What makes a girl… geek?

I’ve wanted to write this blog post for ages and though there hasn’t been time, as I approach midnight again – clearly this attention has been shoehorned in. Maybe it’s because I missed the Girl Geeks dinner tonight or maybe it’s the extent of debate on girl geeks in the office this week. In any case tonight I have a troubled girl-geeky soul right now.

Since I became involved with Girl Geeks Scotland, this question has haunted me and sitting somewhere between the socially savvy, polished ladies of agency life and the intellectual, image-neutral ladies in the Informatics network…(not meant as anything but a sweeping recollection of comments from self-labelled “girl geeks”) I find myself positioning myself as “soft-tech”, “fluff-tech” and “aspiring geek”.

In the process of forming a creative brief for a small amount of design work for Girl Geek Scotland, I wondered what are those characteristics that actually define us, if indeed we can be defined…

A quick search for defining girl geek on Google brings us to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl_Geek with the following opening line: “The word geek is a slang term, noting individuals as “a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more things including those of intellectuality, electronics, etc”

Other searches don’t fare much better:

“A technically oriented person. It has typically implied a “nerdy” or “weird” personality, someone with limited social skills who likes to tinker with scientific or high-tech projects. The origin of the term dates back to the late 1800s.”

And ever done an image search for Girl Geek?

In all honesty, this material correlates pretty closely with jokes I’ve heard about “geeks” (from self-proclaimed geeks)…. but I actually don’t think it’s fair. For a start, I’ve met many geeks who are social/sociable and also incredibly creative (both men and women). Perhaps that’s because being fairly social myself I gravitate towards individuals who enjoy conversing as opposed to ones who avoid human contact, but in any case, I propose some new definitions.

For a start, I think “geek” encapsulates a positive attention to detail, whether that’s photography, code, painting, maths or simply an angle on a subject that others have failed to notice. Perhaps there may be something obsessive about this attention to detail, but it’s also a very caring approach and one that is arguably unfortunately rare these days…

I tried to think about what geek means when applied to girls and believe that whilst the above still stands, I got further with my definition under a search for “post-feminism”, than I did for “girl geek”. Take this summary of post-feminism for example, found here:

“Postfeminism remains an awkward yet laudable movement among younger women, and women no longer young – one which embraces pluralism and homosexuality, one which expects that women are just as involved in the electronic frontier of the Web as men are.”

This statement has a lot of the attitude that you’ll find in Girl Geek networks. As an aspiring geek/ girl-geek I want to present a credible point of view on an aspect of technology and whilst I would never position myself as a techie (just quite techy), I have a genuine interest in geek territory. My motivation may be different though… I’m not interested in technology for technology’s sake or scientific theory. It’s the application of technology and research that engages me… how people use it, how it improves our lives, the difference it makes. I can’t get excited by code alone, I have to understand the context.

So… what makes a girl… geek? 

  • The pursuit of knowledge…. generating questions (most important)
  • To explore different things, try new activities and practise an active curiosity around the way things work
  • Having the right to look like a girl and still be interested in science, engineering and IT. Wearing a dress or a skirt doesn’t change how I think…
  • To enjoy playing with technology, (though for me, never at the expense of “real life” – people are really important to me)
  • The right to play football or cycle in a skirt, because I can
  • To listen to any type of music and appreciate any aspect of culture, without it necessarily being accepted as “cool”
  • An interest in the detail, without neglecting associated frameworks

I’m blogging way past my bedtime again, but had a quick look at some other “Girl Geek” perspectives:

I’ve also linked to two pics below, which I thought were kinda girl-geeky…