Friday, September 6, 2013

You Can't Take the Sky From Me

When I was in seventh grade, I won second place in Congressman Lipinski's All-American Boy and Girl Awards. Finalists were interviewed by a panel of judges, and I'm convinced that the answer that got me into the top three was my response to the question, "If you could meet anyone in history, living or dead, who would you pick and why?"

I picked Gene Roddenberry.

I feel like that says a lot about how much Star Trek, and science fiction, has influenced my life. I was a Trekkie before the Next Gen fans demanded to be called Trekkers, and then I was that, and a member of various other fandoms since (Browncoats, Whovians, and so on). I could list my geek cred resume, but that's not why I'm posting today. Instead, I'm here to say thank you to my parents.

My parents are former athletes. I generally suck at sports, but that didn't stop them from encouraging me to play. They are of the opinion (especially my mother, who was a beneficiary of Title IX), that everyone has a right to play, and that everyone should play fair. The idea that "girls don't play sports" never existed in my house. Just as the idea that "girls don't read comics" never existed, because my mom read Superman, Spiderman, Batman, The Hulk, Avengers, and more. At the time, I never noticed that I was the only girl in the comic shop.

My dad taught me to love sci-fi, starting with re-runs of classic Star Trek. Our father-daughter bonding time was spent watching Star Wars, Aliens, and the X-Files. It never occurred to me that "girls don't read sci-fi" until I was informed of it in high school. By a guy who loved sci-fi. Because, as I have learned since then, it's not some mysterious "other" who makes up these rules. It's members of the fandom.

How weird is that?

Maybe I'm dating myself in that I remember the "us versus them" as being geeks against people who didn't identify as geeks. Not geeks against other geeks deemed not good enough to qualify as geeks by some arcane system of "if you don't know this, then you're fake." It was interacting with other members of this community that taught me that I was somehow "less" in the eyes of "real" geeks. During my years as a LARPer there were times where I was made deeply uncomfortable by men at our game, and times where I felt not just unwelcome but unsafe. I've been harassed in online games by male gamers. I've deleted characters and quit games entirely due to harassment. I've come to expect this treatment as the price of admission, and that's just sad.

So it's not surprising when I see articles where men complain that women are tainting their sci-fi with our icky estrogen cooties. Or that romance writers just ruin everything with their girly feels. In fact, I once had a former member of my critique group post an early manuscript of Blood, Smoke and Mirrors on his blog, and used it as part of a series on why men don't like romance novels. It was not a positive experience.

But harassment hasn't stopped me from playing other online games, just as negative reviews and angry articles haven't stopped me from writing. I think of my mom, who as a physical education major once endured a basketball class where she was the only woman. (The men put her on the "skins" team in shirts versus skins. So she made T-shirt that read "skins.") I think of my dad, who is always eager to watch a sci-fi movie with his daughter. Our family motto is "walk it off" (also known as "there's no crying in baseball"), and I believe that one day we can all geek out together, regardless of age, gender, race, allergies, level of Klingon spoken, total xp, or phattest loot.

In the meantime, you can't take the sky from me, and if you try, I swear by my pretty floral bonnet that I will end you.

1 comment:

Laurie A. Green said...

Heh heh Let's be bad guys.

How great to grow up bonding over ST with your Dad and never being told "girls shouldn't like Sci-Fi." I had similar support from my family when my mother signed me up for the Science Fiction Book Club as a kiddo after my love of Star Trek got me interested in reading SF books. It was only outside my family environment I was told "girls don't read that stuff." Say what? Funny, but they never could give me one valid reason when I asked, "Why not?"