When I was in college, most of my friends were guys. This was largely because the things I was obsessed with were (at the time) still more popular with men than they were with women. Things like Star Wars, Star Trek, Dungeons and Dragons, Tolkien, Comic Books, World of Darkness, computer games and a hundred other turbo-nerdy, pop culture paths of interest.
Since then (we’re talking about the nineties, more or less) women have learned to let their nerd-flags fly in far greater numbers, I’m no longer in such a minority. But at the time it was commonplace for me to go to a gaming convention, sit down with a bunch of fellow geeks for an RPG and easily be the sole girl at the table. It was also not uncommon for one of the male players to lean toward me, give me a dreamy smile and exclaim, “it just adds something so… special when a woman plays!”
And then I would promptly disappoint them by rolling up a male character.
These days a female gamer isn’t a rarity. Although we’re still slightly outnumbered by our male counterparts, when I was involved in a (very small) production company running live action role playing game events my partner and co-author was female, and so were about 55% to 60% of our players. The whole world now knows what that creepy guy at my gaming table did almost twenty years ago: girls make great nerds.
However, back in college the end result of my geekiness was that most of my friends at the time were male, I was one of the guys, and at the time I just thought that made me so cool. I would often be heard saying things like, “most of my friends are guys, I just don’t get along with women as well.” Or worse, “girls are too boring, I prefer hanging out with guys!” Since I was nineteen years old and basically a walking hormone, that comment probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.
On the other hand, how sad is it that in the twentieth century I had still been so indoctrinated by pop culture to believe that female was bad/boring and male was exciting/good that I was proud to make statements such as that? I truly believed that my tendency toward more male friends than female made me something unique, fun and interesting. In my mind, being more guy-like or fitting in better among guys was inherently superior. What could the underlying belief for that be except that deep down in a place I wasn’t examining too closely I truly believed that males were superior?
I was selling women short. In truth, by not simply encountering people as people and instead partially defining how potentially interesting they were by what was between their legs I was selling everybody I encountered pretty short. I “couldn’t relate” to an entire 52% of the population because (like me) they had boobs? Seriously? In doing this I was saying that the arbitrary fact of their gender was the primary or most important thing that defines them, and since I was judging them inferior based on it – yes, that is basically misogyny. Ugly word, but true.
It didn’t change overnight, and to be honest it didn’t even change intentionally. I happily bounced through life for years believing that I was a much more interesting and cool girl because I was a nerdy “one of the guys”. What changed it really, were the amazing (and infinitely patient) women in my life. Women like my Grandmothers, my Auntie, my Mother and my Sister, who as I grew older I was able to better see for the outstanding examples of strong femininity that they set. They had always been that way, but it took a lot of time for me to grow wise enough to see them for what they truly were.
It took female friends like my former roommate who was capable of putting on a pair of biker boots and dancing all night, cooking an outstanding meal and then kicking your ass at whatever game you cared to play. She taught me to put on makeup (correctly), speak in ridiculous Monty Python accents and offered to go with me and hold my hand the first time I had to visit the gynecologist.
I know gamers and scientists and geeks and nerds and authors and teachers and mothers and lovers and glitter fairies and warriors and adventurers and fashionistas who all bring something beautiful and unique to my world. They are women, but the most important thing I've learned isn't that they can be women and be all these things too - it's that whether they be women or men, amazing people are an incredible blessing to have in a life.