Geek Girls Rule! #57 – The Stigma of Being Geek

So, Friday night Marcy and I stopped at Cupcake Royale, the hipster cupcake place here in Seattle, to pick up dessert for the Girl Game. Marcy was just recently voted in to the Girl Game to replace a member who bailed on us. Most of the girls cook for the game, I, alas, do not cook. Or at least not often. So when we play at someone’s house that isn’t mine, I bring dessert.

Anyway, we get to Cupcake Royale last night, and we’re getting chatted up by the cute boy cupcake wrangler and barista. He was asking us what we’re up to that night. Marcy and I look at each other and answer, “Girl’s night.”
“Well, what do you guys do on ‘Girl’s Night?'”
“We hang out, have dinner, play games.”
“What kind of games?”
“Well, games, um, sometimes we play Rock Band.”

Yeah, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to tell the hot boy behind the counter that we were going to go roll dice and pretend to be zombie hunters for about four hours.  There we were, two loud, proud Geek Girls, who engage in multiple gaming groups, go to gaming conventions, run games for people on the fly, and there we were, dancing around the subject of what exactly we were going off to do that night, because the boy doing the asking was hot and we didn’t want to scare him off.

All right, I lie, I DID say something about role-playing, but I also waited until he was grinding the coffee for my espresso.  

Afterwards, after the gaming and the not-gaming and the talking, when I got home and crawled into bed, I replayed that little interaction in the cupcake shop, and cringed. I could not believe I’d been such a weenie about admitting that we were going to be role-playing. I mean, yeah, part of the hesitation to declare that comes from a desire to avoid having to explain what exactly role-playing entails. But a big chunk of it was, “Oh God, don’t freak out the hot normal boy!”

It’s a dynamic I’ve argued about with friends in the pagan, kink, LGBTQ and poly subcultures.  I have a lot of friends who view being out as a moral imperative.  “You have to show people that we aren’t just flakes calling ourselves ‘Starshadow Ravensfury.’ That we’re real people, too!”  And to an extent, yes, they’re right.  People are never going to get comfortable with queer, kinky, pagan, poly people unless they realize that “Bob” in the cubicle next to them, the really awesomely nice guy who’ll chip in money if you’re short for lunch, and who never expects to be paid back, has multiple partners, or worships Gaea, or likes to get beaten with a cane, or… You get the picture. 

And, I mean, I am out to an extent at work.  My co-workers know I’m pagan and bisexual, one or two of them know I have a girlfriend in addition to Mr. Geek Girls What Rules, and some of them even know I’m kinky and a gamer.  But sometimes you want to have interactions with people without having to do spin control.  You know, without having to field questions/comments like, “But you’re a GIRL!” or “You bathe,” or “You have social skills” or “But you have a sense of style.”  Sometimes you just want to have a normal interaction with another human being without having to trot out the whiteboard and diagram the many facets of your subculture, and “No, we aren’t all mouth-breathing, moist-palmed, troglodytes living in our parents’ basements, and honestly, those are kind of the minority.” 

So, yeah, maybe it’s a little cowardly, but mostly it’s just a desire to avoid having to play 20 Questions with someone you just want to flirt with a little before you tip them, take your coffee and cupcakes and go roll some dice.

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11 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule! #57 – The Stigma of Being Geek

  1. I find myself hoping that, since they are also playing to some nasty stereotypes about men and het male sexuality, it’s supposed to be satire.

  2. Oh, have I ever been there. Namely ‘I can’t tell my co-workers that this weekend I pretended to be a Time Lord’…or the invisibility of having a male SO and being bi. Game on, sister.

  3. You know it’s even worse when you’re job hunting and people are asking questions and trying to get an idea who you are. I *have* to tell the recruiters I’m going on vacation and will not be available to interview or take calls for several days. They inevitably ask me where I’m going on vacation. I sometimes resent this because telling them the truth is TMI and really not professionally appropriate in my opinion – so then I have to dance around the subject without actually lying because I just don’t like to do that. So I finally arrived at that it’s out on a private ranch east of Bellevue…

  4. I’m only inadvertantly out as a gamer at work, and only because I don’t hide the game books I bring. There are enough current and former gamers that I’m not a total freak, but I get tired of, “So, what is it you *do* in those games?” Or, better, “Oh, yeah, my grandson plays those video games too. What? You don’t use a computer for them?”

    For more head explodey fun, may I recommend the discussion thread on the forums about that article, which starts off with, “You guys suck, I’m leaving”?
    http://radarnation.gamesradar.com/thread.jspa?threadID=45824&tstart=0

  5. Argh. Yeah.

    I’m totally out as a gamer at work, ’cause, c’mon, comics publisher–none of us can really have hobbies that carry more geek stigma than our day jobs.

    But as for the rest…I am quietly-but-visibly out as queer, which throws people who know that I am married to the dude down in IT. I am very, very quietly out as poly, and my relationship with the individual who is not the dude down in IT to whom I am married is extremely, extremely closeted–less because we’re worried about repercussions than because getting impressed into walking gawking acquaintance after gawking acquaintance through Poly 101 got old before I could legally drink.

    That said, I will talk about comics with people I cue in on as “adults” (the kind with jobs that require them to wear pantyhose and/or ties, who worry about the stock market), but I’ll skirt around gaming like crazy. It’s like I can justify the funny books socially, but if I mention that I spend weekends playing make-believe, I’m branding myself a boy-child person; it takes away both my gender and my adulthood in one swell foop.

  6. Here via your comment at Shapely Prose about not all white feminists being middle class. I too am a white feminist raised by a white feminist, I too grew up subsisting on tuna casserole and cut up hotdogs in mac and cheese. I wanted to pump my fist in the air.

    I too am, in fact, a geek, a gamer, and a few other weird things that freak people out, like being involved in the SCA and the slash fan fiction community.

    And you know, I don’t think it’s our responsibility as [insert subculture/counterculture here] to educate the normals and make them comfortable with us. Sure, if you have the energy and the inclination, it’s not a bad thing to do, but really the onus ought to be on them to educate themselves and not behave like jackasses.

  7. Welcome. Yeah, I get a little annoyed, and today was just kind of a last straw on that whole “white middle class feminists” as a monolith of white feminism thing.

  8. “But sometimes you want to have interactions with people without having to do spin control. ”

    Oh boy do I ever. Being trans, it makes my life … interesting if I try to revisit old sections of my life (I want to go back to Dagorhir/belegarath dangit :/ )

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