Girls in Geekdom: Dispelling the Myth

This week on Ask the Dungeon Master I’m tackling a more serious topic, and something that I think is very important:Dear DM, 

I was recently reading a review about the Game of Throne’s series on HBO (adaptation of the book series by George RR Martin) and the writer (for the New York Times no less) equated that women may tune in for the sexual scenes, but the complicated plot would have them turning back to Sex and the City. For example:  “While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half. ” 

Whether a fan of the series or not, this review brought up a lot of controversy online about the place of women in geekdom.  As a life-long Geek Girl myself, I’m a little confused that we’re compared to unicorns and only half thought to exist at all.  I wondered what you would say the percentage of geek girls vs boys is?  Are we really that rare?

Thanks,

Wanderer; actually lost 

Speaking personally, the vast majority of my female friends are Geeks.  But I’m a Geek, and I seek out other Geeks.  If I was to answer this question from my own experience, I would assume that Guy Geeks maybe outnumber Girl Geeks by a fairly narrow margin of 5:4 (44%), but clearly this isn’t what a lot of people experience.

So why the discrepency?  Is my experience skewed, or is the other guy’s?  We might naturally assume that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but interestingly enough, that might not be the case this time.  I found some demographic data from San Diego Comic Con, which puts female attendance at 47%, actually a bit higher than my initial estimate.  Of course, Comic Con isn’t a snapshot of all of Geek culture (and I’m sure there are more than a few unwilling wives), but for me, it’s a fair generalization.  So again, I ask, why the discrepency?  Why do so many guys think of Geek Girls as elusive, semi-mythological creatures?

If we look at the world around us, we are bombarded every day with cultural archetypes of “Man” and “Woman”.  Go to the store and look at the magazines.  90% of them have “beautiful” women on the covers, whether the magazine is targeting men, women, or both.  How many times have Jack Black, Seth Rogan, and Kevin James won over the super “hot” woman in the movies?  Pudgy, funny men can date models, but a pudgy, funny girl with Brad Pitt on her arm would be a joke.  You’ll never see that in a movie, and quite rarely will you see it in real life.

What I’m getting at here is that women are represented in our culture as beautiful creatures.  Sure they can be smart, they can be funny, they can even be geeks (ala Tina Fey), but they still damn well better be attractive, otherwise they’re just not a real woman.  I don’t think I’ve seen a naked old lady in a movie since Harold & Maude (which is consequently the best romantic comedy ever made).  Naked old women are gross.  Actually, old women in general are gross, whereas old men can be hot, because they’re “sophisticated” or some crap like that. We live in a culture of hypocrisy, idiocy, and general tom-foolery, and not the good kind of tom-foolery.

A perfect example of the blatant over-sexualization of Geek Girls

You might be saying, “Okay, of course you’re right Mr. DM, because you’re always right, but what the hell does this have to do with the question?”  I believe one of the major reasons people think female Geeks are so rare is because they tend to hide (at least in their younger years).  They’re more like shy bunny rabbits than make-believe unicorns. One possible explanation for this shyness are the sociatal pressures on women.  And before any men get pissed off, I’m not saying men don’t have a crap-load of pressure as well, but we’re not talking about men, so quit trying to make everything about you.  I should also mention, that when I use the word “attractive”, I’m using it in the cultural sense, and am not in any way making aesthetic judgements on anyone.  Most women are beautiful; fat, skinny or in between.  If you really did get hit with the ugly stick, well, that’s why we have personalities.

Back to the point though.  It’s more accepted for boys and young men to lead intellectual lives, and Geek culture tends to be more intellectual.  I think it’s harder for adolescent girls to find solace in geek culture because of this.  Not because they’re not intellectual, but because it doesn’t do anything to help them feel less fat, more attractive, or less ostracisized, and that’s what many young girls are looking for.  Boys can find a sense of comradary within geekdom more easily.  Girls might very well be interested in all the geeky, nerdy, aswesomeness, but I think fear keeps them at a distance. 

On top of all this Geek boys are also ostracized.  They have been socialized just as much as the girls, and a part of this includes a desire to be with those unattainable, popular girls.  After all the inevitable rejection that follows these desires, I think it becomes second nature to a lot of boys to try and claim some power and intentionally keep girls out of their boys club, further convincing adolescent girls that Geek life isn’t for them.

It’s not until people get older, move on with their lives, and realize how idiotic middle and high school culture is, that they begin seeing beyond that narrow range of adolescent vision.  They come into themselves (hopefully), and start accepting the things they love.  When I was younger, I had zero Geek Girl friends, now I’m not sure if I have any female friends that AREN’T Geeks.  It’s just the way of things.  We get older, and stop giving a crap about certain things (again, hopefully). 

Part of the problem with the article you mentioned above, is that it’s not taking into account that the Geek Girls watching “Game of Thrones” will probably enjoy it just as much as most men.  I don’t know a single woman that would choose Lorrie Moore over Tolkien, nor do I know any that watch “Sex in the City”.  The author is speaking very generally about Americans as a whole.  And in that case, I would say most women probably won’t enjoy “Game of Thrones”.  But who really cares anyway?  Most women are lame, because 90% of all people are lame.  Geek Girls are where it’s at.  Viva la Geek.

Yours in solidarity,
The Dungeon Master

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10 Responses to Girls in Geekdom: Dispelling the Myth

  1. No matter if some one searches for his vital thing, so he/she wishes to be available that in detail, therefore that
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  2. That’s a brilliant philosophical article. It has a good amount of facts and opinions. Unfortunately, Geek girls are still hard to find. It would be good to add some female variety to our D&D sessions.

    • Glad you enjoyed it! Interestingly enough my newest campaign is four girls and only one guy. But maybe I’m just a geek chick magnet. Perhaps I can codify some techniques to attract the elusive women.

  3. Ask the DM says:

    Your point about MMOs is definitely true, but I have to say, there’s a bit of a grey area with this as well I think. Personally, I know just as many girls that play WoW as guys, but again, I’m a bit skewed with who I know. However, I think if we had demographic data of WoW players, I’d bet that most of the girls playing are in the 20+ age range. I think some of the imbalance (and irritating sexualness of the male players) probably comes from the fact that you have a ton of teenage boys playing, but not a whole lot of teenage girls. Which, once again, I blame more on the culture girls are living under than an actual, developed disinterest in the game.

    • Grace says:

      I’d also be curious to know what the numbers are of girls who play in general versus girls who play end game content. There’s still a certain stigma attached to playing MMOs in the 20s… I did have a friend who made a mage one night, played five levels, enjoyed it, and told me to never speak of any of it again.

      There was also the night that I raided with a freaky guild that was pretty much all girls. They were scary, and I never associated with them again. They kept threatening to kick people from the group if they swore. I was offended by their behavior, as it makes the rest of us look bad. We’re not all spoil-sport anti-fun prudes who can’t handle being on the internet.

      • Ask the DM says:

        It’s definitely a difficult topic to discuss. Sounds like it would make a good anthropological study. Maybe I’ll put my degree to use.

        I think what it comes down to is that there are things that guys like and things that girls like and things we both like, but as far as “general” geekyness, I think the number of women are probably only slightly lower.

        • Grace says:

          I get annoyed though when people start trying to cater geeky things to women, because it generally means dumbing down the content or removing everything about it that was appealing in the first place.

          • Ask the DM says:

            Yep, well that’s a much larger issue with the general idiocy of people. People like to pretend things like sexism and racism don’t exist much anymore, but I don’t think I’ve met a single person that didn’t hold sexist or racists beliefs, regardless of how small or seemingly insignificant. It’s people’s lack of awareness that’s the problem. You don’t even need to try and fight against a belief if you know it’s there, understand why it’s there, and recognize its potential to harm, hinder and offend. Awareness allows beliefs to become malleable. I’m aware of my sexism. For example, I like women baking pies. I don’t expect it. I don’t think they should bake me pies all the time. I don’t think it’s their womanly duty. But I still like women baking pies way more than men baking pies.

  4. Grace says:

    The only time I’ve ever voluntarily watched “Sex in the City” was when I was studying abroad, missed America, and found cheap pirated badly translated hilarious dvds (they expanded my Russian vocabulary considerably). I’d prefer The Hobbit over chick lit any day.

    That being said, there are a lot of areas where geek girls are just unheard of. I play a lot of World of Warcraft, and I’m one of only two females in my guild. The guys in my guild are pretty chill, but outside of the guild it can get annoying, because the moment you speak and people realize that you are a girl, there will be people hitting on you. There’s a reason why I don’t speak out loud unless I absolutely have to while playing. My boyfriend used to play Eve Online, and there were no girls at all in his Teamspeak, to the point that sometimes I’d go on it and say something in the middle of the night just for the amusing awkward silence that happened as soon as everyone heard a female voice. There just aren’t a lot of girl gamers who are into MMOs.

    I think you’re right that geek girls try to hide their geekiness; I know that even though a lot of my female friends are geeks, they have a very hard time admitting it, and will try to avoid geeky topics in public. At the same time, pretty much all of my female friends have read Game of Thrones, watch the series religiously, etc., and not because of the sex scenes. I think that Game of Thrones becoming semi-mainstream is helping to change the idea that geekdom is uncool.

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