On Being a Girl Geek
Being You Is All That Matters
Video games. Star Trek. Star Wars. Math. Science. Lord of the Rings. Art. Music. RPGs. Computers. Intellect. IQ. And the list goes on.
These are some of the things a lot of people think are the specific provinces of that odd, eccentric person known informally as a geek. If people want to get pejorative about it, words like "nerd" and "dweeb" come into the conversation. Most people think such eccentricities tend to (or ought to) only apply to the masculine sector of humanity.
So heads turn, jaws drop and eyebrows raise to the heavens when the geeky personality in question turns out to be...
Granted, there is more room for girl geeks now that characters like Ladies Eowyn (a badass shield maiden who destroys the evil leader of the Nazgul) and Arwen (Elven healer as well as princess and fiancee to Lord Aragorn) have made it acceptable for girls to be into heady, intellectual books like "Lord of the Rings."
Oh, yes, and we can't forget one of the ultimate female geek leads in recent cinematic times: "Dr. Eleanor Arroway," as portrayed by Jodie Foster, in the movie "Contact," based on the book by the late Carl Sagan.
But that merely scratches the surface, doesn't it? What of real life, female geek role models? Let's see, now. Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton, Maya Angelou, Sally Ride (first US American woman in space), Susan B. Anthony, Florence Nightingale, and many others.
By today's definitions, these women would be considered "geeks," just because of their high IQs. Some of them came way before video games or computers, but if you have studied the history of computers, one of the best-known people in such a field was Grace Murray Hopper, who worked on the Harvard University Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator (a primitive computer) back in 1947. Okay, so she's mostly been associated with how the whole "computer bug" phrase came into popular nomenclature, but hey, this is 1947 we're talking about here. A lot of women really weren't heavily encouraged to be involved in math, let alone computer science. So let's hear it for Grace Hopper, one of our first official female computer geeks, however primitive the computer was at the time.
What I am not sure I understand is why it is still considered "unladylike" or even "immature" by some for a girl to be geeky, especially when it comes to things like video games and RPGs--both the paper-n-pencil AND computer-based kind.
In fact, why are things like that considered "immature" at all? But that's another hub for another day.
What makes me rather grind my teeth about this is people still like to place strict definitions on what's supposed to be the province of males and what females are supposed to be into. Even if such people allow women to express their true brilliance in fields like astronomy, politics, or medical science, they look askance at the women who choose to spend free hours dreaming up the perfect MMORPG, and coding it themselves, or going to a friend's house for snacks, good company and a long session of Dungeons and Dragons.
My question is, why? What's the big deal? And why the attachment to outmoded forms of thinking?
Case in point: My mom, a bona fide geek, wanted to read one of C.S. Forester's Hornblower books, "Mutiny On the Bounty" for one of her high school literature classes. Her teacher, a dude, looked at her as though she were nuts and told her what he thought she should be interested in: romance. My mom wasn't interested in romance books then, and on that point she has never changed. Her teacher was stubborn and kept pushing the romance. Mom, equally stubborn, pushed back with the demand that she be allowed to read "Mutiny on the Bounty." It was a hard-won fight, but she scored one for all intelligent womanhood!
"Yeah, yeah, but it's not so bad now," I hear you say. True, it's not as bad now, but imagine being a brainy 16 or 17 year old girl in the 1960s--in conservative Indiana (where my mom is from)--and you want to read a book that, supposedly, is "just for boys." Just imagine it for a moment.
Now fast forward to present-day America, where MMORPGs, computer OS's and PlayStation (or your game system of choice) are household words in many places in the country. Depending on where you are, being a girl and being into this stuff may not invite so much as a raised eyebrow. Of course, if you're a guy geek and you meet up with a girl geek, you're going to have a ball getting to know her, because you obviously have things in common.
But there are still some people in some sectors of this country who have some really crazy ideas going on about what girls and women should be into. These nuttier-than-anything myths are (and my personal comments follow) :
1) Being into things like RPGs, video games and comic books is really immature, and a girl who likes this stuff is even doubly so, because she could be spending her time doing more important things. (Like what? Slathering on makeup and dressing like Britney Spears? LOGIC, people! LOGIC! Just because I am a girl, that doesn't mean I am going to go around looking like a dumb pop-tart, nor does it mean that I am going to bend to what society thinks is "mature" or "immature." Bring on the D&D, snacks, sodas and good geeky friends!)
2) If you're brainy, you're obviously not pretty enough to get a guy worth having, and guys are intimidated by brainy chicks. (If guys truly are that intimidated by us girls with strong minds, then how do you explain marriages between people like John and Abigail Adams, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Michelle and Barack Obama, just for starters? ALL of them are brainy people, and NONE of those men wanted dumb women!)
3) "How about we get a doll for Sarah and a video system for Sam?" (Um, excuse me. How about you get the video system for Sarah, so she can learn eye-hand coordination for when she becomes a famous brain surgeon, and get a doll for Sam, so he can learn how to be loving and nurturing instead of violent and aggressive all the time?)
4) "Star Trek? You? Why would you want to watch that? Don't you want to go shopping?" (Honey, I like shopping like any woman. It's when and what I purchase that makes the difference. As for "Star Trek"? If I had the money for a convention, I would have gone ages ago!)
5) "Progressive Rock? Isn't that a guy-geek thing?" (*Ahem*. I am a female music geek--who also happens to be an actual musician. I also have an obsession with the band Yes so strong that if I'd had the money to follow them around on one of their tours, I would have done so in a nanosecond--including the purchase of backstage passes to meet, greet and get ALL their autographs. Especially Jon Anderson's...;-) Just because women are women, that doesn't mean we don't, or shouldn't be allowed to, ROCK OUT to intelligent music that has something significant to say.)
You get the idea.
"Maybe She's Born With It..."
And as far as makeup is concerned, as a girl geek who is deeply troubled by things like animal testing and the continued destruction of our planet, I will willingly shell out the extra few dollars or so to make sure that the makeup I choose to wear is hypo-allergenic (for my sensitive skin), cruelty-free and eco-friendly.
However, even though I admire my own brains, I also admire the fact that I am a woman, with the capability to nurture new life, should I choose to do so.
So yes, ladies, it has gotten increasingly easier for girls to be geeks. It definitely makes for easier relationships with most teachers. What's more, if you're a girl geek who finds a video game buddy who happens to be cute as well as sweet, respectful and intelligent (assuming for the moment that you're of the hetero persuasion), then by all means take him up on that request to join him at ComiCon or at Google's Summer of Code. You may have found a game buddy for life--both in regular living and in the world of Tekken, Virtua Fighter and Sonic the Hedgehog.
As for all those people--both men and women--who scorn at your beautiful, brainy state of being?
They're just jealous 'cause you got more brains than they do. ;-)