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Apparently, I've lead a sheltered life....

... but I know why.

First, a rec from the man behind Wesley Crusher:


I have only been aware of this misogyny-in-geekdom problem in the past year or so via LiveJournal links and posts on the topic. I've been a girl geek all my life, but never got any flak about it from the males of that species, that I remember. I suspect that has to do with the fact that I never made my geekiness into a broader social thing until 1999. As a kid, I had my little group of geek BFFs, which included my brother, who wasn't any the wiser than me that Real Girls Can't Be Geeks or that Geekiness is a Boy's Domain.

My geek resume (what I remember of it in my decrepit middle age):

- Watched the original Star Trek in syndication. Over and over, and as, for example, over.

- Invented my own language when I was ten. Read everything I could find on linguistics, codes, and ciphers.

- Invented my own planet in junior high, complete with maps. Wrote fiction about it.

- Was really bad at both cooking/sewing and changing the oil in a car. Also, both Barbies and sports. I preferred books.

- Read lots of science fiction short stories and novels. Stopped reading them if the female characters were two-dimensional or non-existent.

- Went to see the original Star Wars (now episode IV) eight times in the theater during its first run. Same for the next two movies of the original trilogy (hey, I didn't have a VCR until 1987, nor was I paying my own movie entrance fees for the first two movies).

- Was fannishly obsessed with Escape to Witch Mountain, Logan's Run, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time series, Island at the Top of the World, Star Wars, the original Star Trek, the original Battlestar Galactica, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Terminator, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, 2010, and Star Man (just to name a few). Read the original novels, or TV show/movie tie-in novels as well. Read everything by Alexander Key (Witch Mountain's author).

- Was fannishly obsessed with Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey.

- Never went to a convention for Trek, or anything else (prior to the ATPo Gatherings). Wasn't interested. Some of that was textbook anti-socialness. Some of it was internalized Geekophobia ("people who go to those conventions are weird, I'm not" syndrome).

- Added a double major in computer science to my already-chosen major, psychology. And did honestly look for a way they could be combined (human-computer interaction/ergonomics, artificial intelligence, to name a couple), before just embracing them in different ways.

- Got my first Macintosh computer in 1987. Have owned one (or two) ever since.

- Had subscriptions to Omni, Discover, Science Digest, and Scientific American.

- Was never much of a gamer. Tried D&D once. But I had a huge crush on a girl who loved video games and would watch her play for hours (does that ruin my cred?).

- Was fannishly obsessed with all the later Treks (not Enterprise so much, but it was killed just as it was finding itself). In fact, I still refer to the 1990's as the "Golden Age of Genre Television." I mean, you had the Treks, X-Files, Highlander, Buffy, Angel, Lois and Clark, Babylon 5, etc, etc.... Say what you want about what came after, these were the pioneers who made it all possible.

- Have a Master's and Bachelor's Degree in psychology, a Bachelor's degree in computer science, a Master's in philosophy, and a Ph.D. in philosophy.

- Worked as a programmer/developer for 17 years (and counting), off and on.

- Once titled a Match.com online dating profile, "Star Trek, not Softball." Lesbian dating when you're a geek, believe or not, is hard.

- Stayed up all night to watch Voyager pass Neptune. Glued myself to NASA.gov to watch Curiosity land on Mars. Wandered out of my cubicle at work to check out solar eclipses and wondered why none of my colleagues were joining me. And those are just a few examples of my on-going fannishness of Cool Outer Space Stuff.

- Webmastered one of the arguably geekiest Buffy websites online, All Things Philosophical on BtVS/AtS. Proud to say the associated discussion board was a haven of intelligent fun-having for guys, gals, and little green creatures from Alpha Centauri alike. The fact that I made my social debut into mass fandom on a BtVS board (the original Bronze) probably explains a lot about why I didn't face sexist nonsense.

- Made a visit to CERN the grand finale of my recent European vacation.

One last thought on this: I have always been painfully aware that geeks are looked down on, especially at the grade school level (and somewhat in college as well). I was not conscious of that being a gender thing, although I suspect sometimes it was. But I got that attitude from other girls (friends and social princesses alike), who really didn't understand my interests, or sniggered at the fact that my friends and I played make-believe at recess up through junior high, and were a bit judgy or dismissive of me because of that. But I always interpreted that in a "Geeks don't get respect" thing, rather than a "Girl geeks don't get respect" thing.

So, in conclusion:

"Geeky is just shorthand for enthusiastic and enlightened" --scrollgirl


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 24th, 2013 10:40 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think the message there is a geek is partially a self-defined thing, and partly just intense enthusiasm about something a little more technical, complex, or off-the-beaten-track than your average interest.

There can be baseball geeks, for example, but their interest is in sports statistics, or knowing many arcane facts about all the players, etc.

It's about the enthusiasm and the intensity, not some specific "thing."

And the converse is also true: I can be just as interested in the same thing you are, even if, as a person, I am of a different kind than you.

Edited at 2013-07-24 10:45 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 24th, 2013 11:02 pm (UTC)
It's interesting, though, to meet someone who is a whole lot like yourself, and then find, to your shock, that they feel very differently about somethings. You and I, for example, I'd say are of similar age, gender, and many life experiences, but our tastes in entertainment can veer wildly. And sometimes, for no explicable reason, they don't.
Jul. 24th, 2013 10:33 pm (UTC)
Maybe I'm just clueless but I don't recall much sexism and misogyny on ATPO. Still think of a few of those guys as online pals.

But Wheaton plays to the more general audience, and before Penny, Bernadette, and others came into their lives, the Big Bang guys were dumb about women.
Jul. 24th, 2013 10:43 pm (UTC)
I don't think you were clueless. I think people at ATPo were generally Awesome and Inclusive. Which isn't to say we didn't have standards of behavior (stealing the thunder of trolls by usurping their trolly posts for our own fun comes to mind). But there were guys and gals and people-who-wouldn't-say-and-that's-okay. And we just all enjoyed Digging a Little Deeper together.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 24th, 2013 11:08 pm (UTC)
It helped that we were all there out of enthusiasm for a show with a girl hero. It also helped that we were a notch up on the intelligence scale.

Although that had its downside. I recall many times newbies coming along and saying that it took them forever to post because ATPo was "intimidating" (or at least, we were by reputation), and they feared we'd be either snobby to them or they wouldn't be able to "keep up" with the brainiacs... or something.

And then they'd find out we were just a bunch of enthusiastic geeks who were friendly, and, you know, generally polite. And the only way to show you "didn't belong" on ATPo was by being a rude jerk more often than not.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 25th, 2013 04:18 pm (UTC)
Yikes, I have heard of censoring boards. I am an anal control-freak, but hovering over every post and deleting them or blocking people who post them? Way too much work.

But I was lucky I had boardies who read more posts than I did and took certain problem posters in hand.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 25th, 2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
See this is why I stayed away from other boards. Just being there in such an atmosphere would give me hives (necessary mod behavior or not). I like slow, mellow, relaxed.

There were a lot of times I had to archive Threads that Ate the Board and bring back others, and sometimes it made me *nuts* that certain topics dominated My Board (whine, whine) even though I thought they were already Over-Discussed there and elsewhere. Or that stuff I wanted to talk about was not very popular. But I sat on my hands, 'cause that was my way.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 26th, 2013 03:16 am (UTC)
That's the kind of control you can never have. I didn't try.
Jul. 24th, 2013 11:19 pm (UTC)
I can remember when I was young getting weird looks in the comic book shop from guys or when I went into the sf/fantasy section of the bookstore. I think it was still in grade school actually being told by boys my own age that the comics they were looking at were for boys - it was nothing truly hostile but just a lot of little things that over time made me feel that I needed to keep my interests to myself. Of course as time went on I met lots of girls and women who had geekish interests - some of the biggest horror and Stars Wars fans I've ever met (to the point of one having a Wookie at her wedding) have been women. Now I think I'm a bit spoiled because so much of my online and fannish interactions are with women, at this point I usually assume most people online are female, so it's always a bit of a shock to see the real sexism that's still out there.
Jul. 24th, 2013 11:32 pm (UTC)
There is a certain "female until proven male" thing in the on-line fandom we experience, which is probably a side effect of a self-generated sexual segregation thing whereby fan-boys tend to congregate in some places, and fan-girls in another. I never encountered that until after I left the confines of the Bronze and ATPo, though, where there was relative gender parity.

At least, I assume there was gender parity in those places. A lot of people didn't say one way or another.

And I didn't really say which I was on the ATPo site itself (until I added an About the Author page), so I do recall one or two reviews and links to my site assuming I was male. That was always jarring, because I didn't have an expectation that would happen.
Jul. 25th, 2013 03:39 am (UTC)
I came to realize my inner geek kind of late in life. I was always a bookish kid, not good at sports, and kind of a loner, but in those days I was just a shy, somewhat socially inept girl, and didn't have a label to stick on that. I watched the original Star Trek when I was in nursing school but it was around 1982 when I really became obsessed with it. I would rush home to watch it at 4 p.m. every day..and got my first VCR so I could tape it. But I had no idea that there was a whole fandom out there at that point.
Finding Buffy and then ATPO really triggered my inner geek, and allowed me to see the joys of being in the company of other geeks, female and male. So in a way, you are my "geek guide". Thanks!
Geek girl and proud of it.
Jul. 25th, 2013 04:20 pm (UTC)
*Does a serene Yoda nod*

Actually, "Geek Guide" makes me want to put on a khaki dress and earn some merit badges or something.
Jul. 25th, 2013 11:08 am (UTC)
I think there has probably always been some sexism and some harassment happening in geek circles and in con circles. But because people have been speaking out about it in the last 5 years or so, others have been lashing back with the "you girls are not a real geeks anyway (so we don't have to respect you)" idiocy.

Another thing is that in the slightly younger generation, 20s to early 30s, while geeks have been looked down on in some places, the rise of computers to everyday objects and associated with making lots of money, means some geeks have also been venerated, while geeky things like movies based on comic books are pretty mainstream. So there may be some people who need to assert that they are truly geeky (and individual and unique and also downtrodden) precisely because the things that set them apart are no longer viewed as weird or unusual.
Jul. 25th, 2013 11:58 am (UTC)
Absolutely. An awful lot of the really venomous "you're not a real geek" posturing seems to come from guys who think that you must have been a social outcast to qualify as a geek, and whose misogyny manifests through declarations that women are too pretty to be real geeks and are just like those stuck-up hot girls at school who sexually tormented them by their mere existence and failure to sexually reward them for their intellect.
Jul. 25th, 2013 04:28 pm (UTC)
Because No Girl in the history of Ever was treated like a social outcast for her interests, looks, or personality.
Jul. 26th, 2013 04:42 am (UTC)
Never ever.

I had the social ostracism and being told I was funny looking in high school, AND the "you're too pretty and outgoing to be a girl [young woman] who spends lots if her free time on the internet" in my 20s. Can't win.
Jul. 26th, 2013 12:15 pm (UTC)
Well, everyone feels free to judge. I just give them the grumpy GetOUTaMyFace look. Then ignore the obnoxious "You should smile more!" comment as I move on.
Jul. 25th, 2013 04:26 pm (UTC)
Yes, there is that urge to want to be "unique, different, and weird." I know it well. Because, especially in the usual sense of "geek," it means you are somehow smarter, more passionate, and "better" than the average person, and it's fun to think of yourself that way when it allows you to classify people who have always considered *themselves* your social betters--the popular kids, natch--as inferior.

So yeah, the mainstreaming of geek has meant tightening the borders of what is considered geekiness so you can maintain that illusion. And I can see how certain young men who find themselves not too popular with the opposite sex want to make a pretty girl "the Other" that they can feel superior to because it's a way to lick the wounds of rejection.
Jul. 25th, 2013 05:37 pm (UTC)
And I can see how certain young men who find themselves not too popular with the opposite sex want to make a pretty girl "the Other" that they can feel superior to because it's a way to lick the wounds of rejection

Clearly you are right about this. But I don't see it as entirely what some might think. I was a member of a selective engineers club in high school that had maybe 20% girl members. Those girls were the last ones any of us socially inept guys in the club would have given a hard time, especially for sharing our interests. No, we wished there were a lot more of them! I think the problem with misogyny was and still is more of one with the borderline guys and true losers who want to be identified with the tech-type guys and in addition to their other social problems, see the girls as a very real threat to their inclusion.
Jul. 25th, 2013 05:45 pm (UTC)
The response of a lot of "geek" men (in the circles I frequent) has been the very reasonable, "We want more geek girls, because those girls are the females of our unique and awesome species."

So it's definitely the guys whose shallow self-esteem pushes them to desire being at the small, very exclusive top of some big pile with Misunderstood Guys Like Me who play the misogyny card.

'Cause they certainly don't want to risk a girl entering their circle and being better than them at that Obscure Technical Thing that gives them that illusion of superiority. So they decide up front she never would be, and doesn't belong there.

Edited at 2013-07-25 06:13 pm (UTC)
Jul. 26th, 2013 02:41 am (UTC)
it means you are somehow smarter, more passionate, and "better" than the average person

Yes. This seems to drive a lot of the rage.
Jul. 27th, 2013 11:59 am (UTC)

just shared the vid on my fb page.

Rock On!

Jul. 27th, 2013 05:55 pm (UTC)
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )