Is Geek A Derogatory Term?

Geeking it up before the Dragon*Con 2011 Parade

Since I’m still coming down from the high that is Dragon*Con, I’ve been looking in Flickr for pictures of myself and reading articles about the Con.

I came across a post about the Dragon*Con parade and I started reading the comments. There were several comments that jumped out as me as some people seemed to think that the term “geek” was a bad one and didn’t want to be labeled that way.

Since this is GeekMom, we embrace the fact that we are geeks. But I think most geeks can remember a time in their lives when it wasn’t cool to be a geek.

For me, I was teased a lot in school. Some of the teasing was strange, since I was teased for being short which isn’t something I could control. But I was also teased for being a geek.

I didn’t hide my geekdom at all when I was young. I actually embraced it as I had a picture of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation in my high school locker. As I got into my later years in high school I basically thought, “Screw it. I can find geeky friends in college.” And I did, which make my college experience all that much more fulfilling.

I’m proud to be a Geek and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I didn’t think it was a bad label even when I was teased for it. As a mom now, I do worry that my daughter will be teased when she gets to school age since she already has geeky interests. But I do hope that she will find her own way, geek or not.

What do you all think about the term, Geek? Do you use it to refer to yourself or do you think is a derogatory term that shouldn’t be used?


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12 thoughts on “Is Geek A Derogatory Term?

  1. There’s a certain amount of power in owning a word.

    If you duck your head everytime someone says geek, it’s hurtful. If you smile and say ‘yes, I am’ then you’re part of a select group who have made the word their own. (I say as a member of both NerdyMoms and GeekWeekend — and I suppose also as a reader of GeekMom and GeekDad.)

    1. I think by the time your daughter is grown, the word “geek” will no longer have the derogatory connotations it does now. And even now, it has less of a bite than it did when I was a kid in high school 25 years ago.

      It’s cool to be a geek now.

  2. I am a geek , actually I go beyond geek I am nerd.
    I am proud of it.
    Nerds run the world. Who are all the guys making money now, are they the jocks of the world , nope . It’s the chess club ,photography club, science club , math olympiad members that rule everything that matters.
    I wear the label of Geek/Nerd proudly.
    I don’t know why anyone would be ashamed to be a geek. It’s not a bad label like it used to be.

  3. I agree with Reba… it seems geek is almost becoming trendy.

    I was teased relentlessly in school as well, but as I grew up, I didn’t care anymore. I own the term geek and proudly call myself one. 🙂

  4. I was uncomfortable with my geekiness growing up and hid it. I made it through with minimal teasing, but I was still different and not myself. I finally became proud to be a geek thanks to my husband.

    I give mad props to those that were able to stand up and embrace their geekiness all along. I now stand proud with you and declare myself a geek leaning toward nerd. I’m not ashamed anymore and I’m very happy that my daughter will be raised in a society where being a geek isn’t a bad thing, and in fact I think geeks have gained their own sort of popularity.

    No, I don’t think geek is a derogatory term at all. You might call it a badge of honor.

  5. Of course you’re going to get a slanted response since we’re all here reading a blog called GeekMom to begin with but… yeah, me too. Proud Geek. Actually like Beth I’m even more Nerd than I am Geek.

    The thing is, I love the Community of Geeks I’ve discovered exists since I got out of public school– in college and now online. So of COURSE I’m proud of the term now, because it automatically connects me to others. When it’s used to SEPARATE people instead of connect them, to label a person as Just a Geek instead of a full, intricate, unique, special person? Well, not so good.

    But kids will ALWAYS find an excuse to put their peers down. Like you said, you got picked on just for being SHORT. There will be kids who don’t think that what “geek” stands for is cool, and so they will use the term negatively BECAUSE they’re negative to geeks as a whole. We need to worry less about the labels themselves and more about Owning who we are– and teaching our kids to Own who they are– so that the negative thoughts BEHIND the labels won’t hurt us.

  6. I fully embrace the name of Geek. I posed the name She-Geek some years ago for my fellow female geeks. I have a G33KMOM identifier on my minivan (a personal requirement for getting said van). I do not feel it is a derogatory term, even though I was teased relentlessly for my geeky ways growing up I was rarely taunted with the word geek.

    That said, just the other day I was meeting the parents of my oldest daughters new best friend and I pointed out my Toyota Sienna with said geeky plates and I called it the Geek van. The dad, taken a back said “That’s not a geeky van. That’s a Sienna, those are really nice we rented one once, it’s a really nice van.” I tried to let him know that I was a geek, and hence the geekmobile got it’s label and that it was ok to be geeky, but I don’t think he got it. To him Geek was a negative label and he just couldn’t fathom why I would think that about such an amazing van.

    I believe we geeks may have embraced the label, but those outside of our circles may not be convinced yet.

  7. I’m another who’s embraced the geek/nerd label and who is more nerd than geek. I embraced it even back in high school, but then, I was geared toward getting out of my small town. My oldest kid is a proud geek/nerd. My youngest loves being geeky at home but focuses on fitting in when at school.

  8. I think the term Geek is coming into it’s own. My high schooler is a proud anime/cosplayer/art geek. And my middle schooler is a proud science/gamer geek (with some cosplay thrown in as we work on his Halo and Steampunk costumes) Nerd is still derogatory – as it seems now to denote someone without much social abilities and no special skills in educational or outside interests.
    I was teased in high school, to the point that I still have physical scars from some of the tormenting, but it didn’t stop me from geeking out on books, arts, and costumes. With the internet it is SO much easier for the younger generation to find like minded friends. I know my high schooler has friends from New York to California who share her interests and are proud to be geeks. So I don’t think it’s as hard for the younger gen geeks to KNOW there is something special about them and their interests. Unlike us older generations who had to really dig our heels in and hang on past the teasing and sometimes outright torment.

  9. Geek and Nerd have always confused me. Which is which? I am always proud to say I am a Geek, but quick to say I am not a nerd. Nerd sounds like a put down where geek has become a cool thing to be.

    1. I know I’ve seen somebody post a proper Venn diagram of the terms here before (gotta love geeks), but as I understand it “geek” refers to a person with passionate and not-necessarily-mainstream interests, whereas a “nerd” is, well, a subset of geek– an Academics Geek, maybe. The focus is on more school subject interests rather than hobby interests, and definitely less “cool.” Brainiacs are nerds. And yes, there’s a social or-lack-thereof aspect to the term. I am a nerd– I’m very conscious and now quite accepting of this fact. But there’s definitely an aspect of social-awkwardness involved.

  10. at our house, and everywhere else for that matter, we fly our geek fly with pride.
    I remember when geek wasn’t a nice word growing up. My daughter (8) does not so she thinks it’s cool. It’s nice to watch someone grow up with a word, in a time where there is no stigma attached to that word. I am glad that we can afford her that which we could not have when I was a kid.

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