Geek Culture

The Bella Sara Mindset

I stumbled upon a post by Dr. Nerdlove titled Nerds and the Male Privilege.  In his article the good doctor explains what we already know.  Geek culture treats women as sex symbols.  It’s easy to recognize.  Heroine s’ bosom must always double as a floatation device in the event of water landing.   Costumes are always held in place by sheer will power.  Standard issue for most products marketed in geek movies and hobbies.

For a moment let’s move past the sex symbol side of the disparity.  We all know it’s there.  I want to focus more on the social side of geek culture.  As a game store owner I want all people to feel welcome.  Are you gay?  So what.  Racial or religious minority?  Don’t care.  Gaming as a way to bridge gaps.

What does this have to do with female gamers? Game and comic shops are key to bringing new players into the games we love.  They are the gateways to geek culture.  The attitude of many store owners dictates that some games are geared towards boys and others are meant for girls.   Last year I attended a marketing seminar for fellow store owners.  Someone asked how to attract more female customers into their stores.  Several owners yelled out “Bella Sara!”

Really?  Bella Frickin’ Sara?  That’s the best the gaming industry has to offer little girls?  Magical Horses, Pegasus and Unicorns.  No wonder it’s difficult to keep girls interested in gaming.  “The Bella Sara Mindset” has a negative effect.  Girls are segmented from the boys in the games they are encouraged to play.  Separate is not equal.  If you push girls into crappy games.  They won’t play.

Here is a novel idea: Teach girls to play Magic, Pokemon and Catan.  They’ll love it.  Just like the boys.  Two things will happen:

  1. Girls will become women that love gaming.
  2. Boys will become men more inclusive to women in geek culture.

It would be amazing if there was a switch to transform geek culture into a more geek-girl friendly environment.  It simply doesn’t exist.  But, we can make an effort to actively include girls and women in and not pigeonhole them into games that are “designed” for girls.


4 thoughts on “The Bella Sara Mindset

  1. Shannon says:

    I’d definitely have to agree with this. I had 2 brothers, no sisters and my older brother was/is a gamer, and introduced me to Magic: The Gathering, RPG gaming (I still play FFXI) and so many other things. I’m more of a nerd/academic, but I love all of this stuff, and have from a young age because I didn’t play stupid games with horses and unicorns.

  2. Yeah, I believe in choices. I was given them as a child, and as a result, my Barbie doll rode around in a monster truck and G.I.Joe had his nails done. No, I am not making this up. My parents let me get the toys I wanted, without any steering or suggesting or pushing, and my creative world was rich and diverse. I had My Little Ponies, Strawberry Shortcakes, Barbies–and I really did love them. I also had a full G.I.Joe cast of characters (watched the cartoon, too), as well as what would today be worth a tad over $1,000 worth of original Star Wars figures. They all played together. Why shouldn’t they?

    I also had a microscope, chemistry set, Encyclopedia Britannica, telescope, and spent an entire week on my porch at the age of five conducting an experiment to see which color of nectar hummingbirds really liked best. It was blue, with yellow a close second. Red was third.

    Although myself, husband, brother, and two sons ALL play MTG, my daughter is just not into it. She’s nine, her brothers are 7 & 11, and all their interests both differ and overlap. We all play different styles, with everything from token spammers to mill decks to poison decks. As an avid player since the game first came out, my husband has literally thousands of cards. So she had a HUGE selection to choose from, not to mention a slew of Pokemon cards, which she played with only slightly more often than Magic.

    On impulse I bought her some Bella Sara cards awhile ago and she loved them immediately. She adores horses and has been playing the online game there for almost 2 years now, and along with Webkinz, Animal Jam, and Pixie Hollow–which my sons also play, and love.

    In fact, my sons played as female sprites in that online world of Tinkerbell and her kin for more than a year before Disney wizened-up and listened to the TONS of email they were getting from the mothers/fathers of little boys who loved the game but wanted to play as BOY fairies. A quick glance through their account sign-up statistics showed a large demographic of boys with accounts there. So now they have boy fairies in the game, too. I mean seriously, how cool is that? I personally look forward to a generation of kids who can define themselves by what honestly makes them happy, openly, without shame or fear or reproach.

    Liking horses and unicorns and fairies is not “less cool” than liking dragons and wizards and elves. Not if you are choosing to like them because you actually DO like them, and want to experience the adventures THOSE beings might go on. Their worlds can actually overlap, like the real world does, with the same diversity.

    If we really want our kids to think and choose for themselves, they have to be offered a choice. We all do.

    Sorry this is longer than I intended my response to be, yet I feel trying to shorten it at this hour of the night/early morning would end up removing specific points that I wanted to make, but that I am frankly too tired to simply rephrase more concisely.

  3. I don’t meant to suggest that Bella Sara is evil or damaging. I am worried about not “casting a wide net” to include potential girl gamers. Also, I’m not comfortable with a manufacturer taking an existing game – slapping a coat of pink paint on it – and calling it a “girl game”. That suggest the original game was for boys.

  4. Pingback: The Bella Sara Mindset –

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