Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Female nerdism

Scrolling through the feed of the Female Geek Blogger group, my eye caught a post that was different from the usual positive fangirl posts. In My Kind of Nerd, Healthy.Nappy.Nerdy.Mommy writes:

"Many people hate the kind of nerd I am. I did not grow up reading comics and don’t know all the details, and the issue, of every comic, that every character has appeared. I developed my love of superheros, anime, and other nerdy interest late in life."

Here, I paused. The first question that came to my mind was "who are these people that hate newbie comic enthusiasts?" I suspect they would not approve of my own 'nerd score' either. Reading this article made me realize I'm living in a sheltered blogging circle where all people I meet are open minded and supporting.

I've been writing this blog since 2012 and my 'level of nerdiness' has never been questioned. But then again, "nerd" is more a label my friend Marinka and I jokingly accuse each other of when we're doing something we suspect the rest of the populace considers to be odd, like trying to find out the name of a sedge with Heukels' Flora van Nederland or serenading proto-dunes.

While I don't use the label "nerd" actively to describe myself, I can see how it's a useful term to effectively communicate to visitors what your blog is about if you're writing one dedicated to fandom. I use "diary of a gamer girl" in that manner: it shows that the topic of my blog is gaming and that I'm writing from a personal perspective.

Nerd vs gamer

Speaking from my background as lover of games, I cannot help but see parallels between the "nerd" and "gamer" label, especially when it comes to women adopting them. In 2015, a discussion about the gamer label took place in the gaming blogosphere. I was amazed to learn that the majority of the owners of the gaming blogs I was following, did not identify as gamers themselves! I had definitely been thinking about them as gamers. Some of their reasons were that my fellow bloggers did not want to be part of a discussion of how hardcore they were at gaming (in comic land, this would equal to how many comic facts you'd know), nor did they want to be associated with the misogynist Gamergate movement.

Interesting is that the demographic is different: gaming bloggers are divided fifty-fifty gender wise, while all geeky lifestyle bloggers I know are female. Nevertheless, both fields show similarities that can be explained by the evolution of subcultures swiftly gaining a more mainstream popularity.

Being a nerd seems to be somewhat less hazardous than a gamer, though: I haven't heard of a united "anti wannabe nerd" movement, nor of people getting death threats because of being a nerd (yes, this is actually a thing for female players that write about women and the game industry and achieve some form of fame). The worst I can imagine happening to female nerds is the dubious honour of ending up in an Idiot Nerd Girl meme. It's hopeful that, in contrast to the gaming one, the vast majority of the geeky lifestyle blogosphere does actively identify as geek, nerd or even dork. In the aforementioned Female Geek Blogger G+ group, I'm in the minority not doing so.

Hating on fandom

But you know this already. Back to Healthy.Nappy.Nerdy.Mommy. The rest of said post is spent explaining how hard she is trying to learn more about the fandoms she enjoys. She concludes with:

"Sometimes I get off on the fact that I am black and female to people are amazed that I know the little I do know so I can get by mostly on that. Plus, within the general public I do know more than the average bear. But within the “nerdy community” I am a newbie and many hate the kind of nerd that I am."

I'm reading the outcry of a woman who is passionate about her fandoms, but is afraid of not getting treated seriously and even hates herself for who she is. This makes me so, so sad. It also makes me angry. Nobody should have to feel like this because of their hobby. Time to cheer up with a motivational picture. I'm not as awesome as to make them myself, so I'll be stealing this one from De Pepi. This is sort of my personal mantra, though; I'm 100% behind this one.

Image by the lovely De Pepi of Geeky Anthropology

To everyone who is confronted with people claiming you need to know x, y and z before you're allowed to be part of their little club: ignore them. I say this from the bottom of my heart: these people are not worthy of having you in their club. Folks excluding others from using cultural labels ring all kinds of e-peen, elitist and hipster alarm bells to me. I can just see them sitting behind their PC, exclaiming "Oh no, my obscure hobby is getting more popular! All of a sudden it's now cool to be like me. But I did it first! I am more REAL!" <insert furious toddler tantrum here> To put it bluntly, these people are behaving like d*cks and are not worthy of your apology. There is no reason to be ashamed about loving the things you do.

For me, blogging has proven to be a great way of connecting to others that have the same interest. The Female Geek Blogger group hosts a myriad of blogs with divergent interpretations of 'nerdiness': lovers of books, games, comics, technology, movies etc. What these blogs have in common is a love for anything geeky and everyone I've met is open-minded, including and supportive. Just look at the word blurb I made based on the most common words posted in the group last week (top picture). Note the absence of "you suck", "imposter" and "wannabe nerd". This group rocks!

Finally, I know most of you are into gaming, but if you happen to be a comic lover or superhero fan, make sure to visit Healthy.Nappy.Nerdy.Mommy and follow her while she explores the wondrous world of comics. Thank you.


  1. Amen.

    I've been guilty of that during my teenage years. The idea was that if you weren't as knowledgeable was that you weren't "passionate" enough. Which is a pretty idiotic kind of thinking and I'd like to think I am past that. In fact, now I think that if a person shows interest on something it is a good opportunity to share and introduce them to the stuff you love. Then you both can talk about it. :)

    As for the term Nerd, I never liked it much because as I was growing up it only had negative connotations. Which didn't help with all my feelings of inadequacy (which I still have to a large extend but at least I know some of the reasons now) so it is term I prefer not to use for myself. But I have no strong feelings one way or another if people want to use them for themselves.

    Same thing with the gamer term but that one is more due to my own logic. I don't understand the need for a new term when we already have a perfectly valid one for a person who play games: player. For me it is like a person who loves basketball and plays it with his friends whenever he can calling himself "basketballer" to differentiate himself from other people who only watch basketball games occasionally or who don't watch basketball at all. But again I have no strong feelings one way or another if people want to use that term for themselves. Live and let live I guess.

    Also that motivational image is perfect.

    1. For me it's the same. I don't actively describe myself as nerd, geek or gamer in life, but it's a handy label at times if you need to tell something about yourself in one word. Like using gamer girl in my blog description, as I explained in the post.

      I don't think you have to worry about still being guilty of this still. I've gotten to know you as a kind an inclusive soul, not just to me, but to anyone you meet. The fact that you frequently write long blog post worthy comments on a blog owned by a self-proclaimed 'gamer girl' says enough. I also think it's really brave to tell you were guilty of this behaviour in the past in this hippie den of fandom. I'm with you hoping this is just a phase for most people and if they grow up to be like you, the world will be a better place. You don't give yourself enough credit!

    2. Thanks. But I know myself better. Oh, and just to clarify, because I just realized that given the context of the post it might give the wrong impression. But when I used to be like that it was against *anyone* who didn't meet my completely arbitrary view of what "passionate" meant. So, even as jerk I try to be egalitarian. :p

      Anyway, yeah, I can see where the handy label part comes. Still I don't feel like I'd feel right using it describe myself. Oh, well. To each their own.

  2. I'll be following along with her for sure! I completely agree that it is saddening to see people who question 'nerd status' based on WHEN you got into it or how much you know. That is so silly, and basically the opposite of what you'd want in a community. If you're a fan, you're a fan, no matter how long or what your knowledge base!

    1. I wholeheartedly agree! I feel we're part of a really inclusive and welcoming corner of the internet and I'm glad for it. :)

  3. I personally have as little time for "hipster hate" as I do for this kind of nerd hierarchy. When I read definitions of what a "hipster" is supposed to be it frequently reminds me very strongly of myself and my friends aged from mid-teens onwards and in my late fifties I would still tick a lot of the "hipster" boxes.

    What both surprises and annoys me about this is that many, most of those tropes and behaviors used to be assigned to the terms "nerd" or "geek" or, most especially, "fan". It seems very redolent to me of my days in comics fandom in the 1980s, when comics fans looked down on science fiction fans who looked down on fantasy fans who were looking down on comics fans in some kind of Escheresque nightmare spiral.

    Hipsters, geeks, nerds...they all have far more in common than they are willing to admit. There really is no excuse for any of them taking the moral high ground at the expense of the rest.

    As for hating newcomers to the fold, that's utterly unacceptable and, in my personal experience over the years, very unusual. I would say that one of the defining characteristics of fans of all kinds is evangelism. When a fan finds someone who doesn't know much about the subject of their fandom but who looks even the slightest bit not completely uninterested the problem is stopping the fan drowning the newbie in vast torrents of information and enthusiasm in the hope of gaining a convert. If that's not how it works any more then I must have missed that memo!

    One of the reasons we all blog is to share our obsessions and hope we can get a few more people to share them, isn't it? What on earth would be the point in trying to push people away from the things you want to tell the world are so great? The thing newbies ought to fear is being overwhelmed with well-meaning attention (seen that happen - often) not being ridiculed for their lack of experience.

  4. Thanks for sharing that G+ group. It will be crossing the streams, but I may just follow them from my RL/work account.
    I think most people are laid back and accepting. I haven't seen any hate vibes, but I think the hate vibes come from people just wanting to be outraged by things who have no filters. I actually doubt that they really do hate the things they say they hate, it is just a word they trot out and misuse.

    1. It's a different bunch of people in the G+ group compared to the gaming blogosphere, so it makes me feel like I'm living in two worlds at once at times - truth is, though, I don't like being stuck in one corner anyway. And it's fun to meet new people, read more personal posts and get in touch with geeky art and fashion. The group is *very* broad, and not all blogs appeal to me, but it's a fun way to broaden your horizon. Let me know what you think. :)

      And I agree with what you said about the hating. I think the people that 'hate' are mostly those that take advantage of internet anonymity and want to feed their ego by laughing at someone for 'doing it wrong', implying they belong to the pack and know how 'it should be done'. It's not all that different from bullying kids on a school yard when the teacher isn't looking. Pathetic, really.

  5. I just read her post and it was like all of my nerdy fears written down. I'm a very late in life bloomer of loving "nerd" stuff. There were some things I enjoyed when I was growing up (LOTR) but I saw how ruthlessly my brother was picked on for being a nerd, so I hid anything I liked that wasn't "cool" and basically steered clear of things I wanted to watch or do that were considered nerdy. I only started my blog a year ago, but that was the moment I said f*ck it, I'm going to try out all of these fandoms I've secretly longed to dive into and see how it goes. I'm always worried someone will think I'm just a big phony because I don't know all of the facts or have years and years of knowledge about fandoms so her post really resonated with me. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. I'm so sorry to hear you had to go through a phase like that. I absolutely *hate* group pressure, and I know all about it. When I grew up I made the opposite decision: I decided that the people that thought I wasn't "cool" because of my nerdy interests weren't worth it. Of course, this soon meant that I had few friends and I was widely known throughout the school as 'the weird girl'. There were some people in my class that really hated me, and I still don't understand why. For instance, I recognized a former classmate at my first week of university and greeted her; she looked straight past me and acted as if I didn't exist (even though we had been in the same class for 3 years)!

      Anyway, this was more than 10 years ago and the friends that I did make at that school are still my best friends. I strongly believe that everyone should do and like what they do, and not be hated for it. I had no idea that starting your blog was such a defining moment for you (even though I could've guessed if I'd have taken a bit more attention to the title :$), but I think it's really, really cool that you made the step. *fangirl highfive*

  6. The whole hobby could do with a lot less hate, in any form.

    Though I suspect the majority are really just trolling for the sake of trolling, especially in this internet day and age, out of a need for attention or a misplaced sense of humor, rather than any real hate per se.

    I'm personally happy when my hobbies and fandoms grow more mainstream and widely accepted. Many battles were fought with family and teachers in an age when 'fantasy' and 'roleplaying' was seen as something distracting from grades or even satanic. The more gamers and fans the merrier, cultural takeover = overall victory.

    I do admit to sometimes wielding age and trivial knowledge like a club though, but I usually reserve it for people who judge a book by its cover. I like to 'out-nerd' or 'out-geek' someone who measures by that yardstick, if only to startle them into silence. ;)

    It's a bit like that story Rubi Bayer shared on the GW2 reddit where she saw an elderly woman hovering around the ArenaNet booth eyeing the computers, and she approached her to offer to help her walk through the demo... Then the venerable old lady gave her a -look- and said, "I have nine level 80s."

    Rekt by Grandma Hardcore. I wanna grow up to be like them. :)

  7. I don't know how it is with Dutch, but in German we don't even have a proper word for geek or nerd - I think that's changing now, but growing up I just knew that I had weird hobbies that hardly anyone else seemed to share and that I didn't quite fit in anywhere. Finding the internet and this new "identity" was so exciting! I still don't get the notion that people apparently think that there are too many fans of this kind of stuff now and they somehow need to be divided into worthy and unworthy. Like Bhag said, our natural reaction should be to share the love, not the opposite.

    1. In Dutch, everyone just uses the English words. I didn't hear "geek" when I grew up, but "nerd" was actively in use and had a very negative connotation. I'm pretty sure I was identified as one by my class mates if only for the reason that I didn't hate learning things at school and things came naturally to me.

      I had no idea that discovering the internet and geek/nerd/gamer culture was something special for you (I think you usually keep such personal experiences out of Going Commando, that or I'm a worse reader than I try to be), but that's really cool to hear. It's always a happy moment when someone finds their 'crowd'. Also, I cannot agree more: the more fans, the merrier! If only because it means it's easy to decorate your house with Star Wars merc. 😳 *hides*

    2. You're right that I don't talk a lot about my personal life on the blog, though it's funny to me that you cite this particular example as something that sounds personal to you - you mean, not everyone was totally amazed by discovering the internet? :D

      I think partially I like my privacy, but another major part is that I'm quite obsessed with staying "on topic". Maybe I'll use Shadowz' writing prompt to reveal a few things about myself (/gasp).

    3. OMG, Shintar participating in a blogging prompt - what is the world coming to?! First it was answering my Liebster questions in the comments; it's clearly going downhill from here...

      I'm joking of course, I do enjoy reading about other bloggers from time to time (especially if they don't reveal much about themselves in their usual writing, and especially if I stalk them a lot: you qualify for both categories), so I would love you to accept the creative blogger award.

      As for the internet, I suppose everyone loves it, but I imagine the effect it has on a person will vary per individual. When you got in touch with it is a big factor as well. When I put my first steps onto the net, it was a much friendlier and less corporate world than it is now - a different experience indeed.

  8. Love this post! I get crap from idiots who don't think I'm the "right kind of person" to be a nerd; jokes on them when I school their asses on LoZ trivia.

    I wrote something similar awhile back about these types of gatekeepers if you have any interest(:

    xoxo -

  9. Awesome post! The ridiculous amount of hate female gamers and geeks tend to have to deal with is just absurd. We really are part of such an open-minded group with our little blogging community, but there are still so many people out there that accuse women of being fake nerds simply because they don't know everything there is to know about everything nerdy...if that makes any sense, haha. It's all so silly to me, but it does break my heart when girls start feeling badly about who they are because someone put them down. Anyway, our group is awesome, and you're awesome too<3

    1. It breaks my heart, too. It's so dumb, and mean and hurtful... I can get really mad when I hear about this happening. Luckily we all have each other. Thanks for the kind words, awesome nerdy friend! <3

  10. I am a man. Totally Lord of the Rings fan. Read the books, saw the movies, play the game. Read the books once, saw the movies twice (only because I went to the last premiere in a movie-marathon), play the game daily. I forget names, I am a very poor quoter. I never concidered myself as a nerd when I was young (51 now), I was (am) a rocker, but lets face it, I am one. Love computers, like intellectual conversations, read a lot of comics when I was young (Superman-fan), wear T-shirts with funny texts, I blog and I game for hours a day. Just one game, I don't concider myself a gamer either. But I am...

    But... NOBODY ever judged me for that. Weird faces sometimes, when I say I read The Lord of the Rings only once (rather read new info, brain wants info), but never anyone doubted me to be a real fan/nerd.

    TOTALLY absurd when a woman is the same degree of fan/nerd, and gets judged for that.

    Great article again Rav, and Healthy.Nappy.Nerdy.Mommy, I think you are a true nerd!

  11. I find it very difficult to comprehend why there are still people who readily accept that men can do all these various "geeky" things without a second thought and yet criticise, patronise, and outright dismiss women for even so much as aspiring to do the exact same things. Geeking and nerding out, no matter to which degree, is something which is absolutely gender-neutral, and it's about time that more people began accepting this.

    As others have said, fantastic article. The nerddom is strong with this one. :D

  12. The comic book fandom is more toxic than video gamer fandom, in my opinion, because it has been around longer.

    But the success of the MCU movies has been kicking the door open for new fans, and in particular women and minorities, to enter comic fandom. And there are comics that have women and minorities as their focus that are very much in the mainstream, such as Ms. Marvel. (I REALLY recommend Ms. Marvel, with the teenage Kamala Khan as the titular character.)

    Still, the Comic Book Guys are out there, and they're not going away quietly.

  13. I agree with absolutely every word you wrote here. Being any kind of geek, nerd, gamer or whatever we might call ourselves is all about hobbies, being passionate about something; who are others to judge what we sould or should not like?!

    I guess I have been very lucky so far to never had experienced the female geek hatred as some other ladies members of the group you mentioned (or the similar one on Facebook, I hear you were considering joining us as well? ^^). However, IRL when my hobbies come up during a random discussion with people, I am very amused to often hear that "no one would guess that I am a geek by looking at me". That almost makes me think of myself as a peculiar superhero - girly girl by day, supernerd by night :D The funny thing about that is at work everyone thinks that I am a technology master of some sort and whenever there is something wrong with a computer or other electronic device they ask me for help. Ah, sweet stereotype ^^

    Anyway, we should all be free to like what like without anyone telling us that we're liking it wrong. There. Live long and geek out! :)

  14. Great post -it makes me sad too. I feel the hardships as a female Magic the Gathering player. I'm the only regular girl at my local comic shop. Everyone is use to me there and things are fine, but the larger tournaments are often awkward. Guys get upset if they're beaten by a female player, or they ask questions/imply that I only play Magic because my boyfriend/brother/male-figure plays.
    It's frustrating, but something I try to educate players on at the same about.


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