When I tell people I write a blog the first question is always “What’s it about?”
Of course I answer “Geek culture.”
And I occasionally will get the follow up “Why are you writing about geek culture?”
“I’m writing what I know.”
And here is the kicker “But you don’t seem like a geek.”
Now in my mind of course I am a geek. Not just a geek, but a geek living in the geek capital of the world. How can that not be obvious?
I collect comics and have since I was able to read. All I read are Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. I am a role-player with a regular group. I use to work for a game company and I help found a major fan organization that still exists. When my best friend and I get together neither of wives can understand what we are saying to each other because we start talking about the above and use a lot of slang based on geek culture.
But none of that is something you can tell from just looking at me, or hearing me talk in casual conversation. I work a regular 40 hour a week job in the tech industry. My normal mode of dress is business causal favoring button down shirts and blue jeans. I keep my hair and beard well-trimmed and I keep good hygiene. I can handle myself well in a business meeting at work and meeting people in most social situations. Oh yeah, and I am happily married.
In other words I am not the stereotype of a geek.
And the truth is neither are most of my friends that are geeks either.
The stereotype of a geek is someone who is socially awkward, given to poor hygiene, can’t speak on any subject outside of geek culture and won’t shut up about things that are. At best they are uncomfortable around women and at worst they are outright misogynistic.
I’m not going to say that these types don’t exist, because they do. Stereotypes come from somewhere. But they are not the norm. Put bluntly even other geeks find them annoying.
Honestly being a geek is a lot like being a sports fan. You have the guys that paint themselves blue and go shirtless, or riot when their team loses, but most just watch the games a root for the team. The rest of the week those fans have other concerns and interests.
It is the same with geeks. I love the culture and consume it. I go to conventions, I hang out at the comic shop and I go to the movies. I also like to go to museums, pay attention to politics and world events and volunteer with my church.
But why worry about it, after all if I am comfortable with myself why should I care what the world at large thinks.
Well growth for one thing. There are a lot of businesses that cater to geeks. Comic book shops, game companies, Publishers, and conventions. With the economy the way it is a lot of them are looking to expand their audiences. That expansion is hampered by the myth that the audience already there are a group of stinky hostile misogynists.
So as long as I am trying to promote the culture I love I will do the best I can to dispel those myths.
And the worst part is that most of these myths are perpetuated by geeks themselves. I think it’s the idea of embracing the stereotype helps rob it of its power. The problem is that is a crap solution. All embracing the stereotype does is keeps it alive.
So next time you are in a fan convention talking about how all you need to do to clear the room is throw in a bar of soap, ask yourself “Is this how I really want to present myself?”