Last night I drove out to New Jersey to spend the evening as the guest of the Science Fiction Association of Bergen County. I enjoyed myself tremendously: welcoming people, fantastic questions, thoughtful and interesting conversation.
Of all the topics that came up, the one that I find myself thinking about the most this morning revolved around a question that I was asked about my interests and experience in geekdom growing up and how that might have changed now that I’m a part of this community. The first part of the question kicked off such a lively discussion that we never even got to the second part.
My love of sf/f started with two nearly-simultaneous events: seeing Star Wars ep. IV and reading A Wrinkle in Time for what would be the first of many times. Everyone liked Star Wars; no problem there. The book was a class assignment, so nothing odd about that. But that’s about as far as acceptance went. As my interests grew and moved more towards the fringes, I learned to hide them if I didn’t want to be ridiculed, even by my own family.* I discovered Doctor Who by accident one Saturday afternoon on our local PBS station and watched it in secret from then on. It wasn’t until years later that I met other people who had even heard of the show. Likewise with Blake’s 7, Red Dwarf, the original Battlestar Galactic, Buck Rogers (practically unwatchable even then, but I managed it.) Children’s books from Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien (the Hobbit) were acceptable but books by Anne McCaffrey, Susan Cooper and Terry Brooks were “stupid.”
Around the beginning of high school I finally met some people who shared my interests but the climate was still very different than it is now. “Geek” and “nerd” were wholly derogatory; no one owned those words yet. We existed at the bottom of the social pecking order and as a girl, I felt on the edge even of my own group.
If you follow fandom on social media, you must be well aware of the women out there who are refusing to be excluded and marginalized and the very ugly places that can lead. As infuriating as it can be, there’s something wonderful about it, too. As a teen I couldn’t have imagined even knowing that so many women existed who loved what I loved and who had the courage to fight for inclusion. It would have profoundly changed the attitude with which I viewed my own gender, and meant I didn’t need to create a non-threatening version of myself to be accepted (or even tolerated) by geek boys.
So now, even when I see the behavior of idiots and misogynists out there on the interwebs, I see soldiers fighting on because they don’t know the war is already over. I see my geek/gamer girl and her little clique where gender is not an issue. Their passions have flooded into the mainstream. They’re not isolated. They’re not bullied, and consequently they don’t bully each other when they’re likes and dislikes don’t align. Max Rockatansky and Imperatur Furiousa defeated Immmortan Joe together, and Rey and Finn will save the galaxy in… 32 days.
Thanks to Phil De Parto and the entire group for an invigorating evening!
*I don’t believe there was anything malicious about it. Teasing was a big part of our family dynamic but this was something I loved and I was very sensitive about it.