The other day when I went to pick my son up from daycare, I saw a little girl in his class wearing a supercool Wonder Woman dress. It wasn’t a Wonder Woman costume; it was a dress emblazoned with a drawing of Wonder Woman. And it was awesome.
I’ve written before about how much I like superheroes and that I want my son to grow up liking them too. Which I think will probably happen.
But what if I had a daughter? When I was a kid, the likelihood of a little girl liking superheroes wasn’t great. But I wasn’t a kid in this day and age.
Nowadays, being a so-called geek is cool. Geeks have gone mainstream, and even girls are getting in on the act. A good-looking woman that has geek bona-fides is an immediate sex symbol, so much so that even girls that merely pretend to be geeks get noticed. Growing up in the 80s, geeky girls certainly existed, but they were hard to find, especially if you attended an all boys high school (Thanks Mom and Dad!). Not anymore.
Check out this 5-year-old, foregoing the whole princess fad to follow her own heart, or more accurately, her own magnetic chest plate, and dressed as Iron Man on her birthday. She is a budding geek whose parents should be commended for not constricting their little girl to more “traditional” costumes.
(Disclaimer: I’m not using geek in a negative way, and I’m no expert on the slang. I keep using “geek” because it seems to be the new catch-all for anyone indulging a passion for cultish sci-fi and fantasy (in some cases it’s used interchangeably with “buff,” but the way I understand it, being devoted to just anything doesn’t mean you’re a geek). Nerd is more derogatory and less prevalent these days – and also indicates a level of intelligence, and dork is just an insult. Geek conveys nothing more than interest, though, again, that interest typically lies in a specific area: sci-fi, fantasy, comics, video games, etc.)
Girls that were into sci-fi or fantasy when I was a kid were considered weird (then again, so were many of the boys!), because they were supposed to be into Barbies and Easy-Bake Ovens.
Who knows if that little Iron Girl will grow up and continue to be into superheroes or comics or video games or whatever else is considered geek these days; that’s not the point. The point is that with the geek explosion, stuff that was previously considered boy material is bleeding across gender lines. As a result, in the same way Title IX helped sports become a bigger, more acceptable part of a young girl’s life, today’s geek explosion is making it easier for anyone to be a geek, including the girl next door.
I have a son, not a daughter, and it’s not quite as easy for boys to show interest in female-associated things. When my wife and I asked my brothers to get my son a play kitchen for Christmas, they practically called Rick Santorum for advice on how to talk us out of it. This is nothing new; when I was in college, I was mocked for being a big Buffy fan, not because of the genre, but because of the girly-ness of the show (a girl was the star, and her name was Buffy!).
Guys who are into ostensibly girly things are still mocked for being gay and weird and girls who are into boyish things called butch or maybe tomboys (less derogatory but not exactly a compliment either), but the fact that girls are being welcomed into the geek world indicates that we’ve made at least a little progress.
It’s just nice to know that should I ever have a daughter, there’s no reason I can’t share with her the same pop culture obsessions I had growing up, including things that were once considered purely male pursuits. Those lines are fading fast, and soon they should be gone for good.
Of course, I’m not so sure it has much to do with any kind of groundswell towards gender equality as much as it’s a result of geekery going mainstream (Lord Of The Rings wins Oscars; Batman and The Avengers break box office records; Lost lasts six seasons) and carrying chicks along with it. But that’s how change starts. The lines blur until it’s impossible to see them anymore, and all of a sudden, all the old gender stereotypes disappear too.
Now we just need the president to give a speech declaring his support for the Brony movement and the circle will be complete.