Most of my life I have felt rather helpless, unable to make a difference or impact. Having been bullied through middle school and high school crippled my self-confidence though, admittedly, there wasn’t much there to lose. The problems of the world seemed so daunting and I was just a talent-less, ineffectual speck. That belief changed a few months ago as I prepared to release episode 55 of my Feminist project, Reel Geek Girls.
‘Fake Geek Girls’
Two years ago, I read a blog on Forbes about “Fake Geek Girls” and how they were ruining things. I had heard a lot about this concept and after more research discovered that female geeks face a lot of harassment both on and offline. Women who identify as “geek” or “nerd” are judged by men. Their knowledge of whatever geeky interests they claim to have is tested through an aggressive round of questioning to determine if this woman is truly a geek or just posing as one because “geek is in.” This is called gatekeeping.
Gatekeeping makes people uncomfortable to embrace and share the things that make them unique. If a woman considers herself a geek then she has every right to that title. Cosplayers do not want to be quizzed on the characters they portray at conventions. Lady Twitch streamers get tired of being asked, “do you even like gaming” or criticized for their skill level. It’s a serious problem and it stretches far beyond YouTube comments and Twitter mentions as it is deeply rooted in misogyny.
Men as a whole need to be more supportive of women. In these times of Bill Cosby and Donald Trump, we need to stand beside women, not cling to old-fashioned or misogynistic beliefs. Inspired by the #HeForShe movement, I created the Reel Geek Girls interview series in 2015 to combat the “Fake Geek Girl” myth and harassment that female geeks face online. Our mission is to spotlight notable geeks of all varieties, interests, and levels of obsession to raise awareness of these issues and create a more inclusive geek community for all. The Reel Geek Girls motto is “all geeks are real geeks.”
Reel Geek Girls started casually when I contacted some people I admired and asked them to film for a fun interview show talking about the things they are geeky about, whether that be Sherlock, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Neuroscience, makeup, or even sports. To my surprise, people were excited to participate!
The first Reel Geek Girls spotlight was Kaitlyn Dias who voiced Riley in Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. At this time, they were called “Interviews: On Geek,” but the concept now existed. About seven episodes in it dawned on me that the series had potential to become something greater. For two years since that realization I’ve committed most of my time to developing and promoting this series.
About 20 episodes in I stopped appearing at the beginning and end of each video to provide more time for the women to speak and further distance myself from the spotlight. I often ask women for their feedback on the website, branding, and presentation. Numerous changes have been implemented based on their suggestions. Ensuring that this series works for women is essential to its goals.
On August 7th we released the 63rd episode on the 2-year anniversary. The show is constantly and rapidly evolving to become more streamlined and intentional in its focus. Women chosen are involved in the entertainment or arts industries and have important stories to share. The series strives to provide a platform for them to talk about being discriminated against for being a geek, their experiences as a woman in their industry, and how they have overcome any adversity they’ve faced.
Previous Reel Geek Girls episodes have featured Geek & Sundry’s Trisha Hershberger, classic Nickelodeon series All That’s Lisa Foiles & Alisa Reyes, Stranger Things’ Jackie Dallas, Smosh’s Brittni Barger, Nickelodeon UK’s Genie in the House star, Katie Sheridan, former Disney Channel’s Sonny w/ a Chance and So Random star, Allisyn Ashley Arm, NY Post Film Critic Sara Stewart, TMZ on TV’s Danica Kennedy and episode 70 will feature YouTube viral sensation, Malinda Kathleen Reese, best known for her Google Translate Sings series.
Through empowering discussions and anecdotes, sprinkled with bits of zaniness, Reel Geek Girls hopes to provide needed encouragement to those women (or men) afraid to pursue their own dreams or embrace their inner geeks. If these “out and proud” geeks have found success in their careers, so can our viewers.
While sending out invites for episodes 70–80 this fall, it finally occurred to me that I do have a purpose. I may be a tiny pebble tossing myself into a great pond of problems, but that does not mean I am useless. Taking a stand against one corner of misogyny and focusing my energy on one issue that matters has created something meaningful.
The influence and viewership of Reel Geek Girls may not be growing as fast as I might want, but it has provided a platform for 62 women to speak. It has introduced 62 varieties of “geek girls” to new audiences. It has drawn attention to stories of discrimination and harassment faced by women across the globe. It has conveyed the challenges for women of trying to succeed in a male-driven industry.
Every new episode released only makes the message louder: all geek girls are ‘real’ geek girls and they’re tired of being asked for proof. Open the gates and let them through, it will be a richer experience for us all.
All episodes of Reel Geek Girls can be found on:
Official Site — www.reelgeekgirls.com
Audio versions of each episode — https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/reel-geek-girls/id1251852828