I’ve been really lucky. No one has ever told me – or I’ve never heard the implication in their voice – that I couldn’t do something because of my gender. I grew up reading books with starships and swords in them, riding horses, and playing with my friends.
With my love of books and encyclopedic memory for random trivia, my geeky “’cred” has never really been called into question. It’s made the debates over “real” geek girls and the sexism I’ve witnessed in the geek community this summer hard to swallow, and I’m tired of all the negativity.
Despite all the vitriol flying – and very little of it is coming from the group of people being critiqued if you take the time to read the articles – I was reminded again and again this summer how great it is to be a geeky girl. And the reason it’s so great? All the other geeky girls you get to meet. And the geeky boys too. They’re pretty fantastic.
In July, I got to go to San Diego Comic Con, a major destination for geeks around the world. In addition to the sheer thrill of getting to walk the con floor and see the elaborate cosplays, talented artists and thrilled fans of entertainment culture from movies to comics to crafts, I got to fangirl over a few of my own geeky role models.
I saw people like Felicia Day and Chris Hardwick, who are helping change the face of entertainment with YouTube channels filled with original content. They saw a gap in what was available on TV, and they’re filling it with web shows and shorts, and entertaining websites that are already clocking hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
Geek girls were at Comic Con in full force, and I got to talk to Bonnie Burton, one of my favorite geeky girls, about the community and what drove her to be such a positive influence.
“I think with this kind of community, you have to be really, really supportive and optimistic and positive and helpful. And it’s always frustrated me that some geeks feel there has to be some sort of hazing involved or you have to earn your status as a geek. You had to be tortured as a child by other non-geeks, you know? I just don’t believe in that anymore. I’m one of those people that wants the community to grow and be bigger and to just take over.”
Talking about the community itself led to more focused discussion of the treatment geeky women receive from the media. Cosplay, despite what you may think, is not just an opportunity for men and women with perfectly fit bodies to wear lycra in public and flaunt their sexiness. It’s an expression of love for a character, game, universe or story. As Bonnie pointed out, characters we love can’t always be covered neck to toe:
“But honestly, I think if you dress as Slave Leia, and you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan? Awesome. If you dress as Leeloo, and you love the Fifth Element? Great. If you want to dress that way because you love that character, that’s what you should do. That’s just how the character is drawn, you know? Not everyone can be fully clothed.”
I couldn’t agree with her more. Show your love for a story or character in whatever way you see fit. And frankly, if you are comfortable walking around a con floor in nothing but a gold bikini or straps of fabric, I will high-five you and ask to take a picture. Because that takes guts and confidence even if you have a body worthy of a Sports Illustrated cover.
In recent years, the geek community has come under fire from mainstream media for lifestyle and fitness practices repeatedly. The thing I’ve noticed, after expressing my own shock over a story’s cruelty, is that we tend to come together and defend the people being mocked. Every time I see geeks backing up other geeks, it makes me proud to be part of this community. Though we talked mostly about the girl-on-girl bullying that happens all over the place, what Bonnie told me about her own feelings on defending other geeks really hit home:
“I don’t like it when girls put other girls down in the geek community so I speak up when I see it. And I don’t stand for it because I don’t want to see that ever happening. We want to be as accepting as possible so that people get excited about the geeky stuff we like, and we can get more of it. And also I want to be a positive role model for young girls who are just realizing they’re geek girls. I don’t want them to ever feel ashamed or worried that other people are judging them. I just want us to be as positive of role models as we can in the geek community for little girls who like Star Wars or Star Trek or fantasy stuff or dragons or whatever.”
This is what it comes down to for me. We have to be aware that we’re constantly setting examples for other people – in the geek community, the internet community and elsewhere. It’s one thing to argue good-naturedly about specific story or a character. It’s another thing to call people names, make them feel bad about themselves and generally putting others down just to be mean.
That’s one of the reasons I love writing for HelloGiggles. I feel like I always have a supportive audience. There aren’t trolls in the comments, making writers and other community members feel bad for expressing their opinion.
Logically, I know that the rest of the internet is not going to fall in line with the positive community examples being set by people like Bonnie, Felicia, Chris and the ladies at HelloGiggles, but a girl can dream, right?