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.