No, I'm Not Amazed That You're a Geek Girl Posted Sep 22, 2010 - 11:28:06
So there's a video parody of Katy Perry's "California Gurls" making its way around the internet called "G33K & G4M3R Girls" right now. The four women who created it have been interviewed several times, and refer to themselves as "Team Unicorn" -- why Team Unicorn? Because they say geek girls are "mythical creatures."
Here's the thing, in my experience, Geeky women aren't all that rare. In fact, they're outright commonplace. There really are just as many geeky women out there as there are geeky men. Take an event like Geek.kon, the convention I went to in Madison a few weeks ago. According to their official metrics, approximately half of all attendees were women.
That's right, not 10%, not 30% -- but half. Half of the people who showed up to celebrate their geekiness had two X chromosomes.
Anyone who exists within modern geek culture can see this, knows this, and isn't surprised by this though. I have quite a few geeky female friends, and my wife is a geek too (hell, that's why we met in the first place). Now don't get me wrong, as an advocate for Geek Pride, I'm all for women celebrating their geekiness. I honestly think every geek needs to be taking pride in who they are.
The problem is that geeky women are considered an oddity from both outside and occasionally inside the culture. Geek women being open about their geekiness is a more recent phenomena, but as long as we treat it as a novelty or aberration it's never going to be accepted into the geek culture at large.
While most of geekdom accepts women openly, there are large portions of male geekdom that either holds female geeks as objects of worship or disdain. While "worship" might not sound like a bad thing, it means that the male geeks aren't relating to the female geeks as people still. This seeing women as "other" is a long term problem in male geek socialization, and needs to stop.
So yes women should celebrate their geekiness. Yes they should proudly proclaim that they are a geek and proud of it. But when we talk about it like it's rare, that's when we make a mistake. Women geeks need to demand not that they're special, but that women not be afraid to be open with their geekiness. Only then can we start to weed out the negative socializations that plague some of us. Only then can we truly integrate as a community.
And that's when we can finally get around to the world domination and stuff.
I had the same experience at HostingCon, and I see it every time it comes up on the industry forum - admins are overwhelmingly male, and women in hosting tend to be "unicorns" with 80-90% of the admin jobs being held by males. The same issue just came up with Arrington's (Tech Crunch) Women in Tech Controversy, and you can REALLY see the snide disrespect in the comments from men on the video you named, in the forum I named, on the Tech Crunch article that caused such a stir.
Just because you feel like you welcome people and it's all equal so no women should act like it's that big of a deal doesn't mean that YOU are the majority with that attitude. As a female geek in a male dominated field, I can assure you that's not the case, and the sexist comments, snide crap, and dismissals women have to deal with in geek dominated industries and cultures are still pretty significant.
I think you're drawing the lines differently than I am Jen, and honestly what you're pointing to are problems I addressed in the text.
Part of the problem is that women geeks are currently discouraged to be open. This doesn't make them "Not geeks" but instead closeted geeks. I argue that there are just as many women geeks as men at the core, but women geeks are forced to hide it by biases in culture. The culture is the problem, and that's what we need to change. We need to think of women geeks as normal. There are large portions of the culture that either denigrate or elevate women -- but never see them as equals.
My point is that women geeks need to be open and proclaim themselves as such, yes. This is something that needs to happen without a doubt. But what we can't do is pedastalize them either, and make the objects of (often sexual) worship.
Because in my mind, that's worse.
You also have to understand the range of what I'm describing as the "Geek" subculture. I'm *not* talking about the tech industry at all, which still has it's issues and is frankly one of the worst parts of the culture. I'm talking about a rather large social community - the gamers (both video and rpg), the otaku(s), the ren faire, and the trekkies/trekkers - which is not limited to those who have an interest in computers.
It's also a generational thing I think too. The average age at an event like Geek.kon is 23. In even my lifetime (I'm 30) there's been a huge shift in the Geek social dynamics. When I go to an event like MarsCon (a science fiction convention) there is a massive male demographic.
As for comic book readership, I want to point out that your article specifically points to "superhero comics" -- I would like to see what the metrics are when you include things like webcomic readership and the surge of Yaoi popularity.
I guess to summarize: I'm not saying the problems women can face in geek culture don't exist -- far from it -- I'm saying that the "unicorn" attitude isn't the solution.
I'm a geek woman and very proud of it, and since I went to a liberal arts college for women, I was taught how to be assertive and to empower myself. I also do a fair share of gaming, and that's about the only place I see where the view point that it's a "man thing" comes in. Of course I've beaten a fair share of men in video game tournaments, so they get quiet rather quickly. Women or "geek girls" need to be proud and self assured, and these issues won't be such and issue. I'm not magical and I was into unicorns when I was 10, its time to grow up and start being real.