Complaining About “Fake Geek Girls” Is Not Misogyny

And now for my first piece of original content exclusively for GendErratic! Again I wish to extend my gratitude to Ms. Tieman for inviting me to contribute to this blog, and I can promise there is plenty of theoretical analysis and discussion of cultural issues to come in the future. Now, for the article.

Proposition: Complaining About “Fake Geek Girls” Is Not Misogyny
Feminism’s engagement with “nerd” culture has, for the most part, come entirely from a critical and contemptuous angle; one of these criticisms is that “nerd” culture is allegedly a “boy’s club” which excludes women. To prove this, feminists point out the fact that females claiming a geek identity will be interrogated to see if they are “real” geeks or fakers.

This is not misogyny. Demanding “geek girls” prove themselves would only be misogyny if the treatment were motivated by an animus towards or prejudice against women as a class. Nerd culture would be equally suspicious of “fake geek guys.”

Wait… fake geek guys?

The fact that there is no such thing as the fake geek guy is in fact an important piece of the puzzle. Some feminists would argue that the lack of fake geek guys is evidence yet again of discrimination against women, but in reality it is because the status of “geek” has never been desirable for men to claim.

No ladies, we are not discriminating against you because you didn’t dance with us at the prom. We have no problem with you being girls. Our problem is due to the fact that fake geek girls (not to be confused with real geek girls, who do in fact exist and have been part of geek culture ever since the beginning) are subcultural poseurs claiming an identity which they in fact lack.

The Essential Characteristic Of “Nerd”
There’s a reason why Spider-Man got ruthlessly beaten up in high school. There’s a reason why Loki grows up as the undervalued intellectual in a society of macho warrior brutes. There’s a reason Steve Rogers was originally skinny and frail and got beaten up regularly. There’s a reason for the “Revenge of the Nerds” films.

Being a “nerd” isn’t about just liking certain things. It is about having culturally atypical interests and experiencing social persecution as a result.

It is a subculture which embraces esoteric and often intellectual interests that go against what is expected of “real men.” This is why there are “sports fans” and “automotive enthusiasts” and “petrolheads” and “aviation buffs” (all acceptably masculine interests) but to be into comics or video games or analog synthesizers makes one a “nerd” or a “geek.”

Nerdiness is about being set outside the mainstream, often with violence. It isn’t merely about a specific set of interests, but about the social consequences of these interests.

Nerdiness is a culture primarily composed of socially emasculated males – a culture of “not real men” – a culture which has paid the price for failing to measure up to our society’s standards of masculinity.

Female nerds are also outside the mainstream – but their experiences rarely include being beaten up for this. Being intelligent and possessing a rational temperment is also gender-deviant because traditional gender roles see women as fundamentally emotional. But even if they don’t necessarily face the same violent retribution for gender-nonconformity that male nerds do, they share the experience of being socially alienated (to at least some degree) from one’s same-sex peers, of being gender-atypical, and of not having “normal” interests.

Nevertheless, we need to recognize that the gender system is far more willing to be suspicious of gender-deviance amongst males; as I have argued before, the gender system treats femininity as an innate characteristic and masculinity as an earned status that needs to be guarded, demonstrated and socially validated – hence why the Tomboy is just “going through a phase” (and is also perhaps worthy of some encouragement for proving she can compete with the boys) whereas the boy who plays with dolls is instantly suspected of being defective/damaged/gay/etc.

As such, it isn’t surprising that the experience of being socially de-gendered due to atypical interests is more common amongst males than it is amongst females (although perhaps potential on-average tempermental differences between the sexes may play some role too, but that’s another discussion). The primary narrative of nerd culture is the narrative of the “Omega Male” (the “not-real-man”) – this is a narrative of being bullied, brutalized and victimized for not being “one of the guys.”

The Case Of Video Gaming
The “fake geek girl” issue is often discussed in relation to video gaming – a pasttime which (in its super-hardcore manifestations), in the pre-PS2 era, was an extremely effective method of social suicide performed by spending exhorbitant amounts of money on 3d-capable bleeding-edge graphics hardware.

Console gaming at the time was primarily seen as a children’s toy – Sony’s Playstation platform was the first to deliver 3d gaming with mature themes alongside the low cost and relative convenience of a console. But the Playstation was relatively easy and inexpensive to develop for, meaning a wide variety of different kinds of game could be created.

The Playstation 2 was not, but it achieved phenomenal market success and essentially turned 3d gaming into a pasttime the general population (many of whom bought it for the DVD playback) could partake in.

But the generation following the Playstation 2 was even more difficult for programmers and developers; the jump to HD gaming as well as the increased difficulty to program both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 (relative to their predecessor consoles as well as the PC) further increased the costs of developing games, particularly multiplatform ones. Publishers, having to fork out larger amounts to make competitive and cutting-edge games, were becoming more cautious with their money. The used game market on consoles as well as piracy on the PC substantially cut into developer/publisher margins. At the same time, however, the market was potentially extremely lucrative and becoming even moreso due to the attraction of mainstream audiences.

This essentially led to the “blockbusterization” of video gaming as a hobby; instead of the niche markets of the past, gaming targeted the mass market. In order to attract mass market, games began to pander to this market; even games from traditionally “hardcore” genres began to emulate (to varying degrees) mass-market games in the hope of winning the money of “the CoD crowd.”

At the same time, Nintendo’s success with the Wii console as well as the success of small online games (via platforms such as Facebook) led to the proliferation of lower-cost and sometimes free-to-play casual gaming. This genre ended up migrating mostly to smartphones and other portable devices.

The ultimate result of this series of technological and economic pressures was that gaming ended up subdividing itself into three “markets” -

First, the original “hobbyist gaming” market segment, the nerdy gaming culture which we all know.

Second, the casual gaming market, which was mostly situated on Wii, Facebook and smartphones.

Third, the AAA “Blockbuster” gaming market, focused on best-selling (and sometimes annualized) sports and action titles like Madden, Call of Duty, FIFA, Halo, Battlefield, Medal of Honor and Gears of War.

The focus which once lay on Hobbyist gaming took a backseat to the newly-ascendent Blockbuster and Casual sectors of the market. Economic pressures forced a formerly niche-market hobby to conform to mass-market tastes.

The Absense Of Fake Geek Guys
In light of the above, we can address the absense of fake geek guys. For men, geekiness has always been a ticket to social emasculation, but with the arrival of Blockbuster gaming, one did not have to be even remotely geeky to game. Blockbuster games were aimed squarely at mass market gender-typical male tastes (and were rewarded with billions of dollars for doing so). A subset of games were essentially de-nerdified.

Thus, the cultural link between gaming and nerdness was cut, at least with respect to certain franchises and genres and subject-matter. The target audience – an audience which genuine nerds describe (and often still describe) disdainfully as “the dudebros” – did not claim a nerd identity. They didn’t want to do so due to gender pressure, and with the mainstreaming of certain video game franchises the identity would not be forced upon them from the outside.

This is why “fake geek guys” don’t exist; of course there are males who play games without belonging to geek culture! This has even been acknowledged by Mark Rubin – executive producer of the latest iteration of Call of Duty (see http://ign.com/articles/2013/10/21/call-of-duty-players-arent-hardcore-gamers-says-infinity-ward), as Rubin was clearly using “hardcore gamers” and “gamers” to refer to “Hobbyist gamers” (i.e. the nerdy subset). But because guys have no incentive to identify as nerds or geeks, they don’t claim to be such unless they genuinely are (and even then, sometimes they’ll dodge it because it is a persecuted subculture).

In the early days of geek culture, women faced some disincentives to identify as geeks or to at least keep their geekiness secret (and these days they still face some – certainly there are many women who probably would face some degree of ridicule or derision if they confessed to reading and/or writing slash fanfiction.. although in some cases that may be due to the quality of the writing rather than the subject matter). These days, however, the disincentive to be a female nerd is significantly lower, and indeed it is arguably the case that women face incentives to identify as nerds.

Princess Poindexter (This Phrase Is A Keeper!)
The idea that women may benefit from entering nerd culture is hardly new; Rebecca Watson, an internet atheist who has made absolutely no contribution to atheist philosophy or theory or rhetoric and has built her entire career off the relative rarity of her sex in the atheist community, said it best:

“In the land of the nerds, the double “x” chromosome is queen. The lack of women getting actively involved in skepticism has led to a peculiar deification of any female brave enough to dive into debates, engage in philosophical arguments, or just withstand the flirtatious banter that permeates online forums. The skepchick is held up as an ideal in an intellectual community – a woman who is smart, interesting, and most of all, approachable.
Despite what I saw as a distinct willingness for men to accept and embrace (sometimes literally) skeptical women, there were just not that many around. Somehow, the word was not getting out.”
(Watson, R (2005), Skepchicks International, eSkeptic, http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/05-11-03/).

Did she talk about how oppressed she was? Does she sound like she is complaining about being held up as an ideal or being deified or being embraced? Does she claim atheism was a ‘boy’s club’ aiming to keep her out? No, she shounds like a shrewd businesswoman spotting a market niche full of attention which was ripe for the harvesting!

Note that she described the atheist community as “the land of the nerds.” She clearly didn’t have a problem with their attention (assuming, presumably, it didn’t get expressed in a small confined space like an elevator).

This enjoyment of men’s attention is another facet of traditional gender roles; traditional gender norms treat men as subjects and women as objects, men as innately disposable instruments and women as innately precious and fragile. Men are thus encouraged to gain feelings of self-fulfillment through exercising agency, whereas women are encouraged to gain these feelings through enlisting male agency with innate feminine preciousness and specialness; being the center of attention, being considered extremely special and precious and worthy due to one’s innate value as a woman (and thus worthy of men doing things for you) is the essence of the female power fantasy under the traditional gender system.

Combine this with a culture which, historically, has very few women and thus very few competitors.

No matter what one may think about Ms. Watson, it is clear she acted with incredible business acumen. It should also be noted that at the time she wrote this article, the atheist community was gaining significant energy as an opposition to the Third Great Awakening and the growing influence of the Religious Right during the George W. Bush administration. She, in a sterling display of economically rational attention whoring, demonstrated that “the land of the nerds” is in fact a goldmine for women looking to benefit from traditional feminine norms.

Just as Rebecca Watson managed to be part of New Atheism during its time in the sun, the feminist engagement with geek culture seems rather conveniently timed to have occured only after Blockbuster games started making more money than Hollywood.

This mode of behavior – coming into a space and refocusing it on oneself – is extremely gender-traditional. It is also extremely unlike the actions of genuine female nerds; after all, like male nerds, female nerds are gender-atypical. Female nerds, like male nerds, typically possess what Myers-Briggs Temperments would classify as a rational temperment (xNTx) – NT’s are statistically rare in the overall population, rarer amongst women than men but still a small minority within both sexes (after all, male nerds are gender-atypical too). Thus, this mode of behavior or things resembling it come off as a “red flag” – an indication of being into the culture not due to sharing its interests but for other motivations.

In all fairness, it is quite plausible that many women who are genuinely interested in video games have been unfairly suspected of faking it – we couldn’t have all been born early enough (or had enough money) to be part of the golden age of PC gaming. But when a significant uptick in feminine interest in nerd culture (something which was significantly more atypical than male interest in nerd culture) seems to happen in ways which make sense as products of traditional feminine behavior patterns, there are grounds for skepticism… particularly in light of the extreme stigma nerdiness used to carry merely one-and-a-half console generations ago.

It certainly doesn’t help that there is footage on Youtube (courtesy of thunderf00t) of Anita Sarkeesian openly admitting she hates video games because she finds them too gory.

So, in a world where video gaming is far less stigmatized than it used to be, women can enter gaming culture and gain attention, receive adulation as an innately special creature simply for being there, and apparently get a warm welcome. They can, as Watson pointed out, be treated like princesses, and doesn’t every little girl want to be a princess? They can also receive praise for confronting “the boy’s club” and be heroines fighting against oppressive sexism – the cheers of “you go, girl!” rain down upon them.

Compare this to the treatment men have historically received for being affiliated with nerd culture. Hell, compare this to the treatment which actual female nerds receive (indeed, you could argue that the feminist influx has made it worse for them – they get accused of being gender traitors now for being ‘one of the boys’).

Subcultural Poseurs
Marginalized subcultures have always hated poseurs – those who claim the identity without knowing what it truly means. The goth subculture went through a strong period of rooting out perceived “fakes” in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings, particularly focusing on anyone who was considered too fond of Marilyn Manson (one of the artists most blamed in the aftermath of the massacre, even though the killers in fact did not like his work).

In the history of geek culture, almost every single geeky pasttime was the subject of a moral panic; The Seduction of the Innocent argued that comic books would turn your sons into juvenile delinquents who fantasized about being Robin while Batman sodomized them, Dungeons and Dragons was accused of promoting Satanism and suicide and occultism by the religious right during the Satanic Panic, and every single school massacre brings out a gaggle of “blame Grand Theft Auto” from several psychologists, religionists and political personalities.

Combine this with how nerds have been social outcasts pretty much since day one. In the light of this, resentment of poseurs is hardly surprising. Again, the goth example is illustrative, and goth is a relatively gender-balanced subculture in terms of its adherents; the resentment was against poseurs rather than any specific sex.

Another factor which has made nerd culture defensive of its distinctiveness is the prominence of Blockbuster gaming and how its success encouraged several gaming franchises to aim for more mainstream appeal (“dumbed down for the dudebros”). To someone who has literally been beaten up for playing video games, seeing a beloved hobby start to cater to people who may be perceived as the same kind of person as those who inflicted the beatings feels almost like a betrayal. Hobbyist gamers have already felt like “their” hobby was being taken away from them and formatted towards a different target audience – the fact that some women (particularly women who haven’t shown any interest in games until recently) seem to want to do something similar naturally comes off as a threat (of course there is nothing wrong with catering to all audience niches, but until relatively recently this seemed impossible due to the dominance of Blockbuster gaming – thankfully this situation seems to be getting remedied but that’s another story).

Indeed, the gender-flip of the fake geek girl, from the perspective of nerd culture, is the bro-who-plays-CoD-with-his-bros-on-saturday-but-isn’t-a-nerd. The salient difference between the fake geek girl and the CoD-bro-who-isn’t-a-nerd is not that one is a girl and one is a guy, but rather that one is claiming to be part of nerd culture and the other is not.

We are not seeing sexism here, we are seeing typical dynamics one would find in any marginalized subculture, even one with a far less skewed gender composition. Marginalized subcultures resent poseurs; the reason that the poseurs in this case are only from one sex is due to the way our society’s gender system creates different incentives for the sexes to affiliate with the subculture in question.

Conclusion
The culture of nerds has always been a culture of those who are gender-atypical due to cerebral temperments and specific hobbies. It is a culture born of the experience of those alienated from their peer group and persecuted for not fitting in. It is a culture of not-real-men and women-who-think-too-much-and-this-may-scare-boys-away-from-dating-her.

It is a culture of gender-nonconformists, built upon the experiences of these men and (admittedly much less frequently and influentially) women. It is a culture defined by its outcast status.

But, certainly these days, a female does not automatically commit social suicide by playing (or claiming to play) video games. Some men might even find her nerdiness cute. The incentives to be a nerd are like the incentives to identify as bisexual – the incentives are much more positive for women than for men, and in the case of nerd culture particularly so for women with relatively gender-traditional desires (which are typically not those of actual female nerds).

As such, suspicions of fake girl geeks, whilst obviously not always correct, are hardly indefensible bigotry. We are not seeing misogyny but rather a disdain for poseurs common to all marginalized subcultures – a disdain which would clearly be gender-neutral if the poseurs in question included members of both sexes.

There are real female geeks. There are also fake girl geeks. Fake girl geeks do not share the values or experiences of real female geeks or male geeks. Marginalized subcultures will expel those perceived as external invaders irrespective of the invaders’ sex – the problem with fake geek girls is not that they are girls but that they are fake.

Perhaps as the world becomes more accepting of genuine geekiness, geek culture as we know it (i.e. built in the context of persecution) will disappear. However, acceptance of genuine nerds grates against our society’s gender system; the system has no affection for not-real-men.

Irrespective of this, to claim that the only reason suspicions of “fake geek girl” are raised is sexism is false; if there is any gender issue that explains the lack of ‘fake geek guy,’ it is the fact that nerd culture is a culture built from the experiences of socially emasculated men (and to a lesser extent gender-atypical women); men lose their real manhood by being nerds, but women usually lose less and (these days) in some cases can make substantial gains from being geeky. In the light of this fact, it makes sense that many women want in (even if they are not nerds), but most men do not (sometimes even if they are).

38 thoughts on “Complaining About “Fake Geek Girls” Is Not Misogyny

  1. Y.A.C,

    It’s interesting to me that if you look at the epitome of fake geek girls, the booth babe, that there would seem a nature point of agreement with feminist on their seemingly undesirable and sexist quality. I think it’s also worth noting that men with focused interests being pursued by women not nearly as focused is not exactly something unique to the nerd/geek world.

    It is about having culturally atypical interests and experiencing social persecution as a result.

    I’m not sure I agree with the way you frame the essence of being a nerd. I tend to see the term as one relating to personality type, rather than position relative to the social norm. That is, a “nerd” is someone who would willingly pursue their interests at the expense of their social life/status. They might engage in social activities, however would tend to only prioritise those that are relevant to their non-social interests.

    Thus, I think someone into cars (or sports, etc) can be as much a nerd as someone into D&D. The car nerd would be the one who focuses their time on the car and socialises in order to test their car/skill against others. This would be distinct from the non-nerd who spends time on their car as they see it as a means to socialise or gain social status. The ‘fake nerd’ would be the one who feigns the purpose or significance of their interest as a means to gain social status, much to the chagrin of those who care about substance and not playing social games.

    I think the social persecution comes as much from rejecting the importance of (particular) social hierarchies as it does from having peculiar interests. So while it is a significant and common part of the experience of being a nerd, I don’t see it as the defining characteristic.

    This essentially led to the “blockbusterization” of video gaming as a hobby

    This is the other part that I agree is an important aspect of the whole ‘fake geek girl’ issue that’s not specifically related to gender. The emergence of computer games and the serious fantasy genre as geek interests through the 80′s seems to have created the impression that the hobbies themselves are the essence of nerdiness. Go back another few decades and activities such as literature or science would have been seen as “nerd culture”. These days anyone who likes a fantasy movie like The Hobbit or plays a gaming console seems to feel entitled to describe themselves as nerdy.

    Looking at it from a sociological perspective, there has been a cultural appropriation by the mainstream of the (sub)culture of a marginalized group. The members of the marginalised group that originated the (sub)culture are being told they no longer get to define the meaning of the (sub)culture they created. That’s something I would expect that feminists, as social progressives, would be able to understand and acknowledge as problematic.

    if there is any gender issue…

    One potential gender aspect I see is in the way boys and girls are raised to engage in their interests. Let’s assume that girls are generally raised to focus on socialisation as a means to engage and learn about their interests, while boys are raised to directly explore their interest. (It’s also possible that biology plays some role too).

    A group of men who have formed a group (even an informal group) of common interest would likely have each member feeling like they “earned” their position in the group by virtue of the prior effort they invested in their knowledge or skill. Another man who had only recently developed the same interest might assume some responsibility to develop knowledge or skill prior to seeking to engage the group. Once he acquired a reasonable level of knowledge or skill he would approach and generally appear as an “acceptable” candidate for group membership.

    On the other hand, a woman who only recently developed the interest might first seek to engage the group and see socialising with the group as a means to acquire even a basic level of knowledge or skill. Even a woman with a ‘nerd’ personality and a genuine interest might be more likely than a man to approach her interest in this way as a result of gender differences in how children are raised. As she lacks the reasonable level of skill at the time she approaches the group, she appears indistinguishable from someone not genuinely interested and quite distinguishable from the new man who was also interested.

    Thus, unlike the newly interested man, she would be in a position where she would need to ‘prove’ herself to the group. Thus, there’s another way it’s quite possibly the cultural and social dynamics of the situation that result in women being more likely to feel they need prove their “nerd credentials” than men, without any direct sexist intention or actions on the part of the men in the group.

  2. Desipis,

    First, thanks for your response. I appreciate it.

    Regarding booth babes, I don’t think they count as “fake geek girls.” They’re promotional eye-candy, and they don’t claim a nerd identity. They’re sales and marketing representatives rather than claimants to membership of the subculture itself. They also represent catering to the subculture, which has a majority-gynophilic (exclusively or non-exclusively) population.

    Groupies of rockstars are a different issue; rockstars carry social status whereas nerdiness does not. I don’t see any similarity, except perhaps in situations where the style of music is considered nerdy but there are often ways around this.

    My problem with your definition of “nerd” is that it varies from common usage. Men who are hugely into sports or hugely into cars, to the point where it is a massively consuming passion, are NOT culturally considered nerds. They aren’t considered gender-deviant or weird or strange or socially incompetent. They have a socially acceptable (for their gender) passion and they engage in it, but general society doesn’t exile them.

    Look at the mythology of nerd culture – its art, its comics, its stories and fantasies. As I said there is a reason so much of it focuses on bullying and social exclusion and persection… people tend to make their gods in their own image, after all.

    The fact that you might classify being an “x Nerd” as “anyone sufficiently devoted to their passions as to sacrifice their social life in the pursuit of their passions” doesn’t change how actual nerd culture has understood and defined itself. Historically, artistically and culturally it has ALWAYS defined itself against a backdrop of alienation, ostracism, humiliation and persecution.

    You make an interesting point regarding people seeing specific hobbies THEMSELVES as intrinsically nerdy (i.e. nerdiness defined by the hobbies instead of by the social responses to those hobbies). That’s a plausible theory, absolutely.

    With respect to “cultural appropriation” I have my own issues with that approach to sociology (significant methodological disagreements). I don’t think “the mainstream” should be treated as some evil hivemind or malevolent force with agency, conspiring against outsiders. That said, the pattern clearly resembles the whole “cultural appropriation” thing so it is valid to wonder why third wave feminists aren’t complaining about it (probably because they’re part of the appropriating force this time around?).

    I’m not sure I’ve read enough on gendered learning styles to comment on your point about women putting learning-from-others above learning-from-independent-research but certainly your theory there makes quite a bit of sense and explains how women can “feel” on trial in the absense of animus towards them.

  3. “There’s a reason why Loki grows up as the undervalued intellectual in a society of macho warrior brutes. ”

    Just as good liturgy is theology turmed into drama, good mythology is psychology turned into story. Cultures’ mythologies vary because they have difenrnet realities to deal with. The figure of Loki does indeed reflect an awareness that that culture marginalized intellectuals by making him Thor’s brother and thus contrasting him to Thor. Note that the reflex of Loki in Irish mythology, Lú Ioldánach is in no way socially marginal. That’s because Celtic societies had a whole separate and highl;y honored intellectual class. In fact that class was called the “Aos Dána” – race of art/skill – and note that “dána” is repeated in the epithet of Lú.

    But the Norse mythology does not stop there with Loki. He is also contrasted to his father Odin. Odin is a shamanistic figure and he represents the quest for higher knowledge. Odin represents wisdom, in contrast to Loki, who represents cunning and deceit.

  4. Ginkgo,

    I was actually talking about the Marvel version (this should’ve been implied by the other mentioned characters). Because let’s be honest, superhero comics are essentially the mythology of the nerd.

    That said, I absolutely agree with you that good mythology is psychology turned into story. A culture’s accepted mythology (or mythologies) reveal a lot about that culture’s worldview (or worldviews). If a certain pattern keeps recurring in the same people’s stories, this tells you something.

  5. All I’ll say right now is that having one’s “geek cred” questioned and confirmed isn’t a new phenomena at all. In geeky circles back in the ’80s and ’90s (and also early millennium) it was very commonplace for new “geeks” to get “vetted” and “tested” a bit to ensure they weren’t just someone who was going to go back to their “popular” friends and laugh about how loser-ish those geeks were. Even among geeks who were absolutely geeks, there was a social pecking order and a desire to inflate self-importance.

    I did it. Every one of my friends did it when we were the geeky kids in high school. Just like the popular kids would vet their friends, geeks did the same.

    This is a normal and expected human behavior and isn’t abnormal at all.

    Sorry we’re not going to accept you as the “biggest fan” (which is often the stupid shit things come down to) without at least trying it out. Know what? if you have better knowledge and understanding than others you get respect. That’s what’s missing.

    Anita makes a big deal about men “testing” geeky women. However, she doesn’t talk, ever, about what happens when people “pass” the test. Sure, that 17-year-old girl who just discovered Sandman is going to be excited and ravenous, but that doesn’t mean she gets to come into a social group and immediately dominate that group because of: vagina. But if a man or woman proves themselves? especially to older geeks who are somewhat wary of more “bro” types flooding the hobby en masse, you’ll find a bond that can often be quite strong.

    All of this seems to be a willful ignorance of the fact that geeks aren’t singled out anymore, per se. Every dude on the high school football team plays CoD now. They all own an Xbox and a PS4 and they love shooting dues in the face (I can’t lie, I like that too!).

    Lastly, the outcry over the failures of AAA gaming devs to do something not awful is just willful ignorance again. They’re trying their very best to shift blame from their “I’ll buy the same game every year like a sucker” to making it about moral deficiencies in others. The flood of non-geeky kids and adults to gaming means, necessarily, that AAA studios take less risks and innovate less because they know every dudebro is going to buy Call of Duty 2014 and then 2015 and then 2016. Why make a new game when you can repackage the old one for far less cost?

    Games have become so expensive to create that they look like Hollywood productions. Lacking in soul or spirit, they try to make up for it with Michael Bay explosions and gruff masculinity (Gears of War?).

    In an age where there are more offerings and more choices, someone like Anita makes it seem like we have nothing. It’s insulting to have a relatively-speaking child tell me that gaming is shit when I look around and see the desires of my teenage self coming to real life. These were my dreams: that my hobbies and interests would become more acceptable. I got beat up in high school explicitly because I played D&D and RPGs; these days those hobbies aren’t even a social marker of anything. Maybe playing D&D will get you that “extreme geek” cred, but it isn’t an immediate trip down bully lane in any way shape or form.

    I mean… I feel the same way about so many issues contemporary SJ approaches: it’s better than ever before so stop pretending everything is fucked. Women have never had it better, but you’re pretending we’re still in the 1950s (and to be honest, women were more free as women in 1915-1939 than post-war). It’s insulting and incorrect.

  6. Third, the AAA “Blockbuster” gaming market, focused on best-selling (and sometimes annualized) sports and action titles like Madden, Call of Duty, FIFA, Halo, Battlefield, Medal of Honor and Gears of War.

    Does Final Fantasy count as AAA titles even though it caters primarily to a niche audience?

    Star Ocean?

    Kingdom Hearts?

    They make very nice sales, but few non-gamers would EVER talk about “defeating heartless” or “using their Final Form in The World That Never Was”. About Esthar and it’s crystal walkways. About Garland and his plans for Terra to ‘eat’ Gaia from the inside. About Sin being just eternal recurrence made physical.

  7. “All I’ll say right now is that having one’s “geek cred” questioned and confirmed isn’t a new phenomena at all. In geeky circles back in the ’80s and ’90s (and also early millennium) it was very commonplace for new “geeks” to get “vetted” and “tested”

    Crow and everyone else – how much of these howls about the misogyny of the gaming world is just their consternation over finding their pussy passes aren’t being honored?

  8. Crow,

    I agree with you entirely.

    To be absolutely fair about Gears Of War, however, its great analytical material for understanding all the bad things about traditional machoness. I also admit fondness for one of the characters (Baird, specifically, because he’s the only smart and sane person and he’s clearly the nerd surrogate and his complaining is just wonderful to listen to). However, yeah, you’re spot-on.

    Schala,

    Final Fantasy and JRPGs are a niche scene in the West, however they have atypically devoted western fans as well as mass-market success in Japan. As such they can affort pretty-close-to-AAA production values in spite of appealling to niche audiences in the West.

    My market analysis should only be taken as applicable to the Western market, by the way.

    But yes, Japanophiles/fans of JRPGs/Anime/Manga in general count as a subspecies of nerd/geek to at least some degree.

    Ginkgo,

    I won’t speculate as to proportion, but certainly coming into a space where you get no “super special princess because vagina” treatment after experiencing that for your whole life would clearly be a shock.

  9. Hey ginkgo. You forgot! :D

    Also, thanks for the thanks YAC. Your contributions are very welcome.

  10. Great write up YAC.

    The people making these claims will often talk of society socializing of boys as a method of maintaining hegemonic masculinity. Thus, you expect the same responses about girls and dolls and boys and lego etc for atheists as you see when discussions on tech culture come up. But since they misunderstand what it really means to be part of those cultures, they exclude the other sides of the socialization that makes people grip them so hard like the ostracization, social isolation, the lack of traditional masculine value.

    To chime in, a subculture with similarities to video-gaming is metal music. From the beginning of the 80s, metal was largely split between the super famous hair/glam metal bands – very popular with women – and the newly birthed extreme metal bands.

    “True metal” as it was defined, was born from the same (often hyper masculine fantasizing) outcasts and loners and of the same blood as any nerd. Bands that would go on to gain mega-stardom like Metallica were the lifeline of music fans needing some identity to hold onto. As seen below, the eviction of the poseurs was overt and abusive, James Hetfield plays to the crowd with lines like:

    “This one’s gonna kill all the fake people out there, all the poseurs. We fucking hate them.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMqLdI0uuaw&feature=share

    I know of women who have been in that scene since the 80s, now older but still hosting local radio shows/interviewing bands. They disliked some of the sexualizing of women, but on the other hand there was equal amounts of portrayals of sexual women they loved. The idea of a misogynistic culture is just foreign idea to them because they fundamentally identified as the in group, not as a woman.

  11. ComicKeys,

    Thank you very much.

    You’re absolutely correct. If nerd culture or atheism were some bastion of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ then why is it a culture of the scorned, ostracized and emasculated? Obviously it isn’t.

    Your parallel on nerd culture and metal culture is great, and absolutely correct in that both nerds and metalheads tend to have hypermacho fantasies which they (often but not always) fail to meet up to. I think this is a pathology within nerd culture and metal culture (although I’m not an expert on metal culture so I’ll leave that alone), but that’s a totally different issue. The similarity, however, absolutely remains.

    Hatred of poseurs is absolutely part of all marginalized groups, nerds included. Goths, metalheads, etc. all reject fakers.

    Of course, now that goth has less mainstream exposure than it used to and extreme metal has never been widely embraced, there are less people rushing into the scenes and being poseurs.

    If I may ask… is your userpic the female lead from Blade Runner? I love that film.

  12. “they fundamentally identified as the in group, not as a woman”
    I think this captures the root of the issue.

  13. and oh, yeah, one guy I know said thrash metal was for MGTOW’s/Omega’s and glam was for the pussyhound PUA’s. He said guys like Brett Michaels were “red pill” because they got laid so much and knew what the deal was but guys like Rollins were “blue pill.”

    Whatever…

    I like thrash and oldschool stuff like Hendrix…

  14. so is she a true or a booth babe?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVbe083ZH1M

    quick, someone report her to Jto so he cam put her on the misandrist shaming site…

    I know MRA’s get offended but I laughed cause she sounds like a walking, talking, fucking trainwreck…

  15. As one who is a very stereotypical female geek, I’ve never felt singled out for my gender. I truthfully didn’t think about it much; I was just happy to geek out over the same things. (My high school didn’t really have a geek subset, and when I went to college I immediately joined the RPG group there. Wonderful experience.

  16. Anon:

    I have two friends just like you. What I find outraging about Sarkeesian and her troupe is the continuous knowledge that’s she’s taken their experiences, hidden them, and told them they’re vitcims of their friends and their hobbies and passions. And I do claim the right to complain about the fakery of this warlordish attempt to ‘change the scenery’ by auto-fiat that comes with these people.

  17. I can’t even watch one of her videos all the way through. I get angry at them. Then again, I also think knowing something about a subject or thing before saying you’re a fan of it is wise.

  18. Anon,

    Robert is quite correct, and your experience is absolutely typical of (real) female geeks. I’ve read plenty of testimonials from female geeks claiming that they weren’t treated in a sexist fashion, and that the idea that gaming is a wretched hive of misogyny strikes them as ridiculous.

  19. Great Article YAC

    I’d like to chime in as another boy that was relentlessly harassed in public education that being a nerd ISN’T – to my mind – the same thing as being really into something. Nerd culture has its’ roots in coping with social exclusion and persecution. I’ve seen nerds criticized heavily for being mean to “fake geek girls”- and I have to confess that I do have empathy for them, because rejection sucks- but these conversations always seem so demonstrative of an empathy gap. It sucks that a girl who wants to cosplay may get laughed at, but those who are doing the laughing most likely got physically assaulted for years while authority figures turned a blind eye. They were tripped in the hallway, while everyone laughed as their books flew across the floor. They had their heads stuck in toilets. Their possessions were stolen and mocked. They faced indignity after humility, and they found some small comfort in geek culture. So when fake geek girls are offered compassion and support for their unfair treatment, it’s just another reminder to geeks that their pain is unimportant, but other peoples’ pain is a big deal.

    When you made this point:

    ” rational temperment (xNTx) – NT’s are statistically rare in the overall population”

    I had to go check that, because I had previously thought that there was a most even spread than there actually is. Does anyone have a more rigorous source than this? http://www.mypersonality.info/personality-types/population-gender/

  20. This is the realest talk I’ve ever read.

    Fantastic article

    I grew up in 90′s inner city London, needless to say my personal experiences revolve around the fact the girls in the same environment REALLY didn’t like when guys read comics, played video games, or rolled RPG dice. They hated it, they mocked, scoffed, and disrupted it, they would question your manhood and for a culture as predicated on masculinity as mine – that was the worst thing you could do.

    These so-called geek girls remind me of white girls with big asses before twerking existed. Ashamed to celebrate as openly about it because it wasn’t “safe” to go out yet. Kind of like “The Croods”.

  21. Bawo:

    It would be fine if they didn’t then try to change everyone to suit their sensibilities. In other words, it’s basically safe, now FUCKING SPINE UP!

  22. Jolly McFats,

    Thanks for your comments and support and for sharing your experiences on the subject. I appreciate the backup on this. The empathy gap is indeed bleedingly obvious – when I hear the argument that “guy geeks are hated because they’re seen as feminine” I just feel sick because female geeks, whether fake or real, get far more empathy and soothing than male geeks ever have; male geeks are not treated as women but rather treated as nothing.

    Bawo,

    Thank you also for your support on the subject, and I appreciate the positive feedback! Feel welcome to share this piece with anyone you think needs to read it.

    The Real Peterman,

    Thank you very much and I appreciate the compliment. Feel free to spread this work around if you wish to do so.

  23. Y.A.C:

    My problem with your definition of “nerd” is that it varies from common usage.

    I’m not sure about my definition varying from common usage. If we look at wikipedia I would emphasise the elements found in the first sentence. Although the relevance of interests is mentioned it is clearly not universal to the term “nerd”.

    Nerd (adjective: nerdy) is a descriptive term, often used pejoratively, indicating that a person is overly intellectual, obsessive, or socially impaired. They may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, obscure, or non-mainstream activities…
    [Listed as a type of nerdy interest] Heavy obsession with a topic that would otherwise be mainstream (such as a popular TV show or a sport).

    Your point about social perception and bullying of nerds is only raised later in the page. I can see how many nerds would see the social persecution aspect as central to their identity as a nerd, particularly in how they view the nerd community. However, I don’t think it’s a universal aspect for all nerds. In much the same way that many women would see motherhood as central to their identity as woman, yet motherhood is not universal to all women.

    I found this part from wikipedia interesting in terms of the need to prove ones nerd credibility, particularly given the mainstream popularity nerdishness seen in CSI, and the popularity of the science fiction, superhero and fantasy genres:

    However, those simply adopting the characteristics of nerds are not actually nerds by definition. One cannot be an authentic nerd by imitation alone; a nerd is an outsider and someone who is unable or unwilling to follow trends. Popular culture is borrowing the concept and image of nerds in order to stand out as individuals.

  24. Really good stuff, YetAnotherCommenter.

    This is only tangentially related, but: What, if anything, do you imagine “geek culture” (or its successor) looking like in a society where the sort of bullying you and I experienced wasn’t pervasive? I think you’re absolutely right that experiences like that have greatly shaped it; on the other hand, I think that the ways geeks tend to be similar to each other and tend to differ from non-geeks would still be enough to produce a relatively distinct subculture even in the absence of an actively hostile mainstream. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  25. One simply needs to view the feminist reaction to trans women to see the same effect. Feminists see trans women as posers, and do not like them ether.

  26. Desipis,

    The point about “nerds cannot be nerds by imitation alone” and “a nerd is an outsider and someone who is unable or unwilling to follow trends” is precisely the point I am making. In short, the cited wikipedia page actually backs me up.

    Also note that science fiction, superhero and fantasy stories did NOT achieve mainstream popularity until relatively recently, and even then only a specific slice of them have.

    John Markley,

    Thank you very much!

    As for the issue of what a “geek-like culture without the experience of oppression” would be like… that is a very difficult subject to speculate on. I really don’t know… I guess a lot depends on how much of geekdom depends on innate temperment rather than experiences and how much people are aware of tempermental differences.

  27. YAC, I’ve been fascinated by these sociological shifts in “nerd/geek” culture. Before recently, the term “nerd” or “geek” was, at the core, a label placed upon an individual by society and certainly not wholly a chosen identity. It’s not that black and white, but being cast as a “nerd” was inherently a negative social marker, generally speaking.

    And that’s where the “culture” part came in: “nerds” were banished socially and so they ended up forming their own circles and friendships based on a shared experience of social rejection. These groups of friends would, in many cases, be quite diverse in terms of interests and passions. You’d find the gothy, Cure-loving kid hanging with the “band nerd” while two of their other friends would be discussing the past weekend’s AD&D game.

    What changed? “Nerd” and “Geek” went, almost overnight, from being a negative, placed-upon identity to being a chosen identity that is, frankly, quite acceptable in our current culture.

    At this point I don’t pay much heed to the labels. I know that I want to hang out with my friends who play board games and have other stereotypical “nerdy” passions. I’m not naive enough to think that any sort of monolithic culture like this is anything other than a broad representation of the larger social strata. All those kids who forced the label of “geek” onto kids a decade ago are now the ones who happily embrace “geek culture” now that it’s a choice and has lost the stigma.

    We keep wanting “geek culture” to be some strange mix of the older, “banded together out of necessity and fear so we take care of each other” and the newer social stigma-free choice of identity. We seem to romanticize something that was awful and terrible (being forced to social fringes and making friends based on who else was an outcast) as some sort of benefit when it was a mixed bag leaving heavily on a feeling that it was really shitty to live like that as a kid. Geeks took care of geeks because the same people who are choosing a “geek” label now are the ones who forced geeks into that same label before.

    And you can look at the same behavior. For all the talk of “neckbeards” and all the shitting on short/fat men it’s the same story over and over again: the “popular” kids are picking and choosing who gets to play in the clubhouse and the list of those who are “undesirable” looks strikingly similar to those who would have been forced into a “geek” label in the past. Same crummy story, just a shiny new face.

    I know I’m using a broad brush, here, but for every complaint about nerd culture we hear if we were to step back into a time machine we’d see the exact same behavior in a different context. Women don’t want the attention of “undesirable” men (fat, short or just not attractive) and the beatstick of Feminism is perfect for maintaining a cognitive dissidence between what is being claimed (“geek inclusive-culture”) and what is being actually practiced (bullying and popularity contests).

  28. I find this particularly enlightening. I tried to say something similar in a bit I did on deviantArt ages ago, but it missed looking at the male perspective of being an outcast, and the division between the nerd and non-nerd gamers. I actually called the three groups: Casual, Dedicated (as you called hobbyist) and hardcore.

    I also found it interesting, since I do actively play a AAA game (Battlefield 4) and am part of a clan. What is interesting is that we recently had a split, where some members left and formed their own clan because they wanted to be more “competitive” and we were too “casual”. But of those that remained, most are nerds in some fashion or another. One of our clan leaders is a girl, and one of the recruiters a gay guy. This article made me realize that I wasn’t looking for a clan that was “casual” like I thought, but a clan of fellow nerds, the kind of folks who understood being an outcast, and were happy to just play.

    The irony is, those who left to be more “competitive” will end up losing to us in the clan when we run into them on servers. Our bond of being nerdy outcasts actually beats their “Dudebro” competitive attitude. Long live the nerd gamers!

  29. Welcome, Nephanor! Insightful comment.

    “The irony is, those who left to be more “competitive” will end up losing to us in the clan when we run into them on servers. Our bond of being nerdy outcasts actually beats their “Dudebro” competitive attitude. Long live the nerd gamers!”

    A strong group always beats a strong individual. What those guiys call competitiveness is a hothouse orchid that grows only when individuals are proteted enough to feel they can afford to compete with each other. This was always the big bogosity at the heart of that Surviror show – it resembled actual situations not at all, Where actual surivial is at issue, all the weapons are pointed outward across the group’s perimeter rather than inward at each other.

  30. @Nephanor and Ginkgo

    It’s amazing that when we see things as a positive, they’re a positive. When we see things as a negative, they’re a negative.

    Notice no real content there.

    You bring up Survivor, Ginkgo. Survivor is the best example of false pretense. There’s no actual danger and no actual worry. This is our culture: No-risk Every-Reward.

  31. “You bring up Survivor, Ginkgo. Survivor is the best example of false pretense. There’s no actual danger and no actual worry. This is our culture: No-risk Every-Reward.”

    in some comment somewhere someone made a very good point – that young women (and not just them) wanted the world to be a theme park. They wanted the feeling of danger and risk without the actual presence of danger and risk.

    I think this mentality is at the root of a sense of entitlement that shapes concepts like rape culture and Schrodinger’s Rapist. The very idea that life is full of danger is experienced as some kind of constructed oppression rather simply a part of nature.

  32. Reading this reminds me of an article I read about the “Sacrifice Trap.”
    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/09/the-sacrifice-trap.html

    The gist of the article is that sometimes there is a problem that can only be solved by making a tremendous effort or sacrifice. Some people nobly engage in doing this, while others don’t. Later a new method of solving the problem is discovered or appears that requires no effort or sacrifice. The people who didn’t sacrifice before support it. The people who made the noble efforts oppose it because they feel those efforts are cheapened.

    This translates well into the description of “nerd culture.” There is a problem (nerds are persecuted). A solution requiring a lot of effort is developed (nerds develop their own culture). A new method of solving the problem appears (making nerdy interests mainstream). The people who didn’t sacrifice before support it (people who weren’t interested enough in nerdy things to tolerate social ostracism suddenly begin exploring their nerdy interests). The people who made the noble efforts oppose it (nerds get upset about poseurs and casual fans).

    Of course, the people who think their efforts have been cheapened are wrong. Their efforts were noble and heroic, back when they were needed. But they aren’t needed anymore.

    I have always considered the “Sacrifice Trap” in the political arena to be irrational. Tellingly, I also see nothing wrong with poseurs. You shouldn’t need to absorb and support the entire philosophy and culture behind something in order to enjoy it (I also have no problem with cultural appropriation).

  33. Displaced,

    You seem to be implicitly defining “nerds” as “people who like comic books, video games etc.” As such, you aren’t grasping the main point I was trying to stress: being a nerd isn’t merely about having interests X, Y and Z, but about having socially atypical interests and being persecuted as a result.

    Being bullied (or alienated in some way) is a CONSTITUTIVE COMPONENT of nerd culture. If you fit in with the mainstream, you CANNOT be a nerd by definition.

    I am NOT arguing that comics/video games/etc. should be reserved EXCLUSIVELY for nerds. On the contrary, I believe anyone can have any interest they want. However, as I have emphasized, nerdiness ISN’T defined by a set of specific interests… it is defined by having interests that aren’t ‘normal’ and sufferring as a consequence of this.

    The problem with poseurs is that people in subculture A can expect to relate to other people from subculture A on the basis of shared values and life experiences (in the case of nerds, a shared experience of being socially alienated). Poseurs of subculture A lack these shared values/life experiences, and as such they defeat the purpose of having a subculture in the first place.

    This doesn’t mean you “have” to be a nerd to read graphic novels. You DON’T. I have nothing against non-nerds reading comics or playing video games (although I was frustrated when they started becoming the target market for video games… thankfully the market seems to be broadening itself now and thus allowing a nerdy niche to remain a profitable demographic). What I DO have a problem with is them CLAIMING to be nerds when they in fact are NOT.

    This doesn’t make them bad people. It doesn’t make them oppressors. All it means is that they don’t understand what being a nerd is about. Its not about liking X, Y or Z… its about the shared experience of social alienation.

    They can still enjoy whatever comics or video games or whatever they like. And that’s fine!

    But that doesn’t mean that they relate to the core nerd experience.

  34. I never suffered like many male nerds but I, as a female was shunned by other female classmates in school in the 90s. I never cared much for a social life so I dedicated my time as a kid in a virtual chatroom called Active Worlds (definitely preceeded the mainstream Second life.), learning HTML, playing video games, etc. I noticed years later how its become popularized to claim a nerd status. Now I never did consider myself a nerd, just a person with unique hobbies. However, it is very hard for me to take other females seriously when they say they play video games and say things like, ‘I’m such a nerd.’ I guess I in a way feel soured that the same girls in school who said I was weird and called me a loser among other things now do ‘nerdy’ things themselves. It makes it difficult nowadays for me as well because I have returned to university for a degree in computer engineering and I feel like guys look at me as someone who is there solely for attention.

  35. Notageek,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    Indeed, actual female nerds like yourself have suffered due to the SJW incursion (and mass-market popularization) of gaming. Because all the fakes destroy your credibility… its disturbingly rather similar to false rape claims discrediting ACTUAL rape victims.

    Real female nerds deserve support, and fake geek girls steal that away from women such as yourself. If anything, we need more real geek girls kicking out the fakes!

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