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My theory as to why some guys are threatened by “Geek Girls”

I’ve been a geek since before I knew the term existed.  I would say it probably started when I was about four or five years old, when my sister started reading me The Hobbit.  I didn’t truly “identify” as a geek until I was about 14 or 15, and it was part of a process of realizing I wasn’t alone.  I discovered that other people liked Star Trek, perhaps a bit too passionately.  There were folks out there like me that read Asimov, Tolkien, Pohl, McCaffrey,  Niven, Lackey, Heinlein, and the rest of the pantheon like a form of alternate truth.  People who saw the world through a slightly different lens, intensely, with a quiet (or sometimes not so quiet) passion. 

Given my long-standing sense of myself as a “geek”, my ears perk up when I see discussions of what the term means.  Of who is “in” or “out”.  Apparently there is some sort of brouhaha in progress of late regarding whether female geeks exist.  Some guys claim they don’t, or that many of those of the feminine persuasion who claim to be geeks are lying.  One recent article I read on the topic gave me much food for thought.  For that I thank the author, Sarah Kuhn: thinking is something I like to do ;)

Where, perhaps, the reaction comes from

I’m a lot more mature now, both in psychology and in actual years, than I was as a young geek.  As I said previously, I didn’t really think of myself as a geek until I was about 15.  Prior to that I was simply too much of an outcast to want to separate myself even more by proclaiming membership in a largely despised subculture.  But I was fortunate to find a school and likeminded friends that supported being intellectual and having somewhat intense interests.  I was no longer entirely on the “outside”.  I belonged, in a sense.  

Now, as it happens I was not blessed by having any female friends at the time.  Certainly that wasn’t my choice: being a young male with the usual flood of hormones I was somewhat desperate for attention from girls at the time.  But  was also completely socially inept- not the poor hygiene/unable to assemble intelligible sentences kind of inept, but the scared/shy and totally unaware kind.  So things didn’t work out in that way.  I can’t imagine I would reject outright a young woman’s claim to geek credentials: it took courage back then to claim such, and one’s bona fides were usually immediately obvious to all.  I rather suspect I would have been happy for the company, although more or less scared to death.

However, I can imagine how it might work amongst some young men.  Being a geek is, to some, an explanation for the lack of female presence in their lives.  The cool guys have girls because they are not geeks, and girls like cool guys because they themselves hate geeks and all they stand for.  That’s a lot easier on the ego than admitting that girls don’t hang out with you because, in addition to being a geek, you have actual faults.  Faults like being terminally shy.

Another factor is a sense of losing a club, a place of belonging, to those who may have hurt or scared one in the past.  Being a “geek” is a way of belonging to something, a form of protection via camaraderie.  If a person has always felt threatened, humiliated, or abused, finding that kind of belonging can be very valuable.  For me back in the day, if the sports jocks (a sort of geek in their own right, I suppose) started being Science fiction, computer,  or role playing geeks, I would have been both angry and terrified.  These were the very people who directly or indirectly hurt me for so long, through exclusion, perceived slights and insults, and outright bullying.  Geekdom is what I had found to avoid that kind of hurt: I could trust other geeks to treat me at least somewhat kindly.  And I suppose for some for whom the hurt originated with women, the same kind of fear and anger would also apply when women stepped into the “club”.

Stupid, but there you go

Humans do and say some really stupid things.  Trying to browbeat female geeks by calling them “fake” is pretty low, and seems on the surface at least to be completely nonsensical.  Why would a male geek, commonly seeking female companionship, reject the idea (if not the reality) of a woman who might truly share similar interests?  I think the answer to this nonsensical situation probably lies somewhere in the area of fear, fragile ego and sense of self, and possibly a desperate need for a community to be “safe” within.  It isn’t terribly surprising that geeks of all genders have these kinds of problems.  

I certainly hope that female geeks, young and old, don’t ever listen to the hoots and hollers of those few male geeks that call them down.  Life is hard enough without having essential aspects of one’s spirit assailed.

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7 comments to My theory as to why some guys are threatened by “Geek Girls”

  • Shane

    I think the whole “geek” or “nerd” thing is sort of non-existent nowadays to be honest.

    Everyone has some sort of “nerdish” quality about them (who doesn’t like star wars/trek/Firefly/Big bang Theory, Twilight (gag) etc., or some sort of sci-fi?)

    Who would ever think that a Garbage truck, err sorry Sanitation engineer operator, would be a huge Big bang theory, or Star trek fan, yet, I know 3 that fit that description perfectly.

    If you have to say you are cool, then in my opinion, really you aren’t.

    It’s the same as the people who say “I am tough”. No, if you have to say it, you aren’t.

    You said something that struck me,

    “”For me back in the day, if the sports jocks (a sort of geek in their own right, I suppose) started being Science fiction, computer, or role playing geeks, I would have been both angry and terrified. These were the very people who directly or indirectly hurt me for so long, through exclusion, perceived slights and insults, and outright bullying.””

    Now I never considered myself a jock, but I was on ‘All star-teams’ for baseball, played Rugby, competed in Powerlifting, and did Martial Arts for years. But during that same time I was also DM, played Zork, Atari and I really miss the RPG Shadowrun.

    I think everyone now is just a Hybrid of something else. Geeks are Cool, and Cool people can be Geeky.

    Now this is just my opinion, on what is cool, tough, nerdy, and geeky. But after all, I am a tough, cool guy, so I must know, right? ;)

  • Shane

    One thing that I failed to mention, maybe there are “levels” of geekiness, and I’m not, or wasn’t at the appropriate level?

    There are probably little cliques and niches of geeks that say…

    “oh that guy, pffft he likes Star Wars, BUT he doesn’t own the Collector’s edition, Blu-ray with the super-ultra-new never released until now-extra extended directors narrative version.” :)

    I can see that there are some fake geek girls that exist however.

    A couple that immediately pop into my mind are Miri Jedeikin and Marissa Roberto. I love both ‘Reviews on the Run’ and ‘Electric Playground’. But those chicks, well they seem to be “geek for pay”.

    Again just my opinion.

    p.s. Sarah’s article was a good read. And I don’t think she is a Fake geek girl.

  • Shane

    And just one more note, did you ever think, in your wildest dreams that a “geek” like you, would be a bad-ass Harley Davidson motorbike rider?…see what I mean about Hybrids? ;)

  • Heya, Shane! I don’t know about “levels” of geek: more or less by definition, being a “geek” means being a little bit extreme, and that’s the sort of point of entry to the “club”. E.g.: a guy who “likes” computer RPGs plays Zelda for a couple of hours on the weekend, but a guy who is an RPG “geek” plays a dozen or more hours a week, reads fan fiction regarding the games, follows development notes and release dates years in advance, and could name main characters, rough plots, and lines of dialog from at least half a dozen games (“go for the eyes, Boo!”).

    I think the essential thing for many geeks (using my own experiences) is a degree of support and inclusiveness. That is, Star Wars geeks have more in common with Dr. Who geeks than they have with the “jocks” or “popular kids”. I may not understand why someone would be a Manga geek, but I’d probably feel way more comfortable chatting with them than I would with a football jock or a guy who goes hunting every weekend.

    It is like any “club”, I suppose, but one with a high degree of flexibility. It starts with being an “outsider”, someone with one or more intense interests in something outside the “accepted” standard. And perhaps it also requires a lack of social graces / likeability. These “outsiders” then gather together and find they have more in common (being picked on, being left behind/ignored/shunned) than their different interests might suggest. There is usually a lot of common ground: people who play D&D usually read a lot of Fantasy; Fantasy often overlaps with science fiction; people who read science fiction often like Star Trek or Star Wars obsessively; Comic books and horror often have fantasy or science fiction elements… etc. But the most important common ground is, possibly, being “outsiders”. And geekdom acts as a “safe place” from the “mundanes”.

    I know having that “safe place” was pretty important to me when I was younger. I would have been pretty doubtful if the Cool Kids had started showing up, because I would expect them to “kick me out”, or figure out a way to embarrass or hurt me. Because, in my experience, that’s what they did.

    Of course, I grew up. I like to think I’m stronger now, and better able to stand my ground as a real person with interests and abilities that are just as good or better than others. But some folks don’t grow up, they never find that sense of self. The world kicks them down more that I was kicked down, or maybe they are a little more fragile than I was.

    As for being a “bad-ass Harley Davidson motorbike rider”- hahahahaha ;) Thanks, but I don’t fit that image very well. I am a Harley geek, although a budding one: I probably know more about the history, models, and mechanics of Harleys than average, and also have a pretty good understanding of motorcycles in general. I’d rather talk to someone who can point out to me the differences between a knucklehead and a panhead, or explain how a suicide shifter works, than talk about “hos”/bitches, pub crawls, my latest tattoo or big-ass ring, and “beat downs”. I’m not a “bad-ass”: I don’t play the part, I’m not an “outlaw”, I don’t try to conform to the stereotype, not even on weekends ;)

    There are a lot of things that kind of get me in trouble with the “biker” people. I am the first to admit that a Harley has less horsepower than a comparable displacement Japanese or European bike, that liquid cooling has some notable advantages, that a full face helmet is safer than my (preferred) 3/4 helmet, or that straight pipes are obnoxious and that “loud pipes” don’t really save lives any more than “loud stereos” do. Heck, I even take heat from the Japanese bike owners, which is kind of comical since I’m often on their side.

    I spend far more time thinking about things bike-related, trying to understand why I like or dislike things as well as understanding the facts (the two aren’t necessarily related: e.g.: I like Harleys, even though there are many facts that demonstrate others are technically superior). I know enough so that when I meet a Japanese bike owner I can call them on their bullshit about Harleys, and vice versa. I don’t just spout more “Jap bikes suck!” lines. I’m on the outside most of the time amongst “bikers”, but I’m confident enough to generally be okay with that.

  • ChrisR

    One little drive by thought here without getting to into the discussion: I have know countless women that have worn team jerseys, cheered at games, knew all the players and all the stats … because the guy or guy they were interested in was a hockey / football / insert sport here fan. And when interest in that male passed, so did all interest in sports.

    Similarly I have seen this with cars, music and art.

    Just as these girls were ‘fake’ jocks, or gearheads, etc. so I am sure, there are now many ‘fake’ geeks. (indicating ‘geeks’ have now lost social pariah status.)

    This is not to say those women do not know their stuff or even are genuinely interested … but that interest is spawned from social inclusion, whereas “true” geeks, male or female, will stick by their interests even if it results in being excluded socially.

    That, I would say is the crux of true vs fake distinction. A lot of people are interested in something because it will help their career, their health, their social standing or love prospects. The people who play golf because of the networking potential, or work out out of fear of a coronary rather than love of exercise are prime, if unsubtle, examples. A true ‘geek’ likes, or even loves his subject even if it hurts his or her career, health, social standing and love prospects. Be they birders, ballerina’s or comic fans.

  • I’m sure there are some women who fake interest in geeky subjects to fit in with a guy. Just like there are some men that pretend to like opera (or Oprah) in order to get some girl’s attention.

    But it isn’t just what you are interested in, but how deep your interest is that defines being a geek. This is something I neglected in my original post. Intensity of interest is at the heart of geekdom. Enjoying Star Trek isn’t really geeky: researching the episodes so you know which ones you’ve only seen three or four times so you can watch them again, studying the Enterprise blueprints and calculating whether there are enough bathrooms or food storage, reading several ‘behind the scenes’ books and actor biographies, arguing the energy requirements of shields versus transporter with other fans, comparing the sizes of the different Enterprises (did you know that the Enterprise in the remake is several times larger than the Enterprise in ST:TOS?): that’s being a geek ;)

    It is hard to fake intensity, at least to someone else who is intense. I suppose it is harder, perhaps, to tell the difference between a “newbie” geek and a fake. Maybe that’s part of the problem too, and people worry that the hunt for “fake” geeks will discourage a newbie: unfortunately, there is no solution there.

    I could take the position that a ‘real’ geek wouldn’t be discouraged in their true interest by the jeers of others. But there is a difference between being jeered at by a mundane for having a true geek interest, and being jeered at by a supposed geek for “not being geek enough.” I suppose that’s why I’d tend to be supportive of people who have “geeky” interests by default, rather than dismissive.

    Just like I try not to say hurtful things to people on the assumption that they will hurt me one day: I save that for when they inevitably demonstrate their deceit ;)

  • ChrisR

    Right. To me “fake” geeks are those with passing or shallow interest in a subject, or have studied a subject motivated by something other than true interest (the lawyer or doctor that became one for the paycheck springs to mind,) and then pretends to more interest than they possess.

    That’s not quite the same as pretending to have more knowledge.

    And to those with a real passion for their subject, it is easier to accept someone that isn’t interested than someone that pretends to be. A good analogy would be religion – it is much easier to accept someone has a different religion than someone that goes to your church, recites your prayers and claims to be just as devout as you … but actually just shows up out of habit or because church is a good place to make business contacts. There is certain level of hypocrisy and even betrayal involved in pretending to be a ‘true believer’ when you are not.

    Of course, that said, deciding certain people can’t be true believers because of their gender, cultural background, income level etc. and treating all such people that claim otherwise as heretical scum is not going to win friends, influence people or aid your cause.

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