“Geek” is a gendered noun. There’s a GeekGirlCon, but no GeekGuyCon: every con is GeekGuyCon, unless it specifies otherwise. You don’t say “geek guys” the way you say “geek girls”: once you’ve said “geek,” the “guy” is pretty much taken as read.
When a label is gendered, it carries all the attendant baggage. What does that mean to geeks? Well, we, as a culture, regulate masculinity very closely. It’s valuable in ways femininity isn’t, and that makes it more fragile as well. The worst words you can call a man are the ones that question his masculinity, or, worse, imply that he’s feminine. Even “girl” gets thrown around as an insult.
Take a moment to think about what that means–to women, but also to men; and particularly to the way men are taught to see women. Girls in a guy zone become a threat. They taint what they touch by association. A girl who’s into guy stuff, that’s understandable, an upgrade; but a guy into girl stuff is a broken machine.
If you start there, it’s easy to see how we might have become predisposed to looking at female-identified geeks with suspicion. They’re other. They don’t fit the narrative. They require qualifiers, not just “geeks,” but “geek girls” or “girl geeks”: already a step removed from the real deal.
So, when I say that “geek” is a gendered noun, and that its default gender is masculine, I’m saying something about how it intersects with a specific set of cultural values–and, by extension, I’m saying something about the value of masculine identity to the geek community.
Dark Horse editor Rachel Edidin has written about the “fake geek girl” phenomenon over at Comics Alliance. You really, really should go read.