5 Tips for Raising Your Girl Geek

Geek Culture

Photo: Girl Genius, Studio Foglio LLCPhoto: Girl Genius, Studio Foglio LLC

Photo: Girl Genius, Studio Foglio LLC

As geek parents, we often have rosy colored notions about our children growing up. We actually want them to be geeks. From the earliest of ages we dress them in WoW gear, teach them to quote Star Wars and wonder when is too early to start reading The Hobbit. We nurture them in the way of the Geek, hoping that, when the time comes for them to choose their path, they won’t stray far.

But being a geek kid isn’t easy; and being a geek girl might even be harder. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are raising a geek girl that might help her–and you–get through the school years.

The Book Factor
Problem: My geekiness manifested, first and foremost, in books. At a very young age I had a proclivity for reading science-fiction and fantasy books. While most girls were reading the Babysitters Club books, I was devouring Madeleine L’Engle and C.S. Lewis, soon followed by a host of others. Geek girls often discover a great method escape in SF/F, mystery, horror, and other non-realist genres at early ages, which unfortunately, can make them stick out like a sore thumb during study hall. I remember getting teased for reading King Lear for fun, and seriously contemplated hiding the book under a cover, or not reading it at all. Which would have been a mighty shame.

Suggestion: Try to get involved in your daughter’s reading, if you’re not already. I was born to non-geeks, so my parents really had no interest in what I was reading. If you can’t be involved, look into reading clubs–or start one–that support the genres your daughter is into. Look to libraries and gaming stores if there’s nothing available at school. And above all, even if you don’t get the stuff she reads, reiterate that reading is awesome.

The Pop Culture Factor
Problem: Geek girls don’t watch the right shows. They don’t go to the right movies. They don’t listen to the right music. And unfortunately, pop culture provides the clues by which kids sort each other out; it’s almost as obvious as the clothes they wear. When I was younger, I loved “The X-Files”, Westerns and They Might Be Giants. I quoted Monty Python and the Holy Grail with my handful of guy friends, but certainly didn’t win points in the cool crowd. Often girl geeks fall into this odd no-man’s land. We are passionate about the things we like, but share them with very few. Especially in a high school or junior high-school setting. That can lead to teasing, isolation, and ultimately, depression.

Suggestion: If you are a geek, yourself, it’s fine for you to reach out. I mean, it is your fault she’s the way she is, right? But don’t be too pressing, because even if your geeklet gal speaks Klingon fluently, she needs to find her own brand of geek. If she’s into medieval stuff, consider the SCA. If she’s got a sci-fi lean, consider taking her to a convention. Maybe she’s a budding film-maker? Enroll her in film classes. Not to mention, there’s always the Internet. For me, that was my saving grace, discovering like-minded people, even if they were far away. And if teasing is a problem, help to equip her with witty ripostes and bolster her self esteem with praise.

Photo: Felicia DayPhoto: Felicia Day

Photo: Felicia Day

The Boy Factor
Problem: There are more boy geeks than girl geeks. At least, that was my experience. And many geek girls discover more friends among guys than girls. This can lead to feeling of self-consciousness and a lack of connection with other girls. While this isn’t always a bad thing, I definitely had trouble making gal friends as I got older, and assumed there were so few geek girls that it wasn’t worth the trouble. Good, enduring relationships between girls are important, not just for your daughter’s social growth, but emotionally as well. Not to mention, having tons of guy friends can be an issue when dating starts…

Suggestion: Start with family. I had some great gal cousins growing up, and though they weren’t exactly geeks, our friendships were strong. If you’re daughter doesn’t have gal friends as school, you can encourage her to meet people at your church or other extended network. Also, teach her about all the wonderful girl geeks in history, like Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie and Felicia Day. Go fictional, too. There are plenty of geek gals in literature and movies, like Agatha Clay, Meg Murry and Kaylee Frye. Help make her proud to be a girl geek!

The Smart Factor
Problem: Many young geeklets tend to be smart. Whether it’s math, science, English or art (or all of the above), young girl geeks will excel in something. And coupled with the geeky tendencies and often bookish nature, this doesn’t exactly contribute to popularity (not that they want to be popular, but you know what I mean). Personally, I recall the utter mortification as my English teacher in ninth grade read aloud my essay to the whole class as an example of excellence. I melted down into my seat, withering from the stares and snickers.

Solution: You know you’re on shaky ground when your girl geek starts to be embarrassed of being smart. If grades and enthusiasm are waning, it’s time for parental intervention. But not too much. And not too little. Really, you know your daughter best, and it’s important to talk about what’s going on at school. While the “grades will help you in college” argument won’t always work, home incentives–like movies or gadgets–might. And nothing replaces flat-out support. If you sucked at a subject in school it might worth dragging out your report card to share, and let her know you wish you had worked harder. Either way, just continuing support and praise of her performance will help steer her in the right direction.

The Self-Image Factor
Problem: There wasn’t always a culture of geek girls. We didn’t always have pride, solidarity and ironic 16-bit graphic t-shirts. And even some girls don’t realize they’re geeks at all. As such, they feel like they never fit in. Even though they assert they don’t want to be the crowd, they can’t help but feel on the outskirts. This can lead to a poor self-image, which is never a good thing. While popularity isn’t important, self-worth always is.

Solution: Encourage your geek gal to get involved, even if the interests aren’t up her alley. You never know: she might love homecoming. She might take to soccer, or softball. I enjoyed being on the Yearbook committee when I was in high school, which had a great cross-section of folks, geek and non-geek. Geek doesn’t mean you have to shun what everyone else does; it just means that you have your own slant on it. And it also means you’re smart enough to think outside the social box. If anything, being a geek means the rules don’t apply!

No matter how geeky your daughter is, fostering her sense of self-worth is the most important thing. Every girl is different; every girl responds differently to parental intervention. But just being there, however corny that might seem, makes all the difference in the world. I know, even though my mom wasn’t a geek, she always took the time to talk to me when I was having a tough time at school. Even when I begged her to be homeschooled, she kept encouraging me to stick with public school. In the end, I wouldn’t change my school years for anything. Every step I made along the way made me who I am today, after all: a very proud geek gal.

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