Found another unicorn! We continue our mission of debunking the fake geek girl stereotype by shining a spotlight on another lady geek in our community. Megan Redlawsk (27) is an officer in the United States Navy. In her family, serving in the armed forces has become a tradition. Her father served in the Marines and the National Guard and her mother served in the Navy. In fact, Megan's mom has always been the dominant figure in her life and consequently inspired her to pursue a career in the Navy. Megan said: "I knew that what I wanted to do in the Navy was to be on a ship and part of that was because my mom always had great sea stories.” After high school, Megan decided to apply for the Naval Reserve Officer Training Course Scholarship and after receiving it, she completed a Bachelor's degree in History and has served the Navy for the last 6 years. She mentioned: "The main reason I like being on ships is the people I get to serve with and the people I get to lead. It’s also a great experience to drive a warship." Megan is very proud to be able to serve her country with the Navy and absolutely loves what she does. Like she said: “Nothing beats a sunset at sea. When I am away from land, there’s no light pollution and I look up and see the stars and the Milky Way… There are many careers I can do to serve my country but just being one of the few officers on a warship it’s a great opportunity. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been to eight countries either.”
In addition to her amazing work serving our country, Megan is also a geek. One of her earliest memories entails a tradition her family used to have when she was little: “Family bonding time meant we had dinner, do the dishes and then watch Star Trek: The Next Generation”. Megan is also a self-proclaimed bookworm. When she was 12 years old; her parents gave her "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" for Christmas. At first, she resisted reading the books because she was turned off by all the hype they were receiving. But, being a bookworm, Megan couldn't resist for long and decided to give them a chance. She said: “I thought they were AMAZING! The story, the magic and all the possibilities! That’s why I love fantasy, because anything is possible. It makes you want to read more.”
In addition to her love of Harry Potter, Megan is also a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and anything related to the Dark Knight himself, Batman. Furthermore, one of her role models is Mayim Hoya Bialik. Megan explained that even though she can relate to Mayim's character, Amy, on "The Big Bang Theory", she mostly admires her as an actress, activist, and neuroscientist. She said: “I love that she’s smart and is very passionate about her religion, her beliefs and her vegan lifestyle.”
For Megan, being a geek means liking things that are not necessarily conventional, feeling passionate about something, and not being afraid of expressing that passion with others. She said: “You can geek out about anything, it could be sports too.” She also mentioned that part of being a geek is finding like-minded people that can challenge you and introduce you to new things. Megan remembers being called a nerd and a geek in grade school because she enjoyed reading during recess and took her studies seriously: “They called me all sorts of things and when you’re 10 years old, it is really hard to deal with that kind of bullying.” As an adult, Megan mentioned that she has been called a geek and nerd as a joke, but she has learned how to respond to it: “I don’t take it as an insult; I take it as an opportunity to educate and explain.”
As an officer in the Navy, Megan has definitely learned the proper ways to deal with bullies. Being in a male-dominated line of work, she has experienced various sexist situations that have allowed her to learn how to stand up for herself as a woman and as an officer. From sailors blowing off her orders and unjustly criticizing her job performance to high rank officials making sexist jokes and references in her presence. She said: "I’ve grown a lot in the Navy and when I realized that I love what I am doing and that I am good at it, I decided that I wasn’t going to allow another person to speak to me in an unprofessional way. For these types of situations, you have to take care of it on the spot.” Megan confessed that she knows dealing with difficult people in her line of work will remain a problem, since the old school "boy's club" mentality is still prevalent in the armed forces, but she also admits that the culture is slowly changing for the better: “My first ship we had a 60-40% male to female ratio in the enlisted ranks and we had 8-9 female officers on board. I think the military is realizing that they need more women. We’re getting there.”
Aside from the fact that she's had to deal with a few bad apples outside of geek culture, Megan enjoys being a part of the geek community and all of her interactions with other geeks have been positive and welcoming. When she joined Ladies Geeking Out (LGO), she was looking for an outlet to get out and meet people that shared her interests. She explained that after joining the group, her geek interests have definitely expanded: “I never read comic books or had seen Doctor Who before joining the group. Dungeons & Dragons?! I thought that was way too nerdy for me, but then I decided to stop being judgmental, and try it... and I actually enjoyed it!” Megan also said that her perspective on female friendships improved after joining LGO. Due to her profession, she acknowledged that there aren't many opportunities to hang out with female friends and that her professional relationships are predominantly male. She said: "I’ve always been a tomboy too, so I never felt like I fit in with “girly girls” and I always thought female friendships were drama. But after joining LGO, I actually prefer to hang out with females, we understand each other.”
Ever since Megan joined LGO, she has shown great interest in exploring new fandoms, sharing her knowledge with others and creating many lasting friendships in the group. She recently hosted a fabulous Harry Potter celebration for LGO members which included Harry Potter-themed dishes and where she also encouraged attendees to dress up as their favorite Harry Potter characters. Megan is also passionate about social issues and she always supports fairness and justice. She is a great example of a woman that is not afraid of being herself and sharing her geeky side to the world. She is also a woman that is able to stand up for herself and others.
She's strong, brave, and compassionate. She's a leader. She's a geek.