Felicia Day is queen of the nerds. She is one of the most well known women in gaming and geek culture and, as most feminists know, that is not always a comfortable place for a woman, especially in the post #gamergate era. She’s also an actor, a writer, and I now know, a brilliant violinist. Although I can’t really relate to Felicia Day’s particular brand of insecure neuroses, I quite like her. I always like it when a woman unapologetically enters a realm that is most often thought of as a masculine space only. Hell, she’s on Supernatural, which is a boy’s club if I’ve ever seen one. Yes, Felicia Day works in a niche part of the entertainment industry that is historically controlled by males which makes for an interesting memoir.
(Mild spoilers ahead)
Without giving too much away about Felicia’s story, the book titled You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), follows her life from her years being home-schooled by her mother, who kinda sounds like the coolest mother in the world, all the way up until she starts her own company, Geek & Sundry, with her business partner. It’s a story about how one can become “weird” (which isn’t a negative thing in this context) by having an unusual upbringing and atypical interests (i.e., gaming, Perry Mason books, all things geek culture, etc). Being home-schooled only intensified Felicia’s self-described weirdness because she wasn’t aware that her personality or interests differed from similarly aged peers because she had none.
What I like about the book is its celebration of weirdness. Felicia encourages young women to be just as weird as they want to be and to explore interests that are just that: interests. Things that interest you. Try things out, no matter how odd they may seem to others, because it helps you find yourself. The picture that Felicia paints of herself as a young girl is of a young person who is struggling to figure out who they are in the absence of friends. She tried on various different identities for size and let them run their course. Felicia relates a story about how she tried being an astrologist but didn’t like being a Cancer. “At first I was disappointed that I’m a Cancer, and my birthstone is the pearl. I mean, one’s a deadly disease, the other is a gem for grandmas”. She “used the rules of Cancerdom” to figure out what she should do when she grew up.
“Of all the recommended Cancerian jobs, I settled on ‘antique dealer,’ and started collecting books on pottery patterns from the 1920s in order to get a head start on my future career. ‘Mom, for Christmas I want this Roseville calla lily vase. The pattern is just MARVELOUS'”.
Not a conversation I could see pre-pubescent me having with my mother. But then I didn’t have the sort of upbringing where I could embrace any and everything I wanted. Certainly that’s a privilege in it’s own right. Fortunately my daughters do have encouragement to be and do what they like and Felicia’s book reminded me of them. I realized that this freedom to embrace your weird is why I have two daughters with pink and purple hair respectfully who regularly get into rather heated fights about who’s the best doctor on Doctor Who.
Here’s the part where I’m going to interject some feminism into this review. It’s contrary to our values here at TRN to accuse someone of not being feminist enough so please don’t take my comments that way because it’s not intended like that at all. To my knowledge, Felicia has never referred to herself as a feminist but it’s really none of my business if she uses the title or not. She certainly has done much to encourage women in geek culture and gaming and for that, even if she doesn’t identify as feminist, I would give her an honorary designation if such things were up to me. Really what I want to say about feminism and Felicia Day is that as feminists, when we see someone, particularly someone who identifies as a woman, in a male dominated field, we secretly (or not so secretly) want them to identify as feminists or we want them to comment on feminism. You will not find that here; nor should we think that Felicia has an obligation to comment on feminist issues simply because she is a woman who makes a living doing “boy things”. Felicia dances around feminism a bit, particularly in her chapter about what happened to her during the #gamergate fiasco, but she does not directly call out the actions of the assholes responsible for #gamergate as misogynists or sexists. If you’re looking for a feminist analysis of #gamergate, check out Anita Sarkeesian because you won’t find it here.
My desire for Felicia to suddenly declare her feminism was something that I had to check myself on when I was reading the book because she did experience sexism along the way. Every time she would describe an incident of blatant sexism, I wanted to scream “FELICIA! HE’S A SEXIST! LET’S CALL A SPADE A SPADE!” Felicia described a time when she was taking an acting class and doing a scene with a guy from Breakfast at Tiffanys. The male actor came out completely naked. He didn’t tell her he was going to do this (Hello? Consent?!). She was shocked and struggled to complete the scene. The acting instructor proceeded to tell the male actor: “Nick, that was fabulous, so brave” and then said to Felicia, “Why are you here? You were given an opportunity to use Nick’s gift to you and you ruined it. Audrey Hepburn would be ashamed”. So, yeah, stuff like that. I wanted her to comment on the sexist nature of Hollywood but that’s unfair. This is a memoir; not a women’s studies book, not a feminist essay. It’s her story to tell.
You might also read this book and get a little miffed about the privilege stuff. Felicia talks about growing up with very little money and those of us that grew up on food stamps know that private music tutors are not part of the deal. Again, I reminded myself that not everyone thinks about privilege in the way that feminists do and this is not a book about feminism.
I don’t believe that someone has to say in no uncertain terms that they’re a feminist. Actions are more important than words anyway. I know that Felicia tends to be on the internet a little bit given her work and it wouldn’t surprise me if she somehow came across this review but I realize that she could never acknowledge it because it has the word “feminist” in the title and the small but vocal percentage of gamers who are total fucking assholes would rip her apart for coming anywhere near feminism which they have done in the past. So, maybe it’s a strategic decision to simply walk the walk and not talk the talk.
Felicia Day has given us a fantastic woman character on Supernatural (a tough thing to do), The Guild (which you must watch on Netflix if you haven’t seen it), and now this book which is funny, and real, and relatable. There are a few chapters on Felicia’s mental health struggles which I think people will really relate to. If you’ve ever been completely immobilized by anxiety, Felicia feels you. I enjoyed reading about Felicia’s life. She has an engaging writing style and I love the quirky way she looks at life. So, I say, give this book a shot. Especially if you’re a bit of a weirdo and aren’t we all?