Feminerd, the one-woman cabaret written and performed by Adele Scott, is a joyous celebration of girl-geekdom and a PSA on sexism in nerd culture. Blessed be the union between feminists and nerds.

I’ve identified as a nerd for most of my life. What began with my first viewing of the 1986 film Labyrinth on my parents’ VHS player blossomed into a lifetime of epic adventures in the worlds of science-fiction, fantasy and horror. I also identify strongly as a feminist, so when I heard about a Melbourne cabaret called Feminerd, I was helpless to resist. Hosted at The Butterfly Club in one of Melbourne’s trendy laneways, Feminerd engages its audience in a silly, flamboyant and powerful dialogue about nerd culture, cultural gate-keeping and gendered harassment in the geek community.

shut-up-and-take-my-moneyI booked my ticket without really giving any thought to the content of the show or whether I would enjoy myself – the contraction of feminist and nerd was as good a reason to commit as any. I couldn’t imagine a universe where I didn’t see this show. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.

As we entered the performance area, the delicate notes of “Concerning Hobbits” journeyed the air, played by a hooded figure sitting passively on the stage. This was a good decisionThroughout the performance, Scott sampled liberally from the annals of science-fiction and fantasy to frame entertaining  anecdotes about her experiences as a geek and the curious social denial of geeks from the culture of “cool”. Scott humorously portrayed her entry into geek culture as an awkward “coming-of-age” wherein she discards her social inhibitions and joyously embraces her inner nerd – often in song, to the delight of the audience. My favourite show tune was the YouTube number. The verses bounced rhythmically to the click-whirr of a digital soundscape in the background, the subject being perfectly harmonised with the performance leading to the overall effect of tumbling down an internet rabbit-hole. Very cool.

Somewhere between chatting with the audience about Buffy and a touching lyrical tribute to her husband the non-nerd, things turned serious. A few years ago, Scott posted a Facebook status recounting a story about when her cousin tried to buy gaming cards from a speciality store in Melbourne and was turned away and told to find a hobby “more gender friendly”.

Adele FB Post


It quickly went viral with countless women sharing stories of being shamed, ridiculed, rejected, or lead to believe that their brand of “geek” was not “geeky” enough. It’s called cultural gate-keeping, and its a phenomenon whereby certain members of a cultural group feel the right to delimit and patrol the boundaries of that group and to determine whether new-comers (or just women, apparently) pass their invisible litmus test for entry.


As evidenced by the viral popularity of Scott’s Facebook post, this is all too common in geek culture, particularly as it applies to women. In fact, it’s so common, there is a meme dedicated to shaming “fake geek girls”, a pernicious stereotype about women used to invalidate their attempts to engage with geek culture. None of us, it seems, are immune. I’ve been told on a number of occasions that I’m not “geeky enough” for a variety of ridiculous reasons. As Scott puts it:

Women feeling unwelcome within geek culture and nerd circles is a real thing. Even though there are so many amazing human beings in these places, there is a small vocal minority who are trying to bar entry to women. They make us feel a little bit like Loki trying to pick up Mjolnir. We are not worthy. It is bullshit though, we are totally worthy! Claiming that we are “fake geek girls” that we are only pretending to be interested in these movies, books and games is utter rot. It’s a bit like if a guy were to turn up to a football club to watch a game, and some other guy says “Hey, I haven’t seen you around, why are you here?” and the first guys would say “Cause I love Collingwood! Yay sports!” and then the second guy being like “Yeah, but were you at the 1990 grand final? NO! YOU ARE A FAKE FAN! Get out.” Nonsense right?


In it’s simplest form, cultural gate-keeping is a form of control; yet, the need to refuse women entry into a vibrant cultural scene with which they strongly identify is baffling. Not to mention the fact that the notion that women should be granted entry implies that they are somehow peripheral to the scene.  I could say that most girl geeks have been involved in fandom for years, or that their cosplays rival period-piece costume designs, or that I’ve felt woefully ill-equipped to engage in conversation with comics fan-girls due to their considerable breadth of knowledge, but the truth is, it doesn’t matter. Geek culture is about like-minded folk getting together to celebrate their mutual love of popular culture. That’s it. Scott’s performance is a timely reminder of this and it serves as call for discussion on the curious policing of women and their interests in this space. Best of all, the performance included an invitation to drink blue milk in the bar after the show, where our host graciously met with the audience and spent time geeking out.


Sadly, Feminerd finished its run on Monday, but hopefully Scott’s show attracts enough attention to warrant a second go. In the meantime, as a wise man once said, take care of yourself and each other.

Feature image via www.thebutterflyclub.com