“When they take of their glasses and put down their hair”: Defogging the Glasses Girl Stereotypes

Part 2

Things He Says:

Are you the geeky type or the sexy librarian type?

Thing She Says:

This post further explores the other side of the glasses coin, about the geeky girl and sexy librarian tropes. To read Part 1 about being a babe behind glasses, click here.

Geeky Girl or Sexy Librarian

Also because I wear glasses 24/7 (except for when I’m sleeping), I’ve been referred to as both a geek and a sexy librarian. When asked if I’m basically a sexy glasses-wearer or a nerdy/geeky glasses-wearer, I want to say that I’m just a glasses-wearer—no skirts or gaming controllers included. These two roles are seen as contradictory rather than complementary. When guys ask me this, that makes me think that I must be one or the other.

What do these categories mean?

These opposing depictions of females wearing glasses have different connotations. Is one depiction more attractive than the other? In my experience, most men want sexy librarians and make a sour face when it comes to geeky girls. (Maybe I’m just thinking about my high school band days…who wants to be with that geeky band girl? Ew.)

(Freaks and) Geeks

What do they even mean by “geeky girl”? The people’s dictionary distinguishes nerd from geek:

  • Nerd: smart; lacks social skills; nice but reclusive
  • Geek: not necessarily smart; more social with fellow geeks; into video games, comic books, fandoms (like Doctor Who)

Here, geek has more of a positive meaning, yet the geeky girls who play video games are often assaulted online just because they’re women.

In 2014, a movement called #GamerGate revealed the widespread harassment women gamers face online. Angry misogynists took to the Internet and gaming platforms to vent their hostility toward these geeky girls, sending them rape and death threats. Feminist Frequency founder and media critic Anita Sarkeesian created a YouTube series on gaming to point out the sexist representations of women characters in video games. She calls GamerGate “a scary, violent, abusive, temper tantrum” that’s “an attack and an assault on women in the gaming industry. Its purpose is to silence women, and if they can’t, they attempt to discredit them.” Not all male gamers are intent on terrorizing women, but GamerGate brings to light the rampant sexism in video game culture.

Men are also victims of this geek/nerd distinction. On TV and in films, a nerdy man is unattractive and lives in his mother’s basement. A geeky man is psyched about Game of Thrones and Minecraft. It goes both ways with men and women (and eHarmony and Cosmopolitan want you to date a nerdy guy). So is being referred to as a geek or nerd a bad thing?

Sexy Librarian

The other glasses-wearing gender stereotype I’ve encountered is the sexy librarian.

Close your eyes. Imagine a sexy librarian. Did you picture a female with her hair in a bun, wearing glasses, an open blouse, a skirt, and/or knee-high socks? Don’t worry, so did I. The same holds for a secretary and school girl (like “Hit Me Baby One More Time”—with glasses).

Librarians have clearly become a sexual fetish in popular imagination. Is the librarian an extension of the nerdy bookworm, who is defined as being quiet, shy, and vulnerable (and goes back to the whole geeky/nerdy gender stereotype)? (Hey, even eHarmony wants you to also date a librarian…)

When I search “librarian with glasses,” articles about how to wear the sexy librarian look instantly emerge. Why does even Google automatically connect librarian with sexiness? And why is the librarian sexy in the first place? Is it because she’s stern, closed, and buttoned-up? Is it because she’s surrounded by a wealth of books? Maybe it’s because librarians are most often depicted as prudish and repressed on the surface with her persistent “Shhh”s and scowls, but really closet an untamed sexuality beneath her strict façade. Maybe it’s because librarians are seen as a source of knowledge that must be acquired through conquest. As a book is opened to reveal information, the librarian must also be opened to access the information between her legs—the male fantasy.

I have a fantasy, he says, of a librarian. Aimee Bender, “Quiet Please”

The sexy librarian is an almost an exclusively female stereotype, despite the Men of the Stacks taking on a steamy librarian version of the hot firemen calendar. The American Library Association reveals this gender discrepancy, illustrating that there are unsurprisingly more female librarians and library directors—both of whom earn a lower salary than their male counterparts. The closest male equivalent to the sexy librarian I can think of is the hot English professor—intellectual af, reads your favorite books, probably has tattoos, and often has some emotional baggage (think Ezra Fitz).

So back to the question. Are you the geeky type or the sexy librarian type?

When I search “babe with glasses,” Google gives me all porn sites. “Big breasted cute girl with glasses fucked and jizzed in,” for example. Women who wear glasses (whether considered attractive or not) are mostly thought of in sexual terms, as the beautiful swan and sexy librarian stereotypes suggest. Like it or not, we’ve become Halloween and frat party costumes (not to mention the CEOs and office hoes theme), while men wearing glasses have become the Clark Kents here to save the day.

Why are we put into these categories?

There isn’t anything wrong with a little bidirectional flirtation, but the danger lies in the loaded meanings these roles carry. Too many times I’ve been called a “sexy librarian,” just because my vision isn’t 2020 and I’m wearing something on my face. Just because I use glasses to see doesn’t mean I want to be told I look smarter, sexier, uglier, geekier. I don’t want my eyewear and gender to make me look like something I’m not. Mia Thermopolis wouldn’t put up with this sexist stereotyping, and neither do I.

Helpful resources:
Book Riot
Nerd Girls
XO Jane
The Geeky Girls
Girls With Glasses

“When they take of their glasses and put down their hair”: Defogging the Glasses Girl Stereotypes

Part 1

Things He Says:

Are you the geeky type or the sexy librarian type?

Thing She Says:

I wear glasses. Not for fashion. Not to attract suitors.

I’ve worn glasses my whole life because I have strabismus and poor vision, but often this necessary accessory elicits unwanted comments. In elementary school, kids who wear glasses are called “four eyes.” In middle school, they’re called “nerds.” But when they become adults, an unusual shift occurs, and they’re transformed. For those of us who remain bespectacled in our adulthood, former insults turn into pickup lines and wearing glasses often becomes a seductive aesthetic.

When men flirt with me, they comment on my eyewear. It’s something I don’t ask for but something I’ve come to expect. For the sole fact that I wear glasses, I will be asked one of two things (or even both):

  1. Can I see you without your glasses? or
  2. Are you the geeky type or the sexy librarian type?

While the first question kindly asks for my consent (and my answer is always “no”) and the second seems like harmless teasing, both illustrate in different ways what men think about women—as beautiful swans hiding under glasses, sexy scholars, or geeky girls.

These perceptions pose problems, and we’ll unwrap their meanings here.

Ugly Duckling to Beautiful Swan

Mia Thermopolis plucked her brows, straightened her untamed locks, and swapped her glasses for a tiara in order to become the Princess of Genovia. Laney Boggs lost her artsy frames for Freddie Prinze’s prom queen antics. For teenagers in unforgiving high schools, wearing glasses royally sucked. But put on some makeup, wear less clothing, and Ms. Unpopular becomes the “It Girl” on campus. Everyone realizes she was beautiful all along.

But this isn’t just fiction. I think about these strong heroines when men are curious what I look like without glasses. Without knowing it, they’re reaffirming the narrative of ugly duckling to beautiful swan—that behind every frumpy girl in glasses is a bombshell of a babe. From a woman’s perspective, this makes me feel that I’m ugly or insufficient as I am and need to change (remember that reality series about women who underwent plastic surgery to become beautiful?). I don’t hide behind glasses because I secretly want a man to make me beautiful. I wear glasses so I can see!

Women aren’t the only victims of this ugly duckling narrative, as the 2005 reality show Beauty and the Geek, produced by Ashton Kutcher, capitalized off of the transformation of glasses-wearing men. This sex swap illustrates that women aren’t the only ones subject to others’ superficial perceptions based on what they wear on their face. However, it’s more frequent that movies and shows—like Ugly Betty, The Princess Diaries, and She’s All That—in pop culture ingrain this harmful idea into our minds that a woman who wears glasses is more beautiful without her lenses.

A guy once told me he liked my faded blue-silver frames. But when we were fogging up the windows of his car he told me to take off my “stupid fucking glasses.” I don’t ask a man on a first date what he looks like without glasses. Because I wear glasses, I expect the same respect.


Read about the other gender stereotypes revolving around glasses here.