I went to Comic-Con this year; on Thursday, I attended a panel titled “Oh, You Sexy Geek!” a discussion of the implications of “sexy women” in geek/nerd culture, and how that may or may not be used to pander to men. The panel consisted of moderator Katrina Hill and panelists Clare Kramer, Adrianne Curry, Bonnie Burton, Jennifer Stuller, Chris Gore (who almost no-showed), Clare Grant, Kiala Kazabee, and Jill Pantozzi.
I was excited for the panel, considering I am frequently frustrated by the media’s exploitative use of women (whether it be the host of a show, such as Olivia Munn, or booth babes at E3) to appeal to a market that they treat as exclusively male. However, my expectations were quickly dashed when discussion of media literacy was tossed aside in favor of accusations of jealousy. Bonnie Burton and Adrianne Curry mused that women who were critical of sexy geek culture in any way were just jealous, had no confidence, and were projecting their issues with self-esteem onto the women who felt empowered by walking the Comic-Con floor in a Slave Leia costume.
When Jennifer Stuller (one of the creators of the upcoming Geek Girl Con) suggested that women who criticized “sexiness” were more than likely deconstructing the media, and by extension a society that tells women their worth lies in their ability to appeal aesthetically to men, she was rebuffed by the other members of the panel. Later, Stuller attempted to turn the discussion towards media literacy, to which Clare Grant responded that she doesn’t read magazines, therefore the media has no influence on her whatsoever. Adrianne Curry added that women criticize one another “because we’re all a bunch of bitches.”
Attitudes such as “Slave Leia kicked Jabba the Hutt’s ass while wearing that bikini – that is EMPOWERING!” and “I can’t help it that some of the characters I like to cosplay as are scantily clad” were met with rounds of applause from almost everyone in the audience. When the moderator mentioned that one of her friends posted a picture of her seven year old daughter wearing Slave Leia costume on Facebook, Adrianne Curry responded that there was nothing wrong with the human body, and that the U.S. is way too purtinical and prudish.
There were many disappointing moments that had me almost leaving the panel entirely, but nothing was quite so horrifying as the one contribution Chris Gore made when he finally showed up five minutes before the panel ended. He took the stage, apologized for being late, and said “Hey, I’m here to represent all the guys in this room who want to stick their penis in every woman up here on this panel.” There was nervous laughter and a bit of applause. I don’t even need to explain how disgusting and problematic that is.
The only good moment during the entire hour, was when the moderator called out Seth Green, who was looking disappointed with the discussion, sitting in the front row of the audience. Katrina Hill asked if he wanted to contribute or share his thoughts, and he unexpectedly took the mic for about fifteen minutes. As Hill explained to the audience what the audience would know him from (Robot Chicken), Jennifer Stuller mentioned that she had seen him promoting media literacy for the Girl Scouts. Seth responded that he felt media literacy is incredibly important in the ever-increasing, constantly-unavoidable, media saturated world we live in. He described how celebrities hold tons of influence over decisions people make, whether it’s over what product to buy or what sources can and should be trusted, and that certainly shouldn’t be the case. Green said that the media promotes a lot of “poison” and that girls, kids, and even adults need to know how to keep that poison from infiltrating the way you think, make decisions, and live.
When I returned from Comic-Con, one of the first things I did was go in search of that video. It is amazing and here it is: