Embrace your inner geek?

girlgeekdinner italy

I love working for the BBC but there is certainly a divides which do come up and lets say make the work more challenging. Rain my partner in crime on Backstage brought to attention a letter/email in Ariel.

The keyword ‘respect’ is noted as a BBC value on the back of your BBC pass. ‘We respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give their best. “Software enginneers and computing professionals in the BBC are frequently labelled with demeaning and insulting terms, like ‘techies’ and ‘geeks’, by members of staff in other professional discaplines’. “I find it upsetting to hear these disparaging terms in the office and feel it sad that there is a growing acceptance of the use of these labels among staff – even among the profession itself in an attempt to ameliorate the terms. They are even used in BBC output, such as the Click programme. “The terms are typically used by staff in non-technical roles who, I feel, are getting away with blantent office bullying and professional one-upmanship which is damagine to the moral and self-esteem of staff in crucial technical roles

Andrew Ellis, software engineer FM&T

Unlike Rain who almost takes offence to Andrew's email, I get what he means. Yes I am a geek but I'm selective with the word. Yes alot of us have reclaimed the word but not everyone has and as we know people will use words to gently put people down.

Gay is one of those words which has been turned around by the community but, you know what I'm not going to start throwing it around willy nilly. Some people still find it offensive a type slur which is painful. So before calling people Geek, I tend to wait and see if there comfitable with the word when I call myself a geek.

Back to Andrew Ellis's email, there is something about the way the mainstream portrays geeks which does bug me. The problem is geek is wide and differental. Some of my regular readers will remember the geek stereotypes piece wired magazine did a while ago.


Geek stereotypes, 6 types lined up

Rain says,

My current favourite TV programme is ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and follows a bunch of guys who could be described as ‘geeks’ and pokes fun at their everyday social, um dilemmas as high functioning chaps who might be on the edges of the social spectrum and have issues with everyday stuff such as socialising, girls or sarcasm. It’s light hearted and pokes fun at things we all see in ourselves sometimes, especially geeks.

For me I find it sometimes too close to offensive to be watchable. What bugs me about it is the stereotypes again. Geeks can't talk in public, geeks can't talk to woman, geeks are men, geeks are techie, geeks wear odd non-matching clothes. Well sorry this doesn't fly and to be fair no wonder people like Andrew get teased about being a geek. The IT Crowd is another show which maintains the geek stereotype, and to be fair I do watch it but sometimes cringe. One of the best episode recently was actually today when the geeks convince there manager (Jen) who knows nothing about what they do, that the internet exists in a black box complete with flashing red light. So the Joke is less about how geeky the two IT works are but more about how little knowledge the rest of the workforce has about technology. This strikes me as a more positive light of geek that the usual studdering bumbling idiot which pass for a geek.

This is much more fitting with my experience of people who are geeks too. Actually this is another reason why I think the Girl Geekdinners are so important. Its breaking down the stereotypes that geeks are men, geeks dress a certain way and geek woman are somewhat strange. All this in the end should in the future mean people will be more open about the fact there a geek and be actually proud to be a geek. One day…eh?

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.