The more I learned about Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon’s book, How Geek Girls Will Rule the World, the more I saw it’s one for the LiveTrue Books Collection. Here’s my interview with Jennifer about her book:
Q&A with Jennifer
What inspired you to write the book?
It was the product of a lot of soul-searching. When “geeks” began entering the mainstream discourse, I self-identified as a geek as soon as I learned what the word meant. I’m a scientist, statistician, and researcher at heart – I have dual undergraduate degrees in psychology and computer science, and a doctorate in social psychology — and at the same time I love science fiction, fantasy, and gaming. It amazed me that there was a term that wrapped up people interested in all of these things.
Women’s rights and equality has also always been a passion of mine, both politically and socially. In college I learned about the stereotype that women weren’t good at math, which boggled me; it was just utter nonsense. Here was this belief being told to young girls and women, so wholly inaccurate, and dissuading them from following their dreams.
I also knew that women were seen as uninterested or inept at gaming, which was also nonsense. I couldn’t understand why that belief was being pushed either.
One night it all just clicked together. How did I know that these stereotypes were nonsense? Because I had seen the truth; I had seen the counterexamples. But many hadn’t; I thought if they had, they might gain the confidence they needed to pursue their dreams and interests. As I began to do research for the book, I saw just how much sexism there was in these fields, far more than I had even known about, and it reinforced my belief that this book was needed.
You conducted lots of interviews for the book. What were your biggest takeaways from the interviews?
Never give up, and always be true to yourself. That’s what these women did — their inspirational tales were stories of hard work, perseverance, and passion.
Like this woman I interviewed – she was an immigrant from a country where scientific pursuit wasn’t readily available, but when she came to the U.S. with nothing but her smarts and her dreams, she soaked up all the knowledge she could get, worked hard, and managed to discover what killed the dinosaurs.
All of them have forced the world to take notice, whether by making their footprint in a male-dominated area or by carving their own path. These women are role models because they fought, and some still fight, to live their passions no matter the obstacles, and that’s the message I want girls and women to take home — that they can do it too.
When people are near to death, the greatest and most common regret is not having lived a life true to oneself (instead they lived the life others expected). This is a guiding force in everything I do, and it’s the message in these interviews as well.
What advice would you give to women interested in computer science, math, gaming, sci fi, comics and manga about sexism in these areas and how to deal with it?
Never let anyone, male or female, tell you what you can or can’t do. Society has set up so many rules of what women are supposed to do and not do, be and not be, and they’re not in place for your benefit. Everything you’ve ever believed about what was women’s work or women’s role in society is what you’ve been taught, not anything based in reality. Throw all that away.
People are going to tell you that there are things you can’t do or shouldn’t do because of your gender, and it’s going to hurt, but when it happens, let that feed your drive. Plow forward with your dreams. Sometimes you’ll succeed and sometimes you’ll fail, but if you’re doing it for you, in service of your passions, it’ll have been the right thing to do.
When you do succeed, you won’t need to do anything else to make the case for yourself and women more broadly. A life is well-lived when every day you get to live your dreams. And in so doing, you might just become a role model for another young girl. By plowing through sexism, you’ll make the path for the next group of women a bit easier.
Is Jennifer awesome or what?! Whether you are a geek or not, her book is a must “live true” read. Thanks, Jennifer!
To other women geeks out there, what is your experience?