There’s been an explosion of debate on the internet recently about “geek girls”, especially with convention season being in full swing. Before we start, I’d like to offer a few definitions, courtesy of Merriam-Webster:
Geek – noun
1: a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake
2: a person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked
3: an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity <computer geek>
Nerd – noun: an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person; especially : one slavishly devoted to intellectual or academic pursuits
Enthusiast – noun: a person filled with enthusiasm: as
a : one who is ardently attached to a cause, object, or
pursuit <a sports car enthusiast>
b : one who tends to become ardently absorbed in an
For the purposes of this post, let’s use the 3rd definition of geek – an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity. The enthusiasm attributed to being a geek can apply to any field – comic books, Star Wars, math, football, baseball, art, cars…the list can go on forever. So a geek is someone who is ardently attached to a cause, object or pursuit, and who is an expert in that cause, object or pursuit.
When I was about five years old, my dad introduced me to Star Wars. After watching A New Hope, I was hooked. I wanted to be an X-Wing pilot (and didn’t even notice there weren’t any female pilots in that movie), I wanted to live on the Moon, and I wanted more science fiction. I devoured all of my dad’s Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein books. I wore out the VHS copies of Star Wars my dad had and bought my own. I learned everything I could about the universe George Lucas had made – I knew the schematics to pretend starships, how to spell Chewbacca’s homeworld, and could almost understand R2. I knew where the Outer Rim was, how Ewoks were originally supposed to be Wookies, had a monthly subscription to Star Wars Insider, read the books and had my own website devoted to Star Wars when I was thirteen.
As a kid, my family moved a lot – I went to ten schools in twelve years. Everywhere new we went, I felt like I had this terrible secret – my love of science fiction and Star Wars. It made me feel like an outsider and it ruined my self-esteem. That is, until I got to high school. I was lucky enough to find a small group of people who were interested in some of the same things I was. Instead of passing around a slam book, we passed around a Star Wars trivia notebook. We had murder mystery parties where we all came as different characters, and bonded over our general marginalization from our peers. Those people have gone on to become writers, artists and proud members of the military. In college, through the fencing team, I was introduced to anime, fantasy and roleplaying. Studying theatre opened the door for me to learn about costume construction and makeup application. I didn’t know I was supposed to be a geek, I was just doing what interested me. I have LARPed, competed in fencing tournaments, played tabletop games, played regular board games, played video games on the computer and the Wii, been active in theatre and choirs, written musicals, made and worn costumes for conventions, and recently, have started reading comics.
Am I an enthusiast? You bet. I’m passionate about many things – Star Wars, art, music and theatre all hold the top slot. So I watch my favorite movies, go to art museums and paint, go to see concerts and musicals, and make costumes to wear at conventions of characters I like and find interesting. And the best part about wearing a costume of a recognizable character at a convention? Making someone’s day. Kids want their pictures with you, adults want their pictures with you or of you, people in the street smile and shake your hand, or want to know how you made your costume. It’s really fun. Does it get me attention? Sure. But that’s sort of the point. I’m so passionate about costumes, makeup and these characters that I spent over forty hours on something I want to share with others. Am I looking to tug at the heartstrings of some poor, unsuspecting nerd-men? Not really my style. There are girls out there that do this on a daily basis – they don’t need a costume to help with that. Besides, it’s a lot of work to make your own costume just to tease the boys.
When you see me in my Huntress costume at DragonCon, remember that I’m not just an attractive woman in a costume. I, like Helena Bertinelli, have a great backstory. The girls who buy their costumes at Party City and the “booth babes” at the product tables have backstories. Just because they’re not as into Batman as you are doesn’t de-value them in any way. And if you do get into a discussion about your flavor of fandom, why not use it as a teaching opportunity? Maybe she doesn’t know how many Robins there have been because she just came to support her friend, who didn’t want to come by herself. Maybe the woman at the booth of your favorite video game actually logs more hours than you do in it. One of the reasons “geeks” cling so tightly to their title is because they finally have a place where they feel like they fit in. Why do you want to exclude someone, when you know exactly what that feels like?
Labels are for food and high school. Let’s leave them outside the convention door, and celebrate the fact that we live in an amazing world where people of like minds can come together to enjoy their favorite things without fear of judgement or exclusion.