Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On Proving Geek Cred

Real Geek Girls or Not? Image: Nicole Wakelin
I don't need to prove my geek cred to anyone. Neither do you. In fact, the idea that we need to prove anything about how we self-identify is ridiculous. If I see myself as a geek because I like (insert topic here) then that should be good enough. It's not like calling yourself a doctor because you think stethoscopes are neat and then attempting open heart surgery. No life hangs in the balance. It's just an identifier, a description, something as easy to break out as saying you're tall, or introverted or forgetful. So why does it garner such passionate debate when some who've embraced the label claim it is being used unfairly by others?


It happens every few months, usually because someone has written an article about geeks, or labeled themselves as a geek. There is intense Internet debate, usually a good bit of it leaning toward the nasty, as "real" geeks try to explain why the term was unfairly used, why it was undeserved, why it should be given back to those who own it. As if anyone can own a word. You can buy a vowel on Wheel of Fortune, but that's a game show. You can't own a word in the real world.

I have been calling myself a geek and a nerd for years. Yeah, comparing those two terms alone is probably a doctoral thesis in the making, but that's not the point. I think I'm a geek. I think I'm a nerd. Not everyone I meet might agree with me. I don't wear lots of geeky shirts. I don't like argyle socks. I love games but am a terrible gamer. I don't like Lord of the Rings. I am still a geek.

I think that some of the problem comes from what has defined the word geek for so many years. Not the guy biting the head off of a chicken in a circus freak show, but the way those of a certain age had the label applied to them in a none too complimentary way when they were younger. It still happens now. There are times when being called a geek or labeling yourself as one is just fine, and maybe even, dare I say it, cool. But there are still times when it's used to call someone out as different and not fitting in with the crowd.

But the cool factor, the acceptability, the marketability of the word is still new. The guys who tinkered around with computers in the 80's, who were aces at Tempest in the arcades and had scientific calculators in their back pockets lived through a time when geek was an insult and never, ever a compliment. This goes for women, too. It was not cool to hang out at the comic store, recite lines from Star Wars or read Tolkien. You were a geek, and by definition you were an outcast.

Clearly, the word has changed over the years. It's come to mean many things to many people. It is still at times used as an insult, but just as often it's used as a point of pride. Calling yourself a geek shows that you are proud of who you are and your passions. It shows you are part of a group that generally, is accepting of others because most geeks have at some time felt like an outcast. But, hasn't everyone felt like an outcast at some time? Hasn't everyone, from the football fanatic to the comic book collector wished that people understood them better? Yes, I'm going to have to say yes.

So, when someone you don't think deserves the label geek uses it, just leave it alone. Articles like this one in Forbes calling out fake geek girls are just ridiculous. Sure, geek is having it's heyday right now and people will use the word however they choose. Sometimes because they genuinely identify with it, and sometimes because they think it may garner them positive attention. Truly, it doesn't matter. The meaning of the word will continue to change as how we identify ourselves changes. Geek is just a word. It's what you are that actually matters.

15 comments:

  1. You're ok by me. *thumbs up*

    --
    Furry cows moo and decompress.

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  2. Just read that article and I completely understand the Rarrrr! that's going on. I tend to identify "geek" with "geeking out", a behavior that is the hallmark of a geek. That look of joy in the eyes of someone talking about their chosen subject. I probably get that gleam talking about books and Star Trek. I agree that no one has to prove any sort of cred.

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    1. It's the proving, the having to show your good enough, drives me nuts!

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  3. That Forbes article is ridiculous, and it makes me even angrier to see women pulling this shit on other women. As though women aren't told often enough that they aren't "real" for various reasons--too tall, too fat, too loud. It's bad enough when men demand our credentials, but somehow it's worse coming from women.

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    1. And the fact that this is always about geek girls, never about guys. When was the last time someone called out guys for not being "real" which would be just as wrong, but it simply doesn't happen.

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  4. I can understand your point, certainly, but the takeaway I got from the Forbes article went more with the perceived "popularity" received right now by calling yourself a geek, "Don’t pretend to love something because you think it will get you attention." If you want to call yourself a geek, fine, but you should actually "geek out" about something, not just have a passable interest because you think it'll now make you look "cool". I don't think you necessarily need to prove yourself, but it does rankle me a bit when I see someone saying something like "OMG@ I just read a book! I'm such a geeeeeek"

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    1. I get what you mean, but it just rolls right back at what makes you a geek, and how you define the term. If someone doesn't read at all, and suddenly spends hours with their nose stuck in a book, to them they are being a geek. Maybe not to you or me, but from their point of view.

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  5. I have to admit that the Forbes article sort of rubbed me the wrong way. As a geek, I always understood that I didn't have to prove anything. But now, she's saying that I need to prove that I am a geek? I don't think so. That article is ridiculous.

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  6. I agree with what you said but the same can be said for people who "try to hard" to be a geek, be proud that you are one, you don't have to prove your cred every time you speak..

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    1. Absolutely! There is no need to rattle off every line of Star Wars when a passing reference is made to the film, just to prove yourself.

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  7. The guys who tinkered around with computers in the 80's, who were aces at Tempest in the arcades and had scientific calculators in their back pockets

    Best Whiz Kids reference ever. The best. Speaking of that, the other show the same producers made-- Square Pegs-- remember that one? Yeah, where Sarah Jessica Parker got her start. Times change and of course more people recognize her from "Sex and the City". Wife of Matthew Broderick, who got his big break with "War Games".

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    1. I loved Square Pegs! I know SJP is now the "Sex and the City" girl, but I will always think of her as that nerdy girl with the crazy hair.

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  8. You can't fake being a geek, just as you couldn't fake being the popular kid in high school.

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