Dear Geekdoms: We’re not your decoration

There’s a trend in geekdoms whereby after some visibility-enhancing event or incident some dudes notice that there are women participating in their geekdom (liek omg rly?!). With best intents and all, these dudes go off and verbalise how awesome it is that these women are choosing the geekdom.

Because, they say, women’s presence makes the geekdom sexy.

Saying that women’s presence in the geekdom community rather than the women’s actual quantitative and qualitative contributions are the influence that results in this increase in attribute is not only awkward, but effectively invalidates the actual achievements that the women have worked so hard for. “Her design skills make the product gorgeous” is far more appropriate than “She makes the product gorgeous!”

By saying that women make your geekdom be more something, you are framing the mere proximity of women as a feature of the completely unrelated topic around which the geekdom at large congregates. This would be merely awkward if it was, say, something like “It makes my geekdom that much more balanced!” Or any other attribute that is not typically dependent on the subject’s (in this application of phrase, women’s) appearance.

However, by saying that women’s presence is a feature using words that are etymologically and by modern popular use aligned almost exclusively if not totally so with visual appeasement such as “sexier”, and other words that you would otherwise reserve for rating a prospective mate to your drinking buddies in a pub, you make it sound like you’re looking for one.

This isn’t an obscure invented language construct just for the sake of annoying people. This is how language works. When you apply an attribute to a subject, such as “women’s presence”, you’re applying the attribute to the women’s bodily presence. If you apply the attribute to the work of the women, then you’re applying the attribute to the work and crediting it to the women. It is a big freaking difference.

If a woman gets irked at you implying that her bodily presence is making something otherwise unrelated to her appearance “sexy”, rather than more accurately crediting a tangible enhancement to her actual work, then for the love of rainbows and bunnies don’t tell her off for not appreciating it. Learn how to compliment her properly.

If you’re treating someone’s presence as a visually appealing enhancement, you’re treating them as decoration. It’s that simple. Women are not decoration for your geekdom.

9 thoughts on “Dear Geekdoms: We’re not your decoration

  1. koipond


    Right, freakin’ on. I hate when people say anything like that. It’s no different than that, “OMG, there are girls* here!”

    *note, they almost always use that word when screaming it out too.

  2. spz

    In my opinion, acknowledging that mixed company is usually more civil (pleasant?) than one-sex-only is not necessarily bad. It’s the how that counts.

    1. Melissa Post author

      Precisely the point. “Women’s presence makes the geekdom sexy” and “Having diversity makes the community more balanced” are like a million miles apart on the scale of phrase propriety.

  3. Jayn

    This really just falls under the larger sub-heading of ‘women are people, too’. As a life-long gamer, sometimes I wish developers would just ignore the female market entirely, because it’s better than the patronizing BS they come out with for ‘girl’ gamers these days ><

    FFS, 'build it and they will come' only works if you build it well.

  4. FreeDeb

    I remember being at a karaoke night (years ago) in a mixed neighborhood and hearing someone say “Oh fun! A person of color!” as if non-white people showed up at karaoke nights for her personal enjoyment. No matter what the event is, people show up for their own reasons and immediately greeting them with how *you* feel about their presence is off-putting.

  5. meerkat

    Plus it disappears the women who are not suitably sexy according to the patriarchy. When some guys say “women” what they really mean is “women who are acceptably fuckable.”

  6. k8inorbit

    i have nothing truly valuable to add, but i do think there may be a brilliant t-shirt to be made out of that subject line.

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