Growing Up Geek

Geek is chic right now. So chic that people are apparently pandering to us. By the way this pandering is coming from really beautiful women who are “supposedly” not really geeks (I find it a little interesting that I never hear the word pandering when it comes to beautiful men who are faking being a geek). The idea of being pandered to is humorous. Considering that in sixth grade when I knew that my life had become completely enveloped by the notion I was a geek I couldn’t get any girls in my class to talk with me. I am sure it had something to do with my geek-sports-loner hybrid which completely confused them. Being a geek when I was a kid was a ticket straight out of the “in” group.

At some point I no longer cared about the ‘in” group and I went on my merry way being a geek. Well, not really a geek more of a geek missionary trying to spread the good word of all things geek. I can remember more than a few eyeballs rolling back into people’s heads when they asked exactly the wrong question. The one that usually got me going was, “what are you reading?” I think I might have put the girl sitting next to me in my high school creative writing class into a coma when she asked me about the book Dune.

This whole “are they really a geek” argument is non-sense. Who cares really? (Not my friends thankfully but clearly someone does or this whole thing would be a dead issue). Did all those years of being told you were weird permanently damage your ability to form rational thoughts. Now, suddenly, there is some geek test that must be passed or you can’t be in our group. Which by the way is the same thing that happened to many of us as children, we were excluded.

I find all this silly bickering particularly alarming in that some of it is coming from women and is directed at other women. She’s too pretty. She’s dressed like slave Leia. She is selling her movie. I feel like I am in a soup line and someone is screaming, “no geek for you!” I really believe with all of my heart the best thing about being a geek is sharing what I love. My wife would never have considered herself a geek when she met me. Living with me for nineteen years has convinced her otherwise. She is every bit as geeky as me.

If you don’t think all this fighting amongst ourselves is doing any harm (especially women on women hate) you are wrong. I know there are going to be some women out there who think I should shut the hell up, being a man and all. The thing is I have a particularly interesting perspective to share. I am a teacher.

I recently asked my class of 6th graders how many of them identified themselves as geeks. About 1/3 of my class proudly raised their hand (not as many as I thought would but way more than would have when I was a kid). Where it got interesting for me is only two girls raised their hands. I talked about it with the young ladies of my class and they were pretty brilliant with their answers.

Many of them read or watched geeky things. They just didn’t feel comfortable thinking of themselves as geeks. It wasn’t as socially acceptable for them. They also looked at many of the things they liked as exceptions. This was really evident with comic books where only one girl read superhero comics but most of my class read my set of Bone I had brought in.

Young girls are still being fed a heaping handful of “look this way, act this way, think this way”. One girl’s mom actively discouraged her from reading comics “because they were for boys.” It is really easy for a young boy to identify himself in the nation of geek. Not so much for young girls. They are still fighting for their share of the pie. This is where the women geek on women geek hate has to end. And it is hatred (when you start talking about punching someone in the boobs you have crossed over to the dark side).

You have to think about who is out there watching. That young girl who got teased about her Star Wars lunchbox isn’t the only one out there. Some boys in my class actually laughed when I started talking about comics with my one superhero loving lady. All this putting up walls and creating division so we can be some sort of exclusive club is only making it harder for young people (particularly girls) to proclaim their geek love.

I spent a lot of years getting teased. I feel no bitterness. It is what it is. I am completely stoked that we seem to be at a place where having a deep and meaningful discussion about why I think the Green Lantern movie is going to be a flaming pile of doggie doo in public won’t get me weird looks (okay, it will but not because of Green Lantern but because I might be slightly weird). There really is no place for elitism in the geek nation. No room for exclusion. There is no geek standard or entry test. You want to call yourself a geek be my guest. And remember the next time you say you want to punch someone in the boobs, some young girl just might think you are serious and decide to never shout to the heart of the world, “I am a geek goddess!” How tragic that loss would be.

About csdaley

C.S. Daley was born in California but has spent most of his life in his imagination. His first short story written in third grade, the now classic "Close Encounters of the Turd Kind," was sold to his next door neighbor for a quarter. The neighbor promptly demanded a refund. An unhealthy obsession with the writings of Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, and Terry Pratchett have left his mind warped and broken. He spends most of his evening swilling down coffee while tapping at a keyboard under the watchful eyes of his kittens. They are there to make sure he doesn't snap. He likes to write fantasy for adults and teens.

7 Responses to “Growing Up Geek”

  1. Awesome post. I’ve got to admit it’s both wonderful and very weird being able to talk about geekdom openly these days. I think there may be this irrational, left-over angst that a lot of us have that tells us the whole thing could collapse at any moment and we’ll all be shipped back to the Geek Gulag. It may be why some geeks lash out at each other – they’ve grown accustomed to being defensive. We really need to learn to chill out and enjoy our new Geektopia. 🙂

  2. One thing that may be making it hard, and a way that it’s different from when I was that age, is the social hierarchy within the geek crowd. It used to be, we banded together for strength in numbers against the bullies and snobby pretty people. Well, now there are bullies and snobby pretty people who are also geeks. There are queen bees who dictate which geeky things it’s currently trendy to like. Right now, if you get up and say you hate Doctor Who, you’re likely to be snubbed and not invited to sit at the cool kids table because you’re obviously not a “real” geek. If even among the self-proclaimed misfits, you’re a misfit, you’re just as alone as if you were the only kid who read Anne McCaffrey when I was in 5th grade.

    • It isn’t that way with everyone and that is the part I find hard to swallow. I don’t think there is such a thing as a real geek. For instance (and this will probably get me some hate mail) I have never liked Star Trek. There has been a movie here and there. A bunch of episodes but on the whole it has never floated my boat. Doesn’t change the fact that I am a geek. A good friend of mine doesn’t get the whole Dr. Who thing. Doesn’t make her any less of a geek. I think it is just time for us to stop allowing people who exclude control the conversation.

  3. Yay you. I have a sixth-grade daughter who is proudly growing up to be a geek, but she has an uncommon advantage: She has a mom who flies the geek flag at every possible opportunity. We introduce her friends to geeky things, and some of them have really taken to it. In any case, they all know that they can like whatever they want in our house, and not be criticized for it. You’d be surprised how many of them don’t get that at home.

  4. I’m reading through your archives, which is why you’re getting a comment a month after writing. Whoops!

    So much truth! I’d like to add that the “pretty people” exclusion is even worse when you consider the fact that so many characters in our geek culture are designed to be attractive and cool (even when they’re meant to be nerdy, unconventional underdogs). So we end up telling “hot” ladies (and sometimes ladies in general!) that they’re not real geeks and never will be, but then we turn around and idolize characters with the same traits of the people we exclude from our group. In this situation, the only space allowed for pretty people in geekdom is in our fantasies. It’s okay for geek girls to like Emma Frost and Wonder Woman, but it’s not okay for geek girls to LOOK like Emma Frost or Wonder Woman. As much as is humanly possible when you’re not being drawn by Rob Liefeld. (It also sets up the disturbing corollary that if hot/pretty girls can’t be geeks, then the girls who ARE geeks must all be plain or unattractive, which is NOT the message we should be sending to intelligent, lovely girls with geeky interests.)

    I myself am not a hottie or even conventionally attractive, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna hate on Team Unicorn for being all that AND card-carrying geeks. Having more people to talk about Game of Thrones and Doctor Who and the DC reboot? What’s not to like! And absolutely, the idea that there’s One True Way to be a geek is ludicrous, and it does so much injustice to the diversity of interests held by geeks all over the world. Some people like comics, some people like steampunk, some are gamers, some cosplay, some are horror aficionados, others are oddly in thrall of My Little Ponies. And some are a little bit of each! When we shut people out who actually WANT to be in with our in-crowd, all we do is reinforce the tired stereotypes people have of geeks as unsociable and unlikeable, and as you’ve noted, we become the bullies we once reviled. Blah blah blah blah blah. Keep up the writing, I’m loving it!

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