“That is a bridge too far. That’s right, I read World War II history, motherf***er!” – Angie Jordan (Sherri Shepherd), 30 Rock
Here’s your 40-second challenge for the day: get a piece of scrap paper and draw a WWII buff. Or, if no paper is available, close your eyes and draw a WWII buff in your mind.
You drew a white man in his 50s, didn’t you?
It may surprise you that tons of women and girls are WWII buffs (and Civil War buffs, and every other kind of buff.) It surprised me, because I used to think I was a bit of a freak. I’ve been a WWII buff ever since I read the American Girl Molly books in elementary school…and I am mos def not alone. I recently went on YouTube and looked up videos of teenage girls talking about books, and you’d be surprised how many of them named The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray as all-time favorites. One English girl was talking about how she went out and read everything she could get her hands on about the Nazis after reading The Book Thief and it hit me so hard I burst out laughing: these girls are all WWII buffs! They’ve just never self-identified as such because it’s understood that WWII buffs are old white guys.
The female WWII buffs I’ve encountered on the internet and in real life are less likely than the regular old white guys to be able to recite trivia about ships, artillery, and troop movements. We ladies tend to focus on the stories that came out of the war. Like all stereotypes, this isn’t universal, but I’ve found it broadly applicable. Part of it is probably socialization: guns and strategy games are for boys, storytelling and emotions are for girls. Yet two more important factors may be empathy and historical fact. A man studying war wonders what it would have been like to fight; he imagines the soldier’s world and ends up studying the soldier’s world. By contrast, a woman would almost certainly have been a civilian (most, though not all, female heroes of WWII exercised their badassery in auxiliary roles, as nurses, underground resistance fighters, spies, and the like.) When a woman considers the World Wars, she struggles to picture what it would have been like to live during that time in the more general sense, and her studies reflect that. This does not make her any less of a WWII buff. If you’ve got the bug, you’ve got the bug.
Now, I know about those ridiculous Tumblrs where idiots “fangirl” over pictures of Himmler and Goebbels, but that’s just Tumblr being Tumblr. Tumblr is why we can’t have nice things. But you wouldn’t ask a male WWII buff if it was all about him finding female concentration camp guards hot. He’d look at you like you were crazy. Yet this is something people have asked me, to my face. “Is it the uniforms?” UGH, NO. Yet another nerd girl problem you would never expect.
Ladies, we need to represent. We gotta stand up and say, “We read WWII history, motherf***er!” ’cause it’s just that hip to be square.