The Myth of the 'Booth Babe'

There's been a lot of productive discourse on the topic of misogyny in the gaming world over the past few months, but there's also this frustratingly pervasive counter argument permeating the comments on stories about women like Anita Sarkeesian and Felicia Day: sure, gender equality is great, but shouldn't we admit that some girls ARE glorified booth babes? (I like to call it, "...but Olivia Munn exists!")

CNN's Ryan Peacock felt the need to sum up the "growing chorus of frustration in the geek community with - and there's no other way to put this - pretty girls pretending to be geeks for attention" in a recent piece called, "Booth Babes Need Not Apply."

Like most gamers who share his viewpoint, Peacock makes sure to stress how different he is from the sexist Neanderthal trolls who hate on "real" gamers. Believe it or not, Peacock is "good friends" with SEVERAL stunningly beautiful women who are "bone fide geeks," crazy as it may sound. ("They belong with us," he writes — "us" presumably connoting geeky men.) Peacock finds "it fantastic that women are finally able to enjoy a culture that has predominately been male-oriented and male-driven" and says he is all for more female geeks! Just not the booth babe kind:

What I'm talking about is the girls who have no interest or history in gaming taking nearly naked photos of themselves with game controllers draped all over their body just to play at being a "model." I get sick of wannabes who couldn't make it as car show eye candy slapping on a Batman shirt and strutting around comic book conventions instead.

Peacock claims he doesn't think it's just women who masquerade as gamers; he "hates poachers. Pure and simple." But his one example of a male poser is a soulless Machiavellian type of fellow who "reads about a hot comic book title sure to be a collector's item, drives up demand by buying up all of those issues and resells them on eBay for hundreds of dollars." Booth babes, however, deserve an entire op-ed devoted to their deviousness:

I'm talking about an attention addict trying to satisfy her ego and feel pretty by infiltrating a community to seek the attention of guys she wouldn't give the time of day on the street.

I call these girls "6 of 9". They have a superpower: In the real world, they're beauty-obsessed, frustrated wannabe models who can't get work.

They decide to put on a "hot" costume, parade around a group of boys notorious for being outcasts that don't get attention from girls, and feel like a celebrity.

They're a "6" in the "real world", but when they put on a Batman shirt and head to the local fandom convention du jour, they instantly become a "9".

Who is he talking about exactly? He refers to the "hot chicks" that populate conventions "wearing skimpy outfits simply to get a bunch of gawking geeks' heads to turn, just to satisfy their hollow egos," but here's the thing — real booth babes, the women hired to hawk products at shows, are paid models, not groupies. Some conferences ban them because both men and women find their existence offensive; not because they're trying to "satisfy their hollow egos" (Peacock apparently fancies himself Freud, doesn't he?) but because, as Kotaku's Kate Cox puts it, anti-booth babe policies "foster an environment where women are around to sell the products, not to be the products."

Booth babes aren't trying to pretend they're gamers; they're hired, like all models, to sell a product. They work long hours, don't get paid much, and many of them hate being ogled. We don't get angry that car models know nothing about automobiles, or that hand models know nothing about watches. Who are these attractive, insecure women that show up in droves at conferences to profit off nerdy men? Seriously, who are they? And please don't just say "Olivia Munn."

So why are men like Peacock so offended by the idea of the poser booth babe? This piece of his argument is rather telling: "They're a pox on our culture. As a guy, I find it repugnant that, due to my interests in comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and role playing games, video games and toys, I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It's insulting." Aha! There you have it: Peacock doesn't want girls playing with his toys.

Booth babes need not apply [CNN]