The Issue Edit
Women in geek communities face the same issues that women throughout western culture do with regard to body image. Broadly speaking, women are exposed to strong pressure to conform to societal beauty norms, including those relating to body shape and size.
Geek women are aware of all these pressures, but tend to reject them to a greater degree than mainstream women do. This may be in part because geek women have other priorities, especially through high school age when the pressure is strongest. If you look at a group of geek women, you will in general find few who wear makeup, read women's beauty magazines, follow fashion, or spend as much energy on weight loss as non-geek women do.
It is often noted, and not without justification, that many geek women are fat. Reasons put forward for this include:
- Sitting in front of a computer all day may cause weight gain. (This is common with geek men too.)
- Geek women actively reject mainstream beauty standards (see above).
- Women who do not conform to mainstream beauty standards may be drawn to communities which are more accepting or less picky.
(The validity of these statements is unconfirmed, but they have all been suggested.)
A broad range of body shape, appearance, and dress is accepted in geek communities. However, geek women are still confronted by a number of negative messages when attending geek events, consuming geek media, etc:
- Advertising for technical products may use sexualised images of women which show an unreasonable standard of beauty.
- Comic book art, SF cover art, computer game graphics, and the like often show women whose bodies don't even conform to the laws of physics.
- In online communities, geek men may express a preference for traditionally beautiful women (Sarah Michelle Gellar was a common example during her Buffy heyday) and denigrate "ugly" women; this is often just posturing, and the men involved claim that they don't connect it to "real" women such as their wives, sisters, and friends.
All these things can lead to an environment where women who aren't mainstream-beautiful feel that they are ignored, unwanted, etc.