Tag reading "NOT OK" lies on wet ground

On not being OK

This is a guest post. The author is an anonymous geek woman.

Trigger warning for body shame and eating disorders.

I am thirteen and at my first comic/sci-fi expo. I’d had no idea what to expect, and I’m stressed out. The place is packed, and everything seems to be anime and everything seems to cost money. It’s the height of Dragonball-Z‘s popularity in New Zealand and there are Gokus competing in Kah-me-ha-me-ha competitions in the hall. There are signings by people from Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, two more things I’m not into. There is the ubiquitous Xena stall. The Lord of The Rings won’t come out till later this year.

I look around and feel like the only girl in the room, not that you can actually tell. I am a weird, wide-eyed child still round with puppy fat, in blue dungarees, clutching my favourite “Hellblazer’ volume. I have Batman and Xena dolls in my backpack, but they’ve been played with and chewed on and generally treated like a toy, not a collectible.

Eventually I find a corner to sit in and watch people. I’m looking out for my friends, most of whom are busy talking Evangelion or Star Trek.

Then I spot them. I’m not the only girl in the room. There are a bevvy of them – And they’re all dressed up as Sailor Scouts. I recognise sailor scouts from five years ago when Sailor Moon played on TV after the Samurai Pizza Cats in the mornings before school. I liked the pizza cats better.

But these sailor scouts are older than me, they’re thin and pretty and everyone is paying attention to them. Cosplay’s not big here, and these five girls look perfect, they look like they belong in a swimsuit. They pose for photos and simper and smile.

Later, when I mention them to my friends (who are all boys) They make a big deal over how hot those girls were. I look at my thighs and decide to go on a diet.

Five years later and I’m at a roleplaying convention. This is more my pace – I know most everyone here, I’m even running a game for the first time ever. Before the first round a guy I know comes and sits next to me, pointing out a mutual friend who just got engaged. “There’s a reason to keep doing your sports and things,” he says, gesturing to our friend “I swear the only way she got a guy was by stealing his soul and keeping it in a jar.”

I am utterly stunned. Yes, our friend is fat. So is her fiancee. So is the guy talking to me. I mutter something. During the first game we all put junk food on the table, and I am in hell. I eat way more than everyone else (or maybe I just think I do) and sit, squirming, till the end of the three hour session. Then I make a break for it. Up to the floor being prepared for the LARP, so no one will be in the toilets. I make myself throw up over and over until I can’t get anything else out.

I’m a geek, and I’m bulimic.

I sit weekly among stacks of corn chips and M&Ms, pizza and Pepsi when I roleplay. My mind is NEVER totally on the game. Depending on my mood, a part of it is always there, calculating how much to eat, and how to purge.

I get this idea that we, as geeks, are expected to rise above the common herd that are influenced by advertising and self-hate. We’re so much cleverer than that, so much more accepting! We were the fat kids in high school!

But we’re not. After all, geek boys lusts after the thin ones, every geek girl is bombarded with pictures of thin Leia, thin Xena, thin Sailor Scouts. Comics portray thin people as good, fat people as bad. There’s a reason Desire is slim and Despair is fat. Women get the same role-models in geek culture as they do in the rest of the world, but that culture is determined not to address this, nor to address the problems it might cause us.

I’ve grown up through both geek and jock culture and they’re both the same. Dominated by men, a thin varnish over pervasive misogyny. The only difference is where the jocks know the girls have eating disorders, but don’t care; the geeks genuinely think that this part of the world cannot touch them.

So it’s okay to make fat jokes, cos everyone knows you don’t mean them, not when you’re fat and 2/3rds of the room is too. And it’s okay to mock girls who are “stupid” enough to want to starve or puke themselves pretty, because we all know that geeks are too smart to succumb to such base stuff as the desire for control and perfection.

The comments on people’s bodies that are flat out rude, excused by social awkwardness and “I was just saying”. I sit uncomfortably in these conversations. My disorder has only been remarked upon in ways that are scathing. The attempts at recovery which lead to “you’ve put on weight.” in a flat, ugly tone. The times when it has been so bad I stopped eating only resulted in comments like “God, you look skeletal.” “Go have a sandwich or something!”

I want to know if I’m the only geek who has an ED. I’m afraid the answer is yes.

Of course, there is another factor – EDs are women’s problems. Geek culture is not “girly” and rejects all notions of “girly”. Why bother with body image issues when that’s clearly a girl problem. By discussing them geek culture would have to highlight the way id currently uses women’s bodies – confront the paradox that to be welcomed as a woman you must be hot, but to be taken seriously you must be not-hot. And both parties must endeavour to become “one of the boys” (except when there’s an opportunity to objectify the hot ones) and not bring up irrelevant girl problems.

Even when those girl problems might be killing our friends.

No geek has ever looked at me, puffy and red-eyed, or bony thin, or exhausted from exercise and asked “are you okay?”

“Are you okay?”

No, I don’t expect people to be mind readers. But rather than make body-shaming comments at all, ask that question first. Are you okay? Genuinely want to know the answer. Ask it over text, google+, x-box live, or over a coffee.

So, I’ll ask it here – Geek Feminists, are you okay?

You know what, right now, and since age 13, I’m not okay.

Note on comments, from the moderators: because this subject matter is sensitive, you may wish to not use your regular pseudonym. However, please use something more unique than ‘anon’ or ‘anonymous’, so that multiple people aren’t read as the same person. Pick something that is new to this thread. You could use, eg, a single letter like ‘K’ or ‘Q’, or a non-specific phrase like ‘Another Geek Woman’.

Also, if you want to be not recognised, use an email address that does not have your regular gravatar associated with it. With gmail addresses and some other domains you can do something like myusualaddress+randomstring@gmail.com.

You are also welcome to comment under your usual name or pseudonym if you wish.

Update from the moderators:

  • please do not offer people unsolicited advice, particularly medical advice, in this thread
  • this means: if you want advice, please explicitly ask for it “what do people think I should do?” “what should I look for in a health professional?” “what advice do people have?”
  • requests for advice on how to acquire an eating disorder will not be published, nor will requests for advice on weight loss strategies

Some existing comments may violate this, but more will not be published.

This post was submitted via the Guest posts submission page, if you are interested in guest posting on Geek Feminism please contact us through that page.

102 thoughts on “On not being OK

  1. A Male Comic Book Fan

    I can certainly understand and sympathize. I was always chunky as a kid, and while most people never said anything, my parents were always calling me fat. Then I actually got depressed and seriously overweight… and got diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes. That was 11 years ago.

    I’ve been as low as 170 and as high as 220 since the diagnosis. I’ve never been totally happy with how I look, even when I was at a lighter weight. I may not be anorexic or bulemic, but I’m extremely self-conscious, and have been for most of my life.

    Especially given the negative media portrayal of nerds in general as fat slobs for years, it’s not easy to talk about and I congratulate the write for having the courage to talk about this. I hope we all can find a way to deal with this and remind people to be kind to others, because pain and anguish doesn’t always show itself clearly, and you never know what you can say to hurt someone.

  2. Alisha Christine

    Thank you for writing this. I have struggled on and off with starvation since high school. Back then I was not actually making the choice I just naturally stopped eating and started dropping weight at a pace that caused my doctors alarm. I grew up in a poor household and I got used to skipping meals quickly. My family was never home. No one noticed. I used to get wicked hunger headaches often.

    At some point my weight stayed steady, but after college and a break up I once again naturally stopped eating. This caused alarm at my place of work which happens to be in a hospital. I had dropped 30 pounds and I found a friend to compete with and that’s when it became a conscience obsession. Eventually that friend and I stopped hanging out and I started dating and gaining weight.

    For awhile I got rid of my scale. I was afraid to be as frail as I once was and did not want to get in to the habit of checking my weight every few hours as I had been. There are so many moments when I get on a scale and think of myself as a quitter. I still have body issues. I still think I am too heavy. I definitely see myself as a much bigger girl then I am. Most of the time I feel like I am playing a mental game with myself. On the weekends I still mange to get through them nibbling on as little food as possible.

    What really aggravates me are comments by other people and no no one asks if we are okay. Instead they comment on every piece of food I put into my mouth and when I am healthy and losing weight because of acrobatics they tell me to gain weight or ask why I am losing weight or am I dieting. I can’t tell you how many times I sat down for lunch with carrots to hear “look at this girl she is so skinny because all she eats is carrots” or when eating cake “oh look she can stay so thin eating cake.” I believe most think this is harmless, but it’s very harmful. I gave me a complex about eating at work and I have been there dealing with this for over ten years. People I didn’t know would approach me and ask about my eating habits.

    Anyway, I don’t think this is specific to geek girls. It’s definitely a woman’s problem. I was also at NYCC this year and feeling very flabby. I cosplayed a mid drift baring Supergirl which was very ballsy for me since I am very uncomfortable with my stomach. The only time I have ever liked my stomach was when I was much too skinny. I walked around and felt massive in a crowd of stick thin girls. Looking back I am happy with the photos I have seen but I felt very over shadowed by thinner females.

    I do hope you are all okay. Most days I feel like I am just pretending to be okay with my body image.

  3. jdwright

    The OP is certainly not alone. Eating Disorders don’t discriminate across any social boundaries. I’m a guy, but food issues cross gender boundaries. A year ago, I was thoroughly lost in a haze of junk food and convinced things could never get any better.

    I found my way to Overeaters Anonymous, and I’m quite certain that this program has saved my life. I recognize that I’ll always be a compulsive overeater and food addict, but I’m not alone.

    I hope that anyone in this thread who’s suffering from an eating disorder finds the help that they need. And if anyone has an questions about OA, please feel free to contact me by e-mail.

  4. A sad pear wizard

    You are not alone.

    As a trans person, I can identify with this so much. (I identify as male but grew up as a girl and didn’t come out until a few years ago.) Everything about my body was wrong, wrong, wrong. It was the wrong shape and it was definitely the wrong size. I couldn’t pass for anything and I was not thin enough to be attractive. When I went to my first con, I felt crushed by the enormity of my shame and self hatred and inability to enjoy myself in what I thought would be geek paradise. I couldn’t join in the costume fun because there was absolutely nothing sized to fit me. I learned that geek culture disliked fat people just as much as anyone else.

    For years, I self harmed. It is a struggle even now sometimes, even at a point in my life where I am safer and happier than I’ve ever been.

    Anonymous geekwoman, wherever you are, you’re always welcome in my virtual living room. I hope you are finding support from your friends and loved ones.

  5. Rae

    I’m a geek feminist–a geek-professional, actually. I don’t have an active ED, but I struggle hard with body image, and cons are a huge trigger for me: the gorgeous cosplayers, the gorgeous colleagues, and the knowledge that no matter what my actual capacity there, I’m mostly going to be judged and later characterized primarily based on my looks. It’s a bad anxiety tailspin.

  6. almostanangel

    Hi, I’m a 35 year old geek woman and I’m not okay.

    I’ve been reading ever since I can remember, and got addicted to sci-fi and fantasy at the age of 8, when the children’s section of the library just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I was the shy straight A nerd who dressed funny because my family was poor. I was also the girl who got teased for developing early, getting called “fat” for needing a bra in the 3rd grade. By the time I was 15, I was purging on a near daily basis; my mom caught me once and simply told me to “knock it off, you’re smart enough to know better”. My size has fluctuated from 0-16 over the past twenty years.

    I’m married now, to a wonderful geek man who treats me with respect. Still, I notice that the women he finds attractive are the anime girls – 12 year old bodies with enormous breasts and no flaws. It affects our sex life, because he’s been getting off to those images for years, not women who look like me. I’m afraid that if I don’t lose weight, we’ll never manage to have kids. Worse, I’m paranoid that some thinner woman will come along and take my place. We went to Dragon*con two months ago, and while it was wonderful to meet my favorite authors and talk about the things I’m passionate about, it was also incredibly triggering. Everywhere I looked, there were tiny fairies in body paint, incredibly toned superheroines, steampunk sylphs in corsets and Lolita dresses. I was purging before the second day of the con was over. I’ve dropped more than two sizes since September, mainly by spending 5-7 hours a week in the gym and skipping every meal I can. My husband doesn’t notice that I give him a plate of dinner and have a can of diet soda myself. I don’t dare tell any of my friends, because they frequently make jokes about how “stupid” women with eating disorders are, and I feel like I’m constantly having prove that I’m smart enough to hang out with nerds as it is. (Unfortunately, my self-esteem issues go beyond body image.) I can’t tell anyone, all of the HAES messages can’t drown out the constant litany of “thin=perfect, fat=failure”, and I can’t stop no matter how hard I try.

  7. marina

    I’m more the bookish type than the gaming type, but I have an eating disorder. I haven’t practiced since my early teens, but it still effects me, and I think it always will. For me, the eating disorder may have been fed by images in society and the disaproval of fat and favor of thin in my own household, but I kept it going because of a compulsive need to control my life, and an addiction to the rush of starvation. What I needed to do was to choose my own life over the perceptions of others, no matter how important those perceptions are. [Mod: unasked for advice removed.]

  8. Miss Kooky

    Oh honey. I just want to pick you up and give you a hug. You are beautiful, I don’t even care what you look like, but your courage and the guts it took in actually writing and publishing this is so much more beautiful than any physical body could be.
    Thank you for opening up. I hope you are ok, that you can cope with your ED and learn to break it. And thank you for writing this, I am ashamed to realize i never had a good look at the issue, even when it’s one that effects my most beloved friends.
    I will share this amongst my mates, because you know what, we are better than that. Better than toperpetuate such a hateful and hurtful situation. Better than to ignore the pain of our friends. Ignorance is no longer a defense.

    And I really hope you are going to be ok. You don’t have to be skinny to be loved, you don’t have to look like a model to be valued as a woman and a human being.

  9. petrie

    Hopped over from Jezebel, where this was republished.

    You are not alone. I was (am?) a geek, and I had anorexia throughout my teen years. I turned to methamphetamines to get even thinner. When I kicked the drug, I kicked the ED, because it had become the lesser issue by that point.

    I still love my sci fi and comics, but I am unable to ignore the fact that female characters in my preferred media are not much different from Hollywood’s females. Thin, well dressed, “perfect.” The evil ones are fat, or ugly, or raggedy. It bothers me.

    I love Sandman, because the female characters actually have substance, but your point about Desire and Despair is spot on. Further, most of the female characters are sexy, even if not sexualized. I love the book for its substance, but these things can’t be ignored.

    I don’t know that a man out there can write a protagonist woman without making her thin and pretty. Not without making her Dykes to Watch Out For charicaturish.

    I’ve always dreamed of writing a graphic novel, but who knows if I will. Gotta have a “real job” to pay the bills. I feel like it’s something only women can remedy—by writing.

    As for the whole scene, there are always going to be geeky guys who aren’t so much smarter as more awkward and not so much “better” as …worse. Meanwhile, there’ll always be wonderful people hiding in the craziest places. I was lucky to find someone who, like me, is a geek/jock hybrid, and he’s also the kindest soul.

    Jerks and sweethearts show up all over the place, and women in every walk are subjected to the same messages. Your story shows that you found yourself in a sea of detrimental messages. We all have to at some point.

  10. Hunaahi

    I just wanted to say, no. But reading this, thank you. It had to be hard to write, and you may feel alone but are not.

  11. In your corner

    I’m almost cringing as I write this, because at a con, I’d be one of those thin cosplay girls. I tell myself I’m just using the idiot male urge to drool over the pretty thing, but my actions also reinforce the stereotypes that are making you miserable. I’m sorry.

    And while I can never viscerally understand your pain, I’m on your side. There IS an unrealistic depiction of feminine beauty in geekdom that everyone buys into, but never explicitly addresses. And it’s a damn cruel double standard that the image knife seems to cut girls to ribbons and barely nicks guys’ skins. Thank you for writing such a deep, personal essay about this pervasive issue. I’m forwarding this article to all the geek dudes I know, because they should be aware that geek girls are still girls and casually cruel comments/expectations are not okay.

  12. Aine

    “I’ve grown up through both geek and jock culture and they’re both the same. Dominated by men, a thin varnish over pervasive misogyny.”

    Hi, sorry to go off on a slight tangent (as in not about ED) but the way I’ve noticed this varnished-misogyny is in the preponderance of Nice Guys(TM) among male geeks. These are guys who consider themselves more sensitive and intelligent, less shallow than ‘bad boy’ jocks and wail about the women who are superficial, don’t want nice guys, don’t see what special and kind snowflakes they are etc.

    But these Nice Guys(TM) are usually *only* interested in the typically-hot women. They dismiss the geek girls who share their social/bodily imperfections but also their interests, who they might actually have something in common with. It’s complete hypocrisy – at least jock culture is open and honest about its shallowness.

    Obviously not all geek guys are this way but it’s incredibly common.

  13. Alneria

    I am a geek and not ok. I’ve always been thin, twiggy mostly through high school and with virtually no chest. If it hadn’t been for waist length hair, I could have easily been mistaken for a boy, and was a few times. It caused binging, I desperately wanted to be curvaceous and beautiful, like the women I read about in high fantasy…or saw in videogames like final fantasy, and comics like Batman.

    So, I binged but did not purge…instead I worked out like a fiend, I swam for three hours a day, and powelifted for one. Every day. Lean and busty. It became and obsession. Somehow, somewhere the obsession calmed and I didn’t notice, too busy with college I think.

    However, within the last six months my breasts have more than doubled in size, (from barely an A to trouble fitting into a C) but with it has come a little pudge, not allot (my tummy jiggles a fraction when I walk), but I feel the old obsession rearing its ugly head, and it scares me.

    I’m not unhealthy, 120lbs or so, but I feel ugly without a perfect stomach…especially when I hear from my own boyfriend of more than ten years “I saw this perfect ass today,” and that alone dosent bother me (I know eyes will wander, it just happens) but what really cuts is “You could look like that if you tried.” Its like a bolt to he heart every time. It’s incredibly rare that he says it, but when he does, I want to go hide in the closet where I can’t be seen.

    I do work to maintain the delecate balance I have…to keep it from turning into obsession again, and to keep from falling into the obesity that is prolific in my family. I’m mostly sedentary, but I only eat 1200 calories a day, take vitamin supplements, speed walk for 30 mins, or do 60 crunches every morning and 30 pushups…the rest of my day is work at a computer.

    On top of this is that I finally have the breasts I so desperately wanted, naturally, and now I feel ugly again after more than three years of serenity. It hurts.

    I am a geek, and not ok.

  14. Aline

    Thank you.

    I’m not really ok, but with this text of yours, you made me feel a little better. You made me realize I can be a girl too, behind this pretty well educated brain.

    Thank you.

  15. dokami

    I am so glad for this piece. I’ve struggled for years with body image and self-acceptance, I’ve starved myself and harmed myself and had breakdown after breakdown and been hospitalized for mental illness. I was recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder…
    The thing is, my best friends are geeks, they’re proud of it. Most of them are guys. And it has been painful and difficult to realize that geeks—perhaps even more than the general population—tend to avoid and ignore problems of mental illness and self-harm (defined broadly.)
    My friends often praise me on the fact that I’m so proud of being a geek, I seem so sure of myself, it makes other people want to be like me. I don’t see why anyone would want that. I’m just good at pretending. I wish they could see that I’m very not okay, and this culture we are a part of doesn’t help. I wish they could see that after all the times they’ve mentioned how hot some girl is, they’ve never mentioned anything about my appearance. I wish they could see that as soon as the pretending is over and I put away the dice, I’m suffering…and years of feeling like I’ll never live up to all those other girls really has a lot to do with it.

  16. KJ

    You are not the only one. I am a geek who had an eating disorders for more years than I care to remember. And it is hard to watch the media I love, to read the graphic novels that are awesome when I know that they are promoting ideal body types that are unhealthy for most women. And that somewhere, out there, a geeky girl is considering starving herself or purging or has already begun. I think this subject needs to be talked about, so thank you for starting a conversation.

  17. kberg

    You’re not alone. I’ve never gotten lost but I’ve gotten close. I’ve purged, I’ve fasted, I’ve given up and gotten fatter. I once didn’t leave my house except to go to work for nearly 2 years. I played World of Warcraft to pass the time and to forget how much I hated myself. I faded out of all of my other things for a long time.

    But I got better. I should have gotten help but I didn’t. It probably took longer not to but that’s ok too. I looked at the unhappy woman in the mirror one day and decided to change that. I started hanging out with friends again, I started exercising and not eating Jack in the Box every night. I went back to school. I’m pretty healthy (mentally and physically) now but I’m not pin thin (size 2 pants) and so I still get called fat–usually when someone disagrees with something I’ve said. I can’t ever let on how much that hurts and how much I want to never eat again when I hear someone say that because then they will win.

    Hugs lady–I hope it will get better for you too. It’s never going to be perfect but I want you to be happy and feel good about yourself most of the time too.

  18. K

    A good friend of mine is a geek and she’s been battling bulimia for nearly 10 years. What began as a coping mechanism for her father’s abuse was only exacerbated with misogynistic beauty standards.

    There’s this idea, though, that people who have bulimia will always be stick-thin. It’s possible to purge on a regular basis and still be “fat” and it probably happens much more often than we can know.

  19. A.

    Another girl geek with an AD chiming in. I started associating thin = good from alternative comics. I learned my body type wasn’t acceptable from Wizard magazine. I learned when illustrating comics that thin women were the only kind you people wanted to see. When I started LARPing, many, many people focused on my appearance. It was positive attention, but positive attention focused on my body. I started starving not long after.

    While I am long in recovery, cons can get me down. I have mostly abandoned comics because they trigger me like crazy. I love gaming, but I don’t do it unless I know the people I’m gaming with.

    We’re here with you.

  20. KonekoN1nj4

    I join the chorus of people saying that you are not alone. I too have an ED and struggle with eating still. Most days I do fine but sometimes…well it’s not so good. And I know at least a few of my friends share the struggle.
    Thank you for speaking up about this and reminding me to make sure to ask my friends ‘are you ok?’
    Thank you again for writing and posting this.

  21. siasia

    You are not alone. It’s sad though, that you’re not. It’s sad that we have to struggle with this at all. Being a geek, you feel a general sort of acceptance no matter how you look, because you like all the right things. You don’t like them for others, but you like them for yourself and it’s generally appreciated by others.

    But it’s hard for anyone to escape the need for acceptance on the way we look. I’m 24 and have been struggling with an eating disorder since I was 13 as well. It goes from bad, where i’m hospitalized, to where I’m doing okay. Doing okay inevitably leads to me starting it up again, because that means that I’ve let myself eat and therefore, I’ve let myself gain weight and therefore, I must be disgusting to everyone. It’s a hard thing to get over and I worry that I’m never going to get over it. Geeks usually have an aptitude for bettering themselves intellectually. This can lead to a controlling sense of the need to succeed in anything we do. I think that ED’s in geek girls is probably an extremely common thing.

    Comic cons are a trigger as well. I dressed up this year as a character with my stomach showing. I felt good before I left the house; I had been purging and starving myself for a month prior to get ready to wear this outfit. I felt skinny, and sexy, and okay. But then, after the con I saw pictures and I just about lost it. I saw fat in all the wrong places and I couldn’t believe that I let myself go out like that. I punished myself. Why?

    Being a girl, and a geek, you feel invincible sometimes. Just from liking the things you do, you’re automatically attractive. A little appreciation and acceptance always feels good on any level. Being a beautiful geeky girl, you feel like you can have it all. They are held on some sort of pedestal, almost seen as a rarity and all men seem to drool over them. We have so many comic book characters, and strong female characters to compare us to, it’s inevitable that we end up feeling inadequate. I frankly find the idea that geek girls wouldn’t be effected by ED’s a very strange idea. We are subject to the media that every other girl is subject to: actresses, models, etc. And we are subject to a whole other category as well.

  22. Rebelwerewolf

    From the ages of 17-22, I was not okay. I struggled with depression, which caused unhealthy fluctuations in my weight in both directions, among other things. I’m turning 25 in a few days, and I’m okay now, thanks to a combination of therapy, my wonderful spouse / gaming partner, no longer being in school, and rarely talking to my parents (who are quite clear that I’m not living up to their expectations).

    Thank you for asking. I hope that someday you will be okay.

  23. Dan

    I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to write this. My heart goes out to you, and I think you’re incredibly brave to have written this. I hope you can get better soon.

  24. SherrieTee

    Mostly, I’m okay. I think. Are you doing okay? Really? I actually want to know.

  25. Brian


    I realize I am a total stranger and that my hugs mean very little, but here is another one.


    Should you need a friendly ear, I’m sure anyone who has responded is willing. Add me to the list. My e-mail is included.

  26. LLizD

    I relate to this so much, but I consider myself so lucky to have found other awesome chicks in the geek verse. We have formed a formidable posse where we can support each other, stand up for one another, and still not lose our identities.

    You are more than welcome to join :)

  27. Thomas

    I’ve always been a geek, but I’ve never really had male geek friends because of the pervasive attitude amongst them: that women were something to be ogled. Being raised by a second-wave feminist has led to other, very minor in comparison, problems — worrying so much about my actions towards a girl in terms of whether it was respectful and genuine, or not, to the point of annoyance for many a potential inamorata — but I remain grateful that I’ve always done my best to avoid encroaching upon another’s rights.

    So to answer your question: I’m all right, but I’m sorry that you’re not. If you need someone to talk to we’re all here, and ready to talk; we wouldn’t respond if we weren’t. We’re also angry at the state of things in our beloved subculture, and hope that together we can change its direction.

    Look after yourself, OK?

  28. Mavis

    The horrible thing about being a nerd with an ED is that along with mainstream imagery of the “ideal” body (skinny, modelly women) we also have a set of ideal fantasy images to contend with (skinny anime girls {and boys}). I realized I was in a shitty place when it dawned on me that I was using impossible cartoon bodies for thinspiration (not saying real life models are even vaguely realistic). You and I had the impractical goal of trying to look two dimensional.

    For geeks, obsession is both our strength and our greatest weakness. It’s why we’re good at intellectual tasks, why we’re video game completionists. But it’s also at the root of every massive, money-sucking figurine collection, every year someone’s lost to WoW (I know that sounds melodramatic, but I’m not kidding)…and what made me very good at losing weight.

    Geek ED is probably a pretty similar experience to what mainstream girls go through, but with a nerd twist. The sense of reward you get for leveling up is the same feeling you get when you lose a half a pound or whatever – in other words, it doesn’t last. You have to reach the next thing. And there is no quest completion with anorexia or bulemia or whatever, because you will never be or look like a child (and anime girls are basically children attached to giant boobs). Geeks have deep nostalgia for their nerdy childhood activities…but it’s ok to let yourself grow up.

    To answer your question, I am ok. Unfortunately I can hardly say how. My obsessions just….changed. I grew out of most anime. I gave up on trying to look 13. [Moderator note: removed some “you” statements which appeared to be giving un-asked for advice.]

  29. Xandraj09

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for writing this. You are not the only geek girl with these issues. Though I wasn’t brought into geek culture until college, I can tell you that it certainly didn’t help with any already established body image issues. For years in college I struggled with an eating disorder- and even now the thoughts still try to invade my mind.
    Quite honestly, I don’t even have the guts to go to any conventions because I’m fairly certain I couldn’t handle being around all the “hot” cosplayers without feeling like complete crap. The local one here has a pinup contest and Orion Slave Auction- so I can only imagine what every girl must look like. That being said, I’m naturally fairly petite- but I totally identify with everything you wrote. Even looking like what may be considered acceptable, doesn’t feel like enough when you’re bombarded with every other image of women in both “normal” and geek culture. The girls in video games are extremely thin with huge breasts, and are generally wearing very revealing clothing (my standard response is “put some armor on- your vital organs aren’t even covered)- but somehow it’s ok for the females to be “sexy” in battle, while the men have to be fully armored? Dating geek guys who think that’s normal is also hard on geek girl body image.
    So no, you are not the only one. But you are one of the few who has been strong enough to voice these thoughts- and for that, I am extremely thankful. As you have for so many others on this site, you have made me feel less alone.

  30. Alexa

    I read this on Jezebel, and just wanted to make sure that you know, for better or for worse, you’re not alone in this at all. I think it’s actually a pretty common issue, but because of the whole “we’re better than this” mentality, a lot of geek women are even more hesitant to admit EDs than the average woman. Best of luck. ♥

  31. Sammie

    You’re not alone. I’m not OK right now, but I’m working on things. Thank you for this article, and thanks for asking.

  32. RX

    I’m male and I don’t go to cons anymore because I just find it too depressing. I hate that female actresses, and some cases males too, are paid to dress up.
    It should be something for the geeks, by the geeks. And while there are some typically physically attractive geeks out there, I think the emphasis on looking good sometimes overshadows what the event is really all about.

    And also, you’ve done well to be so brave! I hope things work out for you.

  33. Jamboree

    I am not okay, and I truly hope that someday I will be. I am also a geek girl, and I have been for as long as I can remember. (I also had a lot of puppy fat at 13 years old, and shirts with cats on them, lol.) I have been going to cons for about 5 years, and I love to cosplay. I have been struggling with my weight and appearance for about 9 years. I’ve gone from 120lbs to 100, to 140, to 99, to 135, it’s neverending. I’ve considered plastic surgery, starved myself, worked out until I passed out, but I have never been happy with my appearance. Every cosplay I do, I feel shame because I am not thin enough. All of my friends are comfortable in their own skin, and cosplay who they want despite their size. But I feel like that will never be me, and I will never be comfortable. Every time I “diet” I strive to be “healthy” but it is always a downward spiral. It’s really tough to be a girl geek.

  34. You're not alone

    I’m a geek, I’d consider myself a geek and I have an ED. Cons were a huge trigger for me. I only went because my friends wanted to go, they want to go so badly, they wanted me to go as well. So I always did because I couldn’t say no. They were hell. They were utter hell, I wanted to cry. I’ve always been chubby, I’ve always been a big larger but no one I know would call me huge. Still I felt it. You hit that horrible moment where a diet goes out of control. Its terrifying, more terrifying is the idea that geekdom sits above it. It never has. The geekdom is the same as every single group out there. From the jocks to the rock bands. No one is immune to an ED or a mental health problem and there is the same pressures across the board. Its a problem of society as a whole, and everyone from comic books, to anime, to the news portrays thinness as beauty.

    You are not alone. Our circles just refuse to acknowledge it. Remember, its just just being too skinny thats an ED. The girls who eat away their problems, that’s not healthy either, comfort eating when its overboard is also an ED. It works both ways.

  35. someone or other

    You are definitely not the only one. I think I might even have been at the same convention, and was also bulimic at the time.

    Thank you for your article :-)

  36. Lucciola

    Thank you.
    And as everyone else said, you’re not alone. I struggled with EDs for years, denying I had a problem and never seeking help because I was ashamed they’d think I was “shallow” and “stupid”. Getting out of the spiral was hard, I went into therapy, I left my country, but now I’m happy. Some days are harder than others, but I can finally say that it is possible to get better, even though when you’re deep down it feels like there’s nothing left in your soul but your illness.
    But no, the ED is gone, and I’m still a geek ;)

    A hug to you and to your wide-eyed 13 year old self.

  37. Jessica Marie

    [mod note: removed commercial (and cisnormative) link]

    I am not ok.
    While over time I have learned to be far more body positive than I was, and despite the fact that my entire business, my day to day is spent challenging the standards of female beauty I am still a person and when the judgement comes in certain forms I find that it can still cut me to the core.

  38. Pixie

    Because I dont’ think it can be said too many times: You’re not alone in your eating disorder, your discomfort with body-shaming, or your reaction to the misogyny that we’re all forcefully encouraged to ignore. I’ve struggled with a variety of ED behavior since I was twelve.

    I’m an adult now and I haven’t forced myself to vomit or exercised myself into a negative calorie count in a long time. But I still have body dysmorphic disorder. That will never go away. What I don’t do any longer is keep quiet. When someone makes a body shaming comment I let them know that it’s not alright – even when the person in question is my mother. Women aren’t sex objects. We aren’t here to serve as eye-candy and erection starters. We’re people and we deserve to be viewed and valued as such.

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