My name is Rosalind, and I’m a geek. I argue over which Star Trek series is the best (TNG FTW!), I explain the fermentation of soy sauce during Chinese dinner, and I can explain to you the story of Solid Snake. I’m also a woman.
What do you think of when you read the word “fangirl”? Wikipedia suggests that “it is commonly used in a derogatory sense to describe a girl’s obsession with something, most commonly a male teen idol or an aspect of Japanese pop culture.” However, just a little further up in the same Wiki article, a “fanboy” is a much more complex person who may have a fan elitism or a devotion to a particular hobby, brand, or franchise. So a fanboy can be obsessed with Microsoft or Spiderman or X-files, but a fangirl is in love with a hot guy? Yeah, that’s how I read that article.
The differential use of fanboy and fangirl is not an isolated association. Have you ever felt like being a girl and being a geek is either considered to be an oxymoron or an accident? Things like: “You can’t be a geek, you’re so social!” or perhaps “I’m sure you only play that because your boyfriend/husband does.” Or perhaps you have encountered my favorite problem, finding a good shirt from the Nintendo World Store with a girl’s cut that isn’t something like a bright pink mushroom. I’m sorry, no mushrooms in Mario games are pink. Really. Not one. So, apparently, Nintendo thinks that their fangirls wear pink, thus, my title.
I admit, my title might not be an entirely true statement, I know geeks that have been known to wear pink, at least, on occasion, including me. However, I just got home from four glorious days in Boston attending the Penny Arcade Expo PAXEast and even though a few of the girls there were wearing pink (including some pink hair) they were also wearing black, blue, gray, green, jeans, skirts, Penny Arcade T-Shirts, ThinkGeek shirts, Woot! Shirts, Pokemon costumes, Daisy costumes, lab coats, and almost anything else.
Essentially, we are not stereotypes of girly girls with some geeky stuff in pink on our shirts and crushes on some hot vampires. (Try my favorite Team Edward!)
We are women, who also happen to be geeks, and we would like to be included in geek culture, too.
This was my first PAX and I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of female participation at what is essentially a gaming convention, still considered to be an activity with a high percentage of guys. I myself was going with my husband, my sister, three of my husband’s good, male, friends, and one female friend of mine who was only coming to PAX on Friday. That meant that in terms of people per day, we counted as 7 girls and 12 men. Almost a 1:2 ratio. That was probably not an inaccurate ratio for the weekend (although since I’m not privy to whether that information even exists, this is an educated guess made solely through observation).
Honestly, I was surprised at the number of girls who were there. Even though we currently live in a world where our President is half-white and half-African, we also live in a world where women still make only $0.80 on the dollar to men in the workforce and fields such as math as engineering are still male-dominated. We also live in a world where the only woman main character on a show dedicated to geeks, the Big Bang Theory, is a dumb blond. BUT, that is another rant for another time.
The geek culture has gotten really exciting lately, and it’s a great time to be a geek! The resurgence of both fantasy with the Lord of the Rings and science fiction with the newest Star Trek have turned these cult-favorites into blockbusters. Jake Gyllenhall is about to play the Prince of Persia in a new movie based on the video game. Web comics, such as Penny Arcade and XKCD, have hit new heights of popularity, and even hold their own conventions where 60,000 gamers and geek spend three days together in a place where everybody feels at home.
Almost everybody. Don’t get me wrong, it was probably one of the best weekends of my life. However, there are some things that you notice, as a woman. For example, there are a lot of men running the joint. Gabe, Tycho, Wil Wheaton, Jonathon Coulton and Paul and Storm, and MC Frontalot were the headline acts of the weekend. It would appear they all left their women at home. And, I love Wil Wheaton, really, been in love with him since I was 10, but Wheaton’s Law: Don’t Be A Dick, just a little male-oriented, don’t you think? We went to a panel run by some contributors to GeekDad, but, as Natania Barron pointed out, where is GeekMom?
So, what are we doing here? Well, this is our home. This is a home for girls who are geeks. It is a place where we can have honest discussions about the merits of female heroines who don’t wear skimpy bikinis. It is a place where you can say that you created your own halfing rogue pickpocket for your D&D game without your boyfriend’s input and we will believe you. It is a place where you can mention how incredibly hot Viggo Mortensen or Orlando Bloom are without it cheapening the fact that you also fell in love with Bilbo Baggins in the Rankin and Bass movie and taught yourself to read moon runes.
Most importantly, it is a place where you can feel safe to be yourself, a fangirl, a nerd, a freak, a geek, and a girl.