What it means to be “More Geeky” and Women in our Culture

So you have this awful article and this awesome rebuttal but I gotta put my two cents in.

Geekdom isn’t a score or a spectrum or anything. It’s a hugely complex Venn diagram and even that isn’t correct. It’s a huge umbrella for some related and unrelated interests that can exist together or independently from each other.. My mom like’s Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Tetris. I like most nerdy things under the sun to some level or another. Between us, where does one become a “geek”? Does it matter? I can talk to my mother about all those things at it isn’t substantially different from talking about it with another geek.

My geekness is empowering. My interests are spread out in so many different directions, I can have a conversation with everyone. Video games? Check. Fantasy Novels and Sci Fi? Check. Star wars and/or/vs Star Trek? Check. Science? Check. Anime? Check. PnP RPGs? Check. Magic the Gathering? Check…. and atop that, tons of things I know just enough about to keep up in a conversation. If I excluded everyone who didn’t come close to my scale of nerd-dom, I’d have like, one or two friends. But my geekiness is a tool that helps me relate to people, not exclude them. It should be for everyone.

An irony to me also is that there are even more “fake” (by the standards of the people writing these ‘Imma ‘fraid of wimmin’ articles) male nerds than female ones. Chris Hardwick from The Nerdist is a favorite. He kinda likes a few big cultural touchstone things (Star Wars, Star Trek) and recently got into Dr. Who. If he was a woman, he’d be called out by everyone for being fake. But who cares? He’s a smart, interesting guy who appreciates the culture even if he’s in the shallow end and knows enough about other topics (Comedy, Bowling) to be really interesting. People would go after Morgan Webb on X-Play, but you see her listing her favorite games as things like Combat and Phantasy Star, and Sessler giving flavor-of-the-month games like Halo or Call of Duty. I’m not saying we should even hassle Sessler about it either — he’s just in the more “normal” area of the Great Geek Diagram. We should celebrate what we all have in common and not the fact that we’re in the more nerdy side of things than he is.

Some nerds might go “Well us down here who are deep into stuff APPRECIATE OUR MEDIA MORE INTELLIGENTLY AND AWESOMELY”. Yeah, right, you wish. I see plenty of hardcore nerds with awful, shallow opinions about the things they like. I could probably have a better conversation about the Merits of the Starwars original trilogy than I could the typical geek who reads the extended series. Most video game nerds can barely have a decent conversation with me because they just haven’t thought about their opinions enough.

Also lets kill the “THEY’RE DOING IT FOR ATTENTION” nonsense with sexy cosplayers. If you’re so insecure in your nerdiness that you seriously think that, I have bad news for you. You probably became a nerd for attention too. You probably retreated from harsh reality into nerdy things to find a safer space where you would be treated kindly. People like attention. I like attention, you like attention, she likes attention. SO WHAT? So if a cosplay girl (who probably is actually pretty geeky. Just doing cosplay and costuming is a cool facet of geekdom by its self), is doing it almost all for the attention, I’m honored she picked some of my interests to use as a vector. Also it’s not like guys don’t cosplay things they don’t know a lot about either. If you’re doing really good costuming, your body type and look severely limits your options. Their fandom involves finding cool looking stuff and bringing it into reality. Deep appreciation for the source material isn’t required — they’re appreciating art and design and not at a shallow level. They’re appreciating it in a way you probably would have a hard time keeping up with because that’s their specialty.

There is no “geek cred”. You don’t go to Geek Credit Report dot Com to find out if you’re geeky enough to go to Comic Con or wear a costume. There are no walls or boundaries. You’re not a better human being, or a more analytic or intelligent human being for being geekier. You just have a set of interests like everyone else in the world. So does she. Stop hassling her over it.

14 thoughts on “What it means to be “More Geeky” and Women in our Culture

  1. To my mind, this phenomenon exists because of the complex reinforced into geeky males.
    Essentially, that they aren’t worthy of respect and there’s no value in what they love the most.
    So they see attention from females out of nowhere and I think this is their response:

    “Oh really? You like the same *weird* nerdy things as we do? The same things that everybody marginalizes us for? The same things that the culture at large is inherently suspicious of, telling us over and over that our most worthwhile experiences are a waste of time? Gee, since I was in middle school, I’ve been held in contempt by everybody outside of my circle of all-male friends. Where were you then? Right, you were holding us in the same contempt, of course. Ignoring us or outright bullying us. So yeah, sorry, I just don’t buy it. You’re putting us on. You’re appropriating. You still hold us in contempt and you always will.”

    For my part, I honestly think that females can’t experience nerddom the same way as males. Respect is scarce in different ways for men and women. Both respect from others and self-respect. I’d elaborate on this but you’re better off just reading this: http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm

  2. “I honestly think that females can’t experience nerddom the same way as males”



    Wow, did I say something that objectionable?
    I did not say, nor did I mean, “girl geeks are all fake.” They have a completely different experience of things than males, though.
    If you want to make the argument that female geeks are in the exact same social situation as male geeks, be my guest.

  4. (Yes Kayin, I know you don’t want me talking to you, but don’t worry- I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to endril, who just made my head explode).

    “Where were you then? Right, you were holding us in the same contempt, of course. Ignoring us or outright bullying us”

    Seriously, WTF? Yeah, I’m so sure that there wasn’t a single nerdy girl in your high school or college (especially college, lol), and I’m even more sure that they weren’t bullied by the “in” clique. [/sarcasm]

    The nerd girls took far more bullying and contempt from their female peers- and, from their male peers, *even within the nerd spheres*- than you ever did. Teenage girls are vicious beyond belief, and, probably thanks to the influence of various media and socialization, even more hierarchy-driven than the males of that age and social setting (which is really saying something!) Their status, though, tends to make them incredibly undesirable even to the nerdy males, so they end up below them on the power-structure, and rarely co-mingle because of it.

  5. To be fair to endril:

    I think a lot of us have experiences that are along the lines of “nerd girls don’t exist”. I didn’t meet all but a handful until college (and the ones I met didn’t go to my school), though this might be a generational thing. I think, for example, anime increased the female population of nerd culture and I think Endril and I are of an age where we mostly caught that in College and you and onReload might have gotten it in highschool. This would ALSO make sense from the perspective of why older nerds seem to be the most sexist and bitter. We felt abandoned. We had few female peers and now when we see them, we consider them fake, despite the fact that they are growing in sincerity.

    Though some younger nerds are still cock goblins too so I dunno.

    Also one thing with female bullying that I think is relevant. Female bullying is vicious, but for a lot of people it’s invisible. So the experience still aren’t the same. Or to put it another way, even if they ARE in a lot of ways very close to the same (especially in regards to net results) it’s different enough that men seem to have a hard time parsing it (plus, a generally awful nerdy unwillingness to do so). I think Endril worded in a way that sounded pretty bad, but I think the core idea is sorta accurate. Our experiences are different enough that men often find women and their nerd experiences to be alien. This creates the horrible situation we’re in when guys, not having access to women, feel like women have all the power and they’re dogshit, but also at the same time how women are treated like shit and actually the bottom of the totem pole.

    Thank you sexism, for allowing no one to feel like they’re on top and making everyone miserable. :|

  6. I don’t actually know how old you are (your about page seems to be horribly out of date- I personally am 26, so I think you’re a few years older), but I spent my 7th-12th grade years bouncing back and fourth between two areas- one which was in a typical suburban area, and the Anime trend hit there my freshman year, and the other which was in a rural town with a total population of about 700 people called “Cut ‘n Shoot” (the school also pulled from a few surrounding areas- all of which were even less populated), where the Anime trend never hit, and I don’t think there was that much difference between the *numbers* of nerdy females between the two (well, proportionally, that is; when I graduated from “rural school”, our graduating class was only about 300 people, whereas suburban school would have had a graduating class probably at least 5x that)- but in the latter, they seemed to be damn-near invisible, their status was so low. They had basically no identity at all, beyond “good in math and science classes”, and, for the lucky ones, “was in Theatre club” (which, incidentally, is something I *highly* recommend for any nerd going through high school, in case any of you are reading this). Honestly, had I not been in theatre, I doubt I’d have even noticed them in “rural school” at all, and if you’d have asked me their names at the time, I would not have been able to tell you, even if they were sitting right next to me in math or science.

    Also, “being a cock goblin” is true of every young teenage male, doubly so for the nerds who haven’t had as much practice with their social skills.

  7. I wish there was numbers for this sort of thing because I’m really curious! A friend pointed out that more so than anime, a lot of this can be related to the internet, so for you, you were probably well into INTERNET TIME. But who know. I’ll have to track down anecdotes from olders nerds to see if there is any possible validity to any of this. Probably not, but knowing more would be interesting.

  8. The original piece was not “awful”. It was oversimplified, but yes, there are a percentage of females who merely want attention at conventions. They’re not actually interested in the panels or experience. This is basic common sense. I’m perfectly fine with this state of affairs, unlike the original author, who is “sickened” by it. However, denying this fact is laughable.

    The rebuttal was only “awesome” in the amount of condescending douchebaggery it contained. I’m amazed Mr. Scalzi has published anything, let alone anything that people bought; his cadre of insults reminds me of something I would have written in high school.

    It’s funny; the original article was unbelievably mild, providing mountains upon mountains of disclaimers for every small sentence, in the hopes that reactionary idiots would actually read the message, and wouldn’t immediately start e-yelling “MISOGYNIST! MISOGYNIST! MISOGYNIST!”.

    Didn’t work, as Mr. Scalzi so capably demonstrated with his sophomoric rant.

    Look, the original article raised an interesting, if simple point, and one that could be explored in a more complex, nuanced manner. But that won’t happen when the immediate outcry from the usual reactionary groups is “I’m offended!” (the most irrelevant, inane, overused expression since the advent of the Internet) and accusations of sexism.

  9. Yeah I should clarify:

    Male and female experiences are different, sure. It was more of endril’s comment + that reverse-sexist article (I know the author frames it in a society where he feels both genders are exploited) he linked that made me turn away.

    I don’t think “female nerddom” or whatever has increased, I think it’s always been there. I think it’s a mindset that any gender can possess, and we all took plenty ridicule for it growing up. It’s just that it seems invisible to us, the majority, because, I think

    A) Nerdy guys don’t really know what’s going on with girls for much of their male adolescence (as you put it Kayin), and
    B) Girls weren’t seen as that type of stereotypical “nerd” where they could and should be interested in D&D, videogames, comic books, etc.

    It just bothers me to hear all male discussion about how men and women are different, so some assumptions about intelligence are okay. The differences between the (only two being discussed) genders are trivial to me, and I can’t wait for future generations to uphold fewer and fewer of these unnecessary discrepancies.

  10. I’ve always thought that men and women aren’t different at all, but to my strange ol’ messed up mind, all hominid life forms act pretty similar~ Wow, haven’t been here for awhile? What a wonderful article response, however. I think the most interesting – perhaps frightening – part o’ this whole thing is that Peacock’s article ended up getting a lot of attention, which leads back to what I – and onReload – seem to think. OnReload said:

    “I don’t think “female nerddom” or whatever has increased, I think it’s always been there.”

    This cannot be stated enough. Having got a nifty thingy in history, one of the things I want to crush from collective consciousness is the idea that women (and ‘feminine’ behavior, and androgyny, and…) have not had power or presence, and it has always been that way. That is a wide canvas however, so back to the topic at hand . I’d argue that a lot of the flak geekdom gives and gets as a male-centric hobby is out of a perception – and a very bizarre one at that, given how pivotal women have been to the growth of science fiction, of video games, of animation and music – that science fiction is a male thing, and that having women increase their presence in it will somehow change it, make it less geeky. But, this has pretty much been said before and said better. For now, I’m just happy to wonder a familiar direction and read good words, well thought. And it’s nice to see you working on a Gaiden game, and more interesting still (to my tastes) is the TmT. I’ll have to check that out later! I hope that everyone is doing well, and want to pass on all the best!

  11. Regardless of biological differences that may or may not exist, I think it’s hard to argue that the weight of culture currently makes the male and female experience very different. That said, having shared the experience as a lot of geeks in highschool, I felt alone. Maybe it was luck of the draw or maybe (as I sorta thing) the whole idea of geekdom was starting to take root due to the internet and people started “Coming out” more or maybe it was because of something else. I kinda wonder if I didn’t fall in with another social group from a different school district with a totally different nerd culture, if I would have become bitter and angry at all these “invading” nerd women.

    Whatever the reason is, the cure seems to simply be “more exposure”. The more visible women get in nerd culture, the more we’ll have to get over our hang ups and the more likely that the young, up and coming dorks will be less bitter and hopefully then any lady who wishes to identify as a nerd will feel safe enough to do so. At that point, we might only be as good as the rest of culture, but maybe then we can set a positive example rather than being the community everyone points to as being the most sexist.

    Also going through the TMT backlog? We haven’t recorded in months sadly, but I guess we have quite a few hours of audio uploaded already.

  12. I’m wondering if it an issue of “we see what we want to see”. I have to agree that on some level it is a matter of exposure. But I am curious if it exposure on the other end. That is, not females becoming more visible, but the culture as a whole starting to appreciate what was already there. Maybe getting too acclimated to the supposed male version of geek culture and now opening up to something it wasn’t ready to acknowledge at the time.

    I have nor claim no authority on that sociological view, but just the fact that we are able to discuss this at this level makes you appreciate it somewhat. I expected Mr. Peacock’s article is something I would have expected several years ago. And it may have been taken better several years ago. But now it just seems droll to have a xenophobia of this kind, even if his intention was something less than awful(?). I say it this way because it more of a fear of the foreign rather than a hatred for women from my perspective. Sexism, yes definitely, but more of a casual, naive sexism than a pure hate speech.

    You can’t color it better. I am not going to try and do not wish to begin that venture, but I do appreciate this open forum. If this was another time, we would probably all be arguing a less deep seated issue. I am glad this isn’t an argument of the “integrity of the convention/organization/culture” but rather a discussion about people and rights.

    Thank you for that.

  13. Hey, thanks for the comment, Matt!

    I think those two idea aren’t mutually exclusive. Why do men WANT to see those things? Why do they think of geek culture as male centric? Likely due to an (unfounded) feeling of abandonment and relatively low amount of female exposure. So I agree with you and think we’re mostly in agreement, but thanks for illuminating this different angle. I especially like the bit about it seeming like something written several years ago because thinking about ti now, I think that is EXACTLY what it feels like.

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