Preconceptions and Prejudice: Being A Geeky Girl
I’ve always been a geek. I’ve always been a girl. Neither of those two things will ever change.
I’m not really sure why, but I’ve stayed away from blogging about being a girl in the tech/game-blogging/movie-blogging industry, leaving it to those that can write more eloquently than me. But I shouldn’t. I still experience weird situations that leave me puzzled as to why they happen, and I should be blogging about those.
Throughout my entire life I’ve had to prove that I am a geek, encountering men and boys that didn’t believe a woman could know about or would be interested in geeky stuff.
I remember being seven years old, having just discovered a new TV show: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. At school, I overheard a couple of boys discussing the theme song. They couldn’t remember the lines, though, so I jumped in and sang the entire song for them. They were so baffled that a girl would watch that show that they didn’t believe those were the real lyrics.
I remember in high school being told that math and physics were too difficult for girls. That I should choose something more appropriate like biology or history.
I remember being at university, studying Computer Science and finishing a tricky assignment which the student assistant had just approved. I was quite proud of myself until I overheard that same student assistant say to another student “If SHE can do it, you definitely can.”
I hate that those things happened. I regret that I didn’t have more guts at the time to turn around and say “You. Are. Wrong.” But those experiences made me who I am today. My response to all those things was to be the best I could be — and to prove to everyone that I was smart enough to do anything a guy could do.
All of the above events happened more than ten years ago, so I can forgive most of those remarks and hope those people know better now. But these type of things STILL happen. I still experience prejudice just because I’m a woman.
A couple of times now at Forbidden Planet, a massive comic and sci/fantasy book store in London, I’ll be browsing and guys will approach and hit on me. The hitting on random girls at bookstores is a separate issue, but why do almost all of them start with “Are you buying a present for someone?” Seriously. You don’t think that just maybe I’m there because I’m interested in it myself?
At tech events, I’ve noticed that what I wear really makes a difference. If I’m wearing a geeky T-shirt and jeans/shorts, everything will be fine. When I’m wearing a pretty dress and nice makeup though, then the comments start. I’ll be at a hackday and someone will ask “Are you doing the marketing for this team?”. Or I’ll be at an event for bloggers and someone will assume I’m one of “the PR girls”.
A few months ago I was at a PR party and I met a girl who was wearing the standard geek uniform of jeans and a t-shirt. She remarked to me that she wished she had put on a dress — but she had to go to a Facebook developer event earlier that evening, so needed to wear jeans and t-shirt or else not be taken seriously. Do we truly still work in an industry where it matters what we wear? Are jeans and T-shirt our industry’s suit and tie, and are we really ignoring those that don’t conform to the industry’s uniform? Whatever happened to geeks allowing you to be whoever you wanted to be?
From what I’ve experienced so far, the games industry is a whole lot worse. No, let me get that right: the game blogging industry. At almost every game blogging/press event I’ve gone to, I’ve had male attendees (bloggers/PRs/game developers) stare wide-eyed at me and exclaim: “OMG. You’re a girl. Girls don’t like games.” They’ll either try to dissect how this strange creature got into gaming or disregard everything I’m saying. I can’t get over the fact that some people still don’t realize that, yes, girls play games too. And, yes, we like the same games guys like too. Girls are part of your readership/consumer base/target audience. Don’t ignore them.
All these incidents happend to me within the past year. I tend not to react, to “ignore” them, but actually? They annoy the hell out of me. And I’m not the only one that they happen to.
So I’m going to write about them more. And I want to hear from you all what you’ve been through.
I am “Miss Geeky”. I am a geek. And I am a girl. I’ll have moments of extreme geekiness, but I’ll also have moments of extreme girliness. I like makeup and pretty dresses and jewellery, and me liking those does not make me any less of a geek. I will not change what I like or what I wear purely to fit in and conform to people’s idea of the “geeky girl”. I will write more about this stuff, because everything I’ve talked about here shouldn’t be happening. Geeky girls have always been around. Just because you didn’t notice us doesn’t mean we weren’t there.
And it doesn’t mean you can ignore us now.