I don't like having to explain myself. It's like having to explain a joke. It's not as funny anymore. When you have to explain yourself, things get bogged down. But sometimes I feel the need to do so. I apologize in advance to those who read my column here regularly as you, I assume, are already aware that women read comic books. But for new readers or perhaps those that don’t read comics themselves, this needs to be said.
I'm a geek. I'm also a girl. I’m a Geek Girl. This is how I personally choose to identify myself along with a group of other women who share similar tastes in entertainment with me. I haven’t identified myself as a Geek Girl my entire life even though I pretty much always was one. The term just didn’t exist in my mind or world until a few years ago. In fact, it was one of the terms I came across while trying to find a blog moniker for myself. I eventually chose “The Nerdy Bird” because I thought it sounded interesting but still got my point across. Same with my actual blog title, “Has Boobs, Reads Comics.” When I started my blog in 2008 there weren’t nearly as many females out there writing about their love of comics. I felt my satirical title was necessary to not only grab the attention of potential readers but to also state simply and clearly who I was and what my blog was about. I’ve actually had several women through the years thank me for putting myself out there like that and making them feel more at ease doing the same.
I’ve written about Geek Girls and related subjects a few times for Newsarama but I felt the need to put most of my thoughts in one article because of a few personal experiences I’ve recently had. I’m not going to go into them (you can read Newsarama’s Alan Kistler’s take on one here.) but it really made me look at the issue of women in relation to geekdom and how something I view as so simple is really quite complicated.
Here’s the easy part: Women read comics, love science fiction and fantasy, play video games and all the rest of those things society at large has typically related to men only being able to enjoy. This is not new although it is news to some. As I alluded earlier, I think it’s safe to assume this isn’t news to anyone reading Newsarama. It’s sometimes hard to discuss this with people in the “geek community” because it’s obvious to them. They have friends, go out with or know women who are into this kind of stuff. But what I think a lot of us forget and take for granted is our community, however specific or general you wish to make it, is still a very small part of the world’s population and that population can barely comprehend ANYONE reading comics, let alone women.
Let me take this time to point out that not every women who likes comics, gaming, etc. likes to be called a Geek Girl. For some it’s a maturity thing. They see the word girl as “young child” and a segment of adults don’t appreciate being called a girl. I totally understand and respect that point and if someone didn’t want to be referred to as such, I wouldn’t. But to me, girl is just as general as saying guy for a man. And the term Geek Girl is, in my mind at least, an affectionate term that emerged to quickly encapsulate a group as well as something that sounds good and falls easily off the tongue. Other women don’t like it because they feel like geek is geek. Gender shouldn’t matter. Also another valid point. Should gender matter when it comes to geekdom? Of course not but female geeks are still vastly underrated and undercounted in society, especially by people marketing products to certain demographics.
There’s also the horrible and unfortunate fact that some women are faking it. And I don’t mean in bed. Somewhere along the way, being a geek became so cool that other people started pretending to be one. This boggles my mind. I’m not just talking about certain celebrities, who talk about geek things because they’re promoting a certain project and want to appeal to the core demographic. That’s certainly sad and wrong but to a certain extent, understandable. But no, there’s actually some women out there in every day life who feign interest in comics or sci-fi for a certain type of attention. I still don’t understand it, but it happens. Then you have the opposite side of the coin, where people don’t believe certain women are truly geeks and feel the need to test their “nerd cred.” And strangely enough, the excuse is usually, “you’re too pretty to like that stuff.” Yes, judging people on their looks, always a good way to live your life.
But the one thing that really irks me is when people get fuming mad over what I call “New Geeks.” New Geeks are women and men who have gone to see comic book films over the past ten years and realized how much fun they were and decide, “Hey, maybe I should try reading the source material.” Or discovered a comic book or television show thanks to a friend and got really caught up in it all. And people see this as a bad thing. I’m sorry, but it truly is not. There are so many geeks out there who hold this impossible elitist membership to geekdom, that it’s a club that no one new is allowed to join. I don’t agree with that sentiment at all. The more people who read comics, the better. The more people who watch genre movies and TV shows, the more will get made. There is nothing wrong with people liking what we’ve known was awesome our whole lives. Sure, go ahead and feel a little cocky inside that you were there first but don’t hate on someone because they’re late to the party.
The point is, people, female or male, should be free to identify themselves however they like without being persecuted or looked down upon. Someone being proud of who they are or what they enjoy should be applauded. But not everyone expresses themselves that way and I can totally understand that. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like shouting from the rooftops, that’s perfectly fine too but don’t complain about someone taking pleasure from the simple things in life and being happy about it or worse, insult them. As girls who read comics, should we be treated like we’re a rare, special flower? No, because we’re just like anyone else who reads comics but do some people treat us that way? Yes, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. The more people know about us, the more everyone will realize it’s ok to read comics, no matter who you are.
Tolerance is hard to teach no matter what the area of ignorance is, and there are certainly other issues of tolerance (racial, sexual, religious) I’d put higher on my list of priorities, but seeing as how all of us are geeks who have most likely been persecuted at least once in our lives for being who we are, I expect better. The in-fighting between Geek Girls needs to stop and the in-fighting between geeks in general needs to stop. Except when it comes to who’d win in a fight, Batman or Superman. We’ll always be known for that kind of fighting. (P.S. The answer is always Batman.)