Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Girl Nerdery 3: #YesAllGeekGirls

So rather than directly addressing the Eliot Rodgers stuff, I'm going to put my nerdy spin on this whole #YesAllWomen thing. Because as I've said before, nerd culture is sort of a microcosm and hyper-active space for "normal" hierarchies and behaviors. So let's start with this piece from io9 (I'll quote the relevant section here):

I've been a fan of the X-Men since the early 90s, when I watched the (awesome 90stastic) cartoon. I've enjoyed (most of) the live action films, especially the most recent, X-Men: DoFP. I've never been able to keep up with the comics, but I'd like to read about the important story lines, character origins, X-Men history, etc. The problem is that there's a ton out there and I haven't a clue where to start. Do you have any recommendations? Perhaps there are some compiled anthology-type materials?
I've asked at a comic book store once and the guy just rolled his eyes at me and said they weren't girly comics, so I shouldn't bother...
Well, screw him. I want to get into this, but I just don't know the best starting points.
Please help!
Okay. I really want to help. But first there's something I've gotta do.
Dear Mr. Comic Store Employee Who Told Lori To Stick To Girly Comics, and Every Comic Store Employee Who Has Ever Done or Said Something Similar: Eat shit.
Seriously, go to the bathroom, take a dump, don't flush, go grab a spoon and fork, and just eat that shit up. The fact that it's 2014 and you have the fucking gall to assume a woman who enters your comic store does not want or somehow cannot handle a superhero comic is both insane and fucking horrible.
Is this the most awful act of misogyny in the world? Unfortunately, as recent events have shown, it obviously isn't. But it's so needless, so petty, so clearly, transparently incorrectnowadays that it drives me insane that this is still happening, or that it ever happened. And I don't mean just morally wrong, I mean factually wrong. Unless this idiot has somehow ignored all the women who have entered his store, and never been to a con, and never been online, there is copious proof that women like all the same nerdy stuff men like. ALL OF IT.
And I get extra offended any time a nerd pulls this shit. I remember being a nerd in the '80s and '90s, being ostracized by my peers, and the fact that any nerd would willingly choose to do the same thing to anyone, let alone another nerd or potential nerd, appalls me. We should know better. We do know better. Second of all, I remember a severe dearth of nerdy girls growing up, and I would have done horrible, horrible things to live in the gender-even nerd renaissance we live in now.
He is a Neanderthal. A nerdy Neanderthal. A NERDANDERTHAL. Fuck him.

I say, "Slow clap," for the most part. And in an exceptionally timely bit of happenstance, a gal on a forum I'm part of on FB just happened to post a picture of herself with a crapton of X-Men comics a friend of hers let her borrow for the same reason the gal seeking advice above had. When I posted a link to this article, a dude posted the following hashtag:


Now granted, this is still while the battle over #NotAllMen vs. #YesAllWomen is being raged on blogs and forums in all of Inernetdum. So my response?


Because, well, yes all geek girls

I know the guy was being at least a little facetious, but it's so goddamned true

I'd say the one thing I disagree with the columnist about is their final part, goes like this: "Second of all, I remember a severe dearth of nerdy girls growing up, and I would have done horrible, horrible things to live in the gender-even nerd renaissance we live in now."

I'm going to have to call..

Because this is a two-pronged fallacy, here. First off, what, we didn't exist in the nineties? Excuse me? How about the fact that you dudes were, indeed, ostracizing and excluding us? Women may have become more nerdy recently, sure, but we didn't not exist. Remember when I said the boys didn't let me play Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering with them? Yeah, I didn't make that shit up. I still have some weird complexes about acceptance and being "who I am" that I'm sure are related to this. Also, I have a nasty scar on my left knee from the time the cargo pants I was wearing got caught on a nail. I AM LITERALLY SCARRED BECAUSE THE  BOYS WOULDN'T LET ME PLAY WITH THEM  IN THEIR NERD THINGS!!!

Second, this assertion that we live in a "gender-even nerd renaissance" nowadays? What rock is he under? I mean, not to, like, ovarysplain, here, but the author of the column  is a dude, and I just... I don't think he realizes how pervasive this kind of shit is for us women/girls/ladies/gals.  Anita Sarkeesian is still getting trolled and threatened for her videos;  reviewers of video games that point out underdeveloped female roles are still called hypersensitive, and the whole "male characters are objectified, too!" bullshit gets tossed (along with plenty other bits of textual fecal matter) in the comments; and there are YouTube channels dedicated to teaching other dudes how to harass women gamers.*

"Nerd renaissance?"

Excuse  me while I count to ten...
See this is exactly what perpetuates the problems. This ignorance with respect to the systemic issues geek girls face on a day-to-day basis as they go about their nerdery and geekiness. I mean, sure, I'm glad he's pissed, but his indignation is misguided in his assertion that this comic book store employee is somehow an anomaly. His (what I can only assume is) shock and disbelief stems from his total oblivion to the real problems women in the geek world face. I mean, granted, I agree and like the term "Nerdanterthal," it's pretty apt- it rather cleverly points at how backwards this mindset is. But I think this columnist is missing the key fact that this "Nerdanderthal" is one of millions of asshole geek men that assume women don't know anything about nerdery and that deliberately exclude us. I've had very similar interactions with comic book store workers in my own lifetime- I'll be perusing, often looking for a specific title, when the dude behind the counter saunters from his post, walks up next to me, and asks with a tone you'd reserve for a child you caught doing something naughty,

"Now, is there anything I can help you with?" When I say no, they inquire again, as if giving me a second chance to "come clean," "Are you sure?" I tell them no, I'm really okay, thank you, and they say, the way you give in to someone that refuses assistance, despite it being devastatingly obvious they need it, "Okaaaay, if you're suuuure. I'll just be over here if you need me, okay?" Sometimes it's not an "if," but rather a "when," by the way.

Fuck, even when I go to Hot Topic, if it's not a gal behind the counter, the dude gives me these really condescending looks and smirks as I buy my Batman or Walking Dead merch. I even had one ask me if my boyfriend watches the latter once- I promptly responded, "It's for me, is that a problem?" I guess the pink shirt and big, dangly earrings threw him off.

And so excuse me  for being a little  frustrated.

I get it. Not all geek guys are sexist. Not all of them drool and stutter when a human with boobs walks into the comic book store. Not all of them assume ladies only like rom-comics. Not all geek guys harass female gamers. Not all male nerds would turn down a lady that asks to join them and throw down some Magic cards. But it happens so often that geek girls come to expect it, or at least come to be entirely unsurprised when a male nerd assumes ignorance on their part. Or suggests they try some other media that's more "girly," too. Call me a cynic, but I'm actually surprised when it doesn't happen, when the dude treats me  as an equal, not like some little child pretending to understand something like thermodynamics or how to fix a jammed printer. And for a geek guy to act surprised and indignant when confronted with an example of a fellow male nerd being sexist, it shows how, just like in the world outside Nerddom, dudes are putting their heads in the sand and pretending there's no problem- without realizing that actually creates more problems. 

And too often, they assume it's a personal attack and blame game, rather than a call for awareness and responsibility when it's pointed out in their midst- often because they're positive that they're open-minded and socially aware, too. They think that because they may not have ever behaved that way, it's an affront for them to be exposed to critiques of other dudes. They are obviously not a part of the problem, so why point the finger at them? (I can't tell you how many times I've heard a dude say, "Hey, I'm all for diversity, I like [name drops Black male character], I just don't think [insert female character name here] should get her own movie/series/etc." or something along those lines when I bring up the lack of female/POC representation in comics and movies. That's the equivalent of the, "I have a Black friend," argument.) But again, it's about responsibility, not blame. 

There is everyday sexism in Nerddom, folks. So next time a gal tells you a story about something she experiences, don't waste time on acting shocked and appalled. Just get right to the point and tell her you get it, that geek culture is a cesspool of concentrated rape culture and misogyny, and brainstorm things you can do as a [insert gender identity here] to help change the discourse.

Because there are things you can do. Like calling out sexist comments. Like encouraging a woman being mansplained at to stand up for herself as it's happening, or saying something to the dude mansplaining at her later (because we do need to be careful about White Knighting, too). Like giving a woman  the benefit of the doubt and not questioning her credentials when she expresses interest in anything nerdy, walks into a comic or game store, sits at your nerd table. Like not freaking out if you get beat by a woman in a game because she's a she (I mean, it's cool to be mad you lost, but to be all, "I CAN'T BELIEVE I LOST TO A GIRL," is just plain ridiculous).

Do I need to give you more?

The anti-woman sentimentality underpinning crap like what the gal writing the letter described is why women feel unsafe in lots of geeky environments. It's what leads to Anita Sarkeesian getting rape threats and having her personal info spread around and a flash game where you beat her face in made. And while no, geek girls haven't been targeted by a mass murderer as of the writing of this post, the fact that they get threats online when they beat men in games along the lines of, "I'm going to find you and rape you then kill you," doesn't make me think it's entirely out of the question for the future. I hope it never comes to that, but by golly, if that Eliot Rodgers isn't a catalyst for the problems in society, I don't think even a big brawl at a gaming convention caused by a dude being upset he lost to a woman would make much difference to anybody, either. It's sad, but really. If THAT shit doesn't lead to some change, I don't know what else could. 


*Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention the whole racism thing, if he's going to have the balls to call it a "nerd renaissance." 


  1. I love "ovarysplain." I'm going to try and use it in a sentence today.

  2. I feel like I should leave a deeper comment, but mostly I just want to let you know that I liked that you equate thermodynamics and unjamming printers. And I mean that seriously - I'm fairly certain most people could not master either.

  3. The association between those is utterly ridiculous. Thermodynamics is far easier than unjamming a printer.