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REVENGE OF THE NERDY GIRLS: The OKC Nerdy Girls make fandom a safe place for female geeks.

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Nerdy Girls at their recent Wizard World panel.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Right now, the need for women to find safe spaces in the realm of geek fandoms is more crucial than ever, reaching new heights of awareness thanks to the recent GamerGate fiasco, wherein male gamers are throwing collective temper tantrums over the very idea of women encroaching in what they consider their world, even going as far as to issue rape and death threats to any female who dares to stand up to them.

It’s for reasons like that that the Nerdy Girls, a “national organization that creates intelligent communities to empower women,” per their mission statement, was created.

With chapters in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Nashville, the Nerdy Girls are encouraged to participate in and become a part of the culture around them through education, arts, and volunteerism, with community events that aim to support local business and initiate involvement between members and their neighborhood leaders.

Not to mention proudly and unabashedly read comics, watch Dr. Who and, yes, play video games.

“Nerdy Girls provides its members with a network of intelligent women from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds,” said Shay Beezley, an O.G. Nerdy Girl. “We support the visibility of women in professional fields, ranging from the arts and academia to science and mathematics, and the encouragement of girls to move into these fields. We encourage girls and women to identify as nerdy, intelligent, educated, creative, techie, artistic, and more.”

A self-described crew of “nerdy women looking to create a community of women with different backgrounds and yet similar interests,” their events range from Book Club, Code Club, Writer’s Circle, Thrift Store Crawls, and, most popularly, Board Game Night, held about once a month and usually packed with players.

Formed in late 2011 by Lacey Bryant, the seed for the club came from her months and months of trying to make friends with like-minded ladies with no luck.

“Part of this has to do with how hard it is to make new friends as an adult, especially outside of your normal circles of work, family, neighborhood, or church,” Beezley said. “This applies for girls who might be fresh out of a college, but also to women in different stages of life, i.e. widowed, fresh off divorce, moved, etc. The group’s emphasis has been on socializing, and although we want to have fun, we are re-focusing on self-improvement, skill sharing, and educational opportunities. We wanted to create a space where women felt like it was ok to be themselves without risking judgment or ridicule.”

In light of recent events like GamerGate and continued reports of sexual harassment at conventions, the Nerdy Girls believe that one of the many benefits their members get from joining is making new friends and by extension, a support network. It's important to them that their members can “express their nerdiness and interests in an environment that does not foster harassment simply because you're a woman.”

It’s a freeing feeling that changed member Ofi Ochoa’s life for the better.

“I never knew that a group like Nerdy Girls was missing from my life, until I joined,” Ochoa said. “Like many (if not all) of our members, I was ostracized as a child for whatever reason. Maybe I was too quiet, maybe my grades intimidated the other kids, maybe they didn’t think I was pretty enough to join their little group, who knows what they thought of me. The point is, I went on about my business without that friendly peer interaction all of my childhood, it bothered me sometimes but I moved on. When I came to OKC and found the Nerdy Girls...you could not wipe the smile off of my face. THIS is what it felt like to be included.”

And while some people might have misconceptions that with the word “girls” in the name they’re targeting only kids and teens, but actually they are an 18 and over group, with members ranging from their 20s to their 60s. But, due to increased demand from younger fans, they are looking at starting “Nerdy Girls Jr.” as an outreach program for middle school-aged girls to promote interest in STEM.

“We may come off as a tired feminist stereotype of man-hating, bra burners since our mission is about female empowerment and we limit male attendance,” Beezley said. “It’s not that it’s “no boys allowed”—guys can actually attend our events if they’re friends, family, or significant others of members. We are not a bunch of “man-haters.” To paraphrase a Medium article, women’s groups are a “hack,” i.e. a Band-Aid on a larger problem. We can’t fix the boys’ club that is our current society in one fell swoop, but we can equip women with opportunities to learn new skills and promote new interests that they might not find elsewhere.”

“We’re not all scientist and engineers,” Ochoa added. “Our group has a wide range of professionals and nonprofessionals. Our events can be artistic, physical, social, challenging, helpful and informative. You’re particular brand of nerdy is likely to show up in one of our events.”

Fresh off presenting a panel at the Wizard World Comic-Con in Tulsa last week, the Nerdy Girls are moving full steam ahead with further expansions of their Code Club (a “challenge” program to get more women involved in learning about how to code) and monthly book club, as well as hosting smaller, more casual events for the holiday season.

“You will be welcomed with open arms,” Beezley said. “We accept anyone who identifies as female from all different walks of life. We want to hear your stories, your experiences, what makes you, well, you. We know your first event can be a little intimidating. After all, the organizers have been newbies once too. But it’s ok to come to an event and say “Hey, I’m new!” We’re glad to have you.”

For more information on the Nerdy Girls, including events and how to become a member, click here: http://okc.nerdy-girls.org/

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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