As a woman online who is also interested in nerd culture, I often feel pretty unwelcome in some areas. My interest in comics is scrutinized, my love for video games isn’t believed, and just because I only started watching Star Wars a couple of years ago, it must mean I’m not a ~real~ fan. And for a while, I allowed this weird policing of my hobbies to occur. I did it to myself as well. I thought that if I didn’t know the synopsis of every single Wonder Woman comic, I didn’t deserve to own any. I thought that if I couldn’t recite the original 151 Pokemon, I didn’t deserve to be playing Pokemon X and/or Y. I constantly wouldn’t allow myself to get invested in different things because I didn’t earn it.
Recently, I’ve come to the ultimate conclusion that this is dumb. A couple things brought me here. One was coming to understand that a lot of the reason I am so closely questioned in my interests is because I am in fact female. Male nerds tend to be distrustful of women who like the same things they like, usually because it means they have to come to terms with the fact that women won’t date them because they suck and not because they’re too nerdy. I also realized that literally no one is born understanding the entire Legend of Zelda timeline inherently. Everyone has to start somewhere, and if I don’t allow myself to begin in a hobby, how will I ever reach expert status? Finally, I just grew up a little bit and starting to understand that the irritating people in the comment section shouldn’t dictate what I do and don’t like.
So ultimately, I’ve recently become a lot more invested in my nerdy hobbies because I am forgiving myself for not having a PhD in the different Marvel canons or not memorizing every background song in Super Mario Bros. But here is a short list of things I didn’t allow myself to truly enjoy for many years. Maybe you can relate, or maybe you can’t, but either way, here they are!
Pikachu is my favourite Pokemon
I didn’t grow up playing Pokemon. I had a Gameboy Colour, but I used it to mostly play Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Once I played on my cousin’s save file on his game, but I was so lost I just ran around a bit and then killed..ahem…knocked out all his Pokemon and he took it back. So I don’t have a background in the adorable pocket monsters. So when I suddenly became aware of how awesome they were in my late teens, I didn’t think I was allowed into the club. I didn’t play with the trading cards, and I didn’t watch the anime more than a few accidental episodes. But I liked them. I thought they were adorable, and that alone was enough to make me think that I should be interested because what a stupid, girly reason to like them. So I literally studied. Like it was a test. I started watching the anime on Netflix, carefully listening to the Pokerap, trying to memorize it. Then, once I felt I had a good base of knowledge, I started playing the games again. I told everyone and their grandmother that my favourite Pokemon starter was Squirtle. I said it was because of the Squirtle Squad (see how that implies I watched the anime?). I knew that I couldn’t like Pikachu the best, that’s too mainstream! He’s a main character of the anime for crying out loud! But now, I’m saying it. PIKACHU IS THE BEST, CUTEST, MOST LOYAL POKEMON EVER AND I LOVE HIM. He’s a picture of me relaxing after my birthday dinner shortly after this realization.
Easy settings in video games
Video games are something I thought I would never like. When I was in high school, you played video games if you were a nerd and liked World or Warcraft or a popular kid who liked playing Call of Duty or some sports game. But after my boyfriend started getting me to play some games with him, and I started watching him playing story heavy games, the wide world of gaming was open to me. This is one of the few times that not doing something in my childhood, actually does affect my enjoyment of it in current life. By that, I mean that I am rubbish at video games. I haven’t been practicing my whole life, so I just don’t have the same instincts when it comes down to it. Both when it comes to physically using a controller or my keyboard for PC games and for understanding game mechanics. Nick can start a new game and his knowledge of video game tropes and genres, he knows how to play pretty well even before a tutorial, which basically would only introduce him to some unique things the game may have that is out of the ordinary. But if he was playing a MOBA, he would know what to do. I however am completely lost. Due to this, even playing on normal is extremely difficult for me to do. A good example is Fallout. I have about 500 hours in that franchise, split between Fallout 3, New Vegas, and Fallout 4. Yet when I recently switched from Very Easy to Easy in Fallout 4, I still struggle with it. I used to be ashamed of this, but recently I’ve decided that I didn’t pay for a triple A game to be struggling and frustrated, I did it to enjoy myself and immerse myself in the world (technically I didn’t pay for it, shout out to my Steam fairy Alex!!).
Comic books in general
People take comics seriously. Not only are they the original canon sources for a lot of fandoms and have a special nostalgic connection to childhood, but they can also be expensive collector items. Whenever a militant nerd bro is quizzing a girl about whether she REALLY like Captain America or just thinks that Chris Evans is hot, usually he’ll interrogate her on her knowledge of the original comics. Again, this is something that is usually a big part of a nerd’s childhood, and they begin their collection early. Usually by my age they’ll have been getting one or two for Christmas since they were 9, and have whole series. At least that’s how it works in my mind, since I bought my first comic book for myself at age 20. I went to the farmer’s market and went to the comic stall, where one guy sells from a collection of thousands of comics, vintage magazines, old newspapers, and other old texts. I was really overwhelmed by the sheer volume and the amount of choices. I thought I needed to pick one series and buy as many as I could get my hands on in order to join the comic book people club. Realistically however, the only person not allowing me to enjoy comic books was me, not the imaginary comic book police who would arrest me for buy comics out of order. So I bought just a couple Wonder Woman comics and began my collection there. Several years later, I only have a handful more. And that’s fine.
Watching Stars Wars movies, past present and future
I first watched Start Wars in about grade 8, and I seriously hated it. My aunt basically forced me to watch it, and most of my dislike of it came from that. But I also thought it was pretty boring and annoying. So a couple years later, when I watched it with a much more open mind, I felt like a complete hypocrite. I also didn’t like asparagus or grocery shopping when I was in grade 8, but I didn’t feel like a hypocrite when I grew up did I? But nerd culture can make you feel like you just don’t love something enough to be worthy of it. Not to mention the fact that my favourite character was Princess Leia, who made me feel empowered in my snarky responses to disrespect and standing up for myself felt very cliche and “fake geek girl.” This is such a dumb thing to feel guilty about. Since I’ve dropped that ideology, I’ve watched all the original trilogy, but I still haven’t watched all the prequels. But when I went to go see The Force Awakens, suprisingly, they didn’t require me to write an exam to make sure I knew enough about the Star Wars universe! I was allowed to just pay my money for a ticket, get some overpriced popcorn and just watch the bloody movie! And I enjoyed it and didn’t feel like I was missing out on any references or jokes. I can just watch.
Cosplaying to only my abilities and budget
I love cosplayers. I admire cosplayers. What they do it amazing, and they are insanely talented and creative individuals. What they create are truly works of art and I follow several to keep up on their new builds. That being said, their insane talents cause the bar of entry into the hobby of cosplay to rise. This is definitely a insecurity of mine playing into this, but because most cosplay at conventions and on the internet is of another caliber, it makes it seem useless to even bother. I’ve only been to one convention, and I technically cosplayed, but all of my costumes were made of clothes I bought from Value Village. Note that two of the three best pictures I have of these costumes feature Meg Turney, a cosplayer.
This is my Kim Possible look. I had my hair down but it got too warm, and the sleeves were long sleeve as well. The most actual costume building I did was cut the shirt into a crop top and sew it back to a seam.
This was my Velma. I didn’t take a full body shot but we all know what Velma from Scooby Do looks like. It was entirely a sweater, skirt, socks, and shoes. No actual costume building.
Now for the height of my abilities: Belle! This is a blue dress, a white linen shirt, and a basket full of books. The thing that makes the costume stand out in the apron. I couldn’t find a plain white waist apron for the life of me, although I definitely looked. So I bought a sheet, cut it in half, sewed the seams back, and then used one of the other seams as the tie around my waist. And that’s about my best talent. So I’ve been holding back on more complex builds than just human characters that just wear normal human clothes. But how am I supposed to improve my sewing and prop building if I don’t try it?
So here are a few things that I almost wrote off entirely because of some arbitrary and ridiculous opinions of other people. Basically I just wanted to write this post for a couple of reasons. First is I wanted to reflect on myself. A lot of these things I’ve started not caring what other people think in order to do them, and I’m a lot happier for it. Accepting myself for what I am and what I like had helped me just enjoy life more. Which brings me to the second reason, which is I want to inspire other people to just stop caring about what people think. There are so many other issues in the world to worry about over what movies you watch and how you play your video games. Just enjoy stuff!
So does anyone relate to this feeling? Let me know if you do, and what are some things you’ve tried to hide. Better yet, what are some things you have started getting invested in despite a previous fear. Let me know in the comments! Later days!