This has been a hot topic of late and I have openly applauded several girls in the geek community for speaking out against it. After hearing some of the arguments however, I feel the need to weigh in on the subject. Now I would like to put this right out front – Geek Girls: I AM ON YOUR SIDE. However I feel like there is a part of the discussion that is missing.
After reading several really well thought out and intelligently written articles on the subject (here, here and here), I want to make sure there is some perspective on the topic. This is a far more complicated subject when you dive into it then it appears to be. It contains factors of gender, culture, society, and personality.
My mantra for a long time now has been “smart is sexy.” Lucky for me, many of the girls in geekdom are exactly that – smart. So as a self-professed geek the idea of women I find attractive AND that are into the kind of things that I am into is nothing short of fantastic. And the idea that there are those who want to drive those women out is quite repulsive – but let’s face it – to guys, men, boys, senior citizens, etc. in the geek culture this is something relatively new to us.
Before I go down that road I want to think shed some light on myself and my upbringing in order to examine how that may have affected and shaped my feelings on this subject. For all the flaws my mother and father had during my childhood, there is one thing that they did supremely well – they raised me to be color blind. In school, at work, and in the world at large the color of someone’s skin is rarely on my radar. I bring that up not because it has anything to do with the geek girl debate, but because it was something that I have been able to translate into many other areas in my life – including when it comes to issues within the sexes. My ability to deal with, assess or interact with a person in general has nothing to do with their gender (barring the subject of physicality, which is an entirely different conversation.) Even as I write the sentence, in my head I can hear all the qualifiers and caveats needed to make that statement make sense to some, but I am going to skip these for now. I just want it to be clear that I as an individual may have an advantage that many other geeks have not – my upbringing. That being said – I have my own set of flaws. It was not until well into my adult life that I came to terms with my own geekdom.
I grew up the youngest of my siblings, and the youngest of most of my very large and very Hispanic extended family. The men in my family aspired to be alphas. Masculinity (to be read machismo), courage, strength, chivalry, hard work, sports, decisiveness, confidence, and popularity with the fairer sex – these were the core things that were valued by the men in my life. My father was a homophobe, and this was something that imprinted on me and marred my personality for many years. My oldest brother, much to his detriment, was a ladies man. These were my examples of what a man was supposed to be. And I bought into it for a long, long time. However there is one glaring omission from that list – Intelligence.
I was a smart kid, but doing anything that could be considered nerdy or geeky was inevitably mocked by the men in my life. (This is something I find interesting to reflect on because many of the men in my life were by no stretch of the imagination unintelligent.) So I did things the mask my intelligence, I acted out, I was irresponsible, I got poor grades – and one of the comments I most often received from my teachers was “He is an incredibly bright, but lazy child.” My peers often conformed to this idea of manliness so even when not with my family this is what I was bombarded with, and bombarded myself and others with. Luckily for me – one of the things that comes with being a manly man (from my families perspective) was solitude. I was left alone – a lot. And it was during these times that I was allowed to let my intelligence, creativity and geekiness flourish. This was when I was able to pretend to be a time lord, a Jedi, or a wizard of middle earth. This is when I indulged in music, in the arts and reading. Essentially I was ashamed of being bright, and chose to focus on the “manlier” things in order to seek acceptance. This was the way things were in my childhood and for much of my young adult life.
It was in high school where luck, circumstance or kismet would intervene on my behalf. I was popular in my own way and was able to fit in with all of the social groups – including the so called geeks. These were the guys who played DND and video games and read all the time. The guys who were in all the AP classes, and always did well. It was getting to know these guys and their families that started opening my eyes. In addition to being smart, these guys were into many of the manlier things I was into as well. With these guys I could talk about shooting, and cars, and girls – but I could also talk about science, religion, and celestial mechanics. It was through this core group of friends that I was able to find a balance in terms of being accepted as a man and embracing my brain. It was through this group of people that I began to bloom into the renaissance of my life. That was a journey that lasted years, brought me many highs, my lowest lows and took me around the world. It was toward the latter part of this journey that it happened. The thing that would eventually allow me to embrace my inner geek whole heartedly – I found Buffy.
I could easily go on and on about what Buffy and by extension Joss Whedon, did to and for my life, but I have veered far enough off topic already. This is the cocktail of life that has shaped me and brings to where I am now. These are the experiences and views that color my perspective and allow me to be who I am. And it is through these eyes that I see the geek girl debate.
The road I travelled to arrive in this community is hardly the norm. Many in this community are the introverts, the outcasts, and considered by many to be the misfits of society. In an article by Sarah Kuhn, she very adeptly states:
“… the idea that all nerds are white, straight, pizza grease-stained dudes who live in some sort of basement … seems to have implanted itself in the world’s collective consciousness like some kind of mind-controlling chip of dumbassery.”
While this is by no means an accurate description of all nerds, there are some that fit this bill – and we need to ask ourselves what drove them into that basement to begin with. These nerds were not shielded to life by their nerdiness, although that may have been what they were going for. They too have had male influences in their lives – perceived standards that they may not have met, approvals they wanted but never received. The difference between nerds like me and nerds like them is that they were unwilling to compromise on their interests for the sake of that approval. They choose, whether willingly or otherwise, to wear the badge of the geek regardless of the consequences. They found safety and acceptance by wrapping themselves in the cocoon of their geekdom – which for most was a male only club. For years these individuals bore the burden of being a geek which was not mainstream and not (openly) popular with the girls. They lived in a form of exile because of their interests and their choice to express and embrace them.
Fast forward to where geekdom is now – for all intents and purposes mainstream and accepted. Is it really that difficult to think that these individuals might be offended by those that shunned them in the past now embracing that which is and has been their exclusive domain? Again, I am not saying it is right – but I think it is easy to see how some may feel the way they do.
Lets look to Captain James Tiberius Kirk as an example (that’s right, I’m going there). Kirk spent a large portion of his career hating the Klingons. He lost friends to them. They took his son. From his perspective the Klingon’s were and always would be “them”. Think about how he came to think that way and about whether or not it was right or wrong. Then fast forward to ST: The Next Generation. Is it difficult to believe that Captain Kirk would be offended at the thought of Worf being on the bridge of NCC 1701-D – as an officer no less?
Then there is the subject of the “Booth Babe.” I dare not attempt to debunk or legitimize this designation, so I am going to take this example outside of the geek arena. I am in part a car guy. I go to car shows – and as we all know, the industry hires models with which to adorn their cars and attract the men to their particular product. How many of these models do you think know anything beyond what they are told to know about these cars? The answer might surprise you – I have met with and spoken to some of these women and they made me feel like an idiot child when they spoke of the cars that they loved. So why are these models not looked upon as Fake Car Gals? Because car guys don’t care! Most car guys in large part are well integrated, and have not felt pain of being rejected and mocked by girls – some of which are now these models. So they don’t feel threatened by these girls.
The disgruntled Geeks on the other hand have for a long time looked at girls from afar, for fear of the rejection and ridicule that came with trying to interact with them. Now, the women they objectified from afar are showing their fandom – and for many that means their bodies. Do we expect these guys to just accept that? This is in their eyes unprecedented and their response is to take a stand against it. The exclusivity that they feel towards their world is less of a choice than you may think it is. Their world is changing, and they are going to have to find the strength to change with it. This is not something that is going to happen overnight, and there are those that will never come around. And the girls in the geek community are going to have to accept that there are those that will look on them with disdain, and others who may have nothing against them, but no experience in dealing with them.
That is not to say that you should put up with their ugliness – but don’t let that keep you from being embraced by the much larger portion of the community that love and adore the fact that you often bring that which makes up our fandom to life. That being said it should be noted that, in my experience, those that would shame the girls in geekdom are a very vocal minority. Whether it be at the local comic shop, at the cons or through casual conversation with anyone throughout my traversal of the great geek realm – the response to girls in the geek community have been overwhelmingly positive. I guess what I am trying to say is that girls in the geek community should not allow themselves to be offended or insulted by a small subset of people who wish to rail against this change in their perceived paradigm. Like anything else it will take time for those who can’t deal with the change to fade away.