By Alli Thresher
When I first came across Joe Peacock’s “Booth Babes Need Not Apply” post on CNN’s Geek Out blog, I was intrigued. Here, I thought, based on the title alone, is a self-professed geeky guy delving into the problematic nature of a culture that promotes and uses models as marketing bait. “Excellent,” I thought to myself, “rad even – it will be cool to hear the perspective of a male consumer on this issue.” Boy was I disappointed. The title of Peacock’s post is horrendously misleading. He notes that he’s bothered by booth babes – but doesn’t really delve deeper than that. Instead, the readers are presented with a long, rambling, screed about “fake geek women” and how they’re ruining geek culture for everyone (everyone being dudes like Joe and his friends).
There are so many things problematic with Peacock’s piece–the fact that he rates women on a 1 to 10 scale, that he conflates professional booth staff with models and promoters and regular old cosplayers. That he talks about his own attraction to “real” geek girls but maligns anyone who might be at conventions doing the same thing:looking for a date. And then there’s the ranting and ranting and ranting against “fake geek girls.”
Let’s just get one thing out of the way here. Fake geek girls? They don’t really exist. Seriously. Leigh Alexander has some amazing things to say here. But I searched far and wide, but could not find anyone who’d ever met one of these supposedly toxic, nasty, creatures.
There are some decent points buried in Peacock’s post, but they’re barely touched on and mostly obscured by his complaints about all the nefarious fake women who are apparently ruining conventions for him. For example, he’s right that booth babes are a problem– but, counter to his complaints, they’re not a problem because they’re “fakes” or teases or whatever. Their use is problematic because it lends rise to attitudes like Peacock’s. When the most visible women in a male dominated space are, largely, promotional staff and models, it becomes really easy to write off most other women on the floor–as Peacock and his supporters, do.
As I wrote in another piece, when I’ve spoken to fellow gamers about their issues with booth babes, I’ve found, surprisingly, that male-identified gamers, their ostensible targets, are the ones most vocally opposed to the use of booth babes as an advertising gambit. I hear over and over “they don’t belong here, they don’t play games, I can’t talk to them.” When the women working the floor are written off, immediately, as not worth talking to, it lends to an attitude of models, promoters, and other female staff, developers included, being treated not as people but as, well, something less. It’s telling that Peacock called out both the Frag Dolls, a group of professional gamers, and Olivia Munn, former co-host of Attack of the Show, as “fakes” – I’d warrant that most geeks and gamers count all of these ladies as having more “cred” than the average geek dude, Joe Peacock included. And if Peacock hates the use of booth babes so much, he shouldn’t go after the models, go after the companies that hire them, or the content creators who build a market for hypersexualised, unreal, versions of women.