Being someone of the geeky or nerdy persuasion can be tough. Friends that share your niche interests can be few and far between, divided opinions within fandoms can leave you feeling isolated by your own community and negative stereotypes and labels can be hard to shift. Though it's usually completely exaggerated to cartoonish proportions, that Hollywood idea of the slightly awkward and put-upon "dorky" kid who hangs out in comic book shops alone or is just a little too into Magic: The Gathering has a ring of truth to it. However, for the female members of the geek community, these problems can come with a not-so-healthy side-serving of sexism, harassment and a general feeling of unwelcomeness.
The gates to nearly every fandom -- geeky and non-geeky alike -- are usually guarded by those seeking to sort the genuine from the "fake," and because of years of stereotyping, there are certain groups that are traditionally populated by a certain "type" of person. Or at least, they seem like they are. Though geek fandoms have always attracted a diverse range of people, because of the recent boom of typically nerdy things (like superheroes) becoming culturally mainstream, gatekeeping has become even stricter. The popularity of the "fake geek girl" label proves that, as has always been the case, women are more adversely affected than men. And, if these confessions from Whisper are anything to go by, geek girls have had just about enough of it.
15 POP CULTURE QUIZ
With nearly 2,000 favorites and 300 replies, this Whisper confession clearly struck a chord with a lot of people -- both men and women. Geek culture -- and fandom in general -- is led and enriched by passionate discussion, so feeling like you've been locked out of that discussion because you don't know absolutely everything there is to know about something is a really sad thing.
It also doesn't really make much sense, either. If every Star Wars, Harry Potter and Marvel fan knew every single detail of those franchises inside and out with enough confidence to endure rigorous testing then there would almost be no need for them to talk to one another. One of the joys of being part of a community is exchanging knowledge, and no one should be made to feel like they don't have something to contribute.
Despite the fact that cosplay has become a staple of the pop culture convention scene -- whether it be comic books, sci-fi, gaming, anime or property-specific -- and even a legitimate career path for those at the top of their game, there's still a huge amount of stigma attached to it. Women cosplayers, as this confessor points out, are often accused of dressing up as titillating fictional characters they "know nothing about" for attention.
At the same time, the "attention" they're accused of inviting translates into inappropriate comments and behavior and sometimes even verbal and physical harassment. It's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy where female cosplayers just can't win no matter what they do. Not to mention that cosplay in general is looked down on by some as a non-legitimate part of geek culture.
13 FICTIONAL BOYFRIEND GOALS
We've all had weird crushes in our lives, but where fictional people and creatures are concerned, things can get even weirder. From anthropomorphic Disney animals, to green-skinned alien fighters to characters that barely have a human form at all, it often feels like there's virtually no character in existence that someone somewhere hasn't had some inappropriate dreams about.
Sans, from the hugely popular Undertale indie game, is little more than a grinning skeleton in a blue hoodie and black pants. Like the rest of the game, he's rendered in not-so-glorious 8-bit (well, more like 16-bit, if we're being pedantic) meaning that this fangirl must have a pretty good imagination to find the easygoing skeleton attractive. That, or a good supply of imaginative Undertale fan art.
12 ENOUGH WITH THE LABELS
The prevailing assumption that most gamers are male means that anyone who isn't -- i.e. women -- usually get lumped with a gendered prefix or suffix. If you're a woman who is also a gamer, you're not just "a gamer," you're a "gamer girl." Some female gamers wear this as a badge of pride but others are sick of their gender being used as a defining characteristic.
In fiction, "gamer girls," much like any other kind of female nerd, will usually be characterized as being "one of the boys," with mainly male friends whose behavior and speech she'll imitate while constantly calling attention to the fact that she's the token girl of the group. But, because she's a wish fulfilment figure, she'll also be super attractive. Really, "gamer girls" are just gamers who happen to be girls.
11 ONE DAY MY RON WEASLEY WILL COME
Is it true love? Or is just the way they're written? Some fictional character's attractiveness is measured superficially. After all, heroes are usually conventionally attractive to make us like them more, whether they're rugged adventurers, sensitive heartthrobs or foxy rogues. Villains can also be really alluring too because they represent things we shouldn't find appealing but can't help feeling tempted by anyway.
But, when it comes to the Ron Weasleys of this world -- your unconventional crushes -- the charm comes more from a character's personality (not that Rupert Grint isn't a handsome guy). It can be hard for living, breathing people to compete with fantastical ones who are tailor-made to make us fall head over heels for them as this confessor admits. Never let a little thing like not being real get in the way of your dreams.
10 YOU JUST DO YOU
If you thought being a geek and a girl was hard, try being a geek and a girl of color. Geek girls of color face the usual unwelcome parade of sexism and gatekeeping from some of the male member of the community but with the added (non-)bonus of racism, too. Conversations about whitewashing and bad or underrepresentation in pop culture are too often met with hostility or indifference.
The sadly exclusionary nature of modern geekdom has lead to minority groups forming their own safe spaces, like Black Girl Nerds. "The concept of black women as geeky-dorky beings is somewhat of an anomaly," BGN's founder Jamie Broadax writes. "[...] The term "Black Girl Nerd" is [...] a term of endearment to all women like me who have been attached to stigma that is not an accurate representation of my personality [...]"
9 I AM THE GOD OF THIS WORLD
Yikes, should we be worried about this one? Actually, should we be worried about all Sims players? After a Reddit user asked the question, "what is the worst thing you've ever done in The Sims series?" in 2015, the response revealed the dark, unspoken underbelly of the Sims community that the wider world never knew existed. It turns out that playing god of a virtual world can bring out the worst in people. Who knew!
Dark confessions filled the resulting comment thread with this horror story from "vsanna" taking the top spot. "I made a guy who was a compulsive neat freak, put him in a really surreal little house with a wedding buffet and a hamster [and] deleted the door. Eventually he went insane from lack of cleanliness and depression over his rodent friend dying and starved to death once the banquet rotted."
8 THE SAD TRUTH
This confession reveals the result of a sad and ugly truth in the gaming community: female members struggle to feel safe and accepted without hiding their gender. Female gamers are either sneered at for a perceived lack of knowledge about gaming (based purely on the gender) or have to field sexually inappropriate messages and requests online (again, purely because of their gender).
Julia Hardy, founder of Misogyny Monday and gaming presenter, revealed her first encounter of this stigma in the 2016 BBC documentary, The Dark Side of Gaming. "It was when I started working on a Bravo video game show [...] that I suddenly became very aware of people talking online [...] people would send me really disgusting comments [...] These are the guys who ruin inter-gender relationships for everybody."
7 THE DEVIL WEARS DISNEY
This funny confession proves that there really is someone for everyone out there. Even villains like Hades must get lonely, after all. If you don't identify with the perfect, ultra-feminine princess types then just don't force yourself to be one just because everyone else is. It's a nice little heartwarming story about how being your true, mold-breaking self can work wonders.
There are probably loads of these kinds of meet-cute stories from geeky life partners out there. Maybe you both reached for the same Spider-Man graphic novel in your local comic book store. Maybe you struck up a conversation in a line at a convention signing. Or maybe, like this married couple, you realized you were the only oddballs at the party. Everyone deserves love, even the King (or Queen) of Hell.
6 HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED...
For the much younger fan boys and girls in the community, it might be strange to imagine a world in which comic book characters weren't plastered over every conceivable object that could pass as merchandise, or when sci-fi and fantasy properties weren't among the most highly praised and viewed TV shows and films around.
The recent boom in geek culture has meant it's never been a better time to be a nerd. But, as this confession hits upon, it's hard for some of the older fans who grew up without a network of likeminded people just a click away, or suffered through their teenage years as the "weird kid" who was into painfully uncool stuff, not to feel a little envious -- maybe even a little bitter, like this Whisperer.
5 GAMER GIRL STRUGGLES
For a lot of women, online gaming means exposing yourself as a possible target for abuse. In her book, Game Changers: From Minecraft to Misogyny, the Fight for the Future of Videogames, Leena van Deventer recounts male players taunting her, asking her for "nudes" and even audibly getting off on the sound of her voice online to aggravate her.
Like a lot of female gamers, she used coping mechanisms like not correcting other players when they called her "he" or "dude," or just outright pretending to be a teenage boy. "One of the guys who was the main aggressors, who I'd identified as a threat if I was playing as a woman -- he took me under his wing [...] I was like, 'Look at that! You think I'm a boy, and I still don't belong, yet now you'll look after me.'"
4 YOU SHALL NOT PASS
It shouldn't matter how you arrived at a fandom, what should matter is just that you're there at all. Anyone familiar with the Comic Book Guy character from The Simpsons will know that geeky gatekeeping is nothing new. Unfortunately for women, it often feels like those gates are just that much higher and locked that much tighter by the men that think they hold the keys.
Not only is there the problem of oversexualization and poor or inadequate representation of female characters in comic books, film, TV and video games, but, even when female fans look past all that and find a property they connect with, their credentials are often put under far more scrutiny than is necessary. You may have read every Batman comic written in the last five years but if you can't recall an exact issue number, you're instantly labelled as a faker.
3 FREAKS AND GEEKS
Geeks and nerds sometimes move in mysterious ways. Whether it's sniffing the pages of a freshly bought fantasy novel (there should be a "New Book Smell" car fresher, right?) painstakingly arranging your console collection into the most aesthetically-pleasing formation or doing something along the lines of what this unabashed "freaky" nerd girl did.
Geeky girls -- particularly when they feel like nobody is watching -- often have the guiltiest of guilty pleasures, too. Staying up all night on a weekday to read fan fiction based on a show that ended over ten years ago? Why not! Getting super emotionally invested in a cartoon series that's aimed at little kids? Seems normal! Realizing your first crush was Simba from The Lion King? Huh...that explains a lot.
2 GAMES OVER GUYS
The problem with labels like "gamer girl" is that it makes too easy to pigeon-hole female gamers and create a false stereotype about what a certain type of girl who is into a certain thing looks and behaves like. If the fantasy becomes an accepted "truth," it can be hard for those affected to shift. It also makes it sound like women who game are a minority, niche market.
In reality, since 2016 women make up 48% of players, and that figure wasn't taken from bored moms sinking half of their waking hours into farming-based Facebook games as you might expect -- it's taken from PC and console gamers. The assumption that girls only become gamers to attract guys or "trick" them into thinking they're "real" gamers, as this confessor says, is frustrating and simply not true.
1 OOPS, YOU CAUGHT ME!
This hilarious point hits upon the fallacy of the "fake geek girl" accusation perfectly. It's one thing to query someone on their interests if nothing about their appearance is giving you any clues. But, it's another thing to doubt someone's love for say, Star Trek, when she's standing in front of you in a hand-made Seven of Nine costume at a Star Trek convention.
In a world in which an easy hook-up is a swipe away on your smart phone, sinking your hard-earned cash into an elaborate cosplay or hours into reading through every Lord of the Rings appendices seems like a lot of effort for a "fake geek girl" to go through if her heart's only in it to score a date or trick someone into thinking she's a real fan. If someone says they're into something, maybe just take their word for it.
Are you a fed-up geek girl? Let us know your biggest gripes in the comments!