I’m not sure I want to wear the Geek Girl label.
I don’t deny that I am both female and geeky, but there’s something vaguely condescending about the term “Geek Girl,” and it bothers me. I’m sure I’ve never heard anyone called a Geek Boy. Or a Geek Guy/Man/Dude/Bro/Gentleman, either. So why is there a special term for the females of the geek clan? Why does gender matter here?
We don’t speak of “lady doctors” or “authoresses” anymore. We’ve slowly transitioned to using neutral labels for people like “postal workers” and “flight attendants,” to reflect the fact that one’s genitalia are irrelevant to one’s career choice1. It’s not about “political correctness,” it’s about evolving away from a sexist society that thinks it’s adorable when a woman does physics and hilarious when a man goes into nursing.
I feel that the word “girl” makes it that much more convenient for jerks to marginalize female geeks2. It singles out female geeks as different. So when they come to the table with their games and their comics and their cosplay and their big beautiful brains, they’re challenged and accosted and harassed. They’re not really geeks. They’re just girl geeks, which means they can’t possibly be taking Batman as seriously as the rest of the gang.
The “Fake Geek Girl” phenomenon is real, in that there are plenty of folks who analyze the motives of female geeks, and try to cast out those who don’t measure up to some nebulous geek ideal. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid harassment, whether by happenstance or obliviousness to my surroundings, but I’ve heard stories from many friends about being dressed down in front of a group for daring to geek while female. Why do I only hear these stories from my female friends? Why isn’t there as much finger-pointing towards men who travel in geek circles, calling them fakes and poseurs? Why don’t you hear stories of guys at cons being challenged to prove their worth and their right to be there? There seem to be an alarming number of jerks out there who think that women can’t possibly like anything geeky except as a trick to infiltrate the geekosphere to seduce a sexy nerd-mate.
I really hate that even though I’m an adult, people might judge me and challenge me to “prove” that I love Star Trek or Doctor Who or Jonathan Coulton. That’s completely unacceptable. I spent far too much of my childhood trying desperately to fit in with the popular kids, and I know that many of my current friends can relate. I spent years trying to like what they liked, because what I liked wasn’t cool enough to share with anyone. To be mocked as a child because I loved nerdy things too much, only to find myself, as an adult, accused of not loving these same things enough? I will say it again: unacceptable. We all went through a similar hell as geeky children – why perpetuate the discrimination as adults? None of us has anything to prove to one another, so just stop it. Live and let live and let people be excited without challenging them about what they say they love. You know more Star Wars trivia than me? Cool! Maybe I can learn from you.
And you know what? If there are young women out there who are faking it, and only pretending to love things to get attention, so what? How does it hurt you? Let them try on different selves until they find the one that fits them. Hell, I tried on the Backstreet Boys in my teens to see if I could be like the cool girls I idolized. Maybe she’s trying on manga because she thinks you’re cool. Be flattered, and be kind. Thinking you’re a better geek than someone else because you loved something first, or you love more things, or different things, or you love them differently? That’s bullshit. And using that as your default approach to female geeks is even bullshittier.
I am absolutely delighted to have found acceptance as an adult in my geek tribe. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally felt like I could be entirely myself and still have wonderful friends. Nobody has the right to take that feeling away from me. I have nothing to prove.
And neither does anyone else.
1. Unless you’re a penis model. You’ll probably need a penis for that.
2. I’m not saying that everyone needs to stop using the term “Geek Girl.” I understand that some find it empowering, and that’s fine. I just feel uncomfortable using it to describe myself, because I know I’d never put up with being called a stewardess or a policewoman. I do believe the internet is making a feminist of me.