I guess the beginning of my “geekdom” was around 1975-1976 or so when my dad sat me down in his cluttered office pointed me toward a tiny television set in the corner of the room, and “here, you’ll like this TV show.” It was Star Trek. I just a young child, but I was hooked for life. Comics, fantasy, video games, Dungeons and Dragons, and all that good stuff was to follow, but it all can be traced to my dad having a sense of what sort of flights of fancy appealed to his young son.
I never thought of any of these pursuits as “boy” pursuits or “girl” pursuits. To me, “boy” stuff was football, and girl stuff was dresses. To me, escapist, fantasy, geek and nerd stuff was somewhere in between. It wasn’t manly, but it wasn’t girlie either. And yet sadly, not only was geek culture excluded from the mainstream of culture, but girls tended to stay away. Flash forward 20 years, and geek culture has been invited to the party. A wide variety of boys and girls find enjoyment and belonging in elements of geek culture, be it sci-fi, fantasy, anime, manga, comics, gaming, role-playing, cosplay, you name it. Its still only a small sub-strata of pop culture, but it’s no longer got the stigma it used to. Geek culture is big money, anyone has access to geekdom, and they’re welcome to it. The doors are open, and everyone is invited.
So it was with dismay I read the article “Booth babes need not apply” in the “Geek Out” blog on cnn.com. The author’s point is that pretty girls who go to Comic Con to cosplay (in other words, dress up like their favorite characters from film, books, TV, comics, etc) are not sincere, but are “faking” just to get attention.
I could fume about this article for pages and pages. First of all, who declared this guy spokesman for geek culture, and who is he to determine who is “pure” and who isn’t? And maybe he doesn’t know any attractive geeks, but I know a fair number of absolutely gorgeous geek ladies and handsome geek men. But rather than rant, let me direct you to the John Scalzi retort “Who Gets To Be A Geek? Anyone Who Wants To” which says everything I’d say, but better. Specifically, after rather amusingly (and pointedly) laying out his own geek credentials and taking the author to task, he writes:
Many people believe geekdom is defined by a love of a thing, but I think — and my experience of geekdom bears on this thinking — that the true sign of a geek is a delight in sharing a thing. It’s the major difference between a geek and a hipster, you know: When a hipster sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “Oh, crap, now the wrong people like the thing I love.” When a geek sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “ZOMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE COME WITH ME AND LET US LOVE IT TOGETHER.”
Not only would I agree, but it explains why most geeks are so happy when movies like The Avengers or The Lord of the Rings are both awesome and successful. We want to share the love. We go to Comic Con to share our love. And we cheer on the cosplayers who share their love. Being judgmental about who “belongs” misses the whole point. This is not an exclusive club. We were the ones who were excluded, remember? Now it’s our turn to be the better men and women, boys and girls, and welcome everyone. Sure, our escapist pursuits are just fun and stories, we know that, but these stories and this community makes our world better. And we come together to share our better world with everyone who wants in. And to be obnoxiously judgmental and stupid about it is to fly in the face of everything that geek culture holds dear.
As a proud member of the geek community, I applaud anyone who is willing to fly their geek flag, no matter what segment or segments of geek culture they participate in, how long they’ve participated, or how they choose to participate. There’s no entry exam, no test, no judgement. Make yourself at home, stay as long as you want, and you’re always welcome back. The only requirement is that you share our joy. Nobody is excluded. And if anyone tries, they are the ones who aren’t doing it right—not you.