For years now there have been an injustice committed upon a portion of the populace that is very near and dear to our hearts, women… nerd women more specifically. There is a meme circling around the Internet called “Nerd Girl.” The basic joke of the meme is that there is this young teenage girl wearing big glasses with the word “nerd” written on her hand, and it is quite obvious she is not really a nerd. The general idea of the meme is that the pictured girl a is a “poser” who is trying to fit in with geek culture, but doesn’t quite understand it.
The meme itself is harmless, but there is an underpinning to it that is not so harmless. The Gamer Gate controversy was only the tip of a much larger and sinister iceberg. It may not surprise people to find out that there is a large amount of nerd-rage directed at women. There is a growing sentiment that most geeky girls are really nothing more than “posers,” much like the girl represented in the meme. This rage has been directed at women of all corners of geekdom, gamers, internet posters, and especially female cosplayers. Many self-proclaimed, “true” nerds seem to think that these women are merely exploiting the geek culture to get attention and maybe even a little camera time.
Is it possible that there are people who are willing to fake an interest to get a little fame, of course. That is not the issue of the argument. After all, there are more than a few men who are guilty of committing such sins both in and outside of nerd culture. This argument is not so much about anything the female in question did, but is driven by the simple fact of how our society tends to treat members of the fairer gender. For a very succinct and offensive example, check out comic artist, Tony Harris’ Facebook rant on the subject.
This type of behavior and the attitude is the lowest denominator of prejudice. Nerd culture should never be about discriminating anyone for their race, religion, creed, species, sexuality, or sci-fi preferences, and especially never for their gender. Geeks began as the ultimate outcast group, and now that the culture has arisen to a higher level of visibility and prominence among mainstream culture, it would seem disingenuous to start being picky and discriminatory about who gets to call themselves a nerd, or a geek, or whatever.
A Nerd by Any Other Name
There is no requirement to claim those labels. All it ever takes is a willingness to have fun and appreciate the things that so many other geeks share, and maybe a willingness to admit that George Lucas isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. Women geeks have just as much enthusiasm and a love for the culture as their male counterparts. The very thing Mr. Harris and others berate cosplaying women for, is actually an act that takes a lot of commitment. How many of you men are willing to dress up in skimpy and uncomfortable outfits to be half-naked in possibly winter time conditions? As for everything else, why should anyone care if not everyone gets all the in-jokes, or reads the right comics, or even does or does not care for anime. Geekdom is not some kind of secret society, even if at times it can sometimes appear as one to the uninitiated.
Geek culture was founded on the principals of equality. Granted, our heroines are often a bit exaggerated in the T&A sections, but it is still a culture that has come a long way to acknowledge the strength of women as a whole. Compare Princess Leia Organa with Bella Swan from Twilight. Ultimately, both can represent the woman who needs saving, the damsel in distress, and both fall for men that are probably more rough and tumble than one might expect. Yet, that is where the comparison ends. Bella basically proves an inability to do anything that shows any sort of strength, self-confidence, or initiative throughout the entire book series. Even when she gains sparkly vampire powers, she is still nothing more than a weak woman caught up in the events and in the shadow of Edward Cullen’s life. Princess Leia on the other hand starts her series as an important leader of the Rebel Alliance, a Rebel spy, a marksman, and by the time of Return of the Jedi it’s she who must rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt. In the now defunct Expanded Universe she becomes a Jedi Knight, a Chief of State of the New Republic, and a mother. Even her relationship with Han always seems to be on her terms. Leia is still a woman, and a nerd-sex icon in a metal bikini, but she as strong or stronger than any other character out there, man or woman. This comparison is even more striking when you think that Leia was conceived in 1977, and Bella was created in 2005. How can you blame women for converting to geekiness? Who would want to play with a Barbie when they can have a lightsaber?
That is the point of nerd culture. We see the value in everyone and everything. We accept you regardless of who or what you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re a female like Lara Croft, disabled like Professor X, gay/bisexual like Captain Jack Harkniss, or even British. We are a culture founded on the principal that we are all created with an equal right to be geeky. We are not saying we still don’t have a long way to go in emphasizing brains over breasts, but our culture has made great strides in honoring women characters. Now its time to honor women geeks. Ultimately, if one were to put themselves in the shoes/boots/high heels/pumps/sandals/etc of women, would you rather dress in a revealing cheerleader outfit and be nothing more than an accessory to a sports game where you’re not really contributing anything or would you rather dress in a revealing costume that transforms you into a woman of power and prestige, who commands the room when you walk in.
High School Tendencies
Unfortunately, sports culture, in many ways, is more inclusive of women than nerds. Jocks have never accused a women dressed in a Giants jersey of being a “poser.” Nor has a professional baseball player go on a rant about all the fake women coming to games just so they can pretend to be something they are not. Perhaps, this controversy and the man like it has more to do with how jocks and nerds approach women.
First off, assuming all nerds/geeks are virgins is an offensive cliche, but we do share a common ancestry to a time when that was true. Maybe, it is undeniable to think that such a mindset has not pervaded the culture. Thus, it is entirely possible that nerds may be a bit more stand-offish with members of the opposite sex, and a lot of the knee-jerk nerd-rage going on may just be more defensive than anything else. We can all remember a time in my life where people, men and women, only pretended to like same things as us so they could use it with the intention ridicule. Everyone attended high school, but a new dawn has arrived. As a people geeks have to let go of that kind of rejection instinct. A lot of what we are seeing may just be the growing pains of geek culture as it becomes more mainstream, and hopefully we’ll be able to move past it as we progress into the future.
After all, most geeks are caring, trusting, fun-loving individuals. That goes for both men and women. Nerdiness was founded on acceptance and understanding. If we lose that part of the culture than who knows what we will become. So, to all those people out there with their finger pointing at women who may or may not be nerds, maybe they should start questioning what kind of a world they would rather live in? One with awesome ladies that share even a mild interest in comics/sci-gi/fantasy/etc? Or one of close-minded jerks who are prepared to berate anyone or anything that doesn’t meet their standards, because if the women bashing keeps up, that is what we will be left with.