Permission to Geek Out – Granted.

Published October 19, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

It’s no secret to anyone who follows my Tumblr that I am a massive fan of Tom Hiddleston.  It all started with his role as Loki in the Avengers films and grew from there.  This is because I’ve always been a complete geek, when I get into something, I get really into it.  I love to dissect every nuance and really get into the minutiae of a topic that I’m into.  So I’m one of those people who gets on Tumblr with a bunch of other geeks of the same flavour, and we talk about all the details of that thing we love.  Right now for me, that’s the world of Marvel’s Avengers with particular focus on Loki.

oh yes
It has always been like this for me.  I can remember being obsessed with everything Roald Dahl wrote when I was about 7 years old.  At 11 it was US Civil War history, after reading Janet Lunn’s “The Root Cellar”.  At 15, it was everything Titanic, after reading Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember” for a school assignment.  That particular obsession came back when James Cameron’s film came out in 1996.  At 16 it was the world of the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.  At 18 it was Dublin Soul music, thanks to The Commitments.  All through my life, I’ve been the kind of person who really likes to delve into stuff at a detailed level when the bug bites me.  When I discovered the internet in my early 20’s, I joined so many forums and chat groups (and remember IRC?) just so I could talk about stuff I love.  I still have friends now that I met online in Titanic, SeaChange, Mythbusters, and Tank Girl forums (among others) many, many years ago.

Science fiction, fantasy and superheroes are awesome.  I used to have an extensive collection of indie comics until my stepfather dumped them all (my favourite was one called Greener Pastures, followed closely by Tank Girl).  I have played some form of computer game almost every day of my life since I was 10 years old.   I work with technology for a living.  Every working day has me designing integrated AV systems and implementing IT solutions for everything from training customers in social media to 3D printing.  I squee over shiny new gadgets.   I’m a shameless Apple fan.  I’m a librarian for God’s sake.

Yet I’ve noticed something.  I don’t qualify as a “geek” in general geek culture.  People roll their eyes at my TARDIS lock-screen on my iPhone.  They scoff at the little Thor figurine that lives on my office desk.  People make snide little comments about “fangirls” in reference to our online discussions about Doctor Who and Marvel Avengers.  When I wear my PacMan earrings guys call me a “fake geek girl”.  Dudes often explain things to me at work (and outside of work) as if I’m stupid.  A particular bugbear is some guy who has never worked with AV in his life lecturing me about what kind of TV I should buy, five minutes after he’s watched me explain to my AV vendor what integration I want in a three room combinable meeting room system.  Or the friend who asked the teenage boy working in JB HiFi which DVD/Bluray to buy even though she had already asked me and I had given her some recommendations.  Because a bored looking teenage boy in retail clearly knows more than a 40 year old woman who works with AV integration for 35 large public sites.

In general, a woman’s interest in anything geeky is dismissed and patronised.  Women are treated like “silly fangirls” and “fake geek girls” while the dude sitting beside them is wearing a wookie hoodie or has only seen the JJ Abrahms Star Trek films.  Of course, there are always a million reasons given.  Let’s look at a few shall we?

You’re only wearing that because you like the look of it!
So no dude has ever worn some form of geek culture because he liked the look of it?  How many dudes have bought an Iron Man t-shirt because it looked cool?  So what if it looks cool and a woman wants to wear it.  How is that hurting anyone?

You’re only into [insert geek culture] because [insert attractive celebrity] is in it!
Oh and dudes don’t buy comic books because the female characters are drawn hot?  Like they don’t drool over Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia or a whole bunch of other actresses who have been in sci-fi/fantasy/super-hero roles.  It’s a good thing if a popular actor is a gateway drug into a fandom.  How different is it having Matt Smith or David Tennant draw a woman into Doctor Who than an actress in a skimpy costume do the same thing for another fandom?

You’re only getting into it because “geek culture” is trendy right now!
I’m sorry?  I played my first computer game when I was 10.  That was 31 years ago.  I read science fiction and fantasy, watched anime and bought comic books from the same age.  For chunks of my teens I was ridiculed for it, so I hid it away a lot, but I’ve been into geeky stuff longer than many of the loud anti-fangirl crew have been alive.

You only play girly games, not real ones!
Firstly, lots of women play games that are traditionally aimed at men.  I work with a 40 year old woman who has played WoW ever since I’ve known her and that’s over a decade.  A girlfriend of mine loves Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Mass Effect, Call of Duty and such.

Secondly, how welcoming are these traditionally male oriented games to women?  Are there any decent female characters for them to choose from, or are women just treated as tits and arse for the male players to ogle?  If they’re multi-player games, how are women treated when they join in to play?  One only has to follow Anita Sarkeesian’s work to see why many women shy away from these games and environments.

But finally, why are male oriented games considered more “real” or valid than other types of game?  Why is Grand Theft Auto  more “real” than The Sims, Tetris, Animal Crossing, The Simpsons Tapped Out or even Cookie Mama and Farmville?  Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds are as valid as games as any shooting or driving game marketed to the dudes.  Why is spending your time playing a game that shoots people more “valid” than spending your time playing a game that slices fruit?

You don’t know anything about the history of [insert geek culture]!
How many male Lord of the Rings fans don’t know diddly squat about Tolkien?  Or male Star Trek fans know nothing about Roddenberry?  Or male Doctor Who fans who have never watched an episode prior to the Eccleston reboot?  How many male gamers out there never played PacMan, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong or have even heard of Pong?  How many male science fiction readers have never read Orwell, Wyndham or Wells?  How many comic book readers have never seen a vintage copy of The Phantom (or never even heard of The Phantom!) or collected indie comic books?  I could go on.  Why is it perfectly acceptable for men to pick and choose what geek culture they engage in, but women are quizzed and tested to prove their worth?  Besides, how often does something that is new and popular draw people into the history?  So, maybe they are only getting into Avengers because of Joss Whedon’s film, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to get totally into the whole Marvel universe and start collecting comic books.

Silly fangirls are ruining everything!
Ruining everything for who?  For men who like the status quo of no female characters of substance, of never having to feel inadequate next to a handsome male character, of not having their fragile masculinity threatened by a dude shown in a sexually attractive light.  They’re not the only people on the planet, and they’re not the only ones who are willing to fork out their hard earned cash on fandom.  So something needs to appeal to women as well as men now to make money and stick around.  Good!  Not only is there more money to be devoted to keeping something alive if both men and women can dig it, but women have as much right to stuff they can dig as men do.  We have as much right to be treated with respect, given diverse and detailed characters and to be considered when developing, writing, casting and marketing content.  Besides, if we have to sit through a movie with some woman in a gold bikini, the fellas can sit through one with a dude with his shirt off and tight pants.


The reality is, women are not considered valid human beings, so our interests, knowledge and skills are not considered valid either.  Our wants and needs are considered “add ons”, not the default.  Our fandom is considered an irritant rather than the integral part of the machine of geek culture that it is.  Don’t let people treat your interests and hobbies as silly or unworthy.  You have every right to the geeky that any man does.  Embrace your fangirl nature if you have one.  Squee over the things you love.  Learn about technology and gadgets if you are interested in them.  Wear, create, use whatever geek culture you want, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not worthy, or you’re silly for filling your life with geekdom.  You keep these geek culture items alive as much, if not more, than any snarky dude in a Yoda t-shirt!

And don’t get me started on other systems of privilege in geek culture either!


22 comments on “Permission to Geek Out – Granted.

  • Titanic actually came out in 1997 (sorry to be “that person” but I’m such an insane fan of all things Titanic).

  • This is a classic experience. I remember sitting at a dinner party where they were discussing property. The males kept offering their opinions and being taken seriously. The woman who disagreed with them was ignored. She’s a property developer.

    • Ugh, don’t you hate when dudes get all mansplainy like that? I know dudes who “bought a telly once” who think it’s perfectly acceptable to mansplain AV to me. VOM!

  • Love this post! Fellow geek girl here, as you know. I had to hide it at high school too. I was the weirdo outcast at the small country high school where everyone seemed to have the same interests. I’m so thankful for the internet providing me with my fandom communities. Also, perfect gifs are perfect. 🙂

  • A-Fucking-Men, Kath!

    I was watching Star Trek in first run – that’s the original series, BTW – before I was in kindergarten. I played D&D when the rules were in three staple-bound pamphlets. The instant Monty Python hit the shores of the USA, I started memorizing sketches. I spent a year making my wedding lace while watching Star Trek:TNG, Star Trek:DS9, and Babylon 5. I can discuss nuances to Buffy the Vampire Slayer you have probably never thought of. Every week I wander from fan site to fan site to download perverse or bizarre new things to add to my Sims game. I can quote chapter and verse of Stargate:SG-1, and know who in the cast has strong ties to McGyver. One of the things that drew me to Mr. Twistie in the beginning was his deep and abiding love of Emma Peel… because she kicked ass. Oh, he certainly loves that she’s attractive, but he’s more drawn to her mind and her ability to be her own knight in shining armor. My comics of choice? Cerberus and The Oz Squad. Later, Mr. Twistie introduced me to Herbie, which is deeply cool.

    If anyone out there has a problem with my geek cred, I cordially invite that person to take a good twirl on the middle fingers I have raised for their convenience.

  • Fangirls of the world UNITE!!! I’m proud to be a fangirl of the things I like. I’m proud to be surrounded by friends who are fangirls of things they like. I want the world to be filled with fangirls of things they like, because we are a force to be reckoned with. 😀

  • I happen to like some of those science-y, geeky things myself. I love Star Trek (esp. Next Generation – which is on every weekday 10-12am Pacific US time), and I got more into comics through my husband who is a big, big, BIG Green Lantern fan. I actually like X-men – started liking it through the cartoon series “X-Men: Evolution” (Nightcrawler was soooo cute in that series!) And I just am WILD about Mythbusters!!! Best science show ever!!!! So if these rejects from the geeky “He-men Woman Hater’s Club” (Our Gang/Little Rascals reference) want to throw a hissy fit, too bad! Ha ha ha

  • I am an Apple devotee as well. My first was a used Apple IIE, then Performa then a fish-bowl iMac off the first pallet at our local Costco. My oldest daughter got a refurbished clam-shell iBook when she went off to college. Then, my youngest got the same. My oldest got a lampshade iMac and passed it to me as she bought the newer iMac when moving to Australia for grad school. My youngest got an iBook while attending NYU.

    I got their hand-me-downs at various times. First generation iPods followed the girls for Christmas. Then iPhone and MacBook Pro for youngest. My oldest daughter worked for an Computer place with Apple in Brisbane for a couple years and after a mini-Mac and an iPhone that drove her crazy, she has abandoned Apple products. Me, I finally bought my own new MacBook Pro and have happily used it for over 3 years. Recent system re-install at distant Genius Bar I visited has be happy as a clam.

    One time at my school (which chose Dell products– ugh!), I had the District IT manager joke to me about my iMac (fishbowl). I asked him how many PCs his dept. had had to fix last month and he didn’t know the number because it was so large. I told him my iMac was three years old and had never lost a single thing and only needed minor tweeking and updating twice. He never made fun of my iMac again.

  • 50 thumbs up for this post!!! So true but so wrong for men to think like this. Another well written post – thank you.

  • I am a fellow geek girl and love this post! One thing that has struck me about this is the conflicting excuses men give. They say “well we had to hide it and be embarrassed about it”, which makes me say that they should be happy to have more people who understand. Then they turn around and say something about how now “it’s mainstream/ruined”. I always wonder then what the heck they want. You hated having to hide that (which I completely understand), but now that that more people (especially women) are vocal about liking this stuff, it’s suddenly ruined. How much sense does that make? If a person feels the geek world is too crowded with us in it, then it’s because their ego is too big, not because we shouldn’t be there.

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