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It's a given that when the topic of anything "nerdy" comes up, the standard image that most people think of is that weird guy in the basement drinking unholy amounts of Mountain Dew and watching Star Trek. Right? While that stereotype might have some basis in reality, the nerd culture of today has evolved into something much different, and it includes a variety of fans from all walks of life which, yes, includes women.
In addition to strong female representation in a franchise like Star Trek (Voyager and Discovery, anyone?), Star Wars has really upped the ante on what it means to be a strong female. Through characters such as Princess Leia, Jyn Erso, Rose Tico, Vice Admiral Holdo, and Rey, Star Wars has done its job influencing viewers by modeling strong female behavior and showing how badass they can be. And yes, a lot of these viewers are women. The nerdy corners of pop culture so long beloved by men are also embraced by women and, as a woman who falls squarely into this group, I feel like it's time to end this discussion once and for all that women should be blocked from loving Star Wars or any other pieces of nerd culture.
Which is why, when the hashtag #SWisaGirlThingToo emerged on Twitter, it surprised quite a few people. But it also served as a constant reminder that women can love Star Wars, too. In fact, we already do, and we love it just as much as men do. If you don't believe me, ask the almost 3,000 members of the "Galactic Fempire" group on Facebook.
This hashtag strikes a chord with me. As a rather nerdy individual who happens to be female, I have pretty much seen and heard it all when people find out just how much of a nerd I am. Nerdiness and sci-fi fandoms have culturally been more of a male-driven thing, so finding a girl in these worlds sometimes feels like you're some endangered, impossible-to-find phenomenon.
I grew up in a household full of appreciation for things like Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars, and the sci-fi genre in general. While other kids my age were watching the Disney Channel, I was watching Blade Runner and Star Wars with my dad and my brother. Was it weird that I was enjoying these things as a girl? Hell no.
Star Wars, for me, was just that escape into another world that I could have fun with. The droids were enjoyable and fun to imitate, the music was incredible, and the overall concept of "good vs. evil" was extremely intriguing. And as a young girl, of course, who didn't look up to Princess Leia?
Seeing Carrie Fisher as such an important and active part of the story was extremely important for me because it gave me the notion early on that women are a part of the conversation. If a woman could play a key role in taking down the Empire, then women in real life could play a key role in anything they choose to do. After all, it was Princess Leia who delivered the message of the Death Star plans, actively participated in operations on Hoth, and aided in the Rebellion's victory against the Empire while serving on Endor. This is something I see turning the gears in my young nieces now, too. Like me, they're already big Star Wars lovers as well.
I think the issue is that we're constantly told as a society that it is weird for females to be part of sci-fi and fantasy fandoms. If you're at a comic-con and you engage in conversation with a woman about Star Wars (or anything else) and she actually knows what she's talking about, it's made to be this moment of surprise. Yes, I know what Replicants are and I have a map of Middle Earth. I'm also a reigning champion within my family for "Star Wars Trivial Pursuit." There have been moments with my peers (both online and in person) where I've been quizzed even harder than men. It's like you're called to prove yourself just to show that you're a girl who actually belongs in the "boys club."
I think the revelation has come that there are more women in these fandoms than people might have thought. And guess what? It's always been that way. We shouldn't have to prove that we belong in the club just because we're girls. I shouldn't be intentionally given more difficult questions at trivia just because there's no possible way that a female can be just as much of a nerd as a male can.
Women have entered into these fandoms and become so much more than just someone walking around in skimpy cosplay, or tagging along to a convention just to spend the day with their boyfriend. Events like comic-cons and anime celebrations aren't just for men anymore, and sci-fi franchises aren't just for the geeky guy who is good with computers.
Star Wars is not just a thing for boys, and it never was. In a way, it's a shame that a hashtag trend like this even has to exist to remind us, but women are here to stay in the fandom. We aren't just doing it to be cool and fit into a pop culture group that's obsessed with robots, zombies, droids, spaceships and the like. The best thing you can do is accept it and maybe—just maybe—even challenge a girl to play lightsabers the next time you're at a convention.