The return of the word "geek" in the mid-1990s can be traced to the popularization of workplace computing and the Internet and the dot-com bubble of 1995–2000. The early days of the reclaimed use of "geek" were strongly associated with computers and information technology and the majority of practitioners were male. Similarly, in a 1996 study of high school cultures, linguist Mary Bucholtz noted that "nerd status is overwhelmingly associated with males." Two studies by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) quantified the gap between men and women in computing and the continuing problems recruiting and retaining female programmers.
The term "Geekgirl" was coined by Rosie Cross in 1993 as the title of her online cyberfeminist magazine. This is Australia's longest running online publication and in September 1996 it was exhibited at the New Museum of Contemporary Art New York. Editions of this magazine from the mid-'90s have been preserved by the Internet Archive. As the use of the personal computer grew during the mid- to late 2000s, the number of women in computing rose proportionately, and networks were created to provide support and connection for self-described "geek girls". GirlGeeks.org was created in 1999 to serve as "the source for women in computing", and in 2005 Girl Geek Dinners was formed to connect women in the information technology (IT) sector.
The widespread recognition of "geek girls" as a community occurred in summer 2010, when the annual San Diego Comic-Con International included a panel entitled "Geek Girls Exist". Panelists included StarWars.com journalist Bonnie Burton, singer-songwriter Marian Call, Tekzilla and Qore host Veronica Belmont, MythBusters featured host Kari Byron, and was hosted by Rielly Grey, founder of Geek Girls Network. The panel's popularity has been credited as a primary mover in solidifying the girl geek concept.
The term geek girl is in some ways fractured between its technical and cultural uses. The strongest association remains with computing, IT, and engineering. Practicing "geek girls" then include video game executive Jade Raymond, computer scientist and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, social media developer Leah Culver, and engineer Limor Fried of Adafruit Industries.
"Geek girl" is also a term applied to women who engage in journalism and media about technology, typically through the Internet rather than traditional print media, such as tech journalist Natali Morris. Perhaps the most well-known variety of the "geek girl" is the gamer, who typically engages in video and/or live role-playing games. In 2007, actress and gamer Felicia Day popularized the archetype through the webseries The Guild and the YouTube viral video "(Do You Wanna Date My) Avatar".
Fake geek girl
"Fake geek girl" is a pejorative term for a woman who is accused of feigning interest in geeky topics such as video games or comic books to get attention from men. The topic was the subject of controversy in 2012 and 2013, when multiple articles were published supporting or condemning the concept.
Much of the controversy surrounding the concept of fake geek girls began in March 2012, when Tara Brown published an article on the Forbes website titled "Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away". In the article, she discussed the difference between geeky women as a social outcasts, and "pretentious females who have labeled themselves as a 'geek girl' [who have] figured out that guys will pay a lot of attention to them if they proclaim they are reading comics or playing video games."
Joe Peacock continued this criticism to discuss booth babes and female cosplayers in a July 2012 blog post for CNN titled "Booth babes need not apply". In this article, he denounced women who pretend to be interested in geek culture to gain attention from men or to advance their modelling careers. Comic artist Tony Harris wrote a Facebook post in November 2012, described by The Daily Dot as a "diatribe", about female cosplayers who were not knowledgeable about the characters they were representing.
Criticism of fake geek girls has given rise to other phenomena, such as the "Idiot Nerd Girl" image macro. These articles prompted considerable response. Some people argued that fake geek girls did not exist, or were more rare than the criticism suggested. Kirk Hamilton wrote in Kotaku that people perceived to be fake geek girls simply had interests that varied, in aspect or degree, from those of a male reader. Some responses describe the criticism as misogynist and as a form of gatekeeping.
In September 2010, the geek girl group Team Unicorn was formed by four "gamer girls", who produced the YouTube video "G33k & G4m3r Girls" as a parody of the song "California Gurls" by Katy Perry. The video went viral within a week, but the name of the group was intended to reflect the invisible status of women in the geek subculture: "Geek Girls: Like unicorns, we're not supposed to exist."
In April 2011, New York Times television reviewer Ginia Bellefante caused a minor uproar by characterizing the medieval-fantasy series Game of Thrones as "boy fiction" that "no woman alive" would wish to watch. The review prompted a direct response from GeekGirlCon, as well as a flurry of discussion from bloggers and other news outlets.
The web series Reel Geek Girls was formed in 2015 by Drew C. Ryan to confront the concept of "Fake Geek Girls" by spotlighting and interviewing women involved in the entertainment industry. Each episode, a lady shares her personal stories of harassment, accusations of being a "fake geek," and also "geeks out" about the interests and topics she loves.
- "geek, n.. 1.c. "spec. A person who is extremely devoted to and knowledgeable about computers or related technology." Oxford English Dictionary: http://www.oed.com.
- Neil Feineman's Geek Chic: The Ultimate Guide to Geek Culture (ISBN 1584232056), both noted "the increasing power of women in the geek world" and, at the time of publication (1995), characterized the book's research as "an exercise in machismo. The women were hard to find" (17).
- Bucholtz, Mary. "Geek the Girl: Language, Femininity, and Female Nerds". Gender and Belief Systems. Proceedings of the Fourth Berkeley Women and Language Conference. Ed. Natasha Warner, Jocelyn Ahlers, Leela Bilmes, Monica Oliver, Suzanne Wertheim and Melinda Chen. Berkeley: University of California, 1996. 119-131.
- "Women in Computing: Where Are We Now?" Klawe, Maria and Nancy Leveson. Communications of the ACM - Inspiring Women in Computing Volume 38.1: 1995.
- Klawe, Maria, Telle Whitney and Caroline Simard. "Women in Computing, Take 2" Communications of the ACM - Inspiring Women in Computing Volume 52.2: 2009.
- Official website, http://www.girlgeeks.org/. Accessed May 11, 2011 at 10:55 am.
- "History of GirlGeeks": http://www.girlgeeks.org/about/history.shtml
- Geek Girl Dinners: http://girlgeekdinners.com/ Archived 2011-05-05 at the Wayback Machine
- Comic-Con 2010 schedule: http://www.comic-con.org/cci2010/cci10_prog_thu.php Archived 2011-04-27 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed on May 9, 2011 at 9:41 pm. EST.
- "SDCC Recap: Geek Girls Exist Panel": http://geekgirlsnetwork.com/blog/2010/08/sdcc-recap-geek-girls-exist-panel/#more-1902 Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed on May 9, 2011 at 10:01 pm. EST
- Brown, Tara Tiger (26 March 2012). "Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away". Forbes.
- Berlatsky, Noah (22 January 2013). "'Fake Geek Girls' Paranoia Is About Male Insecurity, Not Female Duplicity". The Atlantic.
- Reagle, Joseph (5 August 2015). "Geek Policing: Fake Geek Girls and Contested Attention". International Journal of Communication. 9.
- Peacock, Joe (24 July 2012). "Booth babes need not apply". Geek Out!. CNN. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- Romano, Aja (13 November 2013). "Sexist rants against "fake geek girls" hit new low". The Daily Dot.
- Zuckerman, Esther (10 September 2012). "Taking Back a Meme: Idiot Nerd Girl". The Wire. Retrieved 2016-02-12.
- Hamilton, Kirk. "The Fake Threat of Fake Geek Girls". Kotaku. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
- Griffiths, Daniel Nye (26 July 2012). "'Fake Geek Girls': How Geek Gatekeeping Is Bad For Business". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
- Interview, "G33K & G4M3R GIRLS (Geek and Gamer Girls Video) 1 Week, 1 Million Views": http://actionflickchick.com/superaction/g33k-g4m3r-girls-interview/. Accessed on May 11, 2011 at 2:10 pm. EST.
- "Welcome to Geek Girl Con": http://www.geekgirlcon.com/welcome-to-geek-girl-con/ Archived 2011-05-20 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed on May 9, 2011 at 10:34 EST.
- Television review, "'Game of Thrones': A Fantasy World of Strange Feuding Kingdoms." http://tv.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/arts/television/game-of-thrones-begins-sunday-on-hbo-review.html. Accessed on May 11, 2011 at 9:50 am.
- "GeekGirlCon Responds to the NY Times and Bellafante’s Review of Game of Thrones": http://www.geekgirlcon.com/geekgirlcon-responds-to-the-ny-times-and-bellafantes-review-of-game-of-thrones/. Accessed May 11, 2011 at 9:54 am.
- "'NYT' Irks Geek Girls With 'Game of Thrones' Review": http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/nyt-irks-geek-girls-game-thrones-review-130615. Retrieved May 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm. EST.
- "Reel Geek Girls IMDb." https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5136550. Retrieved June 21, 2018 at 04:15 pm. EST.
- "Reel Geek Girls Series Episodes." https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE1y6DCbLIUPmuYhQ322KMlQcHVunbz86. Retrieved June 21, 2018 at 04:12 pm. EST.