Jamie Gaskins

Ruby/Rails developer, coffee addict

What Even Is a Fake Geek Girl?

Published Sep 2, 2013

I've never understood the whole "fake geek girl" thing. Every time a woman does something geeky, claims to be a geek, or otherwise displays some form of geekiness, there's at least one man around that cannot wrap his mind around the fact that you can be a geek without a Y chromosome. This man will generally quiz this woman on her knowledge of geek things such as stereotypically geeky books like Lord of the Rings, some comic book or even a TV show or movie like Star Trek or Star Wars. When she falters on one of these questions (which is extremely likely because the man is intentionally trying to trip her up by asking obscure things), he labels her as a "fake geek girl".

The fallacy here is that this hypothetical (and all too often very real) man believes that the pop quiz he's giving this hypothetical (and, again, often very real) woman is about topics and ideas common to all geeks. Let me be perfectly clear about this: there is nothing common to all of us other than our unwavering enthusiasm for something.

Here's a list of things that would get me labeled as a fake geek if my gender were different:

  • I've never read LOTR. I read hardly any fiction at all, actually.
  • I read a few X-Men comic books on the rare occasion I could get one but I didn't read any others. No Avengers, Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, etc. I learned about most of these from the after-school cartoons instead.
  • I never got into D&D. I played a few games of it but I couldn't tell you what edition I like best because I don't know the difference.
  • I've never played Settlers of Catan or any game like it. Ever. I played Monopoly.
  • I didn't get into Star Wars until I was in my 20s. I even liked Episode II because I thought the idea of Yoda jumping around with a lightsaber was awesome because I never expected it and only recently learned that it pissed off a lot of people who are really into the lore.
  • I love Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager and Deep Space Nine but I never really got into The Original Series.

These would all cause a lot of geek heart attacks, but nobody calls me on them or any of a dozen other "geek" things they grill women on simply because I'm a guy? Honestly, I think most geek guys would fail quite a few of these and I think a lot of them wear the geek label because it's the cool thing these days.

The reason I was considered a geek growing up was because 20 years ago, to own and be able to operate a computer as a teenager was still considered super geeky. I was lucky enough to be introduced to computers at a very young age (we had one of the original 1984 Macs) and I fell in love with it. It did things when I told it to. If it screwed up, it was because I screwed up in telling it what to do. It was pure logic and it made so much sense to me.

When I was 12, I found out I could write my own software for it. I was no longer limited to software written by other people. And if knowing how to operate a computer was geeky, being able to write my own software was super geeky. But that's really the only thing that made me a geek. I would be labeled an outsider in a heartbeat if they quizzed me like they do to women.

Sure, 20 years ago "geek culture" was pretty much nothing but men. I don't mean to say that there weren't geek women, but gender roles were much more mainstream back then. I think that's where this whole stigma comes from.

Today, I ran across this image on Twitter, which I felt was entirely justified:

Who's the fake geek now?

There are plenty of "geeky things" enjoyed by a lot of women that most self-proclaimed geek guys will never know about, as evidenced in the image above. My girlfriend is probably a lot geekier than I am. She's read all the things, she plays all the latest video games, and she is more in touch with "geek culture" than I am. I just follow a bunch of programmers on Twitter and get my geek news from retweets. Hell, that's how I found out that the whole "fake geek girl" crap was even a thing. I had no idea that people were accusing women of this simply because they're women.

Geek culture is much cooler now than it was back then and this will obviously attract all kinds of people. This isn't a bad thing. Geek culture isn't an exclusive club. We were all labeled geeks growing up because we didn't fit into someone else's elitist clique. Let's not be those fuckers. So, you want to be a geek? By all means …

Geek out with your beak out!

Don't call yourself a geek because it's the cool thing, but do it because you love something nearly to the point of obsession. Do it because you're amazingly talented at something.

The reason sci-fi and fantasy worlds are considered geeky is because they were not generally accepted by the mainstream (whatever that means). By that definition, a lot of other quirks and communities are considered geeky, as well (this is a very incomplete list):

  • LGBTQ — the LGB part of it is becoming more accepted as time goes on, but there's still a long way to go there and transgender people still confuse the shit out of most of the population.
  • Cosplay — they love dressing up as their favorite characters and aren't afraid to show it to everyone.
  • BDSM — it's like sci-fi used to be, nearly everyone's interested in it in some way but few will admit it publicly.

Don't ever let anyone tell you you're not good enough to fit in here. Anyone who tells you that doesn't realize that a lot of us are geeks because it's the only place everyone fits in.