70s when I tried to explain to my comic-addicted 7 year-old-son that the female heroines depicted so graphically were very distorted fantasy images and that I wished they could be literally redressed. Here it is almost 40 years later and nothng has changed.

  5. Hi Kristen,

    Thanks for sharing your opinion – just as I had shared mine. I’m actually more interested in that than the fact that you vehemently disagree with me.

    Again, I am not telling anyone they should or shouldn’t do anything, or what I think is acceptable for someone else to do or not do, or what is, isn’t, should or shouldn’t be sexy – or geeky. You may wish to do a closer read before you accuse me of being oppressive. But again, as I mentioned in the post, this may be one of those situations where we are cross communicating.


  6. Hello Elaine!

    Thank you for your fight and for raising a feminist son!


  7. Hello Jennifer – Katrina Hill started following me on Twitter today and I found your blog linked in her Twitter feed. I shared some of your frustrations as an in-person audience member, in that some voices were more outspoken and I could see other panelists struggling and being talked over.

    As I tweeted at Seth Green, Clare Kramer, Adrianne Curry and Clare Grant last night, which I’m sure Katrina saw and ended up following me, I thought the panel was smart and funny, but it also deserved much, much more time than 50 minutes. While it was obvious there were strong women on stage in terms of thought process, owning their opinions, and being proud of being gamers, feminist writers, genre writers, and cosplayers, the one-liners became tiring. I don’t know if that was general nervousness, some panelists not really hearing others, trying to find a safe way into a conversation that for whatever reason was difficult for some, or total avoidance. That’s why I wish there had been much more time devoted to the subject, because once you get past the panel title, it could have been much more trenchant and thoughtful than the time allotted.

    Thank you for mentioning the incredibly inappropriate behavior of Chris Gore. That was the proverbial ramming into the record player and having the needle screech its way across the vinyl in-sickening-volume-moment. My stomach absolutely dropped out as I watched panelists continue to laugh and smile. That could be why some commenters on the ‘Net consider Seth to have been the best part of the panel; because he saved the male perspective single-handedly. But I wasn’t there to see Seth, I was there to see all of you.

    I appreciate this part of your blog, particularly:

    And we need to open up our definitions of what is sexy by representing diverse body types, races, ethnicities and sexualities as sexy – as well as emphasizing that sexuality is something to be explored, but not everything has to be “sexy.”

    I’m looking for a character in one of China Mieville’s novels to perhaps model a costume on for next year’s Comic-Con or other occasions, not because I think it will make me sexy, but because I’ll own it, loving his work as I do. Sexy is fine but so is intelligent, innovative, creative, and funny.

    I hope I have a chance to meet you in person one day. Thank you for your expressive writing voice.

  8. Nikki Faith says:

    Wow Jen! What a loaded panel! Wish I could have been there, and I do hope the footage pops up online. You have some great commentary in your post here! I enjoyed the read.
    Admittedly, there’s so much about “feminism” that I don’t understand, as in there are so many different perspectives that all fall under this one umbrella term and I think part of what makes discussions so difficult is that sometimes individuals are talking from such different places thinking it’s the same place when it can be quite a different place… there are so many varying assumptions, connotations, and denotations with the term, and the definition is constantly being reworked and repurposed… I think it’s a hard conversation to have at all!

  9. […] Ink-Stained Amazon post: Oh You Sexy Geek! Panel Recap from the Ink-Stained Amazon by Jennifer K. Stuller: “The most memorable and praised part of a panel of women is something […]

  10. […] most of us in attendance opted for the conventional modern definition of geek.  Finally, when Jennifer Stuller suggested polling the audience for those who felt sexy, the show of hands thinned out considerably […]

  11. Alan Kistler says:

    Really wish I’d seen the panel. I’ve heard and read similar remarks from other people. In my own experience of being on panels, some people who find it easy to talk need to occasionally remind themselves that there are other folks sitting next to them (myself included). And the idea of sexy cosplay definitely warrants some serious discussion and debate (though I find a pre-adolescent dressed as slave Leia rather than rebel leader Leia very disturbing no matter what). Interesting stuff, here. Thankee.

  12. Gavin says:

    Glad I read this and found your blog. Are you familiar with the women of Alan Moore’s books? They’re often quite extraordinary and I am currently admiring his “The Ballad of Halo Jones.” Highly recommended.

  13. Amii says:

    Excellent read, with considerable homework (links). I shall have to take some time to deconstruct all of this.

    I can certainly see why you’d be trepeditious about promoting yourself by sitting on such a loaded panel (loaded topic, loaded panelists), but you’ve garnered at least one new fan.

  14. Hi Gavin. Thanks! Alan Moore’s women are both wonderful and problematic. That said, I’m a huge fan of Promethea and have presented on her: http://www.ink-stainedamazon.com/conf_cci06.php


  15. Thanks Amii! I am all about providing people with homework because I think research is awesome!


  16. Cunamara says:

    “Wonderful and problematic” is a concise description of the human condition- not just for female characters in movies and books. There is no cure for that, IMHO…

  17. Raye says:

    I love you.

  18. Kelpy says:

    Funny you mention booth babes. I worked at a midsize video game company for a year (I quit a month ago, in part for the hostile workplace) and naked/painted booth babes were employed to sell our game at E3. I don’t need to tell you why and how this was so horrible for me.
    I also find it interesting that you mentioned how critiquing others’ opinions is seen as girl-on-girl hate, when it seems pretty obvious that cattiness among women, bitchiness, and being “spoiled” and a “brat” and a “princess” is something ingrained by patriarchal marketing ploys at a very young age. I somehow don’t think that women are inherently cutthroat bitches. When you’re dealing with something as sensitive and incendiary as feminine identity and geek-based objectification, there’s going to be a wide range of opinion. When do people realize that it’s OKAY to discuss controversial things and not have the exact same opinion as everyone else?
    Aside, thank you for being at the panel, and making your voice heard!

  19. Raye – I love you too!!!

  20. Guillermina says:

    This is an interesting discussion, and that sounds like an interesting panel *wants to go to ComiCon T_T*

    As a cosplayer myself, I disagree a bit about the Leia costume. Yes, the bikini she wore with Jabba was supposed to objectify her, because it was a slave outfit. Taking a powerful politician and turning her into an ornament was part of the humiliation Jabba was after (if only to break her spirit and prevent her from trying to escape).

    But I think there’s a difference between the clothes Leia wore as a slave, and the *slave-Leia costume*. Girls who wear the latter are not forced into it to humiliate them. They make it and wear it because thy want to show their love for the story and the character – and because they’re proud of how they look and they want to flaunt it. They want to be looked at and deemed “sexy”. And IMO there’s nothing wrong with that.

    We are sexual creatures, and there’s nothing wrong with willingly showing that. When I go to a job interview, I want people to think I’m reliable and responsible, when I sit an exam, I want them to think I’m smart and studied a lot; when I go to a club, I want them to think I’m sexy. If somebody gets to know me beyond one-time interactions, they may learn about everything else that I am. But I’m not ashamed about any of those things, and if someone thinks that’s all I am, well then they’re the idiots.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t mind being looked at. If random guy on the street yells “mama, dat ass!” at me (from afar), I take it as a compliment. I’m not gonna be his girlfriend, I’m not gonna be his friend, I’m not even gonna look at him. I’ll think him a stinking douche if I know that’s his regular – and only – behaviour towards women. But I’m not gonna fault him for *thinking* about me in a sexual way (even if it feels weird, like when it’s an old man).

    In the subject of catcalls as harassment, I understand. A friend of mine refuses to wear short skirts because she dislikes getting them. And I think catcalls are stupid behaviour, and I would scold any man who I knew and did that. My argument would be: some women don’t like that, and you’re making them feel bad.

    But if you’re in a public place wearing a costume you made with a lot of effort, be it Slave Leia or a Weeping Angel, you want to be looked at. And if the costume is such that it will get you looked at in a sexual way, you can’t blame people for doing that, as long as they don’t cross the line.

    Just my (very long) two cents. Uh, they’re not very coherent, but they’re mine 🙂

    /hopes not to be hated too much XD

  21. Ensley G. says:

    Nice recap Jen!

    You make the point that “…I believe we do need to examine the cultural messages marketed and received by media. We need to teach our children how to read entertainment.” Amen. I would go further and propose that it’s not just kids who need the education, but the general public.

    Media literacy is going to be a requirement in the world if we want to be anything more than neurotics who consume on command. It’s a deep sea out there and there are definitely monsters at the edge of the map. Without the ability to critically examine the information constantly thrown at us, it is impossible to make thoughtful, informed (defined as the result of an individual’s considered examination of relevant data) decisions about anything: what to buy, how to vote, what to watch, how to dress, how to support, how to dissent, and how to oppose.

    The various forms of media we experience every day are constantly sending us messages, much of it based upon cultural “norms” that are often suspect. Lacking the ability to parse these messages and to see what is assumed as well as said, we become complicit by default. Media literacy give us the ability to manipulate the media, and theoretically, change the culture.

    Media literacy = power. Give it to as many people as possible.

    “‘Nuff Said!”

  22. Maria says:

    Wow. I really wish I could have been at this panel. I’ve read so many different recaps, and I’m still wrapping my head around it all.

    The best part of all of this is that it has people (including me) talking and thinking. I considered myself a “feminist” as a teenager, and then life took over. I’m a mom and a teacher. Though I’m proud of both of those roles, it’s a bit far from what I thought I’d be when I felt so militant at 13.

    As the mother of two elementary age boys, I think I got lazy. Instead, I have to get back on the ball and be sure they are getting the right message. As a teacher, it’s also my job to get more active in helping kids be critical consumers of all the media that’s out there.

    So, the good news is that all this talk is going to impact a lot of people who may not have thought about it in a long time. And I ordered your book 🙂 Thanks for your thoughtful discussion on this topic!

  23. I think you’re approach toward invitational rhetoric should be commended, especially in the sense that you are working from a feminist paradigm that highlights discussion and inclusion over argumentation. This response is written with those ideals/parameters in mind.

    But you also ask that your audience be “critical,” which I take to mean pointing out problems (and problematic messages) communicated by a panel of experienced “experts,” who up and coming geek girls and feminists will then look up to for insight and advice. I think you’re being rather generous to your co-panelists, giving them a free pass (as a critic) because you know they have “good intentions,” despite what sounds like pretty constant affirmation of hegemonic power. I’m glad to hear that some sound critical/feminist perspectives found the light of day on this panel, but it also appears they were very overshadowed.

    I notice that you choose not to post my blog about the panel, perhaps because I’m not being “supportive” enough, or my criticism sounds too much like “condemnation,” as you put it … To me, critical/feminist scholarship requires holding problematic people and ideas accountable when we see contradictions in representation. Criticism is sometimes hard to hear, and I think it is worthwhile to be supportive and inclusive, but I also think it is just as productive and necessary to ruffle feathers, sometimes disrupting the ‘good vibes’ in order to evoke changes in behavior (a critical component I feel is lacking from your perspective). In other words, I’m worried that your co-panelists reading this blog will feel affirmed in their positions by the blanket respect you give them, without ever contending with why their own perceptions might be problematic.

    I sympathize with the dilemma/paradox you were forced by Chris Gore comments. I can only imagine how awful it was to be silenced in such a way.

  24. “Media literacy give us the ability to manipulate the media, and theoretically, change the culture.” Ensley – yes!!! And teaching girls and women media production too.

  25. Maria,

    Being a mom, a teacher, and a feminist are certainly not mutually exclusive! In fact, if it weren’t for my teachers, I would never have learned how to think critically about popular culture – and I am very grateful to them.

    I’d love to know your thoughts on the book. Keep me posted!


  26. Scott,

    I haven’t posted a link to your response because:

    – It was just posted on Saturday and I’d written my reaction and recap with links on Thursday
    – I’m not required to update my blog every time someone comments on the panel in their own space
    – I have work, laundry, a hubby with a hurt back, a sick doggie, more work, and other comments and commitments to address
    – I may or may not agree with some of your sentiment, but I’m wary of posting something from someone who didn’t attend the panel, and now wants to jump on the discussion bandwagon with their opinions on how the conversation, as well as my approach to feminism, should be framed.
    – You’ve now come and posted in the comments of my blog a challenge (it looks like twice?!?) as to why I’ve haven’t linked to you AND approached me publicly on Twitter in an effort to force me into accommodating you.

    Finally, in regards to my co-panelists, I don’t feel I’m giving them a “free pass” as a media critic. To do so would mean that I assume that I, and only I, am right-headed within the group. Not. That. Arrogant. I am open to their opinions, and would like to find ways to discuss the issues, raise critical questions for consideration, maybe come to some understanding – and at least the ability to agree to disagree and move forward within our communities. Just because I may not agree with my co-panelists on some of these issues, and just because some of the deeper discussion may have been deflected in ways I found disappointing, doesn’t mean that they aren’t also actively supporting women, even feminism, in other ways. That is a critical component lacking from your perspective.


  27. Thanks for the comments …

    To further clarify, my concern stems from the vast majority of the post-panel discourse that mostly reaffirms a lot of problematic messages. I was not too surprised to see this because I don’t think a lot of people are equipped to decode such dominant and naturalized messages. I was a bit thrown back, however, when I saw so much encouragement coming from you. Don’t get me wrong, I think you had plenty of great points in the blog! But I guess my dismay comes from the combination of direct encouragement with indirect critique.

    Chris Gore has since tweeted that he was “proud” of the comments he made. Katrina Hill (the moderator who you give HUGE props to) re-tweets his jovialness and adds a smiley emoticon. They’re more flippant about it than apologetic. Bonnie Burton is still all about Slave Leah empowerment. To me, the post-panel consensus is not at all what I would call “critical” … I don’t know. I think you can look at some of the reviews you’ve even re-posted and see that they do more to affirm than challenge the status quo … Yet you post those and choose to silence me. So it goes.

    Again, to be clear, I’m NOT say what women should or should not wear, but as EXPERTS on this panel who a lot of young girls look up to, are these the messages you want trickling down, especially when you have an opportunity to confront them about it when it’s relevant? Of course not. But that missing component (to me) is where the “free pass” comment comes from and “lack” in the perspective. Just not critical enough for me, but I also understand I’m not your primary audience.

    My understanding of critical inquiry is very much focused on engagement … You say that there are other things geek girls are doing to be critical, other forms of engagement, etc. That’s great! That’s is so much more of what I was hoping for from both the Oh You Sexy Geek panel and your blog. I see that there is a geek girls conference coming up. I sincerely hope the focus is more soon these projects than affirming sexual slavery!

    By “critical engagement” I would also encourage geek girls to re-write the problematic narratives rather than exclusively play with the “boy’s toys.” Again, not saying they can’t, I’m just saying why isn’t there a discussion about creating ‘better’ toys? Might there someday be a geek girl comic book? Can we re-write the Wonder Woman narrative so that she really is a feminist? Single breasted, occasionally shaves, and beats the shit out of Superman when he tries to cop a feel. Maybe instead of fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way, she can systematically take down patriarchy? … Geek girls should make this book. Myself and a lot of people would read this book.

    Again, when I challenged you on critical engagement, it is more of those types of discussions I was sincerely hoping for. Maybe they’re out there, but the strongest contingency of the geek girl movement certainly has yet to show it to me. Most the stuff they’re into is Captain America and Spider-Man trailers and shit. Just saying.

    I’m realize I’m totally asking for too much, and I’m also confident you’re working toward solving such problems. I’m sorry if I came off as really harsh. The “peer review scholarship” voice on your public blog might not be the best environment for it. That’s fair … But coming from a feminist ontology, please at least afford me a cringe for silencing me.

    With respect,

  28. Opps … Sorry. Didn’t notice that you actually posted my comment. I thought it was still “awaiting moderation.” I at first thought it was just your response. My bad. Ignore the silencing stuff.

  29. Clare Kramer says:


    I don’t have to tell you what I think of you… But I will anyway, lol. Simply brilliant! The thing I love about you the most is your respect for others, however different from you they may be.

    We clearly have different thoughts and ideas about the world we live in, yet totally respect one another’s views, and I love that! I really appreciate your strength and conviction, yet most of all, your ability to display them with such grace, always remaining respectful in your words and actions.

    Please never lose that beauty!

    Your friend,


  30. Amber Love says:

    Dear Jennifer,

    I don’t know you personally but I wanted to thank you for even attempting to be part of such a large and controversial panel. I wasn’t there. It seems pretty clear that the time was cut too short and that perhaps the panel itself was too diverse since not everyone got a chance to speak up for her and his own thoughts. While I may not agree with you on certain things about the use of sexuality in marketing, I am proud to know you through the strong geek girls online communities. You present a professional argument for the different issues at hand which as you pointed out are just scratching the surface.

  31. Kate Kotler says:

    Clare, thanks for making that comment – after reading the whole thread, it made me happy to hear someone praise my dear friend Jennifer that way. Jill, too – you are tops! I’m glad to see people acknowledging the validity of differing opinions. But, then I could hardly expect less of such wonderful women such as yourselves, could I?

    Kristen – I have to say that I’m really surprised and disappointed at how you’ve chosen to respond to Jennifer both in the comments on this blog and on Nerds in Babeland. I’ve always credited you with being savvy and intelligent, but to use such loaded phrases as “slut-shaming” and “more oppressive than the patriarchy” is a really concrete example of how one geek girl can cut another geek girl down with hyperbolic and nasty language. As someone who knows Jen and her ideology quite well, I can firmly attest that she is neither. Jen is all about empowering geek women to be whatever flavor of geek they want to be… I also know that when she disagrees with someone, even if it’s a really strong disagreement, she carefully selects her language so as to make her responses so it is not perceived as an ad hominem attack on the person she’s disagreeing with. I really would encourage you to take a step back and re-evaluate the verbiage you’ve chosen to assign to Jen. It’s fine to disagree, even to passionately disagree – please don’t muddy your legitimate points of contention by using hurtful language, I know you’re better than that. 🙁

    Jen – I wish I could have been in SDCC to witness this panel. It sounds like it was informative, interesting and problematic all at the same time. Thanks for your recap and thank you for continuing to be one of the most critical, thoughtful, smart, wonderful people I know. I am jealous of your brain power. And, even if a day comes when I don’t agree with what you’re saying (as if!), I know I’ll respect and admire how you choose to say it.

  32. Skye says:

    Hi Jennifer, thanks for trying to advance the conversation in a difficult environment (both the panel and the internet!) I’m sorry it was rough. 🙁

  33. Sarah says:

    Wow, Scott D. Boras’s comments on his blog post that he was demanding you link to are creepy and objectifying and his demands here are unusually aggressive.

Leave a Reply