She’s Such a Geek is a collection of essays by women who are scientists, computer programmers, and gamers. Written in 2006, it feels both very current (why yes, women do still face sexual discrimination in the job market) and oddly quaint (it predates the controversies surrounding Gamer Gate and the “Fake Geek Girl” stereotype). While I admired the essays, I felt oddly detached from them for two reasons. One reason is that I am neither a computer programmer, nor a scientist, nor a gamer and therefore my experiences as a self-identified geek have been different than those of women in gaming and in STEM. The other is that these women speak overwhelmingly of being the only girl in the room – and that’s usually not my experience.
The essays explore growing up, working, finding love, and raising kids within the geek culture. Stand out essays include “Really Good for a Girl,” by Kory Wells, in which Wells writes about being and raising a daughter. “Gimp Geek,” by Theda Cornes, talks about being a geek with a physical disability. “When Diana Prince Takes Off Her Glasses,” by Annalee Newitz, talks about some of the many cultural and logistical barriers women face in the workplace.
One reason I didn’t relate to this collection is that although I identify as a geek I’m not competing in a glaringly male-dominated field. I don’t mean to sound naive about sexism in publishing, but since I tend to write about romance novels, fiction by and about women, and women in history, I’m not faced with the same expectations or isolation that I might face in STEM. I appreciated this collection because it reminded me of the challenges that women in other fields have to deal with.
The biggest thing I got from this collection was an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my experience as a woman who loves science fiction and fantasy. I’m almost never the only girl in the room. I never thought of science fiction and fantasy as being “for boys” because girls introduced me to it – Doctor Who, Star Trek, Elfquest, James Cameron movies, Blade Runner, Mad Max, X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer – all of these things were brought into my life by my friends, who were other teenage girls. Boys introduced us to gaming, but our core gaming group always consisted of at least as many girls as boys. We went to Star Trek conventions together and wrote fan fic together and I don’t think it occurred to any of us that we were trespassing on boys’ turf.
When men have introduced me to science fiction things, they’ve never suggested that I might like it “because I’m a girl” or “even though I’m a girl.” My dad thought I’d like Ray Bradbury because I was a precocious reader with a good imagination. My husband thought I’d like Babylon Five because, let’s be honest, my husband thinks that EVERYONE will inevitably love Babylon Five. He’s an equal opportunity B5 evangelist.
I feel incredibly blessed to have always been part of a community of geek women. She’s Such a Geek is a powerful reminder that many women are not so lucky. I’d love to see an updated version of this anthology that reflects the cultural changes of the last ten years. It’s been a long strange trip!