A little while back, I spoke to Carrie Goldman, the mother of Katie the STAR WARS girl for The Huffington Post. (Check out the article here. And here is an update from her mom.) The story in a nutshell: Carrie wrote an article about her daughter Katie, a first grader who was teased for carrying a STAR WARS water bottle to class. She was told it was a 'boy thing.' The entire internet exploded. Geek girls and guys everywhere sent messages of support and love. Someone on Facebook organized a 'Support Katie' day, telling everyone to wear a STAR WARS shirt on Friday, December 10th.
Carrie told me that she had received so many incredible gestures of support and offers to send STAR WARS toys to Katie that she wanted to re-brand the day, 'Wear STAR WARS-Share STAR WARS' and have people donate a scifi or science gift to charity. I mentioned that, in addition to donating the toy, you should mark it 'for boys OR girls' so it doesn't go in the boy pile. So before I continue, I really want to encourage you to donate. Yeah, I know you all collect STAR WARS toys. I certainly do. There are two lightsabers in my trunk right this very moment. But let one go, guys. Show your support. Help our young geeky brethern in need. I have my Darth Vader shirt at the ready and a box of toys marked as unisesx. May the Force Be With You all.
I really want to get across two things here. First, we geeks have all experienced something like this. I played Pac-Man as a kid, I begged for a chemistry set for Christmas. I loved Dungeons & Dragons and one of the first books I can remember reading over and over was my STAR WARS companion book. I was Princess Leia for Halloween. Yes, my friends, I am a life long geek. Now, I hung out with a lot of boys when I was a kid, so I really wasn't teased. It wasn't until I got older that people couldn't understand why I liked 'guy stuff.' Honestly, I still get looks of shock when I mention being a level 64 Human Retribution Paladin in 'World of Warcraft' or watching every single series SyFy produces. It sounds funny. People seem to have no problem with it. But the surprise lingers.
After Carrie and I talked about gender roles and who is supposed to like what, I did a lot of thinking. Sure, we are more likely to see smart women on television and in film. But there is still a tendency to make any woman who likes science or scifi either a hot babe with big boobs so it's all a shock, or a homely girl with glasses and a weird sweater who has no social skills whatsoever. We've got Joss Whedon giving us fantastic, smart women for whom a love of computers or space ships are no surprise, but a certain stupid network keeps canceling his shows. A large portion of the country still looks at smart women as an anomaly.
It really surprised me that, even in the comments people left after our interview, people looked at the word 'geek' as an insult. So what do we do? We're not going to change the world in a week by wishing on a Tribble. What we can do is this. Continue to show our strength as geek women (and men) by continuing to be public about it. We can encourage the young girls in our lives to love WHATEVER they want to love. (We can do the same thing with boys who like dolls.) And we can donate a scifi toy, asking that it go to a little girl in need. Hey, if you have kids, encourage them to donate their unused toys and let them know that microscope or robot can go to anyone.
So, show your love for all things geek this holiday. Pull out your lightsabers and action figures. Do it for Katie and every little kid out there who loves the sound of spaceships more than My Little Pony. Do it for your inner geek. Merry Happy!
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