Suddenly, Katie burst into tears.
She wailed, "The first grade boys are teasing me at lunch because I have a Star Wars water bottle. They say it's only for boys. Every day they make fun of me for drinking out of it. I want them to stop, so I'll just bring a pink water bottle."
I hugged her hard and felt my heart sink. Such a tender young age, and already she is embarrassed about the water bottle that brought her so much excitement and joy a few months ago.
I cried when I first read the story, and I start to tear up every time I re-read it.
Katie's mother writes a blog for a Chicago outlet and wrote about what happened to Katie, hoping to get some responses and support for her daughter. I suspect she had no idea what was about to happen.
Her blog story was picked up by another website. And from there, it went viral. It quickly spread throughout Twitter and Facebook and other outlets as people found out about Katie's story. Girls and women everyone who shared Katie's love and who had been through what Katie went through shared their stories as well. And some people associated with Star Wars also found out about Katie, and she received support and offers from many of them. One interesting part is that there's another female named Katie who loves Star Wars. She's written a couple of episodes for "The Clone Wars", the Star Wars animated series. And she's also adopted. Her dad happens to be George Lucas.
Katie's story was posted on the official Star Wars blog. And other websites picked up on the story as well.
And while there was an outpouring of support for Katie from the Star Wars community in particular and the geek community at large, it wasn't just about Katie or Star Wars. It was about an experience shared by many, singled out for being different, for going against the norm, being picked on just for being who you are. There's been a lot of discussion about bullying in schools and elsewhere lately, and I think this was just a situation that resonated in that same vein. We've all been there, just like Katie, and not just when we were kids. Even as adults, there may be interests we have that others don't share and therefore decide to make fun of.
Katie's mom wrote an update about the situation. I particularly love the story about Katie talking to the little boy who likes My Little Pony. Yeah, tears again.
CNN even picked up on the story. This article is about the misperceived balance of males and females in geekdom.
"It's always been very gender-balanced. It has this misconception that it's about the guys living in their basements. Our audience has been about 50-50," said Dave Howe, president of the newly rebranded Syfy network (formerly SciFi). "I think it's one of those urban myths that's existed for a very long time: They are the stereotypical sci-fi fan, and people ignore women and families ... dating back to when we were all at school."
And this CNN article has a good summary of Katie's story, with some extra tidbits as well.
Today, December 10, Katie's school is having Proud To Be Me Day. A movement arose to support Katie and others like her by wearing Star Wars paraphernalia today. So today, I will be wearing a t-shirt that someone gave me for my birthday multiple years ago. Yes, I was well into adulthood, and the person who gave me the t-shirt was actually my boss at the time, who has since become a friend, because he knew how much I like Star Wars.
Be proud to be you. #MayTheForceBeWithKatie