Blog 2 – Why Geek Girls Matter

Image by Andy Dobson

Once upon a time, there was the geek. The geek was white, straight, and male. The geek developed into a masculinity with its own hegemony and need for gatekeeping (see Lori Kendall‘s work for more on geekdom and masculinity). Eventually women and people of color or of different sexualities (I’ll be focusing on women) began to challenge the hegemony of the geeks. Those male geeks saw geekdom, their refuge from other masculinities that may oppress them (like jocks and bros), as being threatened, and reacted with vitriol. They said women didn’t belong in geekdom; that they were invading a space that was supposed to be safe for men who didn’t fit into other masculinities. The women fired back, saying they’d been in geekdom from the beginning, but hegemony kept them invisible. The as the male geeks lost more and more ground to more open forms of geekdom (as, for example, in 2008 San Diego Comic-Con was invaded by female Twihards there to ogle Edward Cullen), they began questioning the authenticity of these “new” geeks’s credibility.

Images by Meghan Danger

At the same time that marginalized groups were knocking on the gates of geekdom, geekdom itself was becoming mainstream. Male geeks were being bombarded on both sides: from the inside, where women were insisting they become recognized, and outside, where The Six Supervillains of Nerd Culture infringed on their sacred idols: Lord of the Rings, comic books, video games, and Dungeons and Dragons* were no longer their sole domain. The walls of geekdom had been breeched, and now

This brings us to today’s post: why is my research into geek girls important? Because geek girls exist, and shouldn’t have to prove anything. Male geeks see themselves as an “in-group,” about which Gordon W. Allport (1954) says “all use the term we with the same essential significance” (The Nature of Prejudice).  The male geek community is a we, and female geeks are a theyThey are invading our geeky space, they aren’t really geeks, they were never geeks to begin with. Because of the mainstreaming of geek culture, more women are discovering gaming and comic books and sci-fi/fantasy fandom. I have a friend who never picked up a comic book in her life until she saw The Avengers and fell in love with Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Now she is reading every Marvel book he is featured in, consuming the culture of comics fandom and considering herself part of Marvel’s “in-group” of fans. However, because she discovered comics later in life, many male geeks would declare her fake because she wasn’t reading about The Hulk “back in the day.” She would come across gatekeeping, where her validity as a fan is called into question.

It is for girls and women like my friend whom I am doing this research. The popular entertainment press has debated the role geek girls play in geekdom, but the academy has done little to examine geek girls as a social group – because the experience of geek girls is so different from that of geek guys, there needs to be studies just on the female geek demographic. At the Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association’s national conference this past April, I went to an open session on the genderization of science fiction/fantasy fans, and the conclusion that the attendees came to is that more ethnographies need to be done to show that geek women exist, are taking part in geek culture and have taken part in geek culture from the beginning. That is what I am doing: an ethnography of women who visit fan conventions; focusing on their experiences of sexism and misogyny in geek culture. Geek girls exist, and they’ll keep banging on the gates until everyone is allowed in.


* I should note that Community‘s homage was lovingly done and inclusive of all members of the study group. Community is a show for geeks, by geeks. Compare this to The Big Bang Theory, where the idea that women can join a D&D campaign is seen as ludicrous. It’s a show for geeks by bullies who want to laugh at the geeks. Trust me, I’ve done research on this stuff and everything.


7 thoughts on “Blog 2 – Why Geek Girls Matter

  1. I think your research topic is fantastic! I would love to be part of the geek community without being met with haughty indignation. I play Dungeons and Dragons and have been called a “fake” because I play version 4. I apparently need to have an extensive knowledge of all the versions to actually play the game. My male friends who play were not asked to prove their dedication and knowledge.

    I look forward to following your research this summer!

    • Sorry about taking so long to get back to you, but thank you! Check out – one of the editors is actually doing his dissertation on D&D. You might enjoy that.

  2. I really love the way you write about things and I find your topic to be fascinating, can’t wait to see where this research takes you over summer!!

    Also, your little note at the bottom cracked me up! Reminds me a lot of the N*SYNC/Backstreet Boys debate back in the day. And back in the day, before TBBT had blasted off and become what it is today, I would have argued with you until my face was blue. But since the show’s balloon has been filled with so much hot air that it is about to burst, where most of the elements that made the show special have been dropped and because it has become a show that plays to stereotypes and does not try to break them, I can’t help but agree with you.

    Also, I can never forgive them for what they have done to my Sheldon.

    Anyway, looking forward to your next post!

    • I just got into an argument about TBBT with my ASL class! Their argument was that it’s good because they get the science right, but I told them that it still felt like they were laughing at Sheldon and Leonard. I tried to tell them that Abed > Sheldon, but they just wouldn’t hear the gospel.

      • That’s too funny! It is true that they do do a good job with the science, or did back in the early seasons when they actually cared about the science… but that does not a good show make.

  3. In your area of study is it necessary to get qualitative data on women who are not ‘geeks’, almost like a scientific placebo study? Would this expand the knowledge of the sample? I am just thinking that perhaps this would allow you to control for some variations in the population of women in general. I would be really interested in your thoughts about this!

    • I’m asking the people I’ll be surveying to self-identify as geeks and describe what kind of geek they are. I think because “geek” is a label that I’m asking respondents to put on themselves a “placebo” or “control” group isn’t necessary because anyone who doesn’t consider themselves a geek will be included in the sample, just by answering “no” to the question.

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