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Can Girls Be Geeks, Too?

Lycos Column 1996 - by Aliza Sherman

Equal Rights was the mantra of the 70's, Equal Pay was the motto of the 80's, Equal Geekdom is the cry of the 90's! Women are wearing that haggard, half-dazed "I've-been-on-my-computer-for-48-hours-straight" look with pride, chugging down those espressos, munching down on stale bagels, and getting their fingernails dirty building places and spaces in the online universe. So can grrls really be geeks? Of course they can. There are even notable female geeks in history. But what in the world is a geek, anyway?

Geek: (n) 2. any strange or eccentric person
Nerd: (n) 2. a person dedicated to a non-social pursuit "a computer nerd"

(Random House Webster's College Dictionary)

Today the word "geek" implies more than oddness or eccentricity and has basically become synonymous with "nerd". A geek is someone who seems to have a single-minded focus on their computer, most likely hacking code for a living or exhibiting obsessive online habits, usually at the expense of a "real life." Hey, as far as I'm concerned, my computer is my life and this keyboard, screen and my 14.4 connection truly enhances every aspect of my life. I know, I know what you're thinking, I see you rolling your eyes, clucking your tongue. But let's face it, without my computer, I wouldn't have my business, I wouldn't be corresponding with hundreds of people worldwide every day, I wouldn't be writing this column! I wear my geek badge with pride, carry my Powerbook in a backpack on my back, and boldly going where no grrl has gone before.

I know I'm not the first woman to embrace the zeros and ones of the computer universe. From Hypatia (370-415), the "first woman to make a substantial contribution to the development of mathematics" to Ada Byron (1815-1852), also known as Lady Lovelace who "anticipated by more than a century most of what we think is brand-new computing" to Grace Hopper (1906-1992) who "spent a half century helping keep America on the leading edge of high technology," women have been integrally involved in technology. What I don't understand is why I never heard of these women until I got onto the Internet.?

Growing up, I was never taught about women in mathematics or science (other than Madam Curie) or computers. The only "smart girl" role model I had, was Marcie from The Peanuts who was the smartest of the entire Peanuts gang, but by far not the most popular and certainly not very good at social skills or sports. She wasn't really her own person, following Peppermint Patty around, calling her "sir" all the time. Smart, but definitely not glamorous.

Today, online, you can find more and more information about geek women of the past and present on sites like The ADA Project and Minerva's Machine. And while you're looking, say hi to NrrdGrrl for me. Now if only geek women like these graced more pages in the testosterone-laden computer magazines like Wired, Internet World and Netguide (hint, hint). It's not like we aren't out there - hello!

Wait, wait, before we go on, I must ask: do we really believe Sandra Bullock is a geek in The Net? Sure we do, why not? Although the movie was innocuous (translation: lame) and totally unconvincing, it was good to see a nice girl like Sandra playing a pizza-eating, keyboard-tapping, all-too-human heroine who didn't always have perfect hair and who did solve the problem, save the world and save herself using her wits and her brains. No man to the rescue for this grrl.

Stepping off the soapbox, wiping the sweat from my brow. So, how can you find out if you qualify as a geek or nerd? Just stop by the Infamous Nerdity Test to find the answers. As the site says, "this test is designed to help you determine your nerdity quotient. In the past, someone may have watched you,or listened to something you said and then exclaimed, 'You geek! What do you think you are doing?' Or maybe it's just us." Hey - it's not the meaning of life but it could explain why you're home alone on a Friday night pounding away at the keyboard, waiting for your sushi to be delivered (hey, I'm in New York City and we can get those things!) While you're at it, check out the "Top 10 Signs You are an Internet Geek". Where is Geeks Anonymous when you need it?

Now we're really on a roll as we head over to check out the Geek Site of the Day. "There's a million of these sites out there--cool, mediocre, worst--but nothing that points us to the important sites--the geek sites. Where technology, web knowledge, and an internet connection provide for fascinatingly dull communication." Face it, we are beyond hope. Oh yeah, did you check Dilbert today? I knew you did. And for your online shopping pleasure, try yeah.yeah.yeah, "fashion for the digitally advanced" and "home to quality geekware for those inevitable face-to-face meetings." You know, tshirts and baseball caps for those laundry-free, bad-hair days (as in didn't do it, didn't wash it). And for the discriminating geek in you, there is always Geek Chic where you can "loosen up your pocket protectors and stay awhile."

Life would not be complete without your very own Geek Code, the "simple way to tell the entire world everything you want them to know about what is really important in your life. ie, your computer abilities and assimilation level into net.culture." And yes, I will now reveal to you my Code...

Cybergrrl's Geek Code:

Version: 3.1
G d- s:- a- C+++$ U--- P+ L E? W++$ N++$ !o-- K-? !w-- !O-
M+$ V-? PS+>$ PE? Y+ !PGP- t+ !5 X+>$ R tv+ b++ DI-- !D+ G e
h+>$ !r !x


And now that you know my code, the only question left unanswered would have to be "Is God a geek?" Well, perhaps the answer is somewhere in the annals of news:alt.geek.

Cybergrrl is the geekiest but insists that she does shower daily and does laundry every other week. She has been known, however, to buy new articles of clothing when she loses track of laundry day.

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CYBERGRRL WEBSTATION: [planet cybergrrl] [cybergrrl village] [webgrrls] [femina] [womenzone]

A. Sherman
Cybergrrl Internet Media