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Making a name for Denton women in nerd culture

Making a name for Denton women in nerd culture

April 21
02:40 2016

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer


Local comic shop Freaks and Geeks is usually open at 10 p.m. on Mondays, but once a month the doors are closed and locked, and only the Mad Maidens remain.

Inside the shop, a group of women fill the room, talking about the newest “Saga” comic book and the upcoming “Captain America: Civil War” movie while creating action figures unique to their favorite powers and strengths. Freaks and Geeks co-owner Beth Baalman looks around at this group she had a part in creating and cannot help but smile.

“It’s hard to be a woman and be super nerdy,” Baalman said. “With two colleges in Denton, Mad Maidens offers this special dynamic to allow that culture to move forward. I wanted to fill this hole in Denton’s nerd community.”

Although this is only the second meeting of the Mad Maidens, an all-female nerd culture group, it’s beginning to gain momentum.

Breaking barriers

Baalman, along with a group of friends, got the idea to create Mad Maidens out of the need for a “nerd culture” outlet for women. The group, based out of Freaks and Geeks, gives them the opportunity to come together and celebrate their love of comics, games, movies – all keystones in nerd culture.

Comic book hero kits sit on the craft table at the Freaks and Geeks Mad Maiden event. The girls met up to craft their own heros. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Comic book hero kits sit on the craft table at the Freaks and Geeks Mad Maiden event. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

“Basically, as a lady, I talk to a lot of other women that come through the shop,” Baalman said. “A lot of them honestly wanted more nerdy lady friends, so I wanted a way for us girls in Denton to meet other like-minded people in this male-dominated culture.”

Member Katelyn Neff is one of Baalman’s friends who helped start the group. Neff said it’s hard being a woman who appreciates nerd culture because it always seems as though she is being interrogated.

“It’s fun hanging with the guys, but it’s like you’re always under pressure,” Neff said. “You’re supposed to know every single thing about nerd culture, or else you’re not considered a ‘fan.’”

To Baalman, women should not have to be quizzed over what they know in order to make a name in the nerd community. Instead, she said they should just be able to enjoy themselves.

“We like what we like and we shouldn’t be questioned for that,” Baalman said. “Whether we know every single detail about a certain fandom or just like to skim the surface.”

Starting small

Baalman, who enjoys comics such as “Fables” and “East of West,” felt she could include references and activities from various fandoms in order to show there is more to nerds than meets the eye.

Her goal is to structure each meeting around a different fandom.

“We want everyone to feel welcome each time we get together,” Baalman said. “We don’t want anyone to feel excluded or left out. Whether it’s a superhero movie night or just us reading and talking about our favorite comics. There’s this whole universe of possibilities.”

In Mad Maidens’ first meeting on March 21, Baalman planned a group meet-and-greet with a game of Cards Against Humanity to break the ice. During the meeting this past Monday, the group created its own custom action figures to reflect the personal preferences of its members.

Baalman said she doesn’t want to stop at just monthly meetings, or remain exclusive to women.

“It isn’t like we are anti-dude or anything,” Baalman said. “I’m hoping that maybe, eventually, we can do something like a co-op Mad Maidens Ball or group movie nights. But, at the heart of the group, it is about us girls.”

The Mad Maidens met up Monday night at Freaks and Geeks to create super heros. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

The Mad Maidens met up Monday night at Freaks and Geeks to create super heroes. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

For Freaks and Geeks co-owner Alec Featherstone, starting this group out of the shop was a no-brainer. Although Mad Maidens is separate from Freaks and Geeks, Featherstone was excited to see what the group had to bring, especially with Baalman leading.

“I personally feel that [women] are associated with nerd culture more so than men, but in the wrong light,” Featherstone said. “When Beth approached me with the idea, I was beyond excited for this group to take shape because I felt Mad Maidens [could] change that around.”

Whatever the group decides to do in the future, Neff said she is excited to finally have a place and group of women she can go to talk to, whether it be related to nerd culture or not.

“I feel like there has been this mutual want for a place for us girls to hang out,” Neff said. “It is just easier to meet other women who have the same interests as you without feeling out of place. It is kind of a relief.”

The group’s next meeting will be May 16, and Baalman is already hard at work planning it. But at the end of the day, she said she’s just excited to provide an outlet for Denton’s nerd community.

“It’s kind of magical, really,” Baalman said. “Just seeing the enthusiasm at our meetings has pushed me to keep going because I feel it’s something that us girls really needed, like a breath of fresh air.”

Featured Image: Freaks and Geeks owner Beth Baalman, middle, right paints super heros with the Mad Maidens on Monday night. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

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