I can't help but notice that a lot of people who consider themselves "geeky" or "nerdy" still find themselves excluded from the community — especially women, whether they be in fandoms or STEM.
1. "When I was on Tinder, I had in my profile that I really loved to read and talk about books. The first message this guy sends me was, 'You're way too pretty to be a bookworm.' I told him that I didn't realize the two were mutually exclusive. I'm pretty sure he didn't even know what that meant."
2. "I work for a big VFX company, and the majority of my male colleagues are great people, but some of them are the worst. One time during lunchtime, I was talking to my friends about Spiderman: No Way Home, and this new guy (it was his second day) begins to tell me that my theories were not correct, and if I had actually watched the Raimi trilogy, I would know it. Like dude, take a chill pill and relax. By the way, now nobody likes him, not even the department manager."
3. "My husband and I like to play board games. Sometimes, he gets contracted by board game companies to teach at gaming conventions, which is great because it means there's very little reason for me NOT to go and be a participant. I've hosted a couple of games at conventions, and before every Con, I spend the month prior making sure that I've memorized the rulebooks and replaying all the games. I'll research people playing the game for the first time so that I can reacquaint myself with common questions newcomers have. I do all of that because I will get questioned over and over by men at Cons. I'll literally be reading from the rule book and they'll say that I'm wrong, or a first-time player will suggest that he knows the rules better than me. Meanwhile, my husband has had zero issues from players when he hosts a game that he's never even opened before."
"It kind of makes me sad because there's a ton of games that I absolutely love but refuse to host (not even play) because of past experiences. There's a couple of gals that regularly join the games that I do host who make the experience worthwhile. But I kind of feel like I'm now pigeon-holed into only hosting really common games that everyone knows instead of the rarer games that I genuinely love. I really like the very in-depth strategic ones, anything by GMT, Twilight Imperium, COIN series, Arkham Horror 2nd edition (my beloved). But I can only stand to host about half the number of games as my husband does because I get so exhausted.
To be clear, it's not every guy that does this. Maybe it's only one or two people a day, but it happens every Con. But it is fairly common for a guy to blame me for not being a better teacher when they lose or someone else does a cool move.
4. "I refuse to talk in online games because the second people hear my voice, I get harassed. Overwatch was the biggest offender of this before I went silent. Also, at Cons, I’m also either questioned way too hard or talked down to like I don’t know anything. It’s infuriating — I want to be able to just talk about and share in my interests like anyone else."
5. "Soo much gatekeeping. You can't be a 'true' fan of this or that, eye-rolling from IT store employees who think that you just memorized the configuration stats and try to test you to point out that you don't know what you're talking about. I will say, though, that the sort of 'outcasts' among geeky men are very understanding and very happy to include you in anything. They just treat you like another person, not a girl."
6. I love grunge music, and because my work doesn't have a uniform, I'll wear a lot of band tees to my work. Every time I do, without fail, my coworker will ask if I actually listen to the bands on my shirt, or if I'm just wearing it to 'look cool.' At one point, he even asked, 'Are you wearing that to impress me?' By the way, I'm 16; he's 24. I could have gagged. Recently, I came in with a distressed Nirvana tee shirt, and he went, 'Was there a sale at Urban Outfitters?' and really got a kick out of it. I was like, 'Curtis, are you telling me there isn't even the slightest possibility that I might be a fan of Nirvana? Of one of the most well-known, popular bands in the world, Curtis?' Fuck that guy."
—Anonymous, 16, NV
7. "My friend is an artist who did some design work on a Magic: The Gathering deck. I’ve never played that game in my life, nor do I care to, but I went to a tabletop game store to buy the deck and support her work. The cashier was super friendly and helpful, but there was this guy who literally followed me around the store as I picked up the different decks to look for my friend’s name on the back since I wasn’t sure which deck she’d worked on. When I finally found the one that I was looking for, he said, 'That’s a booster pack. It’s just for experts, and you’re CLEARLY not an expert. But I could teach you over coffee.' I think that I actually laughed out loud when he said that."
9. "I was lucky enough to grab tickets for an early showing of Spiderman: No Way Home, and one of my guy friends begged me to sell him my ticket. When I refused, he tried to reason with me, saying, 'It's not like you're even going to understand what's going on. You should give it to a real Marvel fan.' I have been a Marvel fan since the original Iron Man came out, and he and I frequently go see new Marvel movies when they come out in theaters together. He had also been a DC purist until Endgame came out, and he suddenly wanted to jump in on the hype. He conveniently forgot about all of these things, and kept begging me to give him the ticket because he was the only one who could 'appreciate' the film. When I kept refusing, he proceeded to pout."
10. "European here, and first-timer to NYC for Comic Con with my group of friends. We get to a comic book store, the owner asks my friends if they're here for Comic Con and tells me casually that I am very patient to 'tag along.' A few days later I get to a shop where the clerk has a triforce (Zelda) pendant, and when I comment that it looks nice, he tells me that 'It's from a video game.' Yeah...no shit, Sherlock. Comic Con was cool, but I got a taste firsthand of how it can be in the US to be a female nerd."
11. "As a Mexican girl, I grew up with the famous leyendas. As time passed, I got more invested in them, reading not only the traditional ones but the older ones. I have gone on multiple tours to the places where these leyendas took place, and I am usually the only girl there. I always get asked if I'm there because of a school project, or the guide will usually say, 'Don't worry, if you get scared, me and the rest of the boys will protect you.' I hate it."
—Anonymous, 19, México
12. "I am a giant DC and Marvel fan with a huge collection of comic books to show it. Once, I was at a Sunday Market, and I saw a 1980 version of a Cyborg Action Figure. The seller looked at me like I was doing something strange but didn't say anything. I asked him what was wrong, and he said that I didn't look like someone who was a big fan of DC. I asked if it was because I was a woman, and he didn't reply. I bought my action figure and walked out of the shop feeling pretty chuffed with myself."
13. I had bonded with a male coworker over our shared love of Dungeons and Dragons, and when he mentioned that he was about to start a new campaign with his friends, I asked if they were looking for another member. The group was all men, and the DM, who hated me, told me early on that he 'wasn't going to slow down the game to stop and explain the rules to me.' I assured him that this wasn't my first campaign, and he dropped it. It became very clear in those first few sessions that he was being especially hard on my character, and I constantly had to make death-saving throws, which the DM chalked up to me 'not being able to take it.' The final straw came in the third game when my character was cornered by a villain, and the DM tried to make me roll a d20 die. If it landed on anything above a 10? My character was able to escape and survive. Anything below that, and he said that my character would be raped."
"I think my exact words were, 'Eat shit; fuck you,' and I walked out of the apartment that we were holding the game in. My coworker tried to apologize to me when I saw him later but also tried to excuse the DM by saying that he always tries to play the game 'authentically to the time.' When I asked what he meant, he literally said that in medieval times, it was more common and acceptable for a woman to be violently raped, and so it was actually appropriate for him to include that. For reference, D&D is fantasy, not historical fiction, so that's not even accurate. There are elves and tieflings, and you're telling me that you have to act out a rape scene because you want to stay 'honest'? Bullshit.
That DM was an asshole, and it would be so easy to say that if he wasn't a part of the geek community, then everything would be fine. But the truth is there were eight other guys sitting at that table listening to him, who didn't do anything. Nobody said, 'Hey DM, you might be taking it a bit too far,' or, 'I don't like it when you say things like this.' Eight people heard him say it, watched me walk out, and didn't say anything the entire time. These are also the same eight people who had watched him be unfairly harsh on my character the entire time we were playing before that last moment. There is bad behavior, and there is enabling bad behavior, which is what allows it to continue.
—Anonymous, 32, Arizona
14. "Some men feel incredibly threatened if a woman has what they feel is a collection that is superior to theirs. I collect a lot of production anime artwork like cels that were used to make the anime and also sketches from mangaka and character designers. I’ve noticed that some male collectors often have a strange need to brag about what they own and woe to any woman who has something nicer. My personal favorite comment from a male collector was, 'If I were collecting back then, you would have never gotten that.'"
15. "At every Magic the Gathering draft I competed in, if there was another woman in the competition, I was ALWAYS paired with them even though pairings were supposed to be random, or based on a player's previous stats. If there were multiple women, I played against every single one, even if there were 50-plus people in the competition. EVERY TIME."
—Anonymous, 46, Illinois
16. "My friend and I only ever go to comic book stores together, never alone. We like to joke about it, calling it safety in numbers, but the reality is that it’s really sad that we cannot feel safe in what should be a safe space for geeks by ourselves. Too many times have I been questioned about comics or been mansplained to, or I’d feel the need to have to wear one ' geek-related' piece of clothing to almost prove that I knew what I was doing. For example, once I was in line to buy a Ghost Spider comic, and the guy behind me kept going on and on about how they keep making 'female versions' of characters and how no one will ever read them. Um, hello? That was the last time I went alone before initiating the buddy system. It’s frustrating how just because I’m a girl, men feel like I’m pretending to be a fan or that they know more than me. Why does it matter why I like something or if I’m as knowledgeable as you? Let people enjoy things!"
17. "I was playing Call of Duty years ago, so it was probably Black Ops 1 or 2. Anyway, I was in the multiplayer lobby, and my username is obviously female sounding, and some guy was like, 'Oh, go to the kitchen and make me a sandwich.' I now just automatically mute everyone in the lobby, and I don’t even feel comfortable enough to talk, so I mute my mic as well."
18. "Because of all the gatekeeping in pop culture, I found myself constantly trying to 'prove' myself to every guy who believed that women couldn't be real fans of nerdy stuff, which I'm ashamed to admit often meant trying to align myself with their sexism in order to escape it. I wasted years in my teens trying to prove that I "wasn't like other girls" by laughing at guys' sexist comments and even accusing other women of not being a 'real fan' just because they were attractive. It took years for me to realize those female nerds are just as valid in their love for all things nerdy as male nerds are. I also learned that just because I was enabling the bad behavior of my male friends didn't mean that they viewed me any differently than the women they complained about, which I quickly found out once I actually started speaking out when they said terrible things."
"I'm embarrassed that it took me so long to learn, but I also forget how baked into the pop culture fandom sexism is, to the point where I didn't even understand it as sexism. It felt like in every space I was in, I was trying to overcome being a woman, like I had to be twice the expert on every TV show, comic, or movie in order to apologize for being a woman in the first place. I have since found a lovely community of women nerds who are loving and empowering, and yes, very geeky. Guess what? I am like other girls, because other girls are pretty great!
—Anonymous, 25, Georgia
19. "You’re always questioned on everything. You can’t just 'like something.' The biggest fan group that is guilty of this is Marvel. You can’t just say you like it; you have to know every single detail, issue numbers, first appearances, etc. or you aren’t a 'real fan.'"
20. "I have a bachelor's and master's in mathematics and a minor in computer science. I also have blonde hair, big boobs, and am thin. In college, some of my classmates referred to me as 'Barbie' and did not think that I would be smart enough to be in their classes. Then, the same people would get all pissy when I would do well and accuse me of sleeping with the professor. They would grab my test off of my desk to see what I had scored. I've been out of college for a decade now and still deal with sexist crap at work. People don't believe that I could possibly be qualified for my job, and I get talked down to all the time by some coworkers. One coworker went to our supervisor and demanded to know why I got hired because he believed that I wasn't qualified for the job, when I had met all required and desired qualifications listed on the application. I didn't even work directly with this guy, and all my work evaluations were excellent."
—Anonymous, 32, US
21. "I’ve been asked if I really like my fandoms, or I’m into them just because of my husband. My friend’s younger brother has quizzed me because he couldn’t believe that a girl likes Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. He is 9. There are dudes who are great to discuss your fandoms with, but the gatekeeping is exhausting."
22. "Back when I first started playing World of Warcraft, I was hanging out in Ventrilo with some guildmates, one of whom didn't realize that I was a woman until I spoke. He immediately asked me to send over pictures of my boobs, which was super gross of him. I didn't let it put me off playing, and I became my guild's healing lead by the end of that expansion. I now play Elder Scrolls Online with a guild of close friends just to hang out and do stuff together at our own pace."
23. "Years ago I went on a second date with a guy that I met on Tinder. We were talking about our love of sci-fi/fantasy when I told him that I planned to start reading Dune. He said, 'Well it's not really for women, so you probably won't like it.' Um, OK, thanks for your input? He said some other dumb stuff, but that was the most memorable. There was no third date."
—Anonymous, 32, GA
24. As a woman who loves pop culture and video games, I have experienced a lot of sexism. I attend Cons regularly; I cosplay; I have watched major TV shows as they were coming out. I have read Marvel comics. I've seen every Marvel movie. I have had to defend myself to a shit ton of gatekeepers, including my own family. I enjoy Star Wars, and I remember getting into an intense debate about the legends of Star Wars. My dad was telling me that I was wrong and I was thinking of something else, and when I provided proof that I was correct, he said that I was 'lucky' and I couldn't know as much as him. I have had my brothers mansplain D&D to me even though I have been playing longer than them. I have had numerous partners that have wanted me to prove that I am a geek and I enjoy the culture. I beat one ex-boyfriend in COD one time, and he said that I was lying and that I must've given my controller to one of my brothers and had them beat him for me."
25. "I've had a Star Trek keychain for almost a decade. A man called me a basic sorority girl (yikes) and said there was no way that I could like Star Trek unless I was trying to impress a guy. It wasn't even worth explaining to him that I had been watching the original Star Trek since I was a little girl. Some people are so closed-minded. Just because people don't look or act a certain way, don't assume to know what's in their hearts. My entire sorority would have Harry Potter movie nights; they're the biggest nerds I know. But I've also had girls try to come for me about my fandoms. Gatekeeping and Saturdays, not just for 'the boys!'"
—Anonymous, 29, United States
26. "I have always loved learning and math. In fourth grade, I decided to join a mathletes group at my school so I could do competitions. I was the only girl in the group, and we were large enough to enter two teams. The team that I ended up joining was supposed to be 'Team One' for our school. When I joined the team, the teacher moved us down to be 'Team Two.' I didn’t realize until much later, but he did this because I, a girl, joined the team. Apparently, all the parents had talked about it but did nothing about it. At the state-level competition, my team ended up winning."
27. "I have been a Doctor Who fan for ages and have been in several German fan clubs. It was always the same, and the other women and I were told that we only watch DW because we fancy the Doctor or the actor who played him/her and don't get what it is about. There was even a German podcast dedicated to making fun of 'fangirls.' They always said we would stop watching if the Doctor isn't sexy anymore. Well, we never did."
—Anonymous, 35, Germany
28. "I'm really into gaming and was talking about a game that I'm looking forward to replaying with my boyfriend for the first time to one of my friends in a beer garden. One of their friends started quizzing me on what games I enjoy and what games I played growing up. When I said that I didn't play any of the classics when I was younger (Crash Bandicoot, Mario Bros/Kart, etc.) he said, 'I hate it when girls pretend to be into games to impress their boyfriends.' I never played those games growing up because I grew up poor, not because I'm a poser. And for the record, my boyfriend doesn't play Xbox or any games; I was introducing him to it."
—Anonymous, 31, United Kingdom
29. "I’m an online Star Wars content creator who deals with sexism and misogyny on the daily. Other than the usual death threats or constant mansplaining of why my opinions are wrong, I once had a guy stitch one of my videos of himself, laughing, while holding a picture of me burning and talking about why female fans are the toxic ones. He continued to harass me and my friends for weeks until he finally got banned. But if you ask any nerdy female content creator, we all have stories like these. And yes, we all have group chats flagging the dangerous comments/accounts to each other, especially the male content creators who are creepy as hell and need warnings to stay away from. It shouldn’t be this tough or scary to want to love something. Nerdy female content creators are some of the bravest and toughest people that I know."
—Anonymous, 31, California
30. "What I hate the most is when you like one or two specific things only from a genre, but that's not good enough. You have to be into the whole entire THING or you're screwed. For example, I love, love, LOVE Sailor Moon. I have read all the mangas back to front (see what I did there, LOL), have the omnibuses, the entire DVD collection, the Sailor V spinoffs, collectors items, even tried to dabble in Japanese, since two of my DVDs weren't dubbed, just to see if I could. But because I have never read Cowboy Bebop, Bleach, and have only read a few Honey and Clovers, I'm not a true fan of the whole genre. Like, bitch, I can like ONE thing from anime. It doesn't have to be my entire personality."
31. "I was born in 1988. The first movie I saw in theaters was the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in 1990. I loved them growing up. A few years ago, I was talking with friends in the cafeteria at my job wearing a Ninja Turtles shirt. Someone at the table, who I didn't know, told me to tell him the names of each turtle correctly by their color headbands. Well, I did. Then he said he just had to make sure I should be wearing the shirt, as if he's the all mighty Ninja Turtle defender. I hate to say, but it's happened multiple times growing up."
32. "Before I transitioned (I'm afab, transmasc), I dragged my partner (cis male) to a comic convention with me. He was into comics then and even more now too, but it was my passion since I was a little kid. I was tired by the end of the day, but my husband wanted to stop by one last vendor, so I agreed and was waiting on the sidelines with my own merch bags. The owner looks over at me all condescending and asks, 'Is this his payback for all the times that you've dragged him to the mall for shoes?' I was LIVID, and my now-husband put the huge stack he was planning on buying from the dude down, and we just left. That was incredibly invalidating, especially since I was the one who got my husband into nerdy shit in the first place!"
33. "When I got into medical school, a male friend who didn't get in said that I only got in because I was a female. I graduated from college in three years as Phi Beta Kappa."
—Anonymous, 46, Kentucky
34. "Back in 2011, I was so excited for Rise of the Planet of the Apes to be released. I have been a huge Planet of the Apes fan since I was a small child. When I was 15, I bought the DVD set of the original five movies so I could watch them whenever, I saw the 2001 remake in theaters, and I love the book that all the movies are based on. So I am clearly a huge nerd for Planet of the Apes. Some guy that I worked with heard me talking about how I couldn't wait for the new one to be released (back in 2011), and he comes over and starts telling me off for only being excited for it because of James Franco. I was like, who the hell is James Franco? I love the movies and want to see the new one. The guy continues to go off on me to rant about how girls who only care because of James Franco are ruining it for the 'real fans' like him."
—Anonymous, 29, USA
35. "My best friend is super into Comic-Con and cosplay. With all the women attending and looking badass, it still baffles me how many men come up to her and 'quiz her' on her costume with questions like when she got into it or how much she knows in general. Her boyfriend doesn't get the same heat at all, and he doesn't even dress up. One year, she went as a Star Wars character and some guy approached her wearing an Iron Man suit. He launched into her, and all she said was, 'Oh, okay, but the colors on your suit are off, the helmet lines aren't correct, the eye shape is wrong, and it's spelled J.A.R.V.I.S., not J.U.R.V.I.C.E.' and walked away. HELL YES, BITCH!"
36. "In high school, I was super into classic rock and made a mix CD with my favorite songs, writing the names and artists on the CD (yes, I’m that old). I showed it to my guitar-playing, music buff crush, who promptly looked at it and said, 'You spelled Lynyrd Skynyrd wrong.' I absolutely did not. It totally turned me off from engaging with men around music."
—Anonymous, 35, New York
37. "I've been quizzed on so many aspects of nerd culture by people that I am just trying to play games with that at this point, I just walk away when it happens. If I keep playing, it will just continue until the person gatekeeping finds something that I don't know and then ridicules me for it. I used to try and give it right back with my extensive Tolkien knowledge, but when I do it, I'm labeled a bitch. To be honest, I don't go to game stores anymore because of this."
38. "Well, I am currently about to start medical school, but I remember in college, on the first day of organic chemistry, this guy turned to me and asked, 'Are you in the right class? This is OCHEM. This isn't a writing class or a communications class or whatever.' Then, his other friends were laughing in the back and saying, 'Ooh, burn.' I mean, I like wearing makeup, getting ready, and having fun, so they probably weren't expecting someone like me to actually be a science geek. I literally looked at him, smiled, and ignored him. I ended up doing better than him in the class, and now I'm about to be a doctor, so he can suck it!"
39. "I fully left geek/nerd stuff when I was about 25 due to the gatekeeping. I was a big comics kid in high school, loved science fiction, and had my weekly issue pickup at the local comic book shop. I went to a few cons, and I'd gotten into board gaming on the regular. But the combination of having tits, dressing femme, and being into nerd stuff meant that I was constantly being questioned, or anything that I said was diminished or ignored. Even though I was a regular comics reader, and into a lot of the more obscure indie stuff, my local comics guys would sneer at me for not knowing all about '90s X-Men or the like. It got to a point where I couldn't handle the constant bullshit, and I just walked away from it all."
"I hardly read comics anymore, I don't watch the movies, and I don't do board games. I don't identify as a geek or a nerd even though it was a huge part of my identity for years. The joy of the stories and the community couldn't outweigh the constant negging and underhanded insults."
—Anonymous, 31, Washington
40. "I make a lot of Star Trek TikToks. While most of the people that I've interacted with on TrekTok are fun and respectful, I can't tell you how many comments I've gotten along the lines of 'I love you' or 'Please marry me.' The absolute worst was the guy who commented, 'You want to practice a Betazoid wedding with me?' For all you non-Trekkies, Betazoid brides get married naked. This dude thought that it was OK to essentially say, 'I want to see you naked,' to a random stranger. I physically gagged."
41. "A group of guys were trying to explain to me that girl geeks are either insanely hot or super ugly, and when I asked them to stop objectifying women (because all women are beautiful IMO), they told me that I only felt that way because I was in the latter (the ugly geek group)."
42. "I'm into sci-fi in general, movies, TV shows, books, etc. A lot of times, I'm the only female in the group when discussing the latest episode or whatever. Oftentimes, people will say, 'She's cool; she's one of the guys.' It's meant as a compliment, but I don't consider it flattering. It's nice to be accepted, but damn, I'm still a woman."
43. "My favorite hobbies include playing Dungeons and Dragons weekly, enjoying PC games like World of Warcraft, and watching Star Trek or Lord of the Rings amongst other 'geeky' things. So anytime someone asks me what I’m doing or what my plans are, chances are it’s one of those things. I can’t ever bring my hobbies up to a man without being quizzed. It’s like they are trying to catch me in a lie by asking me questions incessantly, hoping that I’ll slip up. It’s so weird."
44. I went to an event and met a guy who swore that Yoko Ono was the reason that the Beatles had broken up. I asked him why he thought that, and he claimed that she had 'seduced' John Lennon into leaving the band. I asked if he had watched Get Back; he said no. I asked if he had read any biographies about the Beatles that mentioned Yoko convincing John to leave, to which he also replied, 'No.' Had he seen any documentaries that made this argument? Also no. I then asked again: Why, with no genuine evidence or forethought, did he think that Yoko Ono conspired to trick John Lennon into leaving the Beatles? His response? He said that he gets 'a weird vibe from her.'"
45. "I have loved Batman since before I have memories. I apparently wore a Batgirl outfit every day for two straight years as a toddler and made my dad be The Joker so I could fight him. When I tell guys I love Batman, it's always the same: 'Oh? Who's your favorite Batman? Joker? Blah Blah...' When my answers invariably upset them, I hit them with, 'I've loved Batman since I read Detective Comics #27, released March 1939.' Then I show them my Batman tattoo, and my Lord of the Rings tattoo, and my Sandman tattoo, and my Doctor Who tattoo..."
Have you had an experience like this? Let me know in the comments.
Note: Reponses have been lightly edited for clarity.