Friday, November 19, 2010

Geeks, Gender Roles, and Bullying

I'm continuing the chain here--I read this story about a girl in first grade being bullied for having a Star Wars water bottle and just had to pass it along. The kids tease her for liking Star Wars, because that is apparently "just for boys." My heart goes out to Katie, and I can't help but remember the times when I was teased for liking something "different."

Like in fourth grade, when every other girl in my class decided that boys had cooties. My two best friends at the time were boys, and we'd gather at my house to play with Hot Wheels. I always wanted the "boy" toys from Happy Meals, too. The Barbie figurines were useless. The Hot Wheels were cool. Oh, and the pink Lego sets? I can't stand them. It implies that those are the only Lego sets that girls are supposed to like. Please.

Then fifth grade came. I bonded with the new kid (who also happened to be a boy) over this fantastic book the teacher read to our class. Everyone else thought we were strange because we wanted to go to Hogwarts...and then Harry Potter became a worldwide phenomenon. By the way, the reason Joanne Rowling writes under the name "J.K."? The publishers thought boys wouldn't want to read a book written by a woman. No joke.

As I got older, I discovered that as I went to larger schools I was more likely to find boys and girls who shared my interests. Oh, and first grade is a bit young to think about this, but women who like Star Wars are very popular among men who like Star Wars. I met my loving, wonderful, Palpatine-robe-wearing boyfriend Jason through a dating website designed specifically for geeks. He collects Star Wars lightsabers and we've had several lightsaber battles after dark in the park. Words cannot describe how cool that was. We trade Star Wars jokes back and forth, and we're planning on writing a crossover fanfiction where the Doctor (from Doctor Who, natch) ends up on the Death Star. My point is that geeks are cool, and anyone who says differently is either just jealous or feeling insecure.

Who decides what boys and girls are "supposed" to like? Where does this idea come from, that boys are blue and girls are pink? And how can we change it? I was reading some of the other comments that had been left for Katie (and there are quite a few now!) and most of them contained the same advice I'd been given: ignore them, and one day it won't matter. Looking back at it, I remember not believing it...but now, of course, I see they were right. Is there any advice that works *now* and not ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road? At least now Katie knows that she is not alone...and the Force is definitely with her.

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