I Am This: Geek

I spent some time debating with myself on whether or not I was going to talk about this particular identity. Not that I am ashamed of it, but because I think that I might get some of the most vitriol about it. Strange, when I think about it that I was more nervous about being challenged or abused for daring to call myself a geek than pansexual, or discussing my journey to cisgender identification.

While I think most of the fervor of the “movement” that developed a few years ago against “ethics in games journalism”, I feel like it did harm to geekdom in generally and geeky women in particular. I don’t think my level of engagement has really and truly recovered, either. There is a part of me that as I am writing this telling me I am a liar and I don’t really fit as a geek anymore because I don’t make a lot of time to play video games, I am sort of burning out on superhero movies/shows, I haven’t picked up a comic book or manga in ages, I haven’t been to a convention in a few years and last time I went, I didn’t even cosplay.

Image-1 (3)
Neither of these people is me, but this is amazing cosplay.

There’s that part of me that wonders if I ever really belonged to this community in the first place.

It is no secret that women in the geek community have become more and more vocal about having to prove our “geek cred” based on our collections, our gamer scores,  how hot we look in our cosplay (Too hot? Obvs just a booth babe and not a “real geek”. Not hot enough? Clearly only “con hot” and doing it for male attention.) and how many Star Trek episode scripts we can recite in chronological order, in Klingon (none, I’ve never been a Trekkie).

So, if I’m no longer able to throw my NES Mario speed run time (which at around 10.5 minutes is not breaking the 4min 57sec world record anytime soon, is generally respectable nonetheless) in their face and I haven’t even seen the Deadpool or Batman v. Superman movies, how am I to prove that I really am a geek? Well, I don’t know if I can. And I am not sure I want to, or that it even matters quite as much to my identity as in the past.

Image-1
This shaker lives on my desk at work. At least one coworker thinks I’m a geek.

When I first began to identify as a geek, I was like many other “stereotypical” geeks: an outcast in my high school, smart, and fond of things like anime. When I found a few people like me, part of my identity became about the things that I liked because of the associations it brought me. These people didn’t make fun of me for spending hours trying to get the Biggoron sword, or because I watched Sailor Moon after it wasn’t cool to watch “kids’ shows” anymore. These people looked at me and went “Me too! Let’s be friends!”

Since large companies, merchandisers, Hollywood and everyone’s dog has normalized “geek culture”, it is no longer the hallmarks of outcast teenagers and “adult children” who sit in their parents’ basements and whatever other stereotypes. Geeks are running the show, have enormous economic power, and are naming babies Zelda and Anakin. So while I might still be part of a wider community, that community no longer has the sense of inclusion that I once felt from it. From being accused of being a “fake geek girl” and feeling unwelcome in some geek spaces to feeling like it is an actual burden that I need to commit to seeing all the movies and reading all the books and keeping current with all the shows, sometimes I feel like I just don’t want it anymore. Like, I’m a grown-ass woman, y’all – I got bills to pay and keeping current with this stuff isn’t gonna pay my rent.

Image-1 (2)
Written by a friend during a recent episode of our role-playing campaign. Basically a huge mishmash of geekery. It’s fantastic!

The thing about this though, is that my interest in these things hasn’t changed all that much since when I first started calling myself a geek. I still play word adventure games with no pictures (I even make some sometimes, too), I still watch Sailor Moon, I still know every word to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and I still play video/board/tabletop games. I just don’t do these things with the frequency I did before. Does that mean I am not as much of a geek as I used to be? Maybe. To the people in geek spaces who expect me to “prove” that I am a geek? Yes, it does. To the friends I assemble with on Fridays to play tabletop role-playing with? I haven’t heard anything more than occasional disappointment that I don’t get 100% of the references, but we still talk about the themes, the larger implications and the philosophies behind the stuff and I mostly don’t worry about spoilers in these discussions; so if they do believe that, they believe it secretly.

So here’s a takeaway question: does an identity need to be “provable” to an outside person/group to make it valid? Think about it, talk about it, leave comments and/or email me. I have a pretty good idea as to where I stand, but I am curious about what others think.