I’ve often been asked throughout my lift if I’ve ever felt threatened as a woman in the geek world by men. My answer? Yes, constantly.
I’ve been in the geek world and fandom for longer than I care to remember (my grey hairs are a testament to that). I picked up my first comics at the age of 7 and never looked back. My father has been a Trekkie since it started, as well as a big Star Wars fan so geekdom is in my blood. At the age of 7, I didn’t know what sexism and toxic masculinity was, and I didn’t know that it was a male dominated world. I just knew that my dad was into sci-fi and because he’s my dad, I never saw being a geek as anything bad or to be ashamed of. I never even knew what geek was, i just assumed that everyone read comics and watched Doctor Who.
I soon learnt.
Being a geek growing up isn’t like it is now. Geek is now chic. Back in the day, we were considered weirdos and people to be laughed at and bullied. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen now, but it’s much more acceptable these days. When I was a child, the geek community was covert and in the shadows. I had to go looking for them and when I found them, they were none to happy about it. You see, they didn’t want a girl joining their ranks as they were a group of boys. NO GIRLS ALLOWED. At the age of 7 or 8, girls were the enemy and they weren’t welcome on the geek clubhouse. It was a hard-fought battle to gain entry but once I was in, I was in. Once they had got over the fact that I was a girl, they were surprisingly accepting. But then, at such a young age, the societal stereotypes imposed on all genders hadn’t quite taken hold yet. I was just a member of the gang and i knew the rules of D&D just as well as any of the boys did.
I was sent to an all girls boarding school at the age of 11 and that’s when the really vicious bullying started. Pubescent girls are evil, especially when you’ve been sent away from home to live with 650 other girls. I suffered some of the most heinous bullying at that school, and my geekiness just exacerbated that ten fold. It was hell.
I left that school at the age of 16 and went to 6th form college and once again, being a female geek was a problem, but this time my treatment was different. It was the boys who inflicted the worst treatment, but now they were in their late teens and the bullying took on a darker twist. Now the unspoken threat of sexual violence was insinuated. Imagine feeling so incensed that a girl likes Star Trek, and probably knows more about it than you, that you feel that you have to threaten to rape her. You feel that your masculinity is so threatened by a girl that you feel that your only option is a rape threat.
I have never understood it, not ever. I am a rape survivor and I know why men do it: to feel powerful and in control. Raping a women means to ‘put her in her place’, to reinstate the man as the top of the food chain, the superior sex. He is claiming back what he thinks he has lost and demeaning what he feels threatened by. It’s pathetic really if you think about it.
Now we have Gamer Gate and female geeks, actors, artists, writers and creators being hounded off social media by male fans who feel threatened by woman who they feel have invaded ‘their safe space’ of fandom and geekery. In their minds, there is no possible reason why their world can also be a safe space for women. These (mostly) white cishet men with their tiny closed minds and their toxic, fragile masculinity are panicking because they think that their manly geek things are being stolen from them so they are lashing out the only way they know how: with racism, misogyny violence and rape threats. Sadly, it’s always been there, it’s just that the current world climate has given them a false sense of security so that they now feel protected and safe to spit their venom out into the world.
It has to stop, and it has to stop now. Time to stamp it out once and for all. I’m not 7 any more and I have a voice, we all have a voice and we need to use them to extinguish the flame of the toxic male elements in our fandoms.
Beside, all you angry male geeks know that popular Science Fiction was invented by a woman, right?
This is really powerful. I’m in my teens and I’ve been lucky enough to experience the popularity of geekdom, but the spectre of sexism still rears its ugly head sometimes – its especially notable to me in video games (i’ve completely given up playing competitively) I’m so sorry you had such a terrible experience, and I sincerely hope that in the future we as a community can finally eradicate all this awful sexism for good.