Tag Archives: girl geek dinner

She Geek: Women and Self-Labeling in Online Geek Communities

Courtney is an MA student studying Victorian science fiction at Texas A&M University. She blogs about feminism, geekery, and academia at From Austin to A&M.

This post originally appeared at From Austin to A&M.

My intent in this project was to examine the labeling of female-oriented geek spaces on the internet. What I found was that self-labeling of geek women often defeats the potentially subversive act of creating a female-oriented geek community.

I would argue that the mere creation or and participation in geek communities labeled “for women” are aggressive acts towards male-dominated geek culture. One of the reasons we can see these communities as a challenge to mainstream geek culture is the still-prevailing myth of internet neutrality.

This myth argues that since we are “disembodied” on the internet, everyone begins on equal ground.

Bodies don’t matter in cyberspace. This is not how it works in real life, however, particularly in geek spaces. It is true that until you mark yourself as Other than the privileged class—male, heterosexual, cisgendered, abled, middle-class, and white—you will be assumed to be those things. However, this will not protect you from hate speech or sexist, racist, and homophobic “jokes,” since geek communities often engage in these forms of discourse. Even objecting to these discursive acts, without revealing the state of one’s own body, will immediately mark you as Other, and leave you vulnerable to harassment and denigration. By labeling their spaces as for women, female geeks challenge the neutrality myth, by making their female bodies conspicuous and by demonstrating a need for safe cyberspaces for women.

In a study of the language of male gamers playing within a Quake server, Natasha Christensen claims that

Even though the world of cyberspace allows for the possibility that gender can be transformed, men in Jeff’s Quake Server continue to relate to each other in ways which support male dominance and heterosexual male superiority. […] In the bodiless realm of cyberspace, it is fascinating to note that men who are able to create an alternate world where masculinity is defined differently do not take this opportunity. Instead, real life is mimicked not only by taking on the physical attributes of strength, but also by using ways of talk that emphasize aggression and sexual dominance.


Therefore, in the same way that sports and war help to perpetuate the concept of male dominance through physical strength, the Quake server also promotes the idea of success through aggression and violence. […] Sports and war games became a way for white middle class men to fight their fears of social feminization. At the turn of this century, online computer games are being used in the same manner. Computer geeks who are especially vulnerable to the accusations of being less than manly are able both through the actions and discourse on Quake to demonstrate the qualities required of hegemonic masculinity. Emphasis is placed on the strength of the masculine body while discourse sets the players apart from anything that is feminine.

The same patriarchal standards that put women at a disadvantage also disadvantage computer and other geeks. Often, geeks cite an experience of growing up with bullying and teasing, precisely because they do not live up to hegemonic masculinity. Instead of using cyberspace to fight against hegemonic masculinity, however, geek men often use it to buttress those standards and fulfill them discursively instead of physically. This is precisely why geek women find online geek spaces—necessarily discursive spaces—to be so unwelcoming and hostile. And it is through alternative discourse, whether blogging or forum writing or fanfiction, that women challenge this culture of hypermasculinity.

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If I can’t linkdrop it’s not my revolution (Sept 20, 2009)

Quick hit: How not to get yourself invited to a girl geek dinner by me

My friend @orenmazor tweeted this:

way to increase visibility for the girl geek dinner by challenging the male geeks to figure out a way in http://is.gd/2Cc3F

The guy in question (Will Armstrong) first talks about how awesome the girl geek dinner will be. Okay, great. Then he whines because as a guy, he’s not invited. Okay, less great, but understandable. And then he offers a contest, “with the winner having yours truly as your guest at girl geek dinner and getting a featured blog post on startup ottawa.”

Uh, seriously awkward? Insulting? Worst way to ask for a date ever? Over-inflated ego much?

Certainly, I’m not impressed, and if I see this dude at the dinner (I’m hoping no one invites him), I’m going to be seriously tempted to pour a water pitcher over his head. And it’s putting me off the startup blog, too, with that “hey, the easiest way for women get on our blog is to pimp themselves to Will” vibe.

Upcoming events (August/September)

You might have noticed we added a link at the top of the page to a calendar of upcoming events that might be of interest to geek feminists. The calendar is public so you can add it to your own Google Calendar if you like.

From time to time, we’ll also be highlighting some of them here on the blog too. The two main categories at the moment are a) women-centric geek events, and b) events seeking women speakers. If you’re a conference organiser and would like to reach out to women to submit proposals, feel free to let us know and we’ll add your event’s CFP deadline to the calendar. The same goes for anyone organising women-centric geek events: let us know and we’ll make sure you’re listed.

So, without further ado, some upcoming events around the world include: