Young women and possessiveness over "Nerd/Geek"

I’m currently in an online argument/discussion about this. A young woman wrote about how she’s a geek yet doesn’t like most science fiction. Based on the replies, the consensus is that she’s wrong for calling herself a geek. Because in the commenter’s minds, “geek culture” hinges on love for Star Trek, Dr. Who, video games, fantasy, cosplay, etc. You can’t be a geek unless you’re into “geek culture”.

Now, maybe it’s because I’m older than they are that I’m so :confused:. Most of these people sound like they’re still in high school and college, and thus don’t remember the days when there was absolutely no cache to being a nerd/geek. Since when did nerd/geek become an exclusive club with strict membership rules?

Or maybe it’s because I have never been a fan of taking labels so seriously. I’ve never felt very attached to my various identities, despite being quite capable of speaking from these different vantage points when its called for. I’ve always felt like labels are merely placeholders for real understanding. So naturally I have a hard time understand when people treat labels as if they are real things. Especially something as manufactured as “nerd/geek”.

Or maybe it’s because I consider myself a huge nerd too, yet I find most sci-fiction (particularly of the fantasy genre) uninteresting. I like stories set in outer space and in the future, so I can definitely curl up in front of a Star Trek NG marathon for a couple of hours. But when did werewolves and vampires become “science”? Why should someone who is attracted to science be especially enamored by superheros and the Lord of the Rings? Who has time for cosplay when they are so many good fucking books to read and documentaries to watch! I have no problem saying someone is nerdy/geeky if they have an intense passion for these kinds of things, but I don’t get why these people should be the gatekeepers of who is and isn’t a geek. When kids used to harrass me for being a nerd, it wasn’t because I liked Star Trek. It was because I spent more time worrying about my latest science project than I did about clothes and boys.

Whatever the cause of the disconnect, I’m not getting why these people–most/all of whom are women–seem so apoplectic about this “poseur” claiming an identity that isn’t hers. To hear them talk, nerd/geek should be the next protected classes. I just don’t get where the possessiveness is coming from. And it seems to me that there’s something uniquely “female” about this. I can’t imagine guys getting so worked up about who is and isn’t a geek.

Does anyone have any insight? Has anyone else encountered this mindset, or am I seeing something that doesn’t exist?

Actually, guys do get worked up about who is and isn’t a geek–but it’s almost always a woman who’s the target of their attack. There’s been a lot going on among geeks lately about who has the right to call herself a “geek girl,” and how the cute girls (especially cute girls who are into cosplay) who dress up in a Star Trek T-shirt and like WoW aren’t “real geeks” but some kind of posers. Wil Wheaton, for example, has had some eloquent things to say about how guys don’t have the right to decide which women can be allowed to call themselves geeks/nerds. There’s a subtle prejudice against attractive women in geek/nerddom (“how can she possibly be a nerd? She can have any guy she wants! She must prove her geek credentials!”)

As for women and the OP’s question–as a longtime female nerd/geek (way before it was cool to be one), the only thing I can think of is that maybe some of the more insecure female geeks are threatened because they’ve got a good thing going (high male-to-female ratio, and a lot of guys who are, while maybe not usually conventionally “hot,” are smart, nice, loyal, and generally good “catches”) and they don’t want to have to compete with too many other women. I dunno–I haven’t seen a lot of that, but I don’t hang around with teenage girl geeks/nerds. Most of my female nerd friends are happily married or in relationships and don’t give a damn who wants to be in the club.

“geek” seems to be the opposite of “hipster”.
As for why “geek” became popular, I think LoTR, WoW, Harry Potter, Zooey Deschanels /Tina Fey* and the ubiquity of IT might have a lot to do with it. You can even see it in people wearing those ridiculous thick black eyeglasses.
I can see why people who caught crap for geekiness in high school would dislike someone else trying to improve their status by calling themselves a geek now that it’s popular. They didn’t earn their wings, so to speak.

*Want to give your characters a flaw that isn’t really one? Make them clumsy/geeky. It worked all the way back in the 80s with Revenge of the nerds.

Men don’t like when women call themselves geeks, because it proves that the reason no women are interested in them is their personality and attitude, not their hobbies.

She’s a geek but not into any of that ? Then maybe she just like dressing up like one. Geek culture has become hip now. I played no sports in high school, was part of the chess club, comic books, played D&D during our lunches and any other free time we had. Nerd/geek was a label used in a disparaging manner back then, it’s changed now.

I was not aware that love for Star Wars/Star Trek/Dr. Who and cosplay was a requirement for geekdom. I never was into those shows/movies (haven’t actually seen one Dr. Who episode and only one or two Star Trek ones). Don’t play video games (but I wrote a few and did some contracting for EA back in the 80s) except for WoW. Not into comics universe heroes. But I like sci-fi and fantasy. If I don’t qualify as a geek, I guess I am a jock. My wife will be surprised.

This is weird indeed. It used to be that “nerd” was an insult, and “geek” meant a circus performer who ate horrible things like small live animals or at least their heads. More specifically, nerds liked technical subjects, and perhaps by extension science fiction, and science fiction was ernest and not campy.

Geeks, by definition, are not conventional. But a lot of “geek culture” is pretty damn conventional, or at least getting to be that way. So what do you call the person who isn’t into geek culture but has an encyclopedic knowledge for an esoteric subject and doesn’t keep up with fashions and trends? Do these people not exist?

The cool kids have appropriate “geek”, it seems to me.

I would still call them a geek–maybe a “<esoteric subject> geek” to be specific. So a person who was obsessed with Jane Austen, for example, would be a “Jane Austen geek.”

The cool kids can go suck an egg. Geekdom has been around a lot longer than the “SherLOCKED” and “Twilight” crowd, and they might as well get used to it. :smiley:

I have a similar take to Infovore’s.

There’s a lot of different flavors of geeks. Being a geek about one thing and not another does not make one a non-geek. In particular, Dr. Who is a really poor standard of geekness. A lot of really serious science-oriented geeks don’t think much of the show.

Video games? The most serious SciFi and Fantasy geeks I know don’t play video games. Other games on the order of MtG and D&D, sure. Not video.

As to cosplay, there’s a huge number of costume players who don’t care at all about SciFi and the like. E.g., the My Little Pony cosplayers and such.

And it doesn’t seem to get you beat up anymore. But we still have “dweeb” for those people that even Gandhi would agree need to be punched, just because.

I just call myself a “sorry geek” because other than TV, I don’t have a geekdom. I know about all the geekdoms, and like a lot of geeky stuff, but I still can’t list any type of geekdom as my hobby. No D&D, no RenFaire, no anime, no video games, and I can barely keep my eyes on a full episode of Dr. Who. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally a geek. Just a sorry one.

Being a geek is a culture thing. The geeks are another click, like jock, goth, etc. Of course social groups will define who does and who doesn’t fit within their boundaries.

Not that I would say the girl in the OP is necessarily not a geek, because liking science fiction is not a defining characteristic of a geek But if she really didn’t have any geeky characteristics, I think it’s perfectly fine for people to tell her she’s really not a geek.

And it has nothing to do with how pretty you are. It has to do with how well you fit in with other groups versus how well you fit in with other geeks. It just so happens that a lot of pretty girls don’t seem to have the requisite awkwardness, probably due to the extra confidence that often comes with having people enjoy looking at you.

Let’s not forget, geeks are inundated with people who pretend to be one of them for a short period. You have the booth babes, the hot girls on geeky television, the girls who are friendly because they want you to do something for them, etc. It’s no wonder that guys are more circumspect of women who claim to be geeks.

I’m also not sure a topic geek is necessarily a full geek, any more than someone who plays one sport is necessarily a jock. (In school I knew some of the latter that were definitely geeks.)

Do these clowns think no one was in the category before WoW existed? Before anyone gave a crap about Dr. Who?

Sounds like people from New Jersey driving into the Village Saturday nights to be a part of the folk music scene. Me and all my friends are rebellious!
I bet none of them can even program.
Being customers of an industry even bigger than Hollywood sure sets them apart.

But I don’t see many adults walking around calling themselves “jock” or “goth” or “preppy”. Once people who belonged to these groups as teenagers enter adulthood, they seem to be perfectly fine with adopting more apt descriptors for themselves. They no longer continue acting as if these labels mean anything. But for some reason, a subset of “geeks and nerds” continue to revel in this manufactured identity, cluelessly clutching to stereotypes (no pretty girls allowed!) to define themselves. That’s juvenile.

I agree that “geek” means something, and people have to be mindful of this before they throw the term around. But even if she’s not a geek, I fail to see why this should engender the red-hot outrage that I sensed coming from some of the commenters. That anger is what I don’t understand.

Obligatory link to “The More You Knerd” from Portland:

I’d say the sea change happened in the late 1990s when all of a sudden, a whole bunch of those formerly geeky kids who’d been messing around with computers and stuff became multimillionaires. And it was clear that even the ones who didn’t become rich, were still being a lot more successful in their adult lives than most of the people who tormented them back in high school.

I have encountered this mindset, although nearly always from male geeks. Google “fake geek girl” and see which sex seems more worked up about the idea that there might be girls posing as geeks for some mysterious yet no doubt sinister reason. I’m sure there are women who do this kind of thing too, probably even saying “You’re making it worse for those of us who AREN’T fake geek girls, you big phony!”, but it’s my impression that it’s nearly always guy geeks who pull this sort of thing.

FWIW I went to a women’s college and was a member of the campus science fiction and fantasy club, and I don’t remember there being any of this geekier-than-thou stuff. We had a number of members who were mostly just interested in one aspect of geek culture, like anime or roleplaying games, and didn’t really care about the other stuff, and no one seemed to have a problem with that.

I should add that while my opinion of such things probably doesn’t count for much since I’m pushing 60, IMHO anyone who’s strong in engineering or IT or math or physics should be able to call themselves a nerd or geek if they damn well feel like it, regardless of whether they’re into fantasy/SF, cosplay, or whatever other geek cultural touchstones there are.

I don’t think there’s any real mystery. You have people who caught shit throughout school for what they enjoyed. then it becomes “popular” and you suddenly have people trying to hook onto the term. Seeing (what you assume to be) the same sort of girl who laughed at you in 10th grade now throw on a pair of glasses and a two-sizes-too-small Mario Bros t-shirt and call herself a “Geek! Tee-hee!” is probably grating. And this is mainly a thing against girls because you don’t see a lot of male jocks throwing on Baker-era Dr. Who scarves and calling themselves nerds.

I say “assume to be” the same sort of girl who gave them shit because then, when asked, the girl with the glasses and Mario t-shirt doesn’t know what a Nintendo actually is and last touched a game controller when she had to clean up the family room after her little brother.

Like I said: No big mystery. And I don’t call myself a geek/nerd (and don’t have any real interest in Star Wars, Dr. Who, yadda yadda) so I don’t really care who does and doesn’t use the term. But it doesn’t seem hard to figure out why the “real” geeks and nerds would be possessive of it now that it actually has a social upside.