After writing about lady geeks, I decided to make up an informal survey to poll the geek community about the issue. With each question, I’m going to explain a bit about why I did what I did and present the results.
Before I start, a big thank you goes out to Justin, Kristen, Demps and Brandon for their help when it came to writing up the survey. You guys are the best!
Also, I want to point out the comment that got me motivated to make this survey up in the first place, a few words from Eleni:
I was on the subway this morning and there was this huge geek explaining to a friend what the “Han shot first” debate is and how it’s actually a bit of a misnomer.
Can you picture the scene? What does it look like? Is the geek a guy or a girl? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most likely, you’re picturing a guy. Heck, I’m even picturing a guy, and I’ve had this conversation myself in a public place. My point is that males are widely perceived as the “default” for geeks.
So, let’s see the results:
1. What is your gender?
- Male: 56
- Female: 44
At the very least, this might prove that women are just as likely to self-identify as geeks as men. Even though I know quite a few lady geeks and this survey was distributed through social media sites, I honestly expected a different split. Still, glad to see this.
2. What is your age?
- Under 15: 0
- 15-17: 1
- 18-24: 13
- 25-34: 58
- 35-44: 24
- 45-54: 1
- 55-64: 1
- 65 or Over: 1
This was a dummy question. Happy that there’s at least one 15-17 year old out there self-identifying as a geek. Way to be ahead of the game, young geek!
3. What is the highest level of education you have completed?
- Less than High School: 0
- High School/GED: 2
- Some college: 30
- 2-Year College (Associate’s Degree): 9
- 4-Year College (Bachelor’s Degree): 36
- Master’s Degree: 17
- Doctoral Degree: 2
- Professional Degree (MD/JD): 3
Another dummy question. No surprise here.
4. What is your current martial status?
- Single: 36
- In a Committed Relationship: 22
- Married: 37
- Divorced: 4
- Widowed: 0
Next time someone tells you that geeks are bunch of loners, here’s your data. Obviously, this was just another dummy question to get people settled into the survey.
5. How much time do you spend online per week?
- 1-9: 0
- 10-19: 10
- 20-39: 28
- 40-59: 35
- 60 or More: 26
Originally, this question was structured with 40 or More being the top category. Glad I didn’t go with that. Still, dummy question again.
6. Which is more important to you?
- Free speech: 72
- Civility: 27
To quote Susan C. Herring,
Women are more likely to thank, appreciate and apologize, and to be upset by violations of politeness: they more often challenge offenders who violate online rules of conduct (Smith et al. 1997), and predominantly female groups may have more, and more strictly enforced, posting rules designed to ensure the maintenance of a civil environment (Hall 1996; Herring 1996a). In contrast, men generally appear to be less concerned with politeness; they issue bald face-threatening acts such as criticisms and insults, violate online rules of conduct, tolerate or even enjoy “flaming,” and tend to be more concerned about threats to freedom of expression than with attending to others’ social “face” (Herring 1994, 1996a).
This response amazed me. Despite the 56/44 male/female split, most of you went with freedom of speech above civility. Maybe this is why lady geeks have trouble being accepted in geek culture? If there’s an established stereotype in society that women seek civility and geeks just want freedom of speech, regardless of gender, could that be the source of some friction in our community?
7. Which media has helped you to self-identify as a geek?
- Video Games/Computer Games: 61
- Comic Books/Manga: 66
- Movies/Anime/TV: 80
- Books/Literature: 76
- Other: 17
This is sort of a dummy question, sort of not. The numbers are high because I allowed respondents to choose as many options as they liked. Results are interesting, responses in the fill-in-the-blank other option doubly so:
- Music. I consider bands like They Might Be Giants, Nerf Herder, and OK Go to be part of the genre of Geek Rock.
- Enjoyment of libraries and library culture.
- I don’t media to self-identify.
- Pen and paper role-playing games.
- Table top gaming, role playing.
- Being AWESOME.
- Working in tech.
- Board games/card games.
The data shows that we’re all very interesting people with varied loves. Some of us even have an interesting sense of humor. (Pogs. Really?)
You see two geeks outside of a convention center.
Geek A is gesticulating wildly, talking about the upcoming release of The Dark Knight Rising, the new Batman movie. Geek A is a bit overweight, unkempt and pale. Geek A’s wardrobe is a wrinkled t-shirt and a pair of cargo shorts.
Conversely, Geek B is dressed up as superhero. Geek B is more of the skinny sort with nice hair to compliment a pair of glasses. A messenger bag is slung over Geek B’s shoulder to free up Geek B’s hands, which hold onto a book and a phone.
While Geek B appears to be politely listening to Geek A, Geek B shows clear signs of being disinterested.
8. What gender is Geek A?
- Male: 86
- Female: 10
This was a hell of a question to word.
After a few hours of stressing over it, I decided upon Geek A being the stereotypical male geek. The description is stripped of any language that isn’t strictly gender-neutral. Originally, Geek A was wearing a Halo t-shirt, something I’m glad I scrapped.
The overwhelming response gives a fair assessment of how we assign the male gender to the Geek A “creeper” that often represents our culture in the public eye. And if you were wondering, I was describing a picture of myself in high school.
9. What gender is Geek B?
- Male: 49
- Female: 47
After a few more hours of stressing, I decided that Geek B would be the “stereotypical geek girl.” I put that in quotes because after enough research, it’s easy to say that there’s no commonly accepted stereotype for female geeks. So, I started with a Google Image Search for the phrase “girl geek.” I picked up on a few key items (glasses, bag of holding, dressed up as a superhero/superheroine).
From there, I brought up pictures of Jill Pantozzi (@thenerdybird) and Ali from iFanboy (@wonderali). Both women are athletic/slender with nice hair and had various items on their person identifying them as geeks. So, Geek B became the best “girl geek stereotype” I could write without giving away clear gender-specific words. (No, Rory – I don’t think everyone believes that “boobs” are gender neutral for geeks.)
In the end, I even went a step further, something that I felt was a bit over the line, to include that Geek B was being pestered by Geek A.
Still, there was a 49 male/47 female split. If you wonder why female geeks used a gender modifier to identify themselves online, there’s a pretty good example of why.
10. Do you think being a geek/nerd is a “guy thing”?
- Yes: 3
- No: 93
Despite the majority describing both hypothetical geeks as men, almost everyone thought that being a geek is a gender-neutral thing.
And a big thank you to all of the geeks that responded to the survey!