I’m going to discuss an issue near and dear to my heart, that I like to call girl on girl misogyny, along with why it needs to die.
For about a decade of my life, I was the type of woman who made statements like, “I’m not really friends with girls. They’re too much drama.” I also bought into the “fake geek girl” mindset that perpetuates images like this one:
I thought that girls who hadn’t watched Star Wars, or read the Silmarillion, or who couldn’t name five comic artists or writers from memory, but still claimed the title of “Geek” or “Nerd” somehow diminished my own “nerd cred.” I somehow got the idea that those women were giving women like me a bad name, and that they were going to cause men to take me less seriously.
These ideas were all total bullshit.
To address my first statement, regarding girls being drama, I would love to apologize to all the people who have ever heard (or read) those words from me. Several years back, the absurdity of that statement was rather harshly pointed out to me by a female coworker. At the time, I thought she was just completely proving my point. Damn, was I wrong. The big takeaway I’ve learned in the years since, is that creation of drama cannot be assigned to women alone. People start drama. Men are just as capable of raising a fuss where none need be raised, or subtly manipulating situations to make you look like the instigator, or all the other things that we accuse women alone of doing. If you haven’t encountered a man who creates drama yet, just wait; you’ll encounter them eventually.
So, this whole idea of the existence of “fake geek girls.” If we just look at it from a simple stand point of treat others how you want to be treated, isn’t that incentive enough to stop using the term? No? Well then, let me elucidate further.
Once upon a time, you too, were a fledgling geek. Now maybe you were lucky enough to be exposed to those interests earlier in life, and just always had general geekery around you. I know I was fortunate in that regard; I grew up watching Star Trek: TNG with my dad, and my mother made sure to encourage my budding interest in books from a very early age. Even with that sort of early exposure, geeking out didn’t always come easy, and I wasn’t always interested in the broad array of subjects that I am now.
I was also fortunate in that my friends in high school didn’t look down on me when I mentioned that I was a PC gamer, but couldn’t tell them which video card I was using or how much RAM I had. Instead, a few of them sat me down and explained the major components of a PC, and which ones were worth upgrading in my rig, and which were fine the way they are. Instead of deriding me, they embraced the opportunity to teach me something I didn’t know, and which has come in highly useful since. I’m not saying it’s always going to be that easy, but sometimes it’s worth it. And you never know when you’ll make a new friend out of it.
But we don’t all have my kind of luck. Some girls grow up in homes with parents who never liked Star Wars, and who consider the idea of reading for pleasure completely laughable. Just because someone discovered such interests later in life than you did, it doesn’t mean they’re not as genuine and passionate about them as you are. There’s a big difference between unfamiliarity and willful ignorance.
Maybe that girl that you would accuse of being a fake geek girl has only really just started developing an interest in comic books, or Star Wars, or whatever, but your derision would totally turn her off to the idea. Or who knows, maybe she is “just doing it for attention” and she “doesn’t even care about geek stuff.” But you know what? If that was the case, you just gave her what she wanted, and made yourself look petty in the process.
Ultimately, you don’t get to decide what other people’s geek experience is. I’d like to think that even though I don’t play Magic: The Gathering or cosplay, that I’d still be considered a nerd by anyone who knew me. Being a geek isn’t an exclusive club with a checklist of requirements and a knowledge test. Just as you want to be left alone to enjoy your passions without question or without having to prove yourself, other people do too.
As for the ability of “fake geek girls” to make men take you less seriously? Well, a dude who wasn’t going to take you seriously in the first place still isn’t going to even if every woman had your same knowledge and attitude. Some guys are just misogynistic douche waffles. And so are some women. Some people are just going to be sexist no matter what. The best thing you can do is be yourself and lead by example, rather than throw other women under the bus to try and make yourself seem better.
Which brings me to my point about why we (as women) need to stop being so hard on other women, particularly in this regard. I already mentioned the possibility of alienating a potential ally and friend, which is bad enough. But the larger ramification ties in to the big picture. If women in general, geeks or not, want to be taken seriously by men and treated as equals by them, the single best thing we can do for each other is to build each other up, instead of tearing each other down.
When men hear women call each other things like “bitch”, “slut”, or “fake geek girl”, it makes them feel okay about doing the same. When we, as women, begin to eliminate these terms from our vocabulary, men will catch on. It’s kind of a chain effect. First, maybe your boyfriend or your brother will stop using them, then maybe they’ll point it out to a friend of theirs who will pass it on to another friend, and so on. Now obviously this is in the long term, and we won’t see results overnight. But if we never start, we’ll never see results at all.
You can also help by not making my mistake and thinking that all women are full of drama and that there aren’t any you’d want to be friends with. Six years ago you could count my lady friends on less than one hand and still have fingers left over; now you have to bust out your toes, too. Having female friends who share your interests and who you can talk to about absolutely anything is seriously one of the single most liberating things. When you get over the notion that they’re viewing you as competition, or that anything you tell them will eventually be used against you, women are pretty flippin’ awesome. Having a ladies day that includes manicures, book shopping, crocheting, and video game playing is now at the top of my list of favorite ways to spend a day.
I guess what I’m trying to say boils down to two really simple things: 1) As always, treat others how you’d want to be treated and 2) Be more open to the idea of meeting and befriending new people, but especially women. Because we rock.