The fact that Alana Smith is the youngest person to ever earn a medal in the X Games would be enough to earn her the title of Awesome Geek Girl of the Day. The youngest person to ever win a medal at the X Games is a girl! That’s a lot to celebrate. But the story behind the story is this:
Alana, who is just 12 years old, came very, very close to winning the Skateboard Park competition. As the X Games expands its women’s sports, this was the first time the event has been held. And it was almost won by an amazing sixth grader with a mouth full of braces.
If it weren’t for that crazy McTwist, an inverted 540-degree spin, that she just couldn’t seem to land, Alana just might have taken the coveted gold from the professional, Lizzie Armanto, who is eight years her senior. She’s landed it before, even in competition, but never on concrete. And at the X Games finals, she just couldn’t make it stick.
It’s tough fitting in as a kid but it can feel impossible if you’re a geeky kid. Your kids might be into less mainstream things because you’re a geeky parent or because they happened to gravitate toward fantasy or science fiction all on their own. Either way, it can leave them feeling like no one “gets them.” Actress and writer Jessica Mills has been there as a geek kid growing up in rural Texas. She even turned some of her experiences as an adult into the hit web series Awkward Embraces. Listen in as she talks about her challenges, how she overcame them, and how parents can help their kids feel like they’re not weird and find a place where they belong.
If you were lucky, then last weekend you were in Florida enjoying the wonder of Celebration VI in Orlando. One of those lucky people was geek blogger Amy Ratcliffe. She covers all sorts of geekery on her blog, Geek With Curves, and is just about the biggest Star Wars fan ever. Listen in as GeekMom Nicole Wakelin chats with Amy who shares all the details, from Roxie the Rancor to a stint in the garbage chute to what it was like being in the same room as George Lucas!
I don’t need to prove my geek cred to anyone. Neither do you. In fact, the idea that we need to prove anything about how we self-identify is ridiculous. If I see myself as a geek because I like (insert topic here) then that should be good enough. It’s not like calling yourself a doctor because you think stethoscopes are neat and then attempting open heart surgery. No life hangs in the balance. It’s just an identifier, a description, something as easy to break out as saying you’re tall, or introverted or forgetful. So why does it garner such passionate debate when some who’ve embraced the label claim it is being used unfairly by others?
It happens every few months, usually because someone has written an article about geeks, or labeled themselves as a geek. There is intense Internet debate, usually a good bit of it leaning toward the nasty, as “real” geeks try to explain why the term was unfairly used, why it was undeserved, why it should be given back to those who own it. As if anyone can own a word. You can buy a vowel on Wheel of Fortune, but that’s a game show. You can’t own a word in the real world.
I have been calling myself a geek and a nerd for years. Yeah, comparing those two terms alone is probably a doctoral thesis in the making, but that’s not the point. I think I’m a geek. I think I’m a nerd. Not everyone I meet might agree with me. I don’t wear lots of geeky shirts. I don’t like argyle socks. I love games but am a terrible gamer. I don’t like Lord of the Rings. I am still a geek.
I think that some of the problem comes from what has defined the word geek for so many years. Not the guy biting the head off of a chicken in a circus freak show, but the way those of a certain age had the label applied to them in a none too complimentary way when they were younger. It still happens now. There are times when being called a geek or labeling yourself as one is just fine, and maybe even, dare I say it, cool. But there are still times when it’s used to call someone out as different and not fitting in with the crowd.
But the cool factor, the acceptability, the marketability of the word is still new. The guys who tinkered around with computers in the 80’s, who were aces at Tempest in the arcades and had scientific calculators in their back pockets lived through a time when geek was an insult and never, ever a compliment. This goes for women, too. It was not cool to hang out at the comic store, recite lines from Star Wars or read Tolkien. You were a geek, and by definition you were an outcast.
Clearly, the word has changed over the years. It’s come to mean many things to many people. It is still at times used as an insult, but just as often it’s used as a point of pride. Calling yourself a geek shows that you are proud of who you are and your passions. It shows you are part of a group that generally, is accepting of others because most geeks have at some time felt like an outcast. But, hasn’t everyone felt like an outcast at some time? Hasn’t everyone, from the football fanatic to the comic book collector wished that people understood them better? Yes, I’m going to have to say yes.
So, when someone you don’t think deserves the label geek uses it, just leave it alone. Articles like this one in Forbes calling out fake geek girls are just ridiculous. Sure, geek is having it’s heyday right now and people will use the word however they choose. Sometimes because they genuinely identify with it, and sometimes because they think it may garner them positive attention. Truly, it doesn’t matter. The meaning of the word will continue to change as how we identify ourselves changes.
Geek is just a word. It’s what you are that actually matters.
I know I am supposed to be outraged with JCPenney for “The Shirt” which they pulled from their online store yesterday. I have two little girls. I see the kind of stuff that their friends wear and often shake my head and wonder what their moms were thinking when they agreed to let their daughters dress like dime-a-dance girls. I understand the frustration at seeing girls pushed down a stereotypical path from the time they wear that first pink onesie. I get it, really I do, but I also don’t think a tee shirt with a funny saying is going to send my girls on a downward spiral ending with them dropping out of school in favor of beauty queen dreams.
This shirt is targeted squarely at my daughters’ age group. I am the mom who might be faced with buying this shirt. Since my kids don’t have brothers they probably wouldn’t ask for it, but if they did have a brother, and they wanted this shirt, and it was within my carefully honed back-to-school budget, then I would let them take it home.
Am I insane? Am I a horrible mother? Am I caving to the media and corporate evil-doers bent on turning my child into a vapid airhead who cares more about lipstick than grades? I’m sure some people will say yes, but I know myself and I know my girls and nothing could be further from the truth.
I spend a lot of time talking with my kids, really talking, and encouraging them to make positive choices and smart decisions. I teach them to do the right thing, to stand up for themselves and their friends, and to be confident and proud. I am, after all, a geek raising two little geek girls. I have faced no small amount of attitude from people who think I’m odd and surely at some point they will, too. I want them to be certain enough of themselves that what a person (or shirt) says doesn’t define their self-worth.
And although I let them make their own decisions as much as possible, I am the Mom so I do steer them when they’re headed in the wrong direction. Me. The Mom. Not JCPenney. I have enough confidence in my kids to know that they won’t be swayed by silly sayings on a tee shirt. It might make them laugh, but it won’t mark their moral decline.
I don’t think anybody, including the folks at JCPenney, believes that girls are too pretty to do their own homework or that they should force their brothers into servitude. I doubt there are any kids that think so, either. I would bet though, that there are more than a few girls that hate homework, argue with their brothers, and would like nothing more than to sit and relax while those brothers did their homework. Too pretty? Of course it’s ridiculous. The whole premise is ridiculous which is what makes the shirt funny, not the harbinger of doom for little girls everywhere.
With the release Eclipse on DVD on Saturday, we at GeekMom decided to take a look at the Twilight phenomenon.
The immensely popular series has been incredibly polarizing among fandom.
One side side, teen girls reading the series, which included my own a few years ago, see someone they can identify with in Bella and a fascinating new world where they can escape. Older female readers love the fantasy and romance of it all.
One the other side, feminists claim Twilight promotes stalking by men and teaches teen girls to be submissive and that getting married and having children is the ultimate goal of any woman.
And then there are the male geeks who roll their eyes and make fun of vampires that sparkle.
This week, we’ll have articles from as many angles as possible, with an eye to seeing why exactly this series creates strong emotions in so many.