Geek Girls

I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t know what to make of me. I feel equally comfortable gasping over a gorgeous dress or pair of shoes and correcting someone when they quote Star Wars incorrectly. I have a deep emotional investment in both Hokie football and Doctor Who. I’m a 33 year old woman who is positively squeeing over the fact that, when Mike and I go to Orlando in a few months, I’ll get to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I love super hero movies and think Phil Coulson, (or Clark Gregg even) should be my freebie. I get giddy when I fuck up someone’s Munchkin battle. I was shocked when someone told me that her child dressing up as Spock for Halloween was weird. When someone says they’ve never seen Lord of the Rings, I stare at them blankly because I literally can’t comprehend how that can be true. (Not figuratively. Literally!) I was bothered for several days after Chris Hardwick was wrong about something in Star Wars on @midnight. I didn’t tweet him about it, though. I’m a geek, not a dick.

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Photo by Victory Comics

I was a geek before I even knew that word described me. I was a geek back when the word still had a negative connotation and it was weird that my favorite movie, as a 12 year old girl, was Return of the Jedi. Fortunately, geekery has become culturally normative.
Unfortunately, it’s still weird that I’m a girl woman and a geek. I interact with other female geeks so often that I sometimes forget that it’s still not always okay to use the words “Star Trek” in a sentence. Seriously, you will never encounter a more baffled group of people than upper-middle class suburban moms after you’ve said something geeky.

I’ve been fortunate in that no one has been aggressive toward me for being a geek, but there are plenty of women who have endured verbal and sexual assault and threats of physical and sexual violence. (I won’t even link to the Tweets she screen capped and tweeted because of how upsetting they are. They are truly horrific.) But I have been on the receiving end of stares when I’ve walked into a tabletop gaming store. I have been excluded from gaming, either because the guys didn’t think I’d want to play or didn’t want me there. There have been times when someone has assumed that something geeky belonged to Mike. I have been hurt when people have suggested, or flat out said, that the things I like are stupid or juvenile. And it’s not just me.

“Going to a video game store, the male employees act completely befuddled and stunned when you start speaking intelligently about games or asking pertinent questions that make it clear you are a serious gamer.”

“We also get comments about how we must just be pretending to snare a guy.”

“Yeah, I totally spent months farming materials in Warcraft just to ‘impress a guy.'”

“I ran into a bit of opposition doing admin work for an iPhone game that was a mmorpg. Because I was female, they automatically assumed I didn’t have authority or that I didn’t know as much as the guys.”

“I got a lot of, ‘run along and let the big boys talk'”.

“I’m in database and software engineering… Most of my experiences haven’t been negative but just weird/’you know guys don’t get this crap’. Recently joined a new guild on WoW and a guy immediately has to ask me my hair color.”

“I play a fantasy-style iPad game where you can make your character female, but the NPCs still refer to every character as “sir” or “lad” or the instructions are phrased like your hero is male. It can’t be that hard to program for both options, but it feels like they assume everyone playing is a guy, whether their avatar is male or female.”

“I’ve gotten “you’re too old to like Harry Potter” once or twice…”

I hope that we female geeks will continue, or even begin, to be open about who we are. Even if you’re not a geek in the stereotypical sci-fi/fantasy sense, be passionate and transparent about what makes you happy. Whatever your obsession, be it music, theater, knitting, books, cooking, or fantasy football, be proud of it. May we all be so lucky as to love something enough that it causes us to twitch when someone says something incorrect about it.

Raising two girls and the topic of sexuality

An open letter has been circulating and flame warring this week on the interwebs. It’s from a mom who is upset with some selfies, (I kind of hate myself for writing that “word”) in her son’s social media feeds which were posted by some real hussies. In a classic passive-aggressive dick move, she writes to these girls in a open forum because these pictures are clearly sexually themed, they are going to ruin her boys, and she is on to you. Such selfies, (god, I had that word) are going to cause her boys to think about these girls in a sexual manner forever because they’re boys and have no control over their thoughts and how they direct them. After dressing down these teenage harlots, (dressing up? I don’t want my terminology to be slutty) and shaming them, reducing them to just their bodies, she then tells these girls that they’re more than the breasts and vagina they have just burned into the minds of her pure sons. She wants her sons to marry the best of the best, (although her sons are never going to marry skanks like you.)

I haven’t seen the scandalous selfies in question, (although I did see plenty of teenage boys in swim trunks posing on the beach, before she changed the post, with all the masculinity a kid can muster) but it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that the slut shaming and reducing girls and women to their bodies and what they do with them is so common in our culture, and especially in the evangelical subculture. Having grown up in this subculture, I have memories of comparing losing one’s virginity before marriage to driving a used car. (I was so immersed for a long time that I may have even repeated such euphemisms.) Girls had guidelines for what we could wear on trips, from the length of our shorts to how much skin our swimsuits showed. God forbid we bare our sexy belly buttons, lest we cause one of our brothers in Christ to stumble. (I really apologize to any guy in youth group who got a raging boner from my chubby thighs and obnoxious personality!) We role played what we girls would say to any guy who wanted to sleep with us because clearly that guy couldn’t care about us and only wanted one thing if they wanted to sleep with us before marriage. (It was really helpful for me, what with all the guys beating down my door in high school. Phew! Dodged that bullet!) Honestly, my biggest take away from it all was: 1) Don’t go to hell. 2) Don’t have sex before marriage. 3) Don’t be gay, (because everyone knows that’s a choice.) My eternal vagina was just as important as my eternal soul.

So, with all of this chasing around in my mind the past couple of days, I started thinking about what I would say to my girls when the time inevitably came. Rachael already knows some biology.

Me: So the egg travels from the ovary through the Fallopian tube to the ute…

Rachael: Don’t forget about the birth canal!

I’ve always been open and frank about things, when age-appropriate. They’re called breasts and vaginas and penises. They are natural and private, but not dirty or something about which to be ashamed. But what will I actually tell Rachael and Zoë about sexuality beyond basic biology?

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Dear Rachael and Zoë,
Your daddy and I love you so much! You are smart. You are kind. You are funny. And you are beautiful. Words cannot express how precious you are to us, and how much we want the best for you. We can only take you so far, and then you will have to decide what is best for you. I hope that we are able to equip you with the tools you need to make those decisions. We want you to know that whatever decisions you make along the way, we will love you unconditionally because we love you for you, not for the decisions you make.

You are sexual beings. As you get older and start having relationships, people will tell you all sorts of things about men and women. People may try to reduce you to nothing more than your reproductive organs. But there is something I want you to never forget. You are MORE than your lady parts and what you choose to do with them. Anyone who says or treats you differently doesn’t respect you as a person. They simply have an agenda, whether that is to get in your pants or shame you for daring to think about getting out of them. Everyone is responsible for their choices and behavior. You are never responsible or to blame for someone acting out on you. People may say “boys will be boys” or “men are pigs”. WRONG! Men can be pigs, but there is a clear distinction to realize. The distinction is that there is a choice to be made, and HE is the one who makes it.

If you can and want to wait until marriage to have sex, good for you! That is your decision to make. But don’t wait simply because you think you’ll be “damaged goods” if you don’t. You are Rachael and Zoë, beautiful and wonderful persons and my daughters, not commodities to be preserved or damaged.

You are Rachael and Zoë. You are loved, and that is enough.
Love, Mom