Both Geek and Girl

Both Geek and Girl

These days, women have to fight to defend their position in the ‘geek sphere.’ Women are either quizzed or ridiculed the moment they express an interest in something. Women are accused of being ‘fake geeks'(for what reason I can’t imagine). And there are endless discussions on the portrayal of female characters in movies, games and comics. Some days, being a geeky girl can be exhausting.

But I haven’t always felt this way. The discussion about female participation in geeky activities always seems to start with ‘until recently, it was the realm of men.’ But was it?

I grew up with the same interests I have now. I love science fiction and fantasy, be it books, movies, TV, or games. If it’s interesting, I’ll give it a shot. I grew up playing on the NES and SNES. The majority of my friends were girls. They read the same books I did, watched the same movies and, yes, played the same games. Sleep overs often included staying up late attempting to beat a tough game. Recently, one of those friends visited for Christmas and we beat Super Mario 3 for old time’s sake. For the longest time, that same friend and I came home from school and settled down in front of her computer to play Heroes of Might and Magic (instead of doing our homework).

Video games were simpler when I was young (and harder). We spent hours trying to get past the first level of Star Wars; The Empire Strikes back on SNES (we never got off Hoth). There were lots of games based on movies, and lots of random silly things, but I don’t remember considering them specifically for boys. No one ever told me you can’t play Mario, it’s a boy’s game. Maybe it’s true that boys always played games on TV commercials, but I honestly can’t remember. I didn’t pay attention to the people in commercials back then; I barely paid attention to the products. I don’t think anyone would have classified The Lion King on SNES as a ‘boy’s game’ because you played Simba any more than The Lion King has ever been considered a boy’s movie. I’m not sure when the ‘it’s meant for the type of people who share the main character’s gender’ fad appeared.

Video game protagonists didn’t become primarily scruffy white men until I grew up. Most video game protagonists in my youth were floating hands. Even the original Diablo had a female character. You could play Princess Peach in Mario 2, much to my delight. So why did scruffy white men become the primary demographic of video games?

Because at some point, a marketing department determined that putting a scruffy white guy on the cover of a game caused it to sell more copies (just like the people who marketed Pac Man decided colorful ghosts meant ‘for kids’ and video games have been ‘for kids’ for 30 years as a result). I have this theory that marketing departments ruin everything. They’re also responsible for girl and boy sections in toy and book stores, ridiculous as it sounds. When I was a kid you went to the toy department. There was an isle of barbies but there wasn’t a big sign over it saying ‘girls.’

I was never much into comics when I was younger. Super heroes lost my grace at a fairly young age. I preferred books about dragons and spaceships. But I always loved Star Wars and Star Trek. I started watching Anime in high school because it more often had fantasy and sci-fi plots and western TV just didn’t have enough for me.

It’s ludicrous, to me, this idea that women are just entering the Geek sphere, that it was a man’s world all this time and women are outsiders forcing their way in. I’ve got news for you; we’ve always been here. We never went anywhere. Whether or not stuff was always meant for ‘boys,’ we devoted time to enjoying it. Even if we only ever got one lady character in a TV show or movie, we were proud of women’s contributions. So it’s only logical that, as geeky girls grow into geeky women, we devote time to creating those same passions. Perhaps we have grown more visible. The Internet does that. Perhaps people are beginning to take us more seriously.

But we aren’t melting out of the wood work. Chances are, the same geeky girls accused of ‘faking’ were teased and tormented in the schoolyard just like their male counterparts. There was a time when ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ were gender neutral. The fact is the world is well equipped to handle geeky girls. It’s been handling us for at least thirty years. And if we have anyone to blame for the gender divide, it’s marketing departments.

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