Most of us were bullied as kids at some point or another, and it’s heartbreaking to know nothing has really changed (in some ways it’s only gotten worse). Social teaches kids to attack anyone different from the crowd and Layla from Virginia was just a recent target. A huge sci-fi geek, Layla would get picked on at school for liking Star Wars and wearing a Guardians of the Galaxy t-shirt.
Luckily, a local chapter of the 501st Legion (a Star Wars fan community dedicated to costuming-they can be found at most promotional events for anything related to the franchise) heard about the situation. They presented her with a storm trooper outfit that other girls around the country had gotten to wear after going through similar bullying for liking various geeky or sci-fi stuff. Katie Goldman was the original recipient who was teased over her Star Wars water bottle. It got to where she begged her mother to buy her a pink one so boys would leave her alone. The next girl, Allison, had been harassed for liking Star Wars and Spiderman.
The important thing to note here it that the girls weren’t necessarily getting harassed because they were into traditionally nerdy things-they were getting bullied because they were girls who were into those things. Their classmates insisted that only boys could like those things. While we know that’s ridiculous (especially in the case of Star Wars, a franchise insanely influential on popular culture and filmmaking), it does raise points about how popular media is often categorized into being only for one gender. There is no real reason for this-anyone should be able to enjoy anything they like, and what always happens is that whatever is designated for women is mocked or seen as lower art. Another prevalent phenomenon surrounding women in geek culture is getting accused of being a “Fake Geek Girl”-where it’s implied these women are only pretending to be interested in something for the attention of men. My favorite time this happened to me was when I was wearing a Captain America shirt and some guy smirked at me and said “You don’t even like comics do you?” Five minutes into a conversation about comics, and he confessed to not knowing who my favorite Avenger was-The Scarlet Witch.
But while this is an annoyingly sexist ongoing issue in the geek community, it’s important to focus on positive things. Part of the community banded together to help one of their own in a time of need. Layla was even able to meet Weird Al at a concert the 501st Legion were participating in and is proud to carry her geeky stuff to school again. Bullying is a hard thing to go through, but it can help to know fellow fans are around to support you.