Abrams: Female geeks an underserved audience for TheMarySue.com

When Dan Abrams launches TheMarySue.com next year, he’ll be targeting an audience that he believes is widely underserved: female geeks.

TheMarySue.com will feature content on topics such as video games, comics and women in technology, and will be curated from a female geek perspective.

“A lot of it is going to be, ‘here are the cool things on the Internet,’ but it’s from the sensibility of women who are really knowledgeable about the tech and geek world,” MSNBC’s Abrams said in a phone interview.

TheMarySue.com, which is set to launch in early February, is among Abrams’ latest efforts as a Web entrepreneur. Earlier this week he announced that he also plans to launch Mogulite — a site about famous business personalities — as well as a media-related job postings board. Abrams is also the creator of SportsGrid, Styleite, Mediaite and Geekosystem.

TheMarySue.com will be similar to Geekosystem — “a geek guide to tech and Internet culture” — but will highlight content that’s of greater interest to women. This type of content is often buried on Geekosystem, Abrams said, and on the Internet at large.

“We believe there really isn’t a lot out there that has a female geek sensibility,” Abrams said. “There’s an enormous opportunity on the Web for women-oriented content.”

Although the content on TheMarySue.com is intended to be of interest to female geeks, Abrams said he hopes the site will attract women in general.

“The goal of this site is to be of interest as much to a mainstream female audience as it is to a geek female audience,” Abrams said. “We’re hoping that a lot of the content will be really interesting to women who don’t know a ton about the ins and outs of particular video games but who will see something on the site and say, ‘How amazing, that’s really interesting.’ ”

Susana Polo, who will be editor of TheMarySue.com, said she’s excited about the opportunity to carve out a new space for women on the Web.

“One of the things you want to do as a girl geek is you just want to play with the boys; you want to be part of that culture,” said Polo, who currently writes for Geekosystem. “I think there’s value in having our own space.”

She explained by phone that the name of the site is an ironic twist on the Mary Sue character in fan fiction. A Mary Sue is typically a beautiful female character who represents a standard of perfection that’s impossible to live up to.

“I feel that that is a very familiar concept to women in the geek world,” Polo said. “Women in the sciences often feel that they must be twice as competent as their male counterparts to get to the same regard. If society expects us to be a Mary Sue, well, we can certainly try, but in the meantime we’d like to giggle while pointing out the hypocrisy of the whole thing.”

Ultimately, Polo said she wants to help amplify female geeks’ voices, which she believes can get muffled on sites that have a greater percentage of male readers.

Many of the publications that appeal to women interested in technology and gaming attract more males than females. Geekosystem’s readers, for instance, are about 65 percent male, while Wired’s readers are 80 percent male. Some tech publications, including Wired, have recently been criticized for not featuring enough women in technology on their covers.

Polo stressed that TheMarySue.com isn’t specifically about women in tech, but said she cares about this topic and plans to write about it for the site. She hopes to approach it in a celebratory manner rather than lamenting the lack of coverage about women’s contributions to the tech world.

“I don’t want to the site to just be wah wah wah, we’re not accepted; I want to showcase exemplary women,” Polo said by phone. “And I hope it’s a place where women can get news about the subjects they might be interested in that aren’t necessarily covered by a broader female site.”

In addition to her editing duties, Polo will curate and write much of the site’s content. She plans to carry over some of the features that have proven popular on Geekosystem, including “power grids” — essentially “top 10″ lists. Some of the power grids Polo has written for Geekosystem include “The 10 Worst Exes in Geekdom,” “The 10 Worst Educational Environments in Geekdom,” and “The 10 Greatest Geeky Mothers.”

A female intern will help Polo produce some of these grids and other content. Abrams said he may hire more people if the site does as well as he expects.

The success of any site, Abrams said, is dependent upon three key factors: quality content, traffic and advertising. He’s confident that TheMarySue.com will attract both advertisers and a community of readers who can relate to the site’s female perspective.

“I really don’t think that there’s anything exactly like this out there, and I think it will be refreshing to see another perspective,” Abrams said. “We’ve done our homework and we’re convinced there’s a fairly large, underserved community who will find this site to be of great interest.”

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  • http://hyel.dreamwidth.org/ Hyel

    Is this a joke? You’re just baiting us, aren’t you.

  • http://stakebait.livejournal.com/ Stakebait

    This female geek is thinking no. Mary Sue is, IME, more about authors inserting a clumsy proxy for the idealized self than the expectations of others, as described in the article. Either way, Mary Sue is implausibly loved by the other fictional characters, but she’s deservedly loathed by the actual fans. It’s a put down. As such, I would no more identify as a Mary Sue, even ironically, than I would frequent a geek site named “iliveinmyparentsbasementanddontshower.com”.

    Also I am finding plenty of geek girl content out there in forums founded by actual geek girls. Which doesn’t mean I mind another one, or that male ownership necessarily invalidates what’s written by women there — I adore Salon’s Broadsheet, and I’m pretty sure Salon is not woman-owned. But there’s a definite sense of condescension in the idea that there wasn’t anyplace out there for geek women to tell their story until some guy made them a sandbox to play in. Dude, that happened a while ago — we call it LiveJournal/Blogger/Typepad/Facebook/The Internet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1193706010 Sarah Cummins

    Oh, thank God a dude is here to tell me what I needed. My silly female brain couldn’t deal alone!

    Proptip, dude: these spaces exist, and they’re not run by men condescending to me. I’ll pass.

  • http://twitter.com/leeflower Annalee

    Um. The blog being described already exists. There are a few of them, in fact, and they manage the female perspective by being actually owned by women.

    Good thing The Menz have decided to come in and show us how “our perspective” is done! And oh look, they’re off to a great start! They know so much about the female geek perspective that they don’t know that “Mary Sue” is a term used to BELITTLE geek women by suggesting they’re only interested in badly-written wish-fulfillment fanfic authored by very immature, self-involved writers. Way to go there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1380441375 Stacy Jo Vanden Heuvel

    Ditch the video game idea. Who cares? Not this Mary Sue with a female geek sensibility.

  • http://twitter.com/mauramaura Maura Youngman

    I actually kind of like the name Mary Sue. Brings me back to my youthful/awful fanfiction writing days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000828576445 JoAnn Kawell

    Ugh. I am so turned off by the cutesy name –”Mary Sue” please!– that I can’t imagine ever using this site. And I am certainly in the target audience. Are they going to make it pink and scattered with Barbie dolls and teddy bears, too?