Monday, May 9, 2011

What It Means To Be a Geek Girl

by Megan S.

I'm a nerd, a geek.  This has been clear to everyone who has ever known me since at least kindergarten and patently obvious since I was 11 years old when I won the sixth grade science fair, then followed it up by winning the seventh grade science fair at age 12.  I refused to enter the contest when I was 13 because I didn't want to be picked on anymore.  I look back now two decades later and wish I had because I am, first and foremost, the strong woman my mother raised me to be, and I will fight against anyone teasing, peer pressuring or outright bullying me into conforming.

It may surprise a few of you to read that Stellar Four, a website devoted to all things girlie and nerdy, is a feminist website. Stellar Four, in fact, is the purest, most feminist thing I've ever done, in no small part because it fights against the subtle sexism prevalent in nerd culture.

Until very recently, reveling in science, science fiction and fantasy (being a geek) meant you were usually an outcast in mainstream society.  Even now, being feminine and reveling in science, science fiction and fantasy means you are usually an outcast in geek society.  Liking things that are associated with being female such as makeup or cute t-shirts are often shunned by the majority of the group.  I'm not sure why that is exactly.  Maybe it's because in order to have a sense of self, a sense of "us," it also means you have to have a sense of "them."  In the end, it really doesn't matter why.  It just is.

That subtle sexism is even perpetuated by some female nerds; we are a group divided amongst ourselves.  There are a number of attractive young actresses who boast to anyone willing to listen that they love Star Wars, some obscure comic book series or whatnot.  There are even more non-famous but equally attractive women who roam the stalls of geeky conventions, scantily clad in genre-appropriate costumes.  Mostly, though, there are female nerds who rail against their emboldened counterparts claiming those women aren't true geeks, that they are just using their good looks and nerd cred to get ahead in the world.  In fact, there is a corporate-funded website devoted to promoting the idea that there is no such thing as girliness in geek culture, insinuating that anyone who enjoys that doesn't belong.

You know what?  I love things that sparkle.  I love ogling makeup and fashion.  I love (failing at) baking and decorating my place.  I love being crafty.  I love stereotypical feminine things and get positively giddy when they also happen to be stereotypically nerdy things.  Even more, I love heroines both real and imagined who kick ass and chew bubble gum, especially when they're all out of bubble gum.

It's time to stop arguing about who is or isn't a geek girl.  I'll tell you who we are. We love science fiction and fantasy. We won't conform to fit in.  We expect you to accommodate for us or get out of the way.  We applaud both the nerdy women who don't wanna wear makeup and couldn't give a flying crap about clothes as well as the nerdy women brazen enough to wear the Slave Leia costumes at Comic-Con.  We want you to be happy being who you are, and we don't want you to ever feel forced into being something you're not.

This, boys and girls, is what it means to be a geek girl.
Pin It


  1. I'm a proud geek guy who will always stand tall with any geek girl. I hope we can get the message out that all geek and nerds, man or woman, see each other with equality and unity.

  2. So positive, I love it! Thanks for publishing this.

  3. Those people gives me a sad. Haters and bullies aren't a part of my nerd culture.

  4. Well put, thank you!

    We need to work together instead of lashing out and treating our growing/changing roles in the nerd community as a competition.

    A girl gets just as tired of defending her nerd cred at cons while wearing pretty make-up as she does defending her choice to fill her designer purse with comic books and dice to her mainstream friends.

  5. We'll get a lot farther accepting the differences among us, instead of finding reasons to eject each other from the group of people who pride themselves on being the "outsiders" . . .

  6. Wonderfully said! Thank you! <3

  7. I have three slave Leia costumes, but I don't for a minute consider myself to be a geek. I don't really consider anyone to be a geek. We're all just people with all manner of interests.

  8. I mean, really: Speaking of "us" versus "them," why the label? We're just people, all of us. I'm a woman who happens to love fashion and makeup and science fiction and fantasy. I'm not a geek. And, in my opinion, neither are any of you, no matter what you look like, what you choose to wear, or in what direction your interests lie. But YMMV, and that's just fine, too.

  9. Amen -- from one geek chick to another! I have never felt like other women of geek have been been uncool to me. In fact, I often feel like because there aren't so many of us, there is a nice camraderie. And somehow, we seem to find each other -- even in places not so geeky.

  10. You know my stance on geeks and how best to define a category of people that, having been delineated by their status as outcasts & misfits for so long, have suddenly become idols of pop culture: the term "geek" is ruled by deviation from the mean, not by some checklist that consists of things like "has read a comic book, likes sci-fi, reads manga, etc."

    Anyone who can alienate themselves at a party with the intensity of their interest in some hobby is a geek. This can include both traditionally attractive women and socially awkward ones, so your point holds, but I disagree that there is no such thing as a woman taking on the label of "geek" who doesn't deserve it. As it is currently "in" to be a geek, suspicion is warranted.

  11. @Joshua: I fall prey to the "not a real a geek" thing often. I'm one of the very few females in IT infrastructure and if I dress up pretty, the males look at me askance. I've been told straight up, "Well, you don't LOOK like a geek." And I'm thinking, uh, really? Did I miss the memo on the dress code? Was it pocket-protector day or something?

    But I get it, to a degree. The smartest woman I know dragged the girly side out of me over the last 10 years where before I was a jeans and shapeless tshirt person. Now my French manicure is as much a part of me as my predilection for a command line interface. If that means not looking geeky enough, so be it. I'll probably just automate your function away with a very small shell script, anyway.

  12. The reason we are outcast is because they fear our power! They know geek girls are going to rule the world any day now.

  13. I am in IT as well and I always dress to the nines. No one has ever said anything at all about it.

  14. Hey guys,

    Just wanted to address some things I've noticed in the comments.

    1. I'm so glad to see so many people have come out in support of the message behind my post. Group hug!

    2. To those I have yet to win over, excluding others doesn't make us stronger or better or mean that our lunch table is now the cool one in the cafeteria. The ostracization we might have experienced when we were younger because of our nerdy passions is no less valid, no less painful, no less significant if we accept others that may not have had the same background with open arms.

    The only thing exclusion does is identify you as an asshole.

    3. To those that have never experienced the subtle sexism prevalent in geek culture and may be doubting its existence, you're lucky. That's what it should be like for everyone. Unfortunately, it's not. Here's a link to just one of the incidences that inspired my post:

    Thanks again, guys. I hope you'll spread the word and the love.


  15. Well, IT isn't IT, ya know? At a high level, there's development and infrastructure. There are a lot of women in development these days, but the infrastructure - the servers, the network, the storage - is still almost exclusively male at the technical level. There are women, but they are mostly either non-technical or tech-lite (TPMs, things like that). Very few women are system admins, network admins or storage gurus, even now. It's the IT equivalent of mechanics and construction workers, basically.

    That's where I fit. It is very common for there to be 50-80 people on a conference call and me being the only female. So, I'm in kind of a concentrated area, I guess you could say.

  16. One more example of the girl on girl hating, the corporate-funded website I referred to in my article wrote this as one of the main reasons they started their site:

    "I have never met a geek girl who was even halfway interested in almost anything Cosmopolitan had to say. We were too busy reading Cicada and Popular Science when we were the age that Teen Magazine wanted our attention. I’ve rarely seen a 'women’s' site that seemed to report on much that I was half-way interested in. The only celebrity gossip I care about is who’s on what project next, the only fashion I’m interested is where to get Batman shirts that allow for boobs."

  17. Thank you so much for this post. It is very refreshing to know that I'm not the only one who has gotten the side eye just for being in a comic book shop or been asked a million and one questions in order to prove my nerd cred. I say there is not one thing that does or does not make someone a nerd or a geek. It's all in how you see yourself.