Mamas, Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Be Geeks

My eternal apologies to Willie Nelson.

I have a confession to make. I’m a geek. Some of you might know this; some of you may have only suspected. Many of you who know me don’t know the depths of my geekiness.  I’ve been listening to the Babble On Project podcast (plug!), and as a result, I’m coming out of the shadows (if you get the reference, you’re clearly a Fiver, and we’ll get along).  It’s been such a joy, and it’s pushed me to come clean: I’m not a dabbler, nor a lurker; I’m an all-out geek.  I have a comic book collection, and a Tumblr. I know my Trek, and I’ve written fan fiction.  Babylon 5 changed my life, and I push that show on everyone I meet like it’s crystal meth (but crystal meth made with one cohesive, five-season serialized plotline, instead of with stockpiled Sudafed. Seriously. Watch it. All the cool kids are doing it).

I am a geek.  More than that, I am a girl geek.  A female fanboy. A she-nerd.

We girl geeks are everywhere. Sometimes, we’re wearing ComiCon tshirts and Converses. Sometimes, we’re dressed in all black, tatted out. Sometimes, we’ve got our iPods cranked up, blasting Florence + the Machine and thinking that the lyrics must be talking about Character A’s storyarc this season.  Sometimes, we are LARPers (for those not in the know, Google is your friend). And sometimes, we’re the girl in heels and pearls, grabbing a coffee after teaching class and surfing Tumblr in the coffeeshop.  Window seat.  And we’re probably also blasting Florence (seriously, you can’t tell me she’s not a Fiver).

It’s not easy to be both a girl and a geek.  It can be isolating and embarrassing. Teenagers can be cruel.  Being open in your geekiness might cost you homecoming court, or a pageant tiara, or a quarterback boyfriend.  And some days, it’s no easier to fit in at 24 than it was at 14.

Why raise your daughter to be a geek, then?

Raise your daughter to be a geek because geekdom is a beautiful place. In geekdom, it’s okay to be a strong woman, to be a smart woman, to be a funny woman.  It’s great.

Raise your daughter to be a geek because she will have amazing role models.  Instead of autotuned pop singers, sexcapader reality “stars,” and tv-drama-heroines with serious attachment issues, she will see starship captains, warrior mothers, female presidents, girl geniuses: all genuine heroines. She’ll see normal girls and women, not Barbie dolls, who really can do anything they set their minds to do.

Raise your daughter to be a geek because she will get to see beauty, and bravery, and sacrifice.  Feed her stories about people (of all races, genders, sexual identities, faiths) making difficult choices in the face of daunting odds.   Let her see Buffy give her life for her sister. Let her see the survivors of Flight 815 form a community to stand against evil.  Let her read about the Pevensies growing in faith and bravery. Give her the chance to see these things.

Raise your daughter to be a geek because she needs joy and enthusiasm.  Let’s be honest: often, life is less than we deserve, and it is too easy to become tired and jaded.  What makes geekdom so countercultural is not the spaceship saltshakers, the fake Hobbit ears, or the Klingon desk dictionary.  It’s the joy.  We live in a society that encourages constant, empty pursuit and perennial dissatisfaction.  Geeks are joyful. We never worry about keeping our cool because, to be frank, coolness has never been in our possession.  We love what we love and we want to share it with everyone else.  That’s so radical.

Raise your daughter to be a geek because she will surround herself with other geeks. Friendship is an oft-neglected relationship in our culture, where girls are pitted against each other in competition and the only legitimate relationship is one defined by the ability to attract boys.  As a result, women make it to their 20s unable to form fast friendships. Don’t do this to your daughter.  Give her the chance to find joyful, awkward, nerdy friends, to surround herself with people who will share in her joys and encourage her via Joss Whedon metaphors (“You know…this situation reminds me of ‘The Zeppo’…”).  Let her form her own Flight 815 (though hopefully with less fuselage damage). What’s more, geek unity is stronger than ever due to the internet. Let her find her own community of people who love what she loves and want to multiply that love.

Raise your daughter to be a geek because you will give her the gift of an unrestrained imagination.  Life without dreaming is gray and tense; teach her whimsy and color and starlight.  One of the most dangerous habits is to think that we know everything, that there’s nothing left to be marveled at.  If being a geek has taught me anything, it’s that the universe is full of wonder and joy and the Great Mystery. And that is worth protecting and passing on.

Not all of you will have daughters. Not all of you will have children.  But some of you will.  And some of you will meet young geeks, both boys and girls.  Encourage them. Give them books about warrior mice in Abbeys, and truly wretched Extended Universe works. Hand them a paintbrush.  Let them tell you all about this classic TV show they’ve just discovered about a girl who kills vampires, or about a space station and a war against Shadow aliens.  And do more than listen.  Share.  If you’re a geek yourself, tell them.  They need to know that it turns out okay for misfits like us.



In celebration of the beauty that is geekiness, I will be dedicating a series of blog posts to the books, tv series, and other works that inspire my geekish joy. My hope is to start a dialogue and maybe to introduce some of you newbie geeks to the great works that have shaped who I am as a writer, a teacher, a counselor, and a geek.  So be on the lookout for my Bug Chronicles weekly posts. There will be squeeing, and you don’t want to miss that.



21 thoughts on “Mamas, Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Be Geeks

  1. Great post. I consider myself to be a geek as well, and like you I did not come to realize that until later in life. For me it was high school and it was tough because it is an awkward time to begin with and I am old enough to have lived in a time that being geek was a negative thing no matter your sex. I eventually migrated to others like me and I never enjoyed myself more. I was also able to truly discover my creative side without ridicule. I think that the important thing here is that you are true to yourself and to where your colors with pride. As a father of two boys and a girl that, as well as be kind to others, is what I will continue to teach them.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful response! It’s only in my 20s that I’m really letting the banner fly high, and it’s so wonderful to hear from other people who have been through the same experience. Sidenote: my parents are both geeks themselves, and I have to say that geeks make the best parents!

  2. The old geeks wear lab coats and safety glasses. Without the geek mothers there would be none to follow.. Three generations went before: the colonists, the pioneers, and the first wave. We were once few, but now are many. Some of our geekiness originates in StartTrek TOS, D&D, Dune by Frank Herbert, and other sources.
    “Teach you children well” was the line in a popular song of my youth of the first and second waves. We taught our daughters well to code, to wear lab coats, to wear safety glasses, to do higher math, to embrace the odd, the outliers. We taught them that it was okay to be different and to rejoice in their knowledge and intelligence.

  3. I’m not sure exactly how to respond to this, except to ask “are you married?” You’ve described Geekdom better than even Simon Pegg, or, dare I say it, George Takei. I recently did some online dating, and never quite hit it off with any of the women I dated. One evening, sitting across the table from a very nice, pretty, intelligent woman, I suddenly thought ” there is no way this woman will ever dress like a pirate!” It wasn’t some cosplay fantasy I was thinking about: it was a mindset. As nice, and as intelligent as she was, she just wasn’t a geek.

    “We are Geek, and George Takei is our Queen.”

  4. I always thought I was a bit nerdy – a bookworm who posted Shakespeare quotes on her dorm door and loved 10.000 Maniacs. And I was good with that. It was, however, when the new series of Doctor Who came out and I was “ooo-WEEE-ooo!”-ing along with the theme song even though I wasn’t even watching it and my husband started laughing that I realized, I did indeed have an inner geek. And that was okay too.

    I’m not up to my earlobes in Geekdom – I’m still not a huge fan of Star Trek (though I’ve watched it my whole life between my dad, my husband, and my college town’s one channel that played a Star Trek marathon every Saturday night). I’m not a gamer, I don’t get into comics. But I can go on for ages about Doctor Who, and how Donna’s amazing because she is ordinary, and can curse George Lucas with the best of them and love love LOVE Florence + The Machine.

    My boys are definitely geeks. Husband – geek. Two daughters? They’re more like me. They accept geekery and latch on to what they like. And I have found myself more and more trying to lead the tween girl down the geek path. I don’t force it upon her. But I offer it to her. Expose her. Get a little giddy when she loves Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” as much as I did. It was the day she bypassed Disney Channel to watch “The Sarah Jane Adventures” that I nearly wept with joy – YES! Watch Sarah Jane! Be like her! Smart and kind and strong. Anyone can be a Disney Channel girl – it takes someone special to be a Sarah Jane Smith 😉

  5. Totally agreeing with all of this, if I have a daughter (or son) I am so raising them to be a geek. They shall learn how to play DnD (3.5, none of that 4th ed) at an early age. and eventually will start LARPing

  6. Sounds like you are ready to read of the greatest geek in modern history, Dominican though he may be: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. No geek ever had it harder and no geek ever held his freak flag higher.

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