I am writing this today in response to the latest kerfluffle online regarding the post that debuted on Forbes about fake geek girls. The last time I read an article like this, the subject matter was inflammatory on purpose because the writer got paid per page view and it was "good marketing." In the effort of full disclosure, I have no idea whether or not that's the case here. I just know that this post is generating a lot of discussion right now and, given what Speak Out is all about, I felt I needed to chime in here.
When I launched Speak Out with your Geek Out last Fall, I did receive some vocal negativity regarding the fact that I did not (and still do not) ever want to define what a "geek" is.
The reason why I didn't want to do that, is because this word is a bucket. People will self-identify with a label either when it's comfortable for them or when someone else has taught them that they are associated with it.
Th word "geek" has carried negative connotations for some time because what it does is call out someone who is passionate about "X." It's that passion, not necessarily the topic that person cares oh-so-much about, that causes these people to be bullied incessantly. As human beings, we have a problem dealing with those who share excessive amounts of emotion. Part of it stems from our different cultural expectations; it also originates from a sheer and utter lack of empathy.
Conventional wisdom says that to be cool and accepted by someone else's ideals, it's better to be casual and aloof. The funny thing is, the most successful people I know are exactly the opposite. They are happy with who they are, they're free from worry, and they pursue their dreams with passion, grace, and dignity.
Now that the emotional weight of the word "geek" has changed somewhat in our society, more than a few folks are upset by that. Why? Well, before geek had any positive connotations, it allowed some folks to feel more like individuals because their way of life wasn't as commonplace. Now that it's mainstream or popular, I'm guessing some folks don't feel like the underdog anymore. Regardless of what the truth is there, I feel this entire notion is incredibly sad and stupid. The only person that has the power to threaten your individuality is you.
Still, I do not consider myself to be a human being who has the right to tell someone else how they should feel about themselves. Who the eff am I to tell someone whether they are or aren't a geek? In my mind, defining who can and can't join this party is its own form of being a bully.
The minute you impose your views on someone else you stray into that territory because you are asserting yourself in a position of power. You are saying that your world viewpoint is better or more superior to someone else's. It doesn't matter how many people agree with what a "geek" is, there will always be that one person who feels they are one and outcast as a result. The same, sadly, can be said of any word that we use to label one another as a way of dividing, rather than uniting, us.
It is for that person, that single nameless individual, regardless of who they are, what they do, or where they came from, that I will continue Speak Out with your Geek Out this fall the exact same way I did last year.
I sincerely hope no one will wait until September to say a kind word or do a good deed until then. There may be seven billion people on this planet, but the only people we will ever truly have is each other, provided we take the time to listen and speak.
All my best,
Founder of Speak Out With Your Geek Out