Graeme Garden was always my favourite Goodie. He was a mad scientist, an inventor, a megalomaniac, and sometimes the most frenzied of the group. His character spoke to me and my enjoyment of science, helping dad in the garage with things, and my developing interest in design. I always loved his one piece suits. He was my first geek role model.
My second geek role model was Doctor Who (and I believe my first doctor was probably Jon Pertwee, though looking at the timeline of each of the Doctors, it was more likely to be Tom Baker. Then again, with the way the ABC ran Doctor Who at the time, it’s hard to know exactly. So Doctor Who saved the universe, and Earth, time and time again, had fun gadgets, understood maths and science, and travelled through time and space (what’s not to like?).
I don’t recall any female geek role models that I really identified with when I was growing up. Marmalade Atkins was a role model on rebelling and questioning everything, which is one of the lessons my parents also taught me – though not how Marmalade Atkins went about it. 3-2-1 Contact (the more grown up version of Sesame Street) had women involved, but as it screened at odd times in Australia (again on the ABC) I didn’t watch enough of it to identify with any of the presenters. Penny from Inspector Gadget was almost someone I could relate to, but she was a cartoon, and that made the whole thing unreal for me. The sad state of affairs of ABC children’s TV programming in the 1980s meant that for the most part we heard the stories of the boys and men over the stories of women (not having children and therefore not consuming children’s TV currently, I don’t know if this is still true).
So all my geek role models were men. Which meant, in part, that geekery when I was growing up was not a feminine thing. That to be a geek and female was unusual, so being a geek and feminine probably didn’t work out. I had a fairly normal childhood (well ok, it wasn’t that normal), I did ballet for 8 years, sang in choirs, rode a bike, had friends, learnt how to cook, and attempted to fit in – in Alice Springs not so much of a problem, but in Bendigo a nightmare.
The biggest issue is that I grew up without female geek role models. I didn’t know at the time about my cousin Hillary Booth, who had a PhD in mathematics and no doubt was a geek and I am sad I never met her. So growing up I separated geekery and femininity as they couldn’t go together. To be a geek meant that I couldn’t be feminine, so I attempted to distance myself from femininity and those who practised it. Which means that I didn’t have much time for many of the girls I went to school with, and they didn’t have much time for me as a result. I did have female friends, but they were geeks like me, stuck between the masculine and the feminine. Being female but not is still something I live today, but these days I no longer distance myself from those who practice femininity. I understand a lot more about feminism, gender constructions, the Kyriarchy, Geekdom, privilege and class than I used to thanks to the power of the internet, friends, and the awesomeness of the feminist blogosphere.
I’ve just remembered George from The Famous Five (TV Series) as a female role model I related to. Though sadly with that series you had the two options Anne or George. The Wikipedia entry describes them both:
Georgina is a tomboy and insists that people call her George. With her short hair and boy’s clothes she is often mistaken for a boy, which pleases her enormously. Like her father, Quentin, George has a fiery temper. She is fierce, headstrong and very loyal to those she loves. She is sometimes extremely stubborn and causes trouble for her mother as well as her cousins. She is very possessive of Timothy (Timmy), her dog. George is cousin to siblings Julian, Dick and Anne and is aged 11 at the start of the series and 16 at the end. In Five Have Plenty of Fun, Five Fall Into Adventure, and Five Go To Mystery Moor there were tomboys like her.
Anne is the youngest in the group, and generally takes care of their domestic duties during the Five’s various camping holidays. As the youngest, she is more likely than the others to become frightened and does not really enjoy the adventures as much as the others. She is 10 years old in the first book of the series and 15 in the last. As a small girl, she sometimes lets her tongue run away with her, but ultimately she is as brave and resourceful as the others. She likes doing the domestic things such as planning, organising and preparing meals, keeping where they are staying clean and tidy, be it a cave, house, tent or caravan. In Smuggler’s Top it is suggested she is claustrophobic as she is frightened of enclosed spaces since it reminds her of bad dreams she has – however this just shows how brave she really is as the adventures invariably lead the five into tunnels, down wells, in dungeons and other enclosed spaces.
So I could have the fierce, headstrong role model, or the domestic goddess who frightens easily. Top marks for guessing which one I related to – yes that’s right the girl who wants to be a boy.