I'm a fangirl.
More often than not, people hit me with that word in a derogatory way. They use it to make me feel devalued, unintelligent, and immature. And you know what? They couldn't be more wrong.
Being a fangirl is the best thing that's ever happened to me. My geekiness has made me friends all over the world, women who continue to be the most intelligent, well-spoken, and wonderful people I know. Fandom has given me a voice to advocate for the things I'm passionate about. And being a geek girl is constantly exciting — no one else gets more invested in the things they love. New video game? Freak out for months in advance over the cover art! Waiting for a new season of Sherlock? Create an endless number of GIFs to ease your pain! Angry about the way they posed Black Widow on that new poster? She-Hulk smash the patriarchy! What's more, regardless of their particular fandom, geek girls are devoted to supporting women in media, constantly pushing an agenda of acceptance, diversity, and fair representation. Oh, and we manage to do all this while containing our squees. Mostly.
We know what we're into, we love hard, and we're OK with it. But we don't have it easy.
Far too often, fangirls are made to feel marginalized and un-welcome in the nerd community. Women are ostracized from online gaming, called out as fake, accused of being desperate for attention, harassed while cosplaying, and, worst of all, forced into silence. Some dude nerds don't like that we're invading their space and have become obsessed with gatekeeping, deciding who "counts" as a real fan and who doesn't. You're not a true fan if you only like the Marvel movies; you can't be in the anime community unless you speak fluent Japanese; you're not allowed to dress up as Ms. Marvel unless you've read every Ms. Marvel comic, ever. I once had a comic-book-store employee refuse to help me unless I could name everyone who had ever been a member of the Avengers. Do you know how many superheroes that is? It's a lot. Do you think he ever asked that of a guy in the shop? I'm gonna go with "nah, son," because you know that never happened.
But you know what's really crazy about all that? More and more, nerdy audiences are made up of literal Bat-tons of fangirls. (Because, spoiler alert: Basically half of all fans of anything are ladies.) According to a 2014 survey by the Entertainment Software Association, female gamers age 18 and up make up 36% of the gaming population, compared to just 17% for boys age 17 and under, and in recent years over half the social media discussions at San Diego Comic-Con were generated from accounts run by geek girls. The Syfy channel gets huge ratings with women ages 18–34, thanks in part to lady-driven and LGBT-friendly shows like Lost Girl, Continuum, Bitten, and Haven. Women are becoming the driving force behind geek culture, and we shouldn't be relegated to the sidelines.
Knowing that we could basically make our own army, bust down the elitist gatekeepers, and establish our own glorious kingdom (queendom?) of lady-nerds honestly makes me wonder why the hell we haven't done that yet. We're getting better at it — we're taking up more and more space online, we're fighting back against the trolls, and we're refusing to be silent. Merriam-Webster even added "fangirl" to the dictionary. We're fully legit now.
But despite all the articles online about being an awesome nerd-girl, the great feminist Tumblr posts about Sailor Moon, and bands like the Doubleclicks receiving worldwide attention, something was still missing: an actual printed book that says, "Being a geek girl is the best thing ever and here are all the ways you can do more nerdy things that are awesome and don't ever apologize for it because you are the best person out there and I'm so proud of you and you're beautiful."
Until now. So here, ladies, is The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy. I hope in this book you can find some new ideas for your next Star Wars premiere party, figure out how to make your IRL bestie the newest member of SuperWhoLock, finally brave your first-ever convention in full cosplay, learn how to start an awesome blog devoted to your craziest ship, and develop the wittiest retort to anyone who ever dares accuse you of being a Fake Geek Girl.
And then you can get back to your Lord of the Rings marathon (extended edition, obviously). I promise.