I’m a geek. I know, it’s shocking, but there you have it. I am a geek. And I’m a woman, or just for the alliteration, a girl.
I’m also a feminist – that is I believe that women and men should be equal and we have a long way to go to get there.
So I have to say that I consider myself lucky that I live in an area where, for the most part, my feminine ways and my geekiness are not incompatible. Most of the science fiction conventions that I go to boast a population that is around 52% female. The men at these conventions don’t gawk just because I have boobs as the stereotypes suggest they should. Why would they, they are out numbered. My mostly female writing group have been hanging out at our favorite game and sandwich shop – Your Mom’s Basement – since the day it opened. The guys there are just so used to us that they don’t treat us any differently from other regulars.
This is why, when I do find myself in a stereotypical situation, it stands out to me.
Some years ago I went to a convention in a different state. There women were a distinct minority. Enough so that many of the men didn’t know what to do with the women. It was hard to get into a conversation with the other women because so many guys wanted our attention. When they weren’t trying to talk to us, they were staring. It was so different from the convention experiences I have had in Minnesota that I chose not to go back to that one.
I talked to other women from the convention – women for whom that convention was their home convention – and they didn’t see what I was seeing. To them, that kind of experience was totally normal. I remember one of them said, “We’d like to have more women, but fandom just doesn’t have that many.” Really? Why can there be so many girl geeks in Minnesota? I suspect that the real reason is that women, like me, didn’t like the kind of attention they got at the convention and didn’t tell their friends to go.
I’ve worked with people who have questioned my being a geek. Most of them, comment that they thought that was “guy thing”. I don’t hold back when I tell them that it would be more of a girl thing if more girls didn’t know that it was a guy thing. Let’s just say that rockets are exciting and leave it at that.
Now, I thought that we had gotten past all that – despite what popular culture thinks about geeks. In fact, being a geek is becoming more popular – almost main stream.
Then I walked face first into those same old stereotypes this past weekend at a new little gaming store in a friend’s neighborhood. It being a new store, we decided to stop in to check them out. There was a Magic tournament going on when we walked in, so we were rather noticed. As one, the players and even the guy behind the counter, looked at my friend, then my husband and just accepted them. However, when they turned their eyes to me it was like I had sprouted gossamer wings and sparkly blue skin. As much as they could without losing their games, they followed my every movement around the store. It was rather odd. But I’m not the squeamish geek that I once was anymore. I decided to give them a bit of a show and went all squee about an expansion to one of my favorite games. That got them. A bit of a show that I am a geek and they were content to let me shop in peace.
I would like to believe that stories like this will be a thing of the past. It’s not likely. Sure it might not be girl geeks that are finding themselves the center of such strange attention. There will always be assumptions about who is the in crowd and who doesn’t quite fit. So these stories will continue in some for or other. With any luck we will meet with actual aliens and then the human race will see ourselves as one family and the aliens will get to be the outsiders.