You might have seen the story bandied about the internet. The story of Katie, a 7-year-old girl in Illinois who was teased for bringing a Star Wars water bottle to school, because Star Wars is “for boys” (apparently). This prompted her mother, a blogger at ChicagoNow, to write a post about bullying and teasing, which brought the tale of this little Star Wars fan to the geeky masses. Suddenly, the story was hitting news outlets like The Huffington Post, and the Geek Girl troops were rallied. #MayTheForceBeWithKatie became a popular hashtag on Twitter, and a Facebook event was created to show Katie, and all little girls who enjoy science fiction, that they should be proud to enjoy whatever they like! I had a chance to speak with Katie’s mother, Carrie Goldman, about the “Wear Star Wars/Share Star Wars” event this Friday, and how Katie’s been handling all the attention and geeky commiseration
Teresa Jusino: What’s the reaction been like from other parents with whom you associate, or from kids that go to Katie’s school after her story exploded the way it did? Do you find that parents see this as a way to teach their children about teasing and bullying?
Carrie Goldman: There has been some amazed disbelief by the other parents at school, but in a positive way. I was worried about a backlash from the parents of the first grade boys, but fortunately, they have all been supportive. To protect Katie from that situation, I have told her that she is NOT to reveal the names of the boys involved, because I want to protect their privacy. After all, they are just little boys. Katie has been excellent about not naming them publicly. We also have protected the name of her school so that Jedis won’t show up there! The other parents have read my article and many of them have passed it around on their own Facebook pages, so I think they are proud of the way that the school and the community have responded. And, yes, people are definitely talking about teasing and bullying.
TJ: I know that you’ve been trying to keep it from getting too overwhelming for her, but how does Katie feel about all the attention she’s gotten?
Carrie Goldman: Katie does not want too much of a spotlight on her. Although she is very outgoing and talkative when she is comfortable, she gets shy around people she does not know. But she warms up quickly! Still, a few days into the whole Star Wars explosion, she had trouble falling asleep, and when I sat on the bed to talk to her about it, she admitted that she felt “cuckoo.” That was the night after she spoke to the Tribune and also gave an interview to WGN, and I decided that she was done giving interviews. From now on, I will do interviews without her. She is just a little girl, and it is my job to give her a normal life. Her life is not going to be lived on TV. It is not a reality show. It is fine for me to speak publicly, because I am an adult and I am comfortable speaking and advocating, and I can handle the pressure. But I don’t want to subject her to the pressure. So, no more interviews for Katie. And once I made that decision, I was glad, because the next day CNN and MSNBC asked us to do live national interviews, and I said I would do them without Katie, and it was great. Katie is back to acting like herself, and she is really enjoying the Star Wars explosion as long as she doesn’t have to talk publicly. She REALLY loves reading the comments and emails and messages. She gets a wonderful smile, and she is awed by the support.
TJ: How did Katie get to be a Star Wars fan in the first place? What sparked her interest in it?
Carrie Goldman: Katie idolizes her daddy, and she noticed at a very young age (2 or 3) that he is a Star Wars fan. She becomes very “fanatic” about his same interests, and so in addition to Star Wars, she is a big Chicago White Sox fan, a Harry Potter fan, a Narnia fan…she loves science fiction and fantasy stories.
TJ: I think that using the support Katie’s received to spread the Star Wars love to needy children was a great idea. How would you recommend people take part in that? Are there any specific organizations you’d like this effort to support?
Carrie Goldman: A Facebook event has been created on December 10th called “Support Star Wars and Geek Pride for Katie.” So far 12,700 people are participating. Basically, people are going to wear Star Wars clothing that day in support of Katie. My husband and I have asked to remarket the event as “Wear Star Wars/ Share Star Wars” and we would like every person who participates to donate a Star Wars or science fiction toy to a hospital or shelter or low income child that day. And we hope that the donors will include a Post-It note that specifies that the toy can go to a boy or a girl, not just a boy. Katie has received such an outpouring of love and support; we want to spread that goodwill around to other kids. Every kid deserves to feel supported. As far as specific organizations, I think that people should donate to whatever feels special to them. Katie was in foster care when we adopted her, so of course we like to donate to children in foster care or group homes.
Do you hear that, Star Wars fans? December 10th is Wear Star Wars/Share Star Wars Day! Geeks of all stripes are encouraged to participate by wearing Star Wars clothing, or the garb of whatever fandom you choose, and donating a sci-fi toy to a children’s charity. I will be rocking a Star Trek shirt and donating a Clone Wars graphic novel and an Ashoka Tano action figure to a children’s charity in Katie’s honor. And I’ll be labeling it “FOR A GIRL.”
Teresa Jusino was born on the same day that Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShop Magazine, Pink Raygun, Newsarama, and Pop Matters. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres, and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in the upcoming book Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, coming in March 2011! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.