Gender has zero impact on the ways in which women interact with geek culture but it does have an influence on how geek culture interacts with us. Geek culture talks to us differently because it believes that we’re different. News flash: we’re really not. We shouldn’t have to prove that we’re just as “geeky” as our male counterparts. We shouldn’t feel afraid that our own community will turn us into nothing more than sex objects (see: Lara Croft. I’m a trained archaeologist and really?! None of us EVER dressed like that – mud and t-shirts are the standard).
I’ll give you the not-so-nice stats first. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) said last February that 22% of game developers are female and indicated that the figures are far lower in other areas of the technology sector. That this was hailed (by a man) as a positive “growth trajectory… when it comes to diversity” in game development, rather than a disappointingly low figure tells you everything you need to know.
On the other hand, the ESA believes that around 41% of self-identifying gamers are female. They found that a high number of women streamed games with gameplay elements that appealed to numerous demographics, not just the more mainstream games like Sims or Madden. And within the 180 institutions that make up the High Education Video Game Alliance, 31% of enrolled students are female.
In these troubled times of Donald Trump and Brexit, it’s more important than ever to come together as a community and embrace the progressive ideals that these regimes seek to oppress. A lot of the problems we see in gaming culture have to do with semantics and imagery. I’m not kidding. It’s hard to change the way that we think but by normalizing something through the use of the appropriate words and pictures, the weird and slightly scary can become commonplace very quickly. Brains are strange like that.
A more sensible term than “geek girls” would be “girls who are geeks”. It’s like referring to someone as “an autistic kid” versus “a kid with autism”. Do you see the difference? In the first example, we’re characterizing the kid by their disability. In the second example, we’re acknowledging the person behind the disability; they are much more than just autistic, it doesn’t have to define who they are. When talking about girls in geek culture, we need to switch things around a little. Instead of avoiding defining someone as a geek, we want to avoid defining them by their gender.
Unless we’re going to start referring to male gamers as “gamer guys” and male geeks as “geek guys”, then we don’t need our own, special snowflake, semantic categorization. Stop assuming that I can’t possibly be a geek and a girl. In fact, stop labelling me by my gender entirely, please. It’s not cool and it’s not right. That said, many girls quite comfortably use the term “geek girls” to refer to themselves without prejudice. And that’s okay.