THE (FAKE) GEEK GIRL PROJECT / 5: A LIST AND A SURVEY

This is the last installment of this series. You may read the foreword to this series, As Always, it Started With Star Trek: A Study On Geek Girls, as well as parts 123 and 4.

In part 4 of this series, I expressed that we will have to revise the history of geek culture altogether to understand how women have been involved in it and how they have contributed to it. I also questioned preconceived ideas about female participation in geekdom.

In this concluding part of this series, I address some of the avenues of investigation I previously identified in light of the fake geek girl debate.

Documenting Women’s participation in geek culture

While I was analysis the fake geek girl debate, I paid attention to the initiatives which were born in reaction to it.

  • The Doubleclicks created a song, Nothing to Prove and asked geeks to contribute to the video. They also created T-shirts and other products which read: ”There are no fake geek girls only real jerks”.  All proceeds of the sales go to AppCamp4Girls.
  • Sarah Clarke created the Fake Geek Girls! (The Show) and successfully kickstarted it.
  • The Unicorn files is an ongoing project which features geek women: anyone can take part in the project, so go right ahead and invite all the women you know to do so.
  • The Geek Girl Project is a site by, for and about geek girls.

As I conducted research about female involvement in geekdom, I discovered more and more women whose contribution to the culture had been significant, yet not commonly known.

In light of this, I decided to create a list on this blog, the pioneer women of geekdom list, on which anyone could add the name of women who had contributed to geek culture. Interestingly, I did not know a great many of the women who ended up on the list after I invited TGA’ Twitter followers to contribute.

While working on growing this list, I eventually discovered several projects which had been created with the objective of highlighting and celebrating female involvement in geek culture or specific areas of it. A quick exploration of kickstarter produced interesting results: Womanthology is a wonderful book which celebrate the work of women in comics. It was kickstarted in 2011. The She Makes Comics documentary has a similar goal and was kicksarted this year. Lightspeed Magazine’ Women Destroy Science-Fiction was another great project with a highly succesful kickstarter campaign in 2014.

Womanthology

I started writing down the names of such projects, and the names of women who had contributed to geekdom as I was reading books about the comic book industry, science-fiction, and other geek areas of interest. I added the list of recent projects which had emerged in light of the fake geek girl debate.

And then I realized that keeping a list of women pioneers on the blog would require a lot of work because there are so many of them.

I also eventually felt that keeping a list is redundant: there are already several great books, series, documentaries, websites which celebrate their contributions, and more are on the way. So while keeping the list was an interesting way to conduct research, and while I appreciate the contributions of our readers, I took down the list from our website, and instead encourage you to check some of the project I mention in this piece and others I hope to bring to your attention in the future.

My impression that women have always been an important part of geek culture but that they have been invisible or ignored, which I explained in part 4, seemed to be gaining additional credibility at this point. Two questions remained to be addressed: had the demographics of geek culture truly changed with time, and why do geek girls enjoy so little visibility?

Demographics

In part 4 of the series, I highlighted a consensus which was left mostly unquestioned in the fake geek girl debate: that female participation in geek culture used to be very low, and that it has drastically increased. I also stated that there is, to my knowledge, almost no demographic data about geek culture which could either allow us to confirm or infirm that women have always been a minority in geek culture, or that their participation is increasing.

So I set out to redress this hole in demographic data about geekdom.

I knew from the beginning that the best way to do this would be to select groups (fandoms, fanclubs, local meetups, online forums, readership of certain websites, etc.) and conduct in-depth ethnographic work. Such research would involve looking at how persons were involved with geek culture over the course of their life, and what their experiences in the culture have been. Such research, if conducted in several geek groups, would build a clearer portrait of geekdom over years of research. It would allow us to better understand changing definitions of ”geek”, ”geek culture” and other concepts, learn more about how certain factors (skin color, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) can influence one’s experiences in geekdom, better understand the process of mainstreamisation I mentioned in part 4, to name only these few elements.

Needless to say, this is a long-term plan which will require the participation of several researchers, in several contexts, over long periods of time. 

So I decided to start with a humble survey which could potentially help me identify elements worth investigating in relation to geek women. I had a few theories I wanted to test and I also planned to use the survey to identify women who have been involved in geek culture for a long time and whose life-journeys in geekdom could provide useful insights into matters related to demographics, misogyny and harassment.

And so it was that the Geek Girl Survey was born. With this project, I set out to revise the history of geek culture, one life-story at a time.

The results of the first wave of data collection will be presented on the blog shortly. I will also be recruiting for a second wave, so look out for an invitation to share your own story!

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About Marie-Pierre Renaud

I am an anthropologist living in Quebec city, Canada. I specialize in native studies and anthropology of health. I am a geek. I founded and now co-manage The Geek Anthropologist blog. I am working on transforming my memoir into a book and journal articles. I like to knit while watching Star Trek. Reach out to me for collaborations! https://mariepierrerenaud.co/

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