The issues of who (or what) a geek chick is has been debated for several years now, but seems to be a particular hot topic for blogs and Twitter recently. I figured now would be a good time to weigh in on the subject. I’m going to try and backtrack and cover some things that other writers have mentioned in brief for my readers who might not be as savvy on the topic.
I admit, like I discussed in my previous blog, Female on Female I never really considered myself a “Geek Chick” – or to be honest, anything “special” at all – until someone told me that I was a Geek Chick. I think that my problem with the label was that there was a stereotype at the time. Geek Girls were fat, anti-social, and bathed infrequently – or at least that’s what popular culture wanted me to believe.
When I was with the Geek Squad, and was presented with the opportunity to represent the company at public events, I jumped on it. Here was my chance to try and dispel the rumors, to prove that it was possible to be socially capable, well groomed, and “girly” but still to possess the better qualities of geekery. At around the same time, a lot of girls that you wouldn’t traditionally call “geeks” started realizing that geek chicks were desirable to a certain segment of the population. Suddenly, girls who had seen Star Wars once as a child were branding themselves as geeks girls, and worse, women with minimal technical credentials realized they could get a job easier by marketing themselves using the diversity angle.
I was torn. Despite the fact that I knew that I knew enough, I almost felt like I was “taking advantage” of my gender – and in some cases, I surely was. I backed away from the “geek” moniker entirely, tried to make my screen names and blog names gender neutral, and avoided any content that could be viewed as feminist. I wanted to be respected purely on my abilities, opinions and skillsets, and avoid the peril of being considered an “ewhore.” This was especially prevalent when I was playing WoW competitively, and any hint that you might be female would be used against you. Some guilds wouldn’t entertain my applications at all, because they’d been played by women who traded nude pics for achievements and items in the game. I avoided telling my gender on guild apps, and avoided vent interviews if at all possible, not letting them know that I was female until I had proven myself in game. I sat idly at work while the “cute” girl in the low cut tops and mini-skirts became the boss’s favorite, figuring that eventually I’d be recognized for my talent and ability.
Since then, I’ve obviously switched back to my old screen name, “thatgeekchick.” It’s one that I’ve used on an off since 2006, and it’s one that I feel truly represents me as a person. I think that as a geek, and as a woman, I’ve had to come to terms with a few things in life.
1. You can’t pretend to be someone you’re not: This works both ways. My attempts to “mainstream” and pretend not to be a geek were often quickly found out. I’d dress in designer clothes, spend all my my time talking about how “wasted” I got last night, and how hot the guys at work were. But inevitably, I’d quote an obscure Star Wars line, or when one of the guys talked about how cool he thought Scully was, I’d say “Wow, she was my IDOL as a child!”
As I said, this works both ways. “Poseur” geek girls will generally quickly be rooted out. The girl that gets by on looks and charm alone will be revealed, and will be gone. And if she isn’t… well perhaps the problem isn’t HER so much as it’s the work/social environment. Any job/social group that can be fooled that easily probably isn’t worth being part of. Eventually, the game will get old, or someone will get tired of it.
2. Well… actually… you can pretend: This almost directly contradicts what I just said, but it’s an important tangent. When I was in Catholic School, I once asked a religion teacher how I could “become” a good Catholic if I didn’t believe. her answer? “Pretend until you believe.*” There are girls out there that want to capitalize on the geek chick phenomenon. There are also girls out there who weren’t raised to be geeks, and who really, genuinely want a part of this culture. Perhaps their boyfriend is a gamer, or they’ve grown sick of hanging out with girls that just want to gossip about boys and clothes all the time. If a girl really wants to be part of the scene, and is playing the part, it’s possible (and hopefully LIKELY) that at some point, she will have genuine geek cred.
Remember – the key aspect of geekhood that separates us from non-geeks is passion! Just because someone wasn’t raised geek doesn’t mean it’s too late to convert! Perhaps you can be the lovely lady who guides the neophyte into more genuine geeky pastures?
*Passion is necessary in this endeavor. No matter how hard I pretended to be Catholic, it never really caught on with me, because it wasn’t in my heart.
3. You don’t have to give up girlyness to be a geek: One of the great things about being a geek chick is the fact that we can sort of choose which facets of “girl” and “geek” appeal to us. For many years, I assumed that “geek” meant that I had to wear baggy, nerdy clothes, eschew makeup, and avoid pink at all costs. In more recent years, I’ve realized that I enjoy the freedom – I can wear geeky tee shirts one day, pink frilly dresses the next. I can make geek clothing fashionable through the use of trendy accessories, and I can make designer clothes geeky by using geeky accessories. The only problem with this is that it can make it hard to pack for trips, or to budget one’s finances. Do I pack two laptops and a hair dryer, or one laptop with my dryer and straightener?
4. We as human beings seek to classify things: It’s normal to label, to assume, and to stereotype. It’s just how we as human beings manage a huge volume of information. There’s nothing wrong with embracing a label. There’s definitely nothing wrong with defying others to expand their pre-existing beliefs by presenting them with something they haven’t seen before.
5. There are ups and downs to every classification: Anything that can get you ahead in life can hold you back as well. I no longer feel bad listing myself as a diversity candidate for tech positions because there are some opportunities that won’t become available to me because of my femininity. Like after I watched SeaQuest DSV, I fell in love with their Chief Engineer Katherine Hitchcock. I was so disappointed when I realized that naval submariners generally speaking can’t be female :-( When I wanted to be an inhome agent for the Geek Squad, a lot of managers didn’t want top “jeopardize” a young female by sending her into strangers homes. For every time I’ve “gotten something” because I was a girl, there was an opportunity that I missed because I was a girl.
6. That said, it’s a thin line to tread…: It’s one thing to embrace your femininity. But there’s a thin line between embracing that what makes us unique, and… well…. whoring out. While whoring out nearly always works in the short time, it generally fails in the long term. Too often, you become a victim. Also, this is one of the quicker ways that I have seen to alienate other geek girls.
7. First and foremost, we are fighters!: Life is rarely easy on geek chicks. A lot of us are very possessive of our “geek girl” culture, and will fight if we disagree with something. As a whole, culture doesn’t really know what to do with us, and the teenaged years were hard on many of us. Don’t be surprised if we get defensive if we feel threatened, and if we immediately start to fight dirty. It’s one thing we excel at.
I think that was the large majority of my thoughts on this matter. I’d like to think that I’m not your typical, die hard feminist, and that my viewpoints on the matter are pretty moderate.