From CNN’s Ann Hoevel titled: Kari Byron and Mayim Bialik understand nerdy girls. Just had to repost!
A popular topic of discussion at this year’s Comic-Con has been how women relate to and are portrayed in the geek world. Panels titled, “Oh you sexy geek,” “No damsels in distress here” and “Girls gone genre” addressed many facets of geeky females, from fake fan girls to women who make their mark in the traditionally male-dominated genre world.
“Mythbusters’” Kari Byron, who has been called the “token girl” on the popular science-based experiment show, said it’s not the first time that’s happened at Comic-Con. In fact, the topic seems to get re-hashed every year, she said.
On Friday, Byron joined Mayim Bialik, who plays Amy Farrah Fowler on “The Big Bang Theory,” (she also starred as “Blossom” on the popular 1990s television show of the same name) on the CNN Express bus at San Diego Comic-Con to discuss what being a nerdy or geeky woman actually means.
This is their conversation:
CNN: So why are geeky girls so attention-worthy these days?
Kari Byron: I don’t think that the geek girl phenomenon is anything new. I think they’ve always been around, although girls I hung out with in high school self-identified as geeks. I think it’s a marketing thing.
Mayim Bialik: I think there has been a subtle shift in the presentation of geek females and I think that might be what we’re picking up on. I think that where it used to be more of an independent pride thing, and something that women would sort of bond together about, I think now it’s become more marketable and it’s become more of a public sphere of putting ourselves out there.
Obviously I work in media, on “The Big Bang Theory,” where we’re sort of branded with female geekdom, especially this past season. I feel it more personally. Because maybe it was a thing that used to be more of an independent pride, but now has become more of a public pride.
Byron: Overall I think I appreciate that the media would try to glamorize it, because it makes girls who are intelligent present themselves that way. If we’re actually going to solve the world’s problems, we need more diversity, we need more women in science, and if making geek chic in the media is going to help that, more power.
CNN: We’ve noticed, through interviewing many well-known geeks and nerds, that when people use those words – “nerd” and “geek” – they don’t always use the same definitions for those words, even if they identify as “nerd” or “geek.” Why do you think that is?
Bialik: To me nerd is socially related, and geek is interest related. I don’t know if that makes any sense.
Byron: Oh, absolutely. A geek has a passion for something.
Bialik: Correct. So I think of geekdom as something you can be obsessed with, something to collect, what do you watch, what do you look up in the internet (which didn’t exist during my first experiences in geekdom). To me, a nerd is more of a social position.
My first day at UCLA, a girl was sitting outside of my class and she said, “What are you going to study?” And I said, “neuroscience.” And she said “Why?” And I replied, “because I love the brain.” And she said, “You’re a nerd.” And I said, “That’s right.”
Byron: Really? That sounds like an 80s movie.
Bialik: That’s what I identify as – I’m the science girl. But to me geekdom is more “The Big Bang Theory,” the Comic-Con and all that stuff. You can be both you know.
CNN: Weird Al says you can be both.
Bialik: I adore Weird Al.
CNN: Let’s talk about how there are many different kind of nerds and geeks who are passionate about very different things, but somehow we can always recognize that aspect about one another.
Bialik: I think for me there’s a huge physical component to it, because growing up I wasn’t a standard looking kid. I’m not a standard looking adult. I think for me being ethnic and being not the kind of girl guys go up to at a party was my first lesson very young in life into “I’m different” – there’s something different about the female personality.
You see men in a full variety of things, in a full variety of nerd and geek, and there’s not as much notice paid to it, but for me I realize that there’s a very special thing about breaking the rules as a woman, right? I was born in 1975, so I was raised by a mother whose parents were born during the war, she was raised in the womens’ movement, so to me it was very noticeable that there were different rules for women. And that’s not cool, we should be equal, but that felt like a real feminist awakening – people are very concerned if females don’t fit the mold.
Men can be quirky or nerdy or ethnic looking and its not as much of a big deal, but if you’re a woman who’s noticeably looking different, acting different, people become very interested. What’s really going on? What rules is a woman breaking when she’s a nerd? I think for me, that’s been a lot of my experience.
Byron: So for you owning that title, nerd or geek, felt feminist?
Bialik: Well I think for me, before I even realized I could own that title, that’s my first feminist stance of sorts. I couldn’t even help that I looked different, just coming out of the box, you know. I don’t know if it’s a chicken or the egg thing, I don’t even know what came first. For me, it’s a personality developed out of being unique. I was urged by my parents to pursue a lot of things, be interested in a lot of things. So yeah, it just became a whole monster that became uncontrollable. Just look at me.