I’ve read a lot recently, about the state of being a lady in the nerd world.Â Most of these articles I’ve strongly identified with, though, some I haven’t.Â There’s respect issues, misogyny issues, body image issues, personhood issues, as well as a whole host of other problems that are impossible to sum up in short, catchy quips. In short: it’s tough being a girl in a boys’ club, for any number of reasons, particularly the boys’ club of Geekdom. But I recently found a means of quiet rebellion, not a revolution, mind you, but a personal epiphany: Ladies Dungeons & Dragons night.
Like a knitting circle, my Ladies D&D night felt to me like a real starting point.Â I know you might say segregating away from the boys can do more damage than good. I know you might say that it’s no better than women in the early twentieth century being forced to attend women’s colleges instead of being allowed in coeducational institutions.Â But let me tell you something: sometimes, you have to start at the beginning.Â And you don’t have give up your spot at the boys’ table forever when you sit with the girls.
Last night, we had our first meeting.Â We began the processes of picking out our characters, and, obviously, learning much about one another in the process.Â We drank cheap wine, discussed who we’d take to the Yule Ball, made esoteric references to Tim the Enchanter, got excited about speaking Draconic and hacking shit up in dungeons, all while feeing free enough to admit excitement over planning our characters’ costumes and buying pretty dice.
No one derogatorily accused anyone of being “girly” the entire night, despite swooning over a couple notable nerd-girl heartthrobs (Han Solo, Sirus Black) or waxing nostalgic on old boy band crushes.Â It was the most comfortable I’d felt around a larger group of nerds in years.Â I was free to be a girl, in my own sense of the word, and free to be a nerd, in my own sense of the word as well.Â There were pumpkin Rice Crispy Treats and there was a suggestive drawing of Matt Smith on the walls.
What I’m trying to say, rather wordily, is that I felt actually a part of a community for the first time in my geeky life.Â I didn’t have to prove myself by quoting an entire Monty Python sketch or discussing my favorite extended universe character.Â I didn’t have to show up with wet hair and glasses to gain anyone’s respect.Â I didn’t feel as though I’d only been invited because half the people there wanted to hook up with me. I’d found that elusive, ethereal thing for a nerd girl: belonging.
I don’t mean to say women should have to be segregated from men in the nerd community.Â Some– not all, but a quite vocal some– of male nerds need to change many of their cherished views that have been making nerd girls feel so frustrated, worn out, and downright shitty.Â But maybe we need to figure out who we want to be, as nerds and as women, away from the boys.Â Maybe we need our own a girls’ clubs as well.Â Maybe it’s easier for us to find mentors when we feel as though we’re in an environment of people who truly understand our hesitations, understand the mask we wear around others– be they nerds judging us for our so-called “girly-ness” or non-nerd friends judging us for geeking out. Maybe we need to shatter the misconception that all girls are out to fight to the death to steal each other’s boyfriends in a competitive rage, but hey, that’s just a thought.
Look, I don’t know what it’s like to be a gay male videogamer, or even a gay female nerd for that matter.Â I can sympathize with how hard dealing with homophobic slurs across the nerd community may be, but I cannot empathize.Â My own personal experience lies in being a lady nerd. But I do know that one of the best ways to tackle the injustices we see in Geekdom are through speaking out and coming together.
What I mean to say is that women in nerd communities often find themselves isolated in a sea of men who don’t always seem to understand.Â So one solution is to reach out to one another.Â Create our own bonds.Â We do not always need to be exclusively away from the guys, but the best way to stop feeling like a nerd-impostor is to remember we also belong.Â Because just one night with my nerd ladies provided me with enough feeling of community to assuage my general anxiety around other large groupings of nerds. Finding a space where I don’t always have to fight to be heard means I won’t be so exhausted the next time I do need to stand up for my own voice.
So, don’t give up your spot in the boys’ club of Geekdom.Â I know many women, as well as other outsiders to the nerd herd, have fought hard for those spaces.Â But, if you are a nerd girl, do carve out a new, extra space in your geeky life for your fellow nerd ladies.Â You won’t regret it.
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