Girls Can Be Geeks Too

Before StarGirl was born someone–I don’t remember who– asked me if I was going to teach the baby how to play Dungeons & Dragons if it was a girl. The question took me aback somewhat–not because I’d ever considered teaching D&D to a girl, but because I’d never not considered teaching it to a girl.

Geekdom, and all of its various aspects, helped make me what I am today. Reading Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein taught me to embrace the future and technology, not fear it. These authors–coupled with healthy doses of Star Trek and Star Wars–taught me to respect reason, heroics, and hard work (Force-wielding mysticism aside, Yoda did utter the immortal words “Try not. Do or do not, there is no try”). Role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons taught me all manner of problem-solving and narrative skills, while simultaneously giving me some of the best friends I’ve ever had. It’s also provided me with an immense creative outlet, whether its thinking up new strategies for HeroClix, creating Nuketown, working on GreenTentacles or writing reviews for Science Fiction Weekly.

Why would I deny StarGirl all that just because she’s a girl?

The knee-jerk reaction would probably be “because girls don’t like that stuff”. Oh really? About 25% of those who attend GenCon, a huge gaming convention held annually in Indianapolis, are women. Pick up a copy of Knights of the Dinner Table, and you can almost always find a few comments from women. Same goes for any other major speculative fiction magazine. Science fiction has more than a few female science fiction authors, including Ursula Le Guin (The Wizard of Earthsea) and Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern). They’re also players in the industry. Ellen Datlow, formerly fiction editor of the legendary Omni magazine, is the editor of fiction section. Lisa Stevens (known for her work on Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars d20) is the CEO of Paizo Publishing, the company behind the Dragon, Dungeon/Polyhedron and Star Wars Insider magazines.

Clearly, girls can be–and are–geeks.

And heck, aren’t we always hearing about how girls need strong role-models and encouragement in the sciences and mathematics? Well damn, guess what we’ve got plenty of in that pillar of geekdom known as science fiction. Want strong female role-models? Check out Princess Leia from Star Wars, Jean Grey and Storm from Uncanny X-Men, Ellen Ripley from Aliens, Trinity from The Matrix, and Lessa from The Dragonriders of Pern. Those are only a fraction of the leading female characters that you can find in sci-fi. And if you’re trying to interest girls in math and science, what better way to do it than to offer them the stars?

I’ve already started doing this. I’ve been reading excerpts from Robert Heinlein?s Starship Troopers (can’t wait to get her started on Heinlein’s juvenile books), she “helped” me inventory my HeroClix, she sat in on a playtest of the classic board game Survive! with some of my friends, and we’ve been watching Justice League on Cartoon Network. We haven?t watched Star Wars yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

I don’t intend to force any of this down StarGirl’s throat, but I do intend to surround her with it, and encourage her to watch and read science fiction, play the games that my friends and I enjoy, teach her to program and generally discover geekdom for herself. If she chooses not to embrace it, that’ll be her choice, but it won’t be because I didn’t offer it to her.