Well, this was a disappointment. Feeling flush with cash after signing on for another month’s worth of steady full-time work for the rest of June/July, I thought I’d head over to Chapters and indulge in a bit of retail therapy. On a display table, I spotted a book with a promising purple cover. What really grabbed me was the whole title, though. Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks, and Other Misfits Are Taking Over the World.
I might not be a fangirl or an indie chick (though I have recently mastered the sock bun and also have spent far too much time this summer trying to style my hair in an ‘inspired by Zooey Deschanel as Jess on New Girl’ look), but bookworm? I think I have that one covered (Hi, welcome to my book blog). Plus, I like Battlestar Galactica. I have opinions on which series of Star Trek I liked best. I went to a sci-fi convention once (OK, twice). I’m developing an appreciation for graphic novels. I have a pile of vinyl albums just waiting to go into frames to decorate my apartment when I move next month. So it’s not too much of a stretch to say that I might be part of the target audience for this book.
What I was expecting, I guess, was stories about how women pursue their passions, about groundbreaking female actors, designers, writers and directors. I was expecting to applaud and be inspired and to finish the book with an overwhelmingly happy sensation that the world is full of what one women’s magazine calls “Fun Fearless Females.” I guess that what I was really looking for was a collection of stories about girls like me.
Instead, what I got was a lot of pigeonholing. Each chapter is helpfully tailored to a specific “type” of geek (Fangirl Geek, Literary Geek and my personal favourite, Miscellaneous Geek – wow! Inclusive!). Within the chapter appears to be a prescribed thing of what each type of geek is expected to wear and like, who our boyfriend should be (there really is a section at the end of every chapter called “Perfect Match” – which is so, so condescending), and the type of people we should be friends (or worse, “frenemies”) with. Not only does it pigeonhole young women into categories based on the particular music they like, books they read or TV shows they watch, but it doesn’t allow for any variety or overlap for these young women to forge out identities of their own. And it promotes active dislike and judgement of others.
For example, according to this book, the type of girl who likes comic books should avoid “athletes” – but why can’t I like both? Can’t I watch Star Wars while I run on the treadmill (I totally have watched Star Wars while I ran on the treadmill)? Why so much hate for Lauren Conrad? Can’t I watch The Hills (I loved The Hills) AND have a book blog? How come it isn’t OK for me to copy looks out of Elle and Vogue because I love clothes and hair and makeup, and also to play Plants vs. Zombies compulsively on my phone for hours? And is it a crime to have nearly as much Flo Rida on my iPod as Iron & Wine? Do any of these things make me a bad person? Or less of a geek? And is it bad that I have diverse interests that lean towards the geeky in some ways, but the mainstream in other ways?
Of course the answer is no, but for a book that is about unifying women who have less-than-mainstream interests (as long as they are straight, funny, marginally attractive but not too attractive, and listen exclusively to indie alt-rock), it’s very judgemental. Actually, it’s beyond judgemental. It’s mean. I hope to high heaven that girls in junior and senior high school don’t read this. Because for a book that bills itself as funny, inclusive and smart, the message is anything but.
I don’t buy a lot of books these days, because I’m watching my cashflow. I wish I had saved the $15, because I still don’t know how fangirls, bookworms, indie chicks and other misfits are taking over the world.