Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dispelling The Myth of "Fake Geek Girls"

Each and every one of us has at some time felt impostor syndrome (i.e. that feeling that you don't belong and someone will find you out eventually). Being a nerd, it's been a recurring theme throughout my life, but no more so than when surrounded by other geeks. Though I'm pretty knowledgeable on my geek culture these days (slight understatement ;), I wasn't as much growing up. Until I was able to pay for my own entertainment, I was largely influenced by what my family had and watched.

That means that I missed out on things like owning a Nintendo or any other gaming system, I didn't buy comic books, I had no Nerf guns and limited access to Lego and Meccano because they were my brother's toys. My parents didn't watch a lot of sci-fi either, so it was a while before I ever saw all three Star Wars movies (the originals, not the prequels). Although I can tell you that seeing the first Tron movie changed me in ways that I wouldn't understand for decades.

In university, I was in the faculties of psychology and business and, really, there weren't a lot of hard core geeks in those groups (other than the Management Information Systems program). While I had friends who worked at the campus comic book shop, again without funds (and a with a whole lot of impostor syndrome), I felt really out of place since I wasn't already knowledgeable.

And let's face it, for all the marginalizing we geeks experience, we're still pretty good at making each other feel pretty stupid in our own circles, if someone isn't up on the latest movies, comics, games, consoles, tech, sites, etc etc. It's easy to feel insecure and unworthy on the best of days. And then add being a female into the mix, largely surrounded by males, and it can really make a girl feel isolated even among her peers.

In fact, I would say that I really came into my geek side when I really found the Internet and started working in high tech; it was then that I found my tribe: I realized that there were lots of other people out there who had a ton of geeky interests and while some really did seem to know absolutely everything, there was room for the rest of us who were just coming into their own. That's when I finally relaxed into (and became comfortable with) my nerd-sonality.

Now, I won't claim that it was always a gender issue. I just generally felt uncomfortable (which years later, I would discover was probably also the reality of absolutely everyone else I admired for being so comfortable and kewl in their nerd skin). But it did happen; there were instances when I wasn't taken seriously because of my gender and those were probably the situations that frustrated me the most. I mean, it's one thing to feel like you're not being taken seriously because you don't have enough familiarity with the obscure but it's a whole other to be dismissed outright due to gender.

Now, no one ever called me a fake geek girl to my face, they just implied it, making me feel like I didn't know as much as the rest of them and maybe had no place contributing to the conversation. Instead of, you know, taking it as an opportunity to show off all their wonderful knowledge on the subject and make a fan out of me too. No, they preferred to circle their geek wagons and exclude me for some reason, when I was actually keen to find out more. Nothing like being rejected from a group that you admire so much. Which is probably why the idea that there are people preying on girls online and IRL for being fakers, just because they don't know absolutely everything in the nerd world bothers me to no end. It's pretty much become a sport.

Cinevore has produced a video in their "Society, Why It's Wrong" series that tackles this subject. It's full of fantastic commentary on the whole concept of Fake Geek Girls. As they said, what's the point of being a geek if you can't use your Vulcan logic skills to tear apart an argument from every angle. This should be required viewing for all boys, geek or otherwise, to make them aware that:

  1. girl-shaming happens in geek spheres and should not be tolerated; and
  2. if you are into something, you should appreciate anyone else's interest in that thing, regardless of gender.

Frankly, a lesson worth teaching, geek or not. 



(Source: Geeks Are Sexy) < Male or female, yes, we are :)

2 comments:

Michael Richardson, Network Architect said...

Wait, you are telling that brother wouldn't let you play with his(?) lego? Having a geek sister would have been so cool. (Spydergrrl's brother and I were housemates for three years...)

Tanya Spydergrrl said...

Hey Mike :) You forget that my bro is 5 years older which means that for the time we did live together (til I was 13), I think I fit the "pest" category more than anything else. But I'm happy to say that as recently as March Break, we had a Lego play date together. :) :)