Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Geek Girls: There Can be Only One?

When I was 10 years old I was a geek. I was born into it. My parents dressed me as a Spider-Woman for my first Halloween, I had a Pac-Man themed 5th birthday party and my Dad used me as a ringer in living room Tetris tournaments against his friends.

I grew up in a small suburb of a suburb of Philadelphia. My fifth grade class had about ten other girls in it. The odds were stacked against me and, indeed, I found that I usually had more in common with the boys than I did with with my female classmates (though I did lead the girls in many awesome games of "Unicorn-Power-Princesses-Who-also-do-Karate-and-Magic").

It gave me a weird sense of entitlement. *I* was the girl the boys chose to play with, *I* was the girl who could talk to them about the merits of each of the Ninja Turtles (clearly Donatello is the best), could discuss which X-Men was the coolest (Phoenix of course), and how we were going to beat Contra without using the Konami Code (can't be done).  At age ten we were starting to notice the opposite gender and while the other girls were giggling about the boys they thought were cute, I was developing meaningful friendships with them. The girls didn't "get" me, so I found boys who did.

My friendships with boys continued throughout high-school.  I was outspoken, obnoxious and not at ALL "lady-like", I would frequently say things like "I don't get along with girls.  Girls are bitches.  I get along with dudes much better".  All those statements had an element of truth to them, but it was only when I became an adult that I realized how that attitude prevented from experiencing the awesomeness of being in a group of like-minded ladies.

I never realized how obnoxious this mindset was until I experienced it myself.  It was 1998 and it was my first venture into a comic book shop.  Growing up in the aforementioned small-town the only option for purchasing comic books was the grocery store.  When I graduated high-school and moved to Seattle I walked into my very first comic book shop and was greeted by the female (!) worker with "Are you looking for your boyfriend?".  I was so mad I retorted "No, I was actually looking for the Incredible Hulk" and stormed out.  I didn't go back into a comic shop for two years.

More recently I accompanied Super-Dad to a work function.  One of his co-workers brought a date and she and I started talking.  I mentioned that I liked comic books and she immediately got weird.  "Oh, yeah?  Look at this!"  she pulled up her shirt to reveal a full-back tattoo of the Preacher.
"Oh, Preacher, that's an interesting choice for a tattoo.  Must be interesting for guys to look at back there" I snarkily replied back.
"Oh, you know who that is?" she snarled at me.

What the heck was going on here?  Instead of talking about a shared interest we were creating some sort of messed-up Preacher related girly pissing match.  We could have been having a discussion about violence in comics, about why she identified with such a strong character, about why I generally dislike Garth Ennis' books.  Any of these topics would have been better than the "nanny nanny boo boo, I like comics more than you do" standoff.

Some of us geek girls suffer from what I've deemed "There Can Be Only One" Syndrome.  So many of us are used to growing up isolated from other girls with similar interests that we have developed this "I'm special" defense mechanism that automatically makes us wary of any other girl claiming to be a geek.  Just like our weight, our clothes, our boyfriends, we view our geekdom as a competition, as a way to tear each other down and prove our superiority.

It's time to get the hell over it, ladies.

Over the past seven years I have worked off and on  in a comic book shop, and at conventions.  I have realized the error of my ways.  One of my favorite things to do is to spot a bored girlfriend and introduce her to the world of non-superhero comics.  I've sold so many copies of Fables and Y:The Last Man to women who didn't think that there were comics for them that Vertigo should give me kickbacks.

I am now happy to say that there are lots of women that I love and get along with.  I spent all of those years missing out on the powerful friendships that nerdy girls can share. I have forged fantastic relationships with geeky girls of all varieties.  Many of them even geekier (gasp!) than I am! Together we are providing awesome inspiration for my four year old daughter.  She's a budding geek herself,  who doesn't yet know that it's "weird" that she likes superheroes and Star Wars.  And I hope that by the time she's ten it won't be.

3 comments:

  1. "So many of us are used to growing up isolated from other girls with similar interests that we have developed this "I'm special" defense mechanism that automatically makes us wary of any other girl claiming to be a geek."

    Oh my gosh, this is it.

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  2. @Krista I had to think about this one for a long time. As much as this behavior annoys me today when I looked back I realized was totally guilty of it myself. That was the best way I could sum up the gist of what I was feeling.

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  3. This is how I feel too. Luckily there wasn't too much "there can be only one" syndrome in my school because I was able to bound with the only other geeky girls in my high school. It's sad that girls have to go through this I hope my daughter will be a proud geek and also have it not be odd for her to be a geek.

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