Being a Teenage Geek Girl

“Mr. P says that in ten years of teaching Science Fiction, this is the first time he’s had a class with more girls than boys.” Kiki told me as I drove her home from school. I had been startled to learn that a high school had a Science Fiction Literature class at all, but it does, and Kiki signed up for it. Apparently so did many other girls. Kiki has geeky girl friends who will agonize with her over Avatar The Last Airbender or the latest video game story. I had male friends who would talk these things, but no girls. None of the girls I knew really got it. Or at least they didn’t seem to.

In high school I was in full geek girl stealth mode. I borrowed Esprit sweatshirts from my friends, had slumber parties, went to dances. I enjoyed all of this things, but there was a whole list of things that I also enjoyed only at home. I watched Star Trek and Doctor Who. I played Dungeons and Dragons with my siblings. I read fantasy books. I wonder now how many other geek girls there were out there, also stealthed.

My daughter’s geek girl experience has been different. She and her friends have video game parties. She wears a Halo hat to school. She carried a bag embroidered with dice and the words “Bag of Holding” and got compliments for it instead of ridicule. She has never been teased for any of these things. She never felt like she had to hide these things in order to successfully navigate the social scene at school. It is possible that she is braver than I was, more geeky. However I also think there has been a significant social shift which makes it okay for girls to like these things. This shift is evidenced by the Sci Fi Lit class which now has more girls than boys when ten years ago it was exclusively male.

I’m glad for my daughters that this is so.

4 thoughts on “Being a Teenage Geek Girl”

  1. Two wonderful things there: the existence of that class, and Kiki’s experiences. The Oyster Wife and I took a Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature class together when I was in college in California, and it was a wonderful experience. To be in a room full of fen, talking about books that represented our common cultural heritage, was a thrill.

    More acceptance of geek cultures and passtimes warms my heart. I’m a little younger than you are, and male, and yet the “undercover” thing is familiar to me. I was raised on Tolkien, Lewis, and Asimov. My peers were raised on MTV. I found a few other like myself, but mostly I just kept it to myself. I am so happy to see how that has changed. There are still bigoted and misinformed people where geeks are concerned of course – there was a dear friend of my parents who looked like the cat had soiled the rug when my wife explained that the strange joke on my shirt was a D&D reference. But now they’re the exception rather than the majority. Geek culture as dominant might be debatable, but it is certainly ascendant. If God is gracious enough to give us a daughter some day, I’m glad she’ll be born into this environment, rather than what you experienced.

  2. While I’ve found that anime/fantasy/sci-fi is much more popular than it used to be, being a female tech geek still isn’t. There have been many “Why aren’t there more women in math/science fields” articles going around for years. As a woman who loves computer programming, yet left the computer field anyway, I have mixed feelings about even encouraging my girl(s) in engineering due to so many of the social issues surrounding it. But my family is still very young. Maybe things will have changed by the time my kids are old enough to be choosing careers.

    1. I think you’re right about this. There is still social stigma to being a tech geek girl. I’ll bet the optional computer classes are still majority male.

  3. I think it’s not only a shift that allows girls to be more geeky, but everyone. When I was growing up, being into D&D, Star Trek, computers, and video games wasn’t exactly the fast lane to popularity and acceptance. But from my teenage nephews I know the story is much different these days.

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