Thursday, November 30, 2006

Your Miles May Vary: Nerd Girls

The word of the day is Anekantavada.

Anekantavada, a prime tenant of the followers of Jainism, states simply that no single point of perception is entirely true, and yet each contains an undeniable element of personal significance, of personal truth. It is, to put it plainly, the doctrine of non-absolutism.

The concept is most easily explained to westerners via American poet John Godfrey Saxe’s retelling of the classic Indian tale of The Blind Men and the Elephant. Each of the blind scholars understands the reality of the elephant only by the small piece of the beast that he personally experiences. Ere go, each understands the partial truth that is the elephant’s side, tusk, trunk, knee, ear, or tail without ever comprehending that the animal in question is all of these things and more.

Such is the concept that powers the new blog feature that I have elected to call “Your Miles May Vary,” the southern colloquial equivalent of the modern web-speak shorthand YMMV, You Mileage May Vary.

Essentially, I gather a group of different (but intrinsically linked) individuals and ask them all the same question. Then I compile their answers and present them with a little intro and wrap-up commentary of my own. I like the idea because it makes it easier to focus on people in the nerd community that aren’t necessarily involved in the music scene, and it presents a place for differing viewpoints that is neither judgmental nor confrontational.

If we can’t see the whole elephant, at least we can get as many varying views of his unwieldy components as possible.

I elected to focus this initial edition’s question on a matter that has become impossible to ignore: the recent nerd girl explosion that has occurred within popular culture. Everything from the alt-porn industry to the advent of plastic horned-rim glasses as modern chic leads me to believe that the rest of the world has finally realized what we have known for years; geek girls are sexy.

The question that I posed to a distinguished panel of self-professed geeky gals is as follows:

What is the allure of the nerd girl?

The following is their individual responses. Read on as they reconstruct the proverbial pachyderm… piecemeal.

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Amy; nerd girl extraordinaireAmy; nerd girl extraordinaire

Well, here is the long and the short of it. The allure of the nerd girl stems from convenience and sexual preference. We are generally smart, shy, and possibly awkward thus making us available and not complete whores. We share common interests with our male nerd counterparts and we conveniently happen to have all the right adapter cables for recreation/procreation. If it were only about common interest and compatibility everyone would just do it up brokeback style and call it good however, as I have noticed from my time on WoW and certain gaming forums there is a great pressure in the nerd community not to be "gay" or a "douche" or being "...a gay douche who probably has sex with his X-box."

Nikki Nefarious; geek girl photographerNikki Nefarious; geek girl photographer

What is the allure of the nerd girl?

I think her “faults” as a nerd girl are the most appealing. Let’s dissect this shall we:

Social-awkwardness – She knows what it’s like to be judged, she won’t do the same to you. Though chiefly shy, she’s easily excited about a subject she is interested in. Blame part of it on her underlying awkwardness and decided lack of a “normal” social filter, the point is she’s won’t let a petty issue, such as worrying over what people will think of her, get in the way of her expressing her natural nerditude. In other words she won’t just sit and look pretty; she will engage you and allow you to be yourself as well.

Braininess – Not all nerd girls have the same nerd. But they pretty much have the same seemingly over-abundant wealth of knowledge about their own particular brand of nerd. This always makes for fun conversation. She’s interesting, she’s insightful, and when you must know when the new Guitar Hero comes out or the name of that guy in that spaceship show, she’s your girl. She offers not just a smiling face, but the cranial fortitude to keep things interesting.

Confidence? – Though typically not a trait associated with those of the “nerd” persuasion, there is a level of “yup, I’m a nerd and damned proud” going on with your modern nerd girl. She may have just come to acceptance of her nerd, or she may have lived through the trials of youth as a nerd. The bottom line is she’s walked the path of the few worthy and gotten to the other side, well equipped with her knowledge of things others may spurn. She knows this, she accepts this, and her horn rimmed glasses displays this with pride. However her confidence isn’t built from the same all-too-intimidating stuff that is evident with your American-beauty, the nerd girl confidence is a deep silent confidence that helps her accept herself and others. What person of intelligence isn’t attracted to confidence?

Fashion – Let’s not forget this part. Gone are the days of the pocket protectors and Band-Aid-repaired gogs. Modern culture, it seems, has fallen in love with the nerd girl. The nerd girl of today fashions herself with her nerd as the centerpiece and inspiration. From an “I blogged your mom” t-shirt to a “Sweet as Pi” hoodie, the nerd girl expresses who she is for all to see. Though the usual garb of the nerd girl is not made to inspire passion or heat the blood of an admirer, it is instead made to attract like-minded others. The, um, l337 few will “get it” and appreciate it while the rest of the world looks on in confusion…which is precisely the point. It’s like a secret club, where you don’t get in based on looks, you get in based on your knowledge and appreciation of the issue. Manolos need not apply.

Nope, the nerd girl of today realizes that though others may spurn them, without nerd efforts those same people would be hard pressed to create the new World of Warcraft patch, or code the new IT system, or even create the fun-filled blog they read to pass their time. Life certainly wouldn’t be as interesting. I think as the world has learned to embrace the nerd it is no longer considered social suicide for an individual to embrace their own nerd as well. This is very important as in years past a beautiful girl might have rejected her nerd out of fear, today girls of all kinds are free to be just as nerdy as they please! Nerd girls, thus, have come into the spotlight with their intelligence, sense of self and their own brand of both inner and outer beauty.

Paige McPaigeface; co-hostess of Just Another Lazy Podcast Paige McPaigeface; co-hostess of Just Another Lazy Podcast

A few days ago our good friend Z left a note on the JALP comment board asking me to help pinpoint exactly what makes a nerdy girl teh sex. After accepting the challenge and finding this cool picture, it dawned on me that I have no clue. So instead of leaving the dear readers of Hipster, Please! high and dry, I intend to give a little rundown on what makes ME so damn sexy, as I am a proud femgeek myself. Enjoy!

1. Low maintenance. I do not require oil changes, fancy schmancy dinners, or expensive presents. Nothing makes me happier than spending a day ridiculing others with my sweety before a night of fast food tacos and whooping his ass at Street Fighter 3.

2. Quirky. I have a bunch of little habits and isms that for some unknown reason people find endearing. Case in point: The laugh. My laugh sounds like a high-speed asthma attack when I find something particularly hilarious, and every time it happens around someone new, they go on about it like it was a divine gift. Weird, huh?

3. Interested in boyfriend's hobbies. Unlike many other women who turn up their noses at computers, comic books and Magic: The Gathering cards, I make a real effort to see exactly what it is that makes them so damn appealing to men. Some things I find I like too (video games, Fables, etc.), and it adds to the stuff we have in common. Even if I can't stand a certain hobby (*cough*Warhammer*cough*), I don't discourage it. Part of the appeal of nerdy boys is that they're nerds - why change that?

4. Caring. Having been lonely and boyfriendless for most of my post-pubescent life, I make damn sure to be the best girlfriend EVER when a potential mate comes my way. I mean, I baked my boyfriend a birthday cake with Ken Masters on it. And frosting is not an easy fucking artist medium. Finding the boundary between awesome and irritating is difficult at times, but I'm pretty good at staying on the right side. Part of the fun of being an awesome girlfriend is that he always wants you around to begin with.

5. Passionate. "Horny" seemed a bit forward. I was in marching band all four years of high school. You learn a few tricks. ;)

There you have it - the basic reasons why McPaigeface is a lady nerd to be worshipped.

Regann; geeky girl writer Regann; geeky girl writer

The allure of the nerd girl is simple: it's the fact that she's so much more. She's smart, she's usually tech savvy, she has a very definitive, very individual presence. Even with "nerd girl" being an umbrella term, no two nerd girls are alike. What they do have in common is their individualism, which guys are learning -- perhaps, slowly! -- is much more attractive than the typical carbon-copy "popular" girl.

Plus, many of the nerd girls' various interests have a tendency to intersect with guys' -- be it music, tech, games or Trek. And what does a boy want or need more than a girl who can understand and appreciate his toys? If you want to see a girl who's not lacking in dates, look for your gamer girl working at the electronics store who can rattle off Wii specs as well as she can her own phone number.

So, the question isn't so much why nerd girls are attractive; it's really the question of why the guys around them are just realizing it. Luck? Great leaps in evolution? Who knows? It's their good fortune, though, because nerd girls are the It of the new millennium. Deservingly so -- they're smart, funny, savvy. Of course, they were the funny, smart and perceptive girls of the last millennium, too, but not everyone has been as perceptive in times past. But it's those characteristics, plus their strong tendency toward independence and individualism that make them so interesting and interested, and finally shows the boys what the real sexy is.

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And there you have it: the truth(s) as they see it. There appear to be numerous similarities between the outlooks of our esteemed panel, and even a couple of disparities. This is to be expected, and, on a certain level, encouraged.

I don’t see YMMV being used as a tool to arrive at any manner of consensus. That is not its purpose. It exists purely to allow folks to share their two cents, to let us know what part of the elephant they feel to be the most relevant. (It rhymes because it's fun.)

I would like to take a moment to thank the ladies of the panel for their time, their insight, and their words. Though I’m generally my own worst critic, I feel this edition of YMMV to be a rousing success, and I hope to do more in the future. As always, your questions, comments, and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

I hope you were enlightened and/or entertained by this feature, but I would much rather prefer you walk away with your personal outlook shaken, or, at the very least, challenged. There are, after all, a lot of elephants out there to be groped many more truths to be explored.

11 comments:

Doc Pop said...

Everything comes around in circles, this isn't the first time nerd/awkward girls where somewhat chic, but I do think that the current geek chick presence is largely due to the nerding up of all our culture. I mean, adult gaming is an totally accepted, cell phone technology is totally fashionable, TiVo, automotive GPS systems, geek shit is everywhere. So everything from movies to porn will tend to reflect the the acceptance of being nerdy.

Ah, alt-porn. Eon Mackaye, Violet Blue and all that stuff is pretty keen. Seems like a cool concept, but seems to miss the mark most of the time. Still love the concept, working on some scripts with a friend myself btw and I sent Eon some submissions for soundtracks.

I dated a girl who liked to role play in bed. It was a lot of fun, but we kept losing the dice.

btw, I had a rubber bag of holding and +1 dexterity.

In regards to Nikki's icon, I thought I made that shit up. http://photos1.blogger.com/x/blogger/2357/2710/1600/899409/live-long-and-shocker.jpg

But one quick google search later and I see just how far behind I am on the spocker. Anyone now when that stuff started appearing? I want to think I was at least working on that design before ytmnd had a page on it.

Again, I don't think this is a "finally, awkward and nerdy girls are cute" thing, because that's pretty cyclical. Even with guys, sometimes nerdy guys are what's considered hot, but the fad always goes away again for a few years and all eyes shift back to the macho or metro dudes.

Nerd girls and zombies have a lot in common... They both like guys with big brains.

At least thats what my friend Meredith says. She registered http://www.ladycartoonist.com/ but I suggested she got http://www.cartoonistswithtits.com . Whatever. Anyways, I wonder what she has to say about this. I know she get's hella attention at the welding yard, but I think she's always been seen as "that hot nerdy girl that does the same things guys like to do".

Great topic, and cool perspectives from all.

Antisocial said...

Wow, my thoughts exactly. Couldn't have been stated better. Nerd girls are, and have always been, where it's at for me. If a girl can't tell me the difference between a hard drive and a floppy drive, I'm outta here.

My only question is: why are technology, magic the gathering and other CCGs, anime, computer games, and tabletop RPGs considered nerdy, while fantasy football and extensive car knowledge (i.e. knowledge of 300 types of cars and memorizing their specs) is not? I've been pondering that a lot lately. I've never really followed sports that closely, but those that do never seem to be called nerds. Perhaps we should call them nerd-jocks. They need to hear the voice of derision once or twice in their lives too.

Z. said...

Excellent questions, Soc. I think Gabriel from Nerdcore News explained it best when he said that nerdy behavior was acceptable but not nerdy pursuits. For whatever reason, it’s still far more tolerable to be an obsessive sports fan than a table-top gamer. And concerning fantasy football: it’s D&D for jocks, plain and simple.

Good point, Doc; this ain’t the first time the studious have been desirable. Glad you enjoyed the piece, and thanks for your input. I’ll get in touch with my cohorts in the smut industry and see if I can put together a “Spocker” timeline for you. Also, I demand that you print some Doc Pop/Drown Radio “I dated a girl who liked to role play in bed. It was a lot of fun, but we kept losing the dice” bumper stickers.

buttnik said...

NICE!! I was talking to a friend of mine about this particular segment of HP! and well, she just couldn't get over that I was nerdy enough to participate in the first place...this is not a *close* friend mind you. So I showed it to her and low and behold, it made her gigglesnort...which, she admitted, was the first time she has ever done that in public and she has you to thank to opening her eyes to the wondermous world o' nerdgirl!
You, as always, rock the mike that a vandal!

Z. said...

‘Nik, you have nerd clout that far exceeds my meager precepts for participation! ;) I’m glad that you were able to use this feature to enlighten your pal as to the finer points of femme-geekery. I also take a certain dark pride in knowing that I helped to unleash a public giggle-snort. Truthfully, the full credit goes to you, Amy, Paige, and Regann. The piece is nothing without you ladies. Much love to you and the Seamonkey.

steve said...

And concerning fantasy football: it’s D&D for jocks, plain and simple. - How funny. I was recently in a fantasy football league in which one of the other guys was the DM to the last D&D game I played. I pretty sure I beat him and I hope the Eagles beat his Giants next Sunday!

Z. said...

Thanks for proving my point, funk! ;)

Anonymous said...

There is only one nerdgirl for me...

J.

Anonymous said...

Being nerdy isn't just about science and technology or being a fangirl. The same popular and "cool" guys that like fantasy football also do crap like Magic the Gathering and play video games. Real geeks are geeks because we don't fit in and because we are deeply interested in things that aren't considered cool in the mainstream, like history. People interested in technology and video games aren't geeks any more than than people who like politics and sports, because all of those pursuits are popular and mainstream. A girl interested in those things may be somewhat unusual, but it's not geek chic, it's just pop culture, because every popular *guy* I know plays video games and likes technology. *Snooze* Wake me when real geeks are cool.

Anonymous said...

Here's the real reason: nerd girls have cultivated their intelligence and niche hobbies to make up for the fact that they aren't among the best looking girls in their peer group. If you're a middle class white girl, being "quirky" is an acceptable substitute for being hot (at least until you have kids at any rate. Then you have to throw away all your comics and video games and grow up, but your husband doesn't.) Oh and don't even think about being a black nerd girl, guys' enthusiasm for nerd girls suspiciously dries up when it comes to them. Yes they do exist.

Common interests mean you can hold up your end of a conversation without having to think about what she might like to talk about. Added to the fact that "nerdy" interests really aren't all that unusual today, so she's pretty much normal.

Intelligence is actually a disadvantage, as no guy wants to be upstaged by his girlfriend. Fortunately for nerd girls, very few men will believe their girlfriend is smarter than them, even if she is. Guys are not attracted to intelligence- if they were they would like smart girls who are ugly, but they don't. It's a bonus if they've decided to go for you already, not a factor in the decision.

So, what (white?) guys really want is a nice white middle class virginal girl who is not very assertive. What's new about that?

Hammy said...

I think you need to do another nerd girl story!! Since it's been four years and there are some great nerd girls around now! Even some nerdcore merd girls that would be cool to interview them.