by Keidra Chaney
Before I start this review, I will admit to a long-standing bias against dating books. Most of them seem to exist to make women specifically feel bad about our dating choices: what we wear, how we act who they choose to date or not date, whether or not we decide to have sex with who we date, blah, blah, blah you name it. And with the ongoing discussion about misogyny in geek culture I saw the Geek’s Guide To Dating and thought “this could be promising”, but also “this could go in a couple of very different directions, content wise.”
So with my biases aside, I did take note of the “Note for the Gal Geek” at the very beginning of the Geek’s Guide To Dating. The note basically says that the book is intended for men and women with a few exceptions for gender-specific language (“skip the section on facial hair”) and the use of the male pronoun throughout the book. Uh… OK.
So here’s the thing, and I’ll get to the actual geek content of the book a little later. While I appreciate the Gal’s Note at the beginning…no, this really is a book with a presumed male audience. Now to author Eric Smith’s credit, there’s plenty of admonishments to not talk down to women, accuse them of being “fake geek girls,” etc. an entire section about the myth of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and the tendency for geek culture to create unrealistic expectations for women, but again, the entire book really does assume the reader is a (straight) dude, and even with its heart in the right place, play into stereotypes about male vs. female geeks. All of the examples are of male geek culture heroes (Jean Luc Picard, Peter Parker, Mal Reynolds, Tony Stark, etc) There’s a weird kind of “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” gender essentialism in the examples, but in this case it’s “Men do MMORPGs, Women do anime cosplay.”
But even so, the book overall is entertainingly written, and absolutely packed with multi-genre geek references – comics, video games, sci-fi- and it will likely resonate with the late-teens to early 20’s dude geek crowd it was intended for, and helpful in terms of putting them at easy about basic date interaction and socialization. What is universal advice, even beyond geekdom, is the the idea of “hey get your shit together when you go on a date, groom yourself and amp up the manners.” There’s a strong gaming theme throughout the book, the reader is referred to as “Player One” to give you an idea of what the tone of the book is.
Interestingly, as a music geek, it was rather surprising that for all of the “geek types” referenced in the book (math, history, computers, comics, Apple/PC, social media, gaming, TV/Film) music was not mentioned at all. Are music geeks not considered to be “real geeks?” Are they considered to be cooler than “real geeks?” I assure you, they are not. Additionally, the dating inspiration playlist was filled with songs that I SWEAR TO YOU I don’t understand why they are geek anthems. WHY do geeks love Dragonforce so damn much? Can someone please tell me? Cause I’m a geek, and love metal, but… shrug
In reading The Geek’s Guide To Dating what really struck me is that geek culture still has a long way to go when it comes to media that really captures the diversity of this audience. It’s still very homogenous, and geared around a specific worldview, even with the best of intentions. But I think of websites like The Mary Sue, Black Girl Nerds, etc. and I figure we’re getting a bit closer. Even so, I would love to see this diversity reflected in mainstream geek culture a little more explicitly, considering that geek culture is pop culture these days.
Summary: Entertainingly written, but falls prey to a lot of gender stereotyping, despite good intentions