I feel that we need to have a discussion about sexism in nerdland. See, if you’re a woman, you have to put up with all manner of douchebags telling you that you’re just a poser, and not really a nerd. John Scalzi called those people the “gatekeepers”, and it’s not a term of endearment. Ultimately, it shouldn’t really matter if you meet somebody else’s arbitrary standards as to what constitutes a proper nerd. But the fact remains that the stereotypical nerd with poor hygiene who lives in his mother’s basement, spends all day arguing about whether Deep Space Nine or TNG is the best Star Trek (DS9, obviously), and has never touched a breast is, like a lot of stereotypes, at least somewhat based in truth. Oh, they’re definitely the exception rather than the rule, but I have met one or two, and believe me, the rest of us nerds view them in much the same way that most Christians view the Westboro Baptist Church. They are insecure, lonely, and want nothing more than to create an enclosed world in which only their like-minded friends are welcome. If some female wanders into that, they feel threatened, whether she actually belongs or not.
I should add, before I go any further, that this, like a lot of things, cuts both ways. There are some women out there who will throw on a Batman T-shirt and waltz into a sci-fi convention just because they like the attention. A lot of nerds are socially awkward, and thus will gravitate towards anyone who shows the least bit of interest in what they have been told is weird and geeky. But those women are few and far between. Much more common are women who are every bit as into D&D and Doctor Who as any man, but face nonstop harassment because some dumbshit chauvinists can’t face the possibility that yes, she really does know what she’s talking about. I have friends who have dealt with this. Even if they can convince the men that they belong there, they’ll get a condescending remark about how they’re “one of the good ones”. Fuck. Off.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s stagnation. That’s why I have such a contentious relationship with technology. I’ll concede that the internet is cool, but I refuse to own a smartphone or a tablet. I can see the use of a Kindle if you don’t have the space to store books (and ebooks are cheaper anyway), but honestly, what is a tablet good for? I see people watching movies on their iPads while on the treadmill at the gym, but so what? An automobile is an amazing thing. The invention is over 100 years old, and even now, the thought that I can hop in a giant metal box that is powered by explosions and can go faster than any horse is amazing. That I can buy a small, handheld device that allows me to play games and watch movies and shit is cool, but that’s about it. Telephones are amazing. Computers are amazing. Smartphones are…neat.
What does this have to do with geekdom? Simple: People like to isolate themselves from whatever makes them feel uncomfortable. Geeks (and I am conflating nerds and geeks, even though the two are not quite the same) have always felt a little bit different, and for some, that alienation makes them feel special. They like to believe that they are somehow better or more thoughtful and cultured than those who don’t read comics or like science fiction, so they associate only with people who are exactly like them. Except the barriers are crumbling. Football players watch Doctor Who, Whovians play football, and people with vaginas can enjoy both if that’s what they’re into.
Part of the problem is rape culture. Read this article, if you’ve got a minute. I admit that I haven’t played the games it talks about, so maybe I’m unqualified to discuss it, but then again, I think not. The most shocking thing about it to me is the comments section. Here’s my favorite:
I’m rather disturbed by the claim that rape is the “most horrifying thing that can happen to a woman.” Just so we’re VERY clear on the implications at stake, are you suggesting that my vagina is worth more than my life or my children? I lost my virginity to rape when I was 12 and while it was the most horrifying experience of my life, I could list twenty things right now that would be FAR more horrible!
Wait, go back to the part where you said that getting raped was the worst thing that ever happened to you. If your leg has just been sawed off, I really don’t think the guy in the next bed who lost both of them has any business telling you to shut up. Yes, I suppose that getting raped to death, eaten, and having your skin sewn to Reavers’ clothing would technically be worse than just getting raped, but only in the sense that having $1,000,000,001 is better than having $1,000,000,000. It boggles my mind that out of all the things in the article, this is the one that the female commenter is most worked up about. There are complications and shades of gray even in cases of sexism, but that doesn’t mean the sexism is nonexistent. Bigotry is a lot more nuanced than people care to acknowledge. But it’s still wrong.
My father has been giving me grief lately about looking for a more high-paying job. See, he’s happy that I got a job with the coffee shop (especially considering that he suggested it to me), but since he’s thinking of moving out soon, he’s worried that I might have to find something that will pay enough that I’ll be able to find my own place. At least, that’s what he says he’s worried about. I think he just doesn’t like the way that I do everything he asks me to. I’m not a very difficult person to live with. Mostly, I just go along with whatever my roommate needs. But sometimes, you need to push back. You need to let people know that you’re quite content with things as they are, and they have no business changing them. It is a give-and-take, after all. And with that, I’ll leave you with one final question: Do Sherlock and Watson have the best bromance ever, or what?