Following last month’s article, “Is It Cool To Be A Geek?” I heard a lot about the rise in women showing interest in geeky or nerdy things. It didn’t take long for me to decide I needed to explore this further, so I turned to Casie Shimansky, one of the persons I quoted in my original piece.

My conversation with Casie

Chris: Let’s get right into this. I think before we can really drill into this topic – it would be fun to explore the question we’ve both heard. Is there really a difference between the words “nerd” and “geek?” Furthermore, what do they mean today?

Casie: I am constantly enamored by this debate.  A friend of mine recently ventured into a brand new, much anticipated store here in Orlando called Gods & Monsters.  Their website claims that they’re the, “evolution of the pop culture retail experience — poised to change the perception of what a Comic & Toy store can be.”  My friend proclaimed it to be “Nerd Heaven.”  I paused, because I would’ve used the term “Geek” for sure.  So…what really IS the difference?

I dashed off to Google to see what the almighty internets had to say about this debacle, and I have to admit — laughed as I read WikiHow’s How to Tell the Difference Between Nerds and Geeks.  They set it pretty straight-forward and while I can only assume everyone has their own opinion on this — I definitely tend to sway more towards the Geek definition myself.

Chris: I would put myself in the same category. For me, “nerd” is much more of an intellectual term wherein “geek” is fun/pop culture. To each his or her own, though!

Now, last month we talked a bit and one thing jumped out to at me. You spoke much about the rise of geek culture amongst females. When talking with Jon from Carmine Street Comics for the same piece, he had a similar sentiment in terms of his business. He spoke of an increase in female customers over the past five-years, noting that it’s been a consistent increase year over year.

Where do YOU think this is stemming from? For me, I see a lot of this happening because of the fact that it’s really no longer geeky as much as it is part of pop culture to be into things like Marvel or Funko Pop characters.

Casie: I think the Marvel Cinematic Universe has helped a lot in this regard, as has the addictively adorable Funko Pops and even the likes of mainstream television series such as The Walking Dead that began as a graphic novel.  Women want great storytelling, and beyond that, there’s a world of women who don’t necessarily want Twilight, 50 Shades of Whatever, or anything with Fabio on a cover.  Give me Rick Grimes and the Apocalypse any day over Christian Grey.  I’d rather hang out with Tony Stark and Thor over a vampire that shimmers with glitter.  Personal preference, sure.  I know women who love both worlds.  But for me, geek culture is where I fit best.

New York City Comic Con (2014) - Photo Credit: eagleeyez (Flickr)

The continued rise in popularity of New York City Comic Con (which passed San Diego in attendance in 2014) must give some credit to it’s growing female attendees. Photo Credit: Flickr User eagleeyez

On top of that, with conferences like MegaCon, Comic Con, and even Walker Stalker Con — we’re able to connect more and share our stories and passions.  I think Social Media has a hand in this too, as women realize it’s not only cool to be a geek these days, but there’s A LOT more of us out there than originally thought.  It’s not that chick-geeks didn’t exist prior to the here & now of things, it’s that you’re just now hearing and seeing them more.

Think women geeks aren’t out there?  Remove Black Widow for your marketing and see how well that goes over.  And, now that I’ve segued there — what are YOUR thoughts on the disappearance of Black Widow?

Do you think Marvel might hear the audience’s roar on this one and start giving us more of the female superhero?

Female Thor

The Thor #1 cover was by Russell Dauterman and featured a female Thor.

Chris: There’s no doubt that they should have heard it by now. I don’t know that we’ll get more. The problem with the Black Widow scenario is the fact that I’m
not seeing as much new merchandise come out.

What I do think we’ll see is DC give more love to their women characters in marketing. It’s only logical in the competitive space that they’ve seen the backlash that has occurred with Marvel. I’d even add the fact that we’ve seen so many more female characters in the comic book industry (see Thor) which tells me they’re realizing the value of their female audience.

Casie: Absolutely – I’m glad you brought up Jane Thor too!  I loved the article How the Success of Marvel’s Female Superheroes Heralds a More Inclusive Age
of Comics
— a totally comprehensive MUST read for anyone interested in this space.

“The women of Marvel are taking off in their own right. With female readership hovering at about 47 percent and women as the fastest-growing comics-reading demographic, Marvel is finally succeeding with a more diverse lineup of superheroes.”

Ultimately, I think Marvel missed a massive opportunity with Black Widow — hopefully in the future they have their eyes and ears on this and give the people what they want. No doubt DC has made note and will likely use that to their advantage moving forward as well.  Superheroes really aren’t a “boy thing” vs. a “girl thing” — they’re collectively awesome for all genders.

Chris: Fantastic point. This idea of gender norms came up in a recent conversation with some of the folks from Nerdist.com.

Rachel Heine, who serves as Editor-In-Chief for Nerdist.com, had this to say on the subject:

“I think the gender divide in geek/nerd culture has always been influenced by societal expectations and preconceived gender norms. The (awful) concept of a “fake geek girl” has been around for years, and the implication is essentially that women can’t be geeks, or they could only possibly be into this stuff for attention, approval, etc. Obviously that is not true. But as geek culture becomes more inclusive across the board, that means more people are discussing these issues, bringing them to the forefront in a way they never were in years past.”

What do you think about what Rachel had to say?

Casie: I’m glad she brought up the “fake geek girl” issue. Are those girls out there? Perhaps. But I think what you’re potentially seeing more of is the fact that women are now more accepting of their geekdom, or maybe that they didn’t even realize that’s where they were headed but by the powers that be in terms of movies, television, and entertainment in general? That’s where we are.

I worried about this issue years ago, but have been reassured time and time again that geeks who are “doing it right” aren’t going to assume you’re faking it for the attention of it.  In fact, they’re likely excited that more people – no matter of gender – are taking notice to the stories they’ve loved for so long and that they can now use their knowledge and passion to help others get caught up to speed.

Basically, I’m on board with this masterpiece on Fake Geek Girls.

Chris: So let’s end this with a discussion of the future.

For you – what’s the future look like? Will the rise of the geek continue? We’ve got Marvel movies galore coming out and geeks coming out of the closet. To me, the answer is yes. It’s more than just geekdom as it coincides with the rise of pop culture in our lives.

The future is bright for the geek and nerd in all of us, at least from my perspective.

Casie: I agree with you completely.  Marvel pretty much has us locked up through at least 2019 and think about the time already invested! I’ll sit through another 15 years of films if I have to.  Of course, with every new film I have a stronger desire to learn more about those characters, their worlds & what could potentially happen next.  There’s a host of questions, which only creates more conversation…and, thus, more geekery for all.

So, the future is bright on this one in my eyes.  And, I will say that – now – as my friends are off and married and starting families of their own?  It appears that the geek culture will also continue on as a torch handed down from one generation to the next.

My thanks to Casie Shimansky for collaborating with me this month. – Chris 

Chris Barrows

Chris Barrows

Chris Barrows is Social Media and Mobile Products Coordinator for New York University. He is the host of the Why I Social Podcast and co-host of #JVMChat every other Tuesday at 1 p.m. EST.

He is currently a contributor to Millennial CEO and NEPA Blog Con. His favorite job and privilege is his role as father and husband.
Chris Barrows