In preparing for PAX, the BF and I came up with a short list of the panels that both of us wanted to attend. Of course, one of the events that I was initially tempted by was the panel focused on female gamers. Initially, I felt as though I was obligated to go. I mean, it’s like 6th Grade Health Class, at some point in time you segregate off the girls and explain to them about monthly bleeding and other fun stuff like that.
Un/fortunately, it conflicted with something that the BF wanted to see, and when I considered it, the panel he marked sounded more interesting to me as well. It was something I was interested in, not a duty or a burden.
After having read some other women’s perspectives on the matter, I find myself glad that I did not attend.
Let me start off with a little backstory.
I don’t think I ever had a conception of “gender roles” as society views them until I was nearly a teenager. As a child, I had pretty dresses, but I had overalls and jeans as well. Sure, I adored my stuffed animals and my Barbie Dolls, but I also loved my computer games, toy cars and Lego kits. And looking back, I didn’t necessarily play with Barbies like most girls. Yeah, I dressed them up and stuff, but half the time Barbie realized that Ken was boring, shot his stupid ass with a miniature gun, and then went to race her Ferrarri.
Another aspect of this was that my best friend during those formative years was a girl who was just as much into dragons and X-files and Star Trek as I was. Because there were two of us, I never really felt that I was “different.” Yes, other kids weren’t geeky. That I understood. But those other kids were male and female alike.
It wasn’t until I went to an all-girls school when I started to hear it. “You can do whatever you want to be, despite the fact that you are a woman.”
Waitaminute. Despite? That’s new…
Very few of the other girls likes the things that I did. Sure, some if them read fantasy books, and liked science, but no one loved computers and Sci-Fi and Dungeons and Dragons and things of that nature.
At this point, at the beginning of my teenaged years, I realized I was different.
At first, I embraced it. Not yet interested in what the male members of the species thought of me, I said “screw it” to the general “female” accoutrements. No makeup or dresses for me! No sir! Baggy nerd tee-shirts and jeans are the way to go!
Of course then, as more and more girls started dating and hormones did their thing, I realized that boys really liked girly girls. That was odd. I suffered through this for a year or so before meeting guys outside of the Catholic School circle. Nerdy guys. Guys that would trade their right arm and half their anime collection for a girl that liked the things they did.
I rode this high for years, even realizing that if I could be geeky AND girly that I would be an all-new level of super awesome in their eyes. So I started trying again. Bought cute clothes. Dressed up when I started going to college. I made a lot of geek guy friends there, and felt bad for the fact that I knew so few geek girls for them to meet.
It only became logical from that point that I started participating in female-centric events. Various employers I had and classes I went to wanted to establish different ways to encorporate girls into their fold. Diversity was the big push!And the geeky pursuits didn’t have enough of it. So there were think tanks, and media and I ate it all up. I thought it was my duty as a woman to try and convert women to the Dark Side of Geekery!
And I felt this way for _years_. I don’t know when it changed. Perhaps it was when I heard of capable men being turned down for women with no skills but who has two matching x chromosomes. I doubted it more when men started telling me that they “never really though about it until someone mentioned it.”
And then I remembered. I never felt like I was a “minority” until it was pointed out. But then again, I was never told how to be in the first place. My parents didn’t stress being pretty, or owning the best shoes, my parents stressed finding something that made me happy and doing it well.
Worse, because these campaigns were stressing how equivalent women were to men in technical regards, men started to become suspicious. Men innately know that when a woman says something over and over again, there are generally two reasons, and they’re usually connected. The first is that she is lying. The second is that she doubts herself, and if someone else believes it, then she will as well. Getting back to the original point, my friends who went to the PAX panel on Females felt that many of the women there were doing more to hinder our place in the gaming world than they were to further it. And it scares me. I wonder how many more of these initiatives will fail, and what the end result will be.
I don’t know what the solution is for getting women in technology. What I do know is that women who proselytize and take “advantage” of their “difference” often do more harm than good. I also know that the “gender issue” is one that I still think of every day. Do I list myself as a Diversity candidate because I am the minority in my field? Or is that too “easy”? How do I find the right balance of my geeky pursuits, and my feminine ones (as both clothes and video games are quite pricy….)? How do I dress in the workplace so I will be taken “seriously” as a technician while at the same time still balancing something that looks decent and is utilitarian as well? Because let me tell you, women’s dress pants are not designed for climbing under desks all day.
Even in titling this blog, my initial thought was to title it something that encompassed both geekiness and girliness. But while yes, both of these are a part of me, I’d like to think that I will have a lot to say that applies to men as well, and I don’t want to ostracize those readers.