by Montgomery Jones
If there’s anything Issa Rae’s Awkward Black Girl taught me, it’s that awkwardness is colorblind. But for some reason, black women are only ever shown as one way in the media. Words like “awkward,” “shy,” nerdy,” “self aware,” “multi dimensional,”….well those words are never used to describe us. I myself am a well rounded nerd, as I dabble in different nerd-doms. For one, I have what some make call an “eccentric” wardrobe. Others may call it “tacky,” I call it “wearing what I want and tuning out the rest.” I like overalls, prairie skirts with combat boots, long billowy pants, and I love colors! I’ve been mocked for my taste in everything by everyone–strangers, friends, family, you name it!
People of all ethnicities and backgrounds love to tell me “that’s weird.” I have white friends who too have experienced this to a certain degree, but there is something about a woman of color being “quirky” that just sets people on edge. I can’t explain it, but I feel it. People want me to stop trying to “act white,” stop wearing my hair this way, and just be “normal”. I thought it would end after high school, the side -glances and the side comments, but alas. I wear my superhero shirts with my thrift store skirts, all while being entirely too loud and excited as I describe the newest book to film adaption I’m following. This is one of my first times talking about the harsh critiscm that follow me for just being accepting what I love and being happy. It’s subtle enough that a single incident alone doesn’t raise a red flag, but when I compile experiences, I realize that this is beyond me. It’s a societal belief that what I’m doing is against the natural order of things. I don’t have an answer as to why this is. I just know I have felt it and I know I’m not alone.
I’m the kind of nerd where, if we can talk television, books, movies or comic books, or high fashion, then I’m a happy girl. Pretty much anything with a fandom where I can bring out my eccentric side. I also happen to be black, and while I am friends with and have met other women of color who embrace all that is a “nerd”, I didn’t know their was a place for my people…I mean my people. Black Girl Nerds. Which is why I was so excited to find BlackGirlNerds.com! I spoke with founder Jamie Broadnax about race, what it is to be a nerd, and how to deal with IRL trolls.
I just want to say, thank goodness BGN exists! It’s not that I didn’t think black girl nerds existed, it’s just… we are only ever depicted in one light! Why was Black Girl Nerds created?
It was created BGN because I wanted to see a website that featured women that look like me and contains perspectives and opinions about geek culture and fandom from women of color.
Where is BGN based out of? In your findings, are there more black girl nerds in one region of the world (if so, I’m moving!) or are we scattered about?
I’m in Virginia Beach, VA. The contributors, podcasters, social media moderators, and fans/followers of BGN are national and international.
Why is important for black girls to have their own nerdy space? Do nerds of other races participate in your twitter conversations, for example?
It’s important because we live in a world where we don’t see our images represented in the same capacity as women of other races. So much so, that even a Black woman depicted as nerdy or geeky is an anomaly.
What is your definition of a “nerd”?
Someone who lacks conformity. A person who embraces their eccentricities and is bold enough to stand out from the crowd. They unapologetic of who they are and what they are into and own their unique sense of identity. Yes—the term nerd has evolved. It no longer carries the archaic meaning first coined in the 50s.
I personally, have gotten a lot of pushback for being a woman of color, and a nerd! What makes us such an easy target?
Black women are targets for everything sadly. We have our gender and race to contend with in a world where white patriarchy and supremacy exists. I also will say that it is heavily perpetuated in our own communities what it is to be Black and sadly Blackness is seen as a monolith which is just a tool to suppress and divide the Black community. We can and are everything we want to be and more, and never let anyone tell you different.
You guys talk movies, books, TV shows, comic books, etc. Accounting for the overall lack of diversity in so many of these, do think that marketing for these mediums underestimate the diversity of the audiences?
I think so. The argument that fictional works featuring people of color do not sell is the oldest fabrication there is. The fact of the matter is, most people crave diversity. We want to see our worldview reflected in our literature. The best form of advertising is word of mouth. Speculative fiction and diverse TV, films, comics, etc. have the opportunity to have mainstream outreach—we just have to talk about them and also support them and put our money where our mouth is.
Why is important to see protagonists of different backgrounds?
Because frankly monoliths are boring. I get tired of seeing TV shows or reading books with characters that same the share racial background. There are some exceptions, because I love Game of Thrones (both TV and books) but I don’t want that to be my standard. I want to see characters of all nationalities and also queer characters as well as focusing on body diversity. Not everyone should be model thin. That’s not a reality.
Some may buy in to the negative connotations surrounding the term “nerd”, how does one not only embrace their nerdiness, but learn to love it?
You embrace your nerdiness by way of your fandom or something that you are passionate about. If you’re a coder and love to chat about HTML and CSS all day then embrace the tech geek in you. If you’re a comic book fan and love to chat about Marvel v. DC then have at it and let the comic geek thrive. Your passions and hobbies make up a large part of who you are, if you love them then you can easily learn to love your nerd.
How did you/do you deal with internet and in real life “trolls”?
Oh dear. Well I have had a handful of them. I’ll be honest. I still am working through this, because I know having a heavy online presence comes with the price of trolls and nasty vitriol from people who just don’t like you. It’s tough, because I don’t want anyone to dislike me. I don’t want to offend or make anyone feel like they should hate what I am doing. However, I have no control over people’s feelings about me, so eventually I learn to let it go. The best way I deal with this is to simply ignore and not feed the trolls. It’s hard sometimes, especially when they say disparaging things about you, but if you ignore them and be the bigger person by remaining cool under pressure, the people that see that will respect you for it. And you will also respect yourself for being the better person.
Marvel or DC?
MARVEL! I grew up on Marvel so I’m bias. I actually haven’t read many DC titles.
Favorite book adaption?
Game of Thrones – A Song of Ice and Fire
The most underrated superhero?
Gambit. He needs more love. Plus I have a crush on him.
What show are you currently binging and/or favorite new show from the 2014-2015 season?
Just finished binge watching House of Cards season 3. Per usual it was awesome. My favorite new show in the 2014-2015 is How To Get Away With Murder
Who are a few of your idols?
My mom and Oprah Winfrey.
How can fans of BGN get in on the conversation?
Easy! Follow @blackgirlnerds on Twitter. I love to share social convos via tweets with all of the followers. You can also contact me email@example.com if you ever want to be a contributor to the website or even a podcaster for the show!
Thank you so much to Jamie of BlackGirlNerds.com !