In this article, the shaky thesis of which is "girls liking geek things isn't unique," Ms. Mae said the following about Jill Pantozzi of MTV's Splash Page and Newsarama:
"There's actually a woman who's paid by the fascists at MTV to write about comics. That's all well and good, but her blog title is Has Boobs, Reads Comics. Really? I'd like to punch her in her stupid boobs."
It is because of this unprovoked attack against Jill -a colleague and a friend- that Ms. Mae is about to bear the brunt of my ire.
The thing is, I know Zooey Mae, as she is someone who used to write for Geek Girl on the Street.com. I'm deeply troubled by her article for a number of reasons. Most importantly because the huge ad hominem swing against Jill just doesn't make any sense: Perhaps Ms. Mae hasn't done her homework and doesn't know that Jill Pantozzi is one of the most respected female pop-culture writers there is working today — that she writes awesome, substantive articles about a wide range of pop-culture topics from comics-to-sci fi-to-crafting-to-gaming. This is why outlets like MTV and Newsarama and Comic Book Resources clamor employ her.
The worst thing is, Zooey Mae actually had a legitimate point to make in the midst of all the crap she spewed. But, she totally obscured it and invalidated her argument by being bitchy and mean… and, in the process she burned a lot of bridges where she could have been building professional allies.
Sadly, even after being confronted with the hypocrisy of the article she wrote — both indirectly via the response from the blogosphere/Twitterverse and directly by myself and GGotS managing editor, Kat Engh — Zooey hasn't exactly owned up to her mistakes. She's blamed bad editing for the tone of the article and claimed that her "hyperbolic, clumsy way" and the fact that she's a "highly sarcastic and cynical person" are legitimate reasons for lashing out at Jill.
It's disappointing and sad, because based upon my experiences with her, I believe Zooey is a bright woman.
But, even bright women make bad choices, I know this from first hand experience. As I'm sure many of us do.
Being a geek girl is challenging: Not only do we have to contend with the fact that pop-culture tends to objectify and marginalize women, often reducing geek girls to being a pair of tits and an ass in a Sailor Moon or Catholic schoolgirl outfit – but, we have to also contend with girl-on-girl hate crimes such as this one… The competitive, bitchy, mean girl antics of those who aren't secure enough in their own geeky glory to resist lashing out at those who are makes it twenty times harder for women to succeed in a male dominated culture.
It's people like Zooey Mae which make panels like "Killing Cattiness, Creating Community" (which I'm moderating at Geek Girl Con this coming October) so very necessary — so young women such as Zoe can learn via example from geek goddesses such as Gail Simone, Hope Larson, Bonnie Burton, Marian Call, Kat Engh, Kristin Rielly and Jennifer Stuller that it's so much better when we retract the claws, ban the bitchy and work together to build each other up, instead of cutting each other down.
In the end, I'm just plain heartsick about "Boobgate." Since I found out about this article at about four o'clock this afternoon I've been thinking and wondering if I could have done anything more as Zoe's editor to teach her and show her a better path than the one she chose to take today in her article for The Synthesis…. Which makes this is a poignant learning experience for me, too.
It should be noted that Zooey did apologize in some fashion to Jill earlier this evening. And, of course, Jill was as gracious and classy as anyone who knows her would expect she'd be.
As such, I think it's important that we, as a community, take the higher road in this "Boobgate" situation and show Zooey via our own actions how forgiving the geek girl community can be. In that, we will demonstrate the strength of our community bonds and illustrate that having the label "geek girl" applied to you is something to be sought after and proud of. Personally, my goal is to be kinder and more understanding with Zooey in this situation than others have been with me when I've made equally bad decisions. Perhaps by doing this, there is a hope yet to turn this very negative situation into a positive learning experience for all.
To quote someone much, much wiser than myself, "A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack."
Post Script: Shame on The Synthesis editor for the sexist and horrible "Editor's Note" at the top of Zooey's article. You should be called on the carpet for that, sir – it is hard to believe you're still employed as of the writing of this column.
Kate Kotler is the founding editor of Geek Girl on the Street.com, the editor-in-chief of FilmCatcher.com, a blogger for ChicagoNow, a freelance writer/editor/marketing hack and full time geek girl. She loves Doctor Who, Frank Miller, Wonder Woman, knitting, puppetry and she used to be a professional fire eater. See her full resume on katekotler.com.