Because who doesn't like staring at the ceiling fan?

To Geek Or Not To Geek

Geek Girl hate has been floating around the internet for a few months. It’s honestly confused me, because before all this high profile outrage, I hadn’t ever encountered derision for being a girl who also happens to like geeky things. Then again, I don’t do things like attend Cons, or dress up in cosplay, or even pretend to be an expert in all things geeky. I simply enjoy my geeky interests to a seriously high degree.

Which makes me ask the question: What does it take to be considered a true geek? Gender issues aside (and that’s a huge issue to put aside), what qualifies someone as a geek? What would make them not fake?

Does the person need to be an expert on every aspect of a certain interest, for instance, knowing Batman comics right down to specific details about every comic issue ever released?

Or is it simply enough to have an interest in the first place? Is it enough to get excited whenever one hears about a movie in production, or see an episode of one’s favorite show on TV? Is it enough to play online, console, or PC games casually, or must one be a “hardcore” gamer in order to hit that magical geek status?

Is there an invisible line between being a fan and being a geek? Are fans and geeks two separate entities, and if so, where does one draw the line?

I played a lot of PC and console games growing up, but never enough to be considered hardcore. I don’t often play console games because they are too expensive to buy. I used to devote a ridiculous number of hours to playing EverQuest, but was not in a serious raiding guild. I played World of Warcraft casually for many years and have a gajillion alts. I’ve loved the Aliens and Predator movie franchises since I first discovered them in middle school (hush you), and I can talk to you for thirty minutes about how I was disappointed in the first AVP movie. When Watchmen was being made into a movie I went out and bought the comic so I could read it before the movie came out. I enjoyed the hell out of the comic, but I don’t actively seek out other comics to read. I’m fully addicted to the new Doctor Who, but have never seen any of the original episodes from decades past. I’ve also never played Magic the Gathering or Dungeons and Dragons.

All my interests are part time interests. I do not have the money or the time to devote to becoming “hardcore” in any of these. Does that mean I’m excluded from earning my geek cred? Bringing gender back into it, if I showed up at a Con in a tight Browncoats tshirt that showed off my eye-popping bust, would I be labelled a fake because of the outfit, or because I watched and enjoyed Serenity before seeing (and not being as impressed with) Firefly? Would I be labelled fake because I can’t participate in discussions about Assassin’s Creed, Bioshock, or Mass Effect, due to the fact that I’ve never played any of those games? Would I be labelled a fake because I adore Loki but have never read any of the Thor or Avengers comics?

Would I then become merely a fan (or possibly worse, a simple fan girl)? Or would I be a fake, attention-seeking wannabe because I dared show my casual interest face in the midst of rabid experts?

What does it take for us to be legit?

Or, perhaps a more appropriate question: What would it take for some of the haters to pull those sticks out of their asses? Should we treat them like trolls and ignore what they say, or should we smile and invade their space anyway in all our pink-clothed, casual-minded glory?

Either way, I can’t even believe this is a serious thing. I thought we moved past this in the 90s. I feel like I need to tell someone’s mom about how little Timmy isn’t sharing his toys and won’t play nice with the girls on the playground. Shame on you, Timmy. You’re old enough to know better.

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7 responses

  1. Ignore the trolls, geek. πŸ™‚

    A fan is one thing. Going a bit further is a geek. Go a bit further and you’re a nerd.

    Hard line to find, though, because most nerds claim to be geeks… I’m a Star Wars geek. I know the movies. I’m not a Star Wars nerd because I’ve never read the expanded universe stuff (though, I know they exist). I’m more than a fan because I’ve watched the original trilogy 850 times – and have seen every one in theater.

    You’re a geek girl. πŸ™‚ Ignore the haters, they are just like Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. Maybe they are jealous and don’t want girls in their boys only club…

    July 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm

  2. Here’s the deal: nerds/geeks originally were the social outcasts, the uncool kids, who were on the outside. When I was in high school in the early ’80s, I played D&D and wrote little game programs on my TRS-80, and was not one of the popular kids.

    Back then, among nerds (as we were then known) it was practically a point of pride to have no real social status. It is my feeling that there was something in our little subculture that was specifically about *not* playing into the social status game that was part of what made our little scene special. None of us were socially “legit” and we were proud of that. πŸ™‚ As a group, it seemed to me that we were more accepting of others than the more normative social groups of our peers.

    Which is not to say that nerds are all polite, patient, tolerant, courteous people. In my experience, nerds could frequently be pretty abrasive, socially. But it is my perception that there was an explicit, conscious ethic to not buy into the notion that one rejects someone else because of some sort of social status.

    On the other hand, there has always been a strong ethic in nerd culture to recognize and evaluate competence. People who were good programmers, or who were competent in their field of interest, or knowledgeable about something, or very creative and intelligent were always seen to have merit in nerd culture. I think part of what happens is that nerds, who can become very obsessive about their interests, can also become obsessive about rating the competence and knowledge of their peers, and combined with the sometimes abrasive social skills, this can lead to some unkind remarks. So I think that’s part of what goes on among nerds and geeks.

    But to me the real change happened in the late ’80s and early ’90s when suddenly some of these nerds started to become billionaires and began to attract the attention of the general public. In my lifetime, I have seen nerd culture deluged with a lot of people who I am not sure carry the integral nerd ethics. I don’t know that this is necessarily bad, but it has certainly changed nerd culture, in my opinion. I think there are a lot of people today who self-identify as nerds and geeks who I might not have recognized as such when I was younger. I’m not really sure what has changed, but it does seem to me the culture *has* changed.

    In the end though, this isn’t really about authenticity to me. Among nerds, as well as among the popular kids, I always found people who were worth knowing and being around. And in every group, from high school to college to coworkers to neighbors and so on, I have always found good people, and then also people who, shall we say, have issues. And I have issues too. Everybody does. πŸ™‚

    What I’ve come to see is that when someone is usually attentive, patient, kind, friendly and considerate, I try to hang on to that person in my life. And when someone lacks those qualities, generally, I have found it better to try to avoid that person. And that’s what it comes down to: deal with each person on their own merit.

    If you have people around you who are giving you flak, you can either accept them for what they are, and try to set an example of patience, kindness and consideration which over time they may recognize, appreciate and respond to, or you can find others to hang out with who are not so judgmental. That choice is up to you, and you are perfectly within your rights to make it. Generally, I just avoid the dickheads and get them out of my life, but I’ll tell you a secret: sometimes, the dickhead, who you have tremendous friction with, but in return you show compassion, patience, kindness and understanding, will eventually open their eyes one day, and see your value, and become one of your staunchest, most loyal friends. In a few special cases in my life, I have known people where there was a strong mutual dislike, but when I tried to practice kindness, compassion, patience and understanding towards them, the relationship suddenly, in a moment, turned from antagonistic, towards a very strong friendship. πŸ™‚ This does not usually happen in my experience, but when it does, it is so rewarding and powerful that it is worth trying sometimes, and risking getting hurt. πŸ™‚

    But the biggest mistake is to allow the insecurity and negativity of others infect your own head. Don’t let the cheap, snide remarks of somebody who feels they have to make another feel small in order for them to feel big to cause you to question your own merits, your own legitimacy. Don’t let that make you bitter, or ungenerous of spirit.

    Believe me, after over 40 years, I can tell you that the law of cause and effect will catch up to those people, usually sooner rather than later. It caught up with me, from my own moments of intolerance, judgmental attitude, insensitivity and so on in some pretty big ways over the years, and I try to learn from that, every day, and never, ever forget the things I did wrong and the people I hurt. The world is full of bitter, lonely people who cannot see, even after years, that their own behavior and attitudes paved the road they walked on and landed them in that fate. But deep down, I think everybody knows when they have shit on someone and hurt them, and I think everybody carries that weight inside themselves forever. After everything I’ve seen, probably the one thing I want to do more in my life is try to do what I can to remove as much of that weight as I can, off myself, and others. It is not easy to do, once the hurt has been made. I am still only learning how to do it. Better to not make the hurt in the first place. πŸ™‚

    Don’t fall into that trap. πŸ™‚ Just stay true to yourself, stay honest with yourself, listen to your conscience, and maintain your faith in the good things you know to exist inside yourself, and also exist out in the world. I think it’s very much like having a garden: nurture the things you know to be good, and harrow out the weeds, and by and by it will tend to turn vibrant and healthy, fulfilling and productive. πŸ™‚

    All anger comes from fear.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:39 am

    • Not a lot I can add to that, just a thank you and several floaty hearts! ❀ ❀ ❀

      July 30, 2012 at 10:21 am

  3. “should we smile and invade their space anyway in all our pink-clothed, casual-minded glory?”

    Yes! For me this has always worked surprisingly well (except in Brony circles, in which I’ve been obsessed much longer and know more about it then they do, and that pisses them off sometimes). For the fandoms I’ve been a part of everyone has always been welcoming, even if I’m the pink-clothed, casual-minded, big-chested woman in the room πŸ™‚

    July 27, 2012 at 10:40 am

  4. John Scalzi nailed it on the head for me with this explanation:
    “Many people believe geekdom is defined by a love of a thing, but I think β€” and my experience of geekdom bears on this thinking β€” that the true sign of a geek is a delight in sharing a thing. It’s the major difference between a geek and a hipster, you know: When a hipster sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say β€œOh, crap, now the wrong people like the thing I love.” When a geek sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say β€œZOMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE COME WITH ME AND LET US LOVE IT TOGETHER.”

    Any jerk can love a thing. It’s the sharing that makes geekdom awesome.”

    July 30, 2012 at 10:16 am

    • I loved that post from him! Brilliant stuff πŸ™‚

      July 30, 2012 at 10:18 am

  5. Rebecca Enzor and MutantSupermodel, those are great attitudes! good posts.

    July 31, 2012 at 9:37 am

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