Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Geekdom (Cross-posted from G+)

What follows is my response to Felicia Day's question on Google+ regarding an article about "fake geek girls."

I first saw this discussion two days ago and it has taken me this long to put together my thoughts, this being a very personal subject matter to me, that makes me cringe and even hurts my heart a bit.

For me, growing up a geek (in the 80's) wasn't about obsession with anything, it was about rejection from the popular kids. It was being one of the weirdos: the ones that had the most pimples, the fattest, the shortest, the tallest, the gay ones, the smartest ones, the one that believes he is from Mars, the one with the fringe religion parents. All of us had problems making friends, and we kind of drifted together into our own little group that hid in the drama room at lunchtime.

We didn't participate in sports, well, we had one who was a champion bowler ... but no kind of sports participation at school. But we were okay with who we were and loved our lot in life. We each had our own niche interests, all of them divergent, but we had our individual loves, and we learned about each other's geeky fascinations (bugs, books, science fiction) with genuine interest and reverence.

To me, the spread of the internet has simply given the rest of the world appreciation for the things we already knew and loved, but that "they" didn't hear about back then because there was no pretty face to report on these wonderful hobbies and interests of ours, and they never would have had a conversation with any of us.

Now they have a sleek interface and attractive pictures to see when a geek topic comes up, and voila, the subculture is no longer a pimply fat kid jabbering excitedly, trying to communicate the depth and wondrous story of Iluvatar and the Ainur (Lord of the Rings has a huge back story for anyone who doesn't know). But now due to the masterful touch of cinema giving the story a beautiful face, more "regular folk" have gotten acquainted on the surface with Tolkien's works, and so a greater exposure means a greater number of people get curious to know more and search out information, and thus someone who might not have otherwise ever read even one of Tolkien's books might become a new Tolkien geek.

Until a year or so ago when I saw this subject being debated, I didn't know that I didn't qualify as a geek unless I had infinity level obsession with a hobby. And then I felt sidelined, rejected, and wanted to go hide in a back room again, where my identity wouldn't be judged. I had forgotten about it. This article brought back those feelings once again.

To the author of the article: I don't care if you feel like "our group" is getting watered down. There is enough room here for anyone who is here with an open mind. With "geekdom" being more accepted, I'm just happy I don't get looked at like an alien just sprouted from my head when I open my mouth about my interests and hobbies anymore like I used to, or when I say "we don't really watch football - we're usually watching something on History Channel or a SciFi Channel show" (meaning my kids and husband included). (And no, I don't like to spell it SyFy. Ugh.) I used to have to keep those things secret from co-workers, like there was something wrong with me.

Can we not get defensive about the words "geek" and "nerd" please? Can we please let in whoever is a little bit weird, even if they were a cheerleader at one time, IDC ... If they can listen to me rave about Tolkien's linguistics without their eyes bugging out of their head, well, that's good enough for me. I'll be happy to listen to their interest in, say ... crocheting yarn necklaces and the history of spinning yarn. And I'm not going to require that they be able to do advanced pattern techniques in order to let them call themselves "geeky" about crocheting.

I think the internet has made the world more aware of geek interests just by inherently existing on a geek framework. We have more attention, and so we have more people who want to identify with us either because (1) they've always felt outcast and are now discovering a group of friends in-game or on a forum or such, or (2) because they discovered they are interested in a topic that is considered geeky and they suddenly realize that 'hey, this is really okay!'

And maybe I'm a little afraid that the tough softball girl is going to threaten to kick my rear again if I stick my head up too high defending myself and my weird friends. But dang it, I'm a grown-up now, and I WILL defend us now! Anyone with a little bit of weird is welcome in my book - anyone who will celebrate weirdness equally with me and my friends.

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