Followup for “Geek”
Posted on July 27, 2012 Posted by John Scalzi 92 Comments
I’m squashed down with busy today, so a few notes about yesterday’s piece on who gets to be a geek:
* First, deeply delighted that in a comment thread of over five hundred comments, we’ve kept things nicely civil (in general), on topic (in general) and had relatively few malletings. Thanks go to the commenters, for playing by the rules laid out, and also to Kate Baker, who moderated in my stead for most of yesterday. She is awesome.
* Joe Peacock, who wrote the piece my piece was responding to, popped into the comment threads and had some things to say about my response and offered some clarifications on who the ostensible targets of his ire were. I commented back to him, as did others, and everything was civilized, because that’s how we roll here.
* Nick Mamatas has further thoughts on this topic. Forbes has an interesting article following up the Peacock piece as well, and (unsurprisingly) so does Jezebel.
And that’s the update. I’m again mostly away from The Intarweebs today (I could tell you why, but then I would have to kill you), I will try to swing back later. In the meantime, enjoy your Friday, why don’t you, unless you’re in New Zealand or Australia, in which case, uh, I hope your Friday was nice.
Yeah, it wasn’t bad, thanks! An hour and a half into Saturday morning here. :D
John’s not kidding. If he tells you why he will have to kill you. I made him tell me something similar at Comic-Con and he killed me. Twice.
I didn’t get a chance to comment yesterday, but like a lot of the people who did was/am very pleased with the way you said what you said, and it NEEDED to be said. It will likely need to be said again as long as there are bigots in this world, but at least I know now that I’m really not alone in how I feel about geeks being bigots.
I loved the article John, and have been enloying following the responses as well. Didn’t respond myself, because I didn’t really have anything substantive to add. I am currently still laughing at the commentor who thinks you wrote this for internet fame.
I loved the piece.
I wonder, though, as a paid creator of things beloved of geeks, are you truly allowed to fully own your geekdom? My thinking is, having moved from strict consumer and creator of things that please you as a fan to paid creator of things for others to geek out over, does one not move, at least partially, from fandom into ‘another’ realm? Perhaps a Venn diagram graphic should be inserted here…
Trend-setters would seem to me, by their very nature, to be outside geek culture…
Just two cents of tangential thought on the post.
Venn was a Geek.
“Three years later he published Early Collegiate Life which collected many of his writings describing what life was like in the early days of Cambridge University. He then undertook the immense task of compiling a history of Cambridge University Alumni Cantabrigienses, the first volume of which was published in 1922. He was assisted by his son John Archibald Venn in this task which was described by another historian in these terms:-
‘It is difficult for anyone who has not seen the work in its making to realise the immense amount of research involved in this great undertaking.'”
I love this (rather long, sorry!) bit from the Mamatas article, as it directly contradicts the claims of some in the other comment thread who claim to have suffered SO much for their geek tendencies which of course, automatically means all of the n00bs who weren’t picked on as adolescents don’t “belong”:
“If “geek culture” was a huge stigma, there wouldn’t have been Star Wars in the mid-1970s and a giant Superman movie in the late 1970s, Godzilla marathons on TV at 3PM—just in time for the kids to come home from school—or Transformers and He-Man toys and cartoons all over the fucking place in the 1980s. Batman wouldn’t have been huge in the 1980s, there wouldn’t have been a comic book bubble or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle juggernaut emerging from the black-and-white indie comic scene. Pac-Man wouldn’t have been stamped on every conceivable product, and a decade later Super Mario Bros. 3 wouldn’t have sold 7 million copies in the US alone.
Unless your abiding geek interest is, oh, I dunno, Lithuanian folks dancing, your “geek” childhood was not anything other than the usual sort of consumption of tween and teen products that millions upon millions of others also consumed. You were in the same special secret club that everyone else who had a TV or went to the mall was in.”
First time commenting and missed my chance yesterday but it brought to mind a track from a few years back by Mitch Benn. Thought I’d share it.
As others have said ‘well done, Sir’ though I get where JP came from as we have all been there.
Oh, and as I only discovered your work recently you have a new fan.
I have two points to make today;
Point 1.) Labeling a person based on their interests is a bad idea and we should all stop doing that.
Point 2.) If you are part of an organized group, you and your group should not exclude a person or people from that organized group based on; a.) their other interests. b.) what they may do in their personal time that has nothing to do with your organization. c.) their race, their ethnicity, their gender, their social background.
And I reserve the right to amend this list.
And what about the rest of us in these time zones, John? What about those of us in Northeast Asia, who have already seen Friday? Don’t you care? We need you to care, John, we really do.
Uhm, It’s 3am in Korea, and I’m not sure I want to own those remarks.
Thanks for all the good work, you are the kind of geek I would like to sit down and talk with.
No woman has ever pretended to be interested in comic books or football to “get the guy” (or girl). Similarly the guys have never feigned interest in astro physics, Twilight, Rom-coms, or “what Susan told her about Jeremy” or the middle east.
Oh, and one can never “look fat”, one is simply fat. (one, of course, is me)
@Tom “he killed me. Twice”
La Petite Morte? Oh my!
What I think was interesting was the (apparent) demographics of the commenters. A lot of the people who took Peacock’s side were women, as opposed to the dearth of women who said John was clueless on the easiest game setting pieces. It gives me pause to label someone a misogynist when a significant segment of women agree with them. I realize it is possible for women to support misogynist positions, but I tend to hesitate as long as possible on deploying false consciousness type arguments.
For my part, I thought the first part of his article sounded fine and the last part was jaw droppingly sexist; the cognitive dissonance had my ears ringing (or was it the repurcussions of my jaw hitting the floor?) If there was a center in there, I could not find it. On the other side, it gave people a lot of room to read things into the text that possibly or actually weren’t there. I realize that is all on Mr. Peacock’s lack of clarity, but the rah-rah-rah backlash was hardly edifying either.
Inside of that mess was another reading that reached some women and some men. They do feel like they are being exploited and shamed. The so called good guys telling those people, in effect, to suck it up and welcome to the real world, not as shiny as I think they thought they were being.
As to John’s definition of a geek: the late great Kurt Vonnegut was then no geek. His response to questions about whether he was a SF writier: SF writers are joiners and I’m no joiner. Not so much an elistist sneer, as some have it, but I would opine an honest statement about his own character.
I’m on vacation at Newport Beach and so not going to dig up yesterday’s whatevahs. But, I did see ‘geek’ and ‘open borders’. I concur with the right honorable John.
I would say a lot of women don’t respond against Peacock, because we’re tired and these days we have awesome male allies. And when folks like Scalzi post it’s not a profound revelation just a sigh of relief 1) he puts things well and 2) I know that Scalzi is more likely to be heard. So I’m not moved to comment, I’ll just retweet. Thinking comments is in any kind of demographic representation is flawed.
I felt really uncomfortable writing this blog post, part of me was thinking “don’t do it Liz, you will ruin your comics career forever! Editors will worry you’re a bitch that makes big deals out of nothing.” But, that’s just silencing thinking, and sometimes you have to tell your inner worrier to shut up. Especially because I felt like I had something to add to the conversation: http://lizargall.com/2012/07/at-a-professional-convention-i-am-likely-to-hug-you-at-a-comicspop-culture-convention-i-am-likely-to-say-please-dont-touch-me/
@Griffin Barber — please read _The Way the Future Was_ by Frederik Pohl. That book should ease your mind and set to rest your anxiety over our hero’s possible loss of his essential geek prowess.
Come to think of it, _The Way the Future Was_ should probably be required reading for everyone as it documents one of the first “Thou art not a Geek” knock down drag outs.
I find the definition of ‘geek’ throughout this whole multi-blog collection of stuff to be rather different from the one I use. I generally think of the word geek as being associated with some sort of skill e.g. a “computer geek”. Perhaps extensive knowledge counts as a skill . I don’t know that I consider great enthusiasm in and of itself, evidence of geekery. While geeks are frequently socially awkward, it isn’t a defining characteristic.
I accept that this is largely irrelevant because the question is about how people behave at conventions and not what we call them.
I also don’t think I find Nick Mamata’s assertion that fan culture is mass culture to be entirely convincing. Yes millions of people watched the Star Wars films but most of them couldn’t name plush blue keyboardist in Jabba’s palace. Lots of kids watched He-Man and Thundar the Barbarian but only a handful named their band “Ookla the Mok” (BTW, a band I would love to see considered for a Scalzi novel companion song). Most of those millions of kids didn’t see it as something large enough in their life that they would pay money to attend a convention. If you play table-top RPGs as an adult, people do tend to see you as something of a “Big Bang Theory” character.
Perhaps I’m told old to correctly distinguish between kids harassed for geeky interests and kids harassed for reading books. They were largely the same crowd for me,. VCRs attained prominence while I was a kid and no one was dressing up like their favorite character from Galaga.
In fact, I find it a little weird that “The Big Bang Theory” characters are enormous comic and media fans. I assumed that it was because the show was more accessible if they argued about comic book characters than it would be if they argued about early Heinlein vs. late Heinlein. I guess I always imagine that when the cameras are off, Sheldon rages about what is acceptably hard science fiction and asserts that fans are Slans.
The closest I’ve come to a massive media event like DragonCon was a Gencon 20 years ago. The local fan-run SF cons don’t usually have the sort of attendence that would prompt a dealer to employee professional booth babes (there have been exceptions). So maybe I’m not as familiar with the culture being discussed as I would have thought.
My next band will be Mok the Ookla and our hit song will be All the Young Noobs.
So… Mr. so called geek that doesn’t know the handshake, where’s my book?
I hope Nick doesn’t mind I quote a bit from his post, but this:
Indeed, one reason why sexist attitudes toward attractive women are so prevalent in geekdom is because of the mix of shame and desire attractive women represent to men who feel excluded from the supply of sexual encounters out there in the world. It’s abjection—one wants what one cannot have because one is revolting, so one projects that same revulsion on the object of their desire. Some geek men want these booth babes so much that they can’t stand them.
I just have to say dayum did he nail it.
Peacock’s article reads like a man who had always wanted but was rejected by the (to use Peacock’s own term) “hot chicks” and so rages against them.
At the point he comes up with the “6 of 9” bit, the “they’re not so hot, they’re only 6’s going to a geek convention where we’ll treat them like 9’s” it just got really really sad for Mr. Peacock.
Also from Nick: Geeks are enthusiasts, nerds get excellent grades, and dorks socially awkward. … You weren’t picked on because of your pop culture consumption habits, you were picked on for being a dork.
I’m not sure I would use the same definition for nerd and dork (dork etymology comes from the word “penis” and, well, if someone’s being a dick, I don’t think they’re a dork, but I’ll just go with it for now…) but I would definitely agree that kids get picked on for being socially awkward, not for watching StarWars or StarTrek or knowing what “Ookla the Mok” referred to.
Jen Yates (from Cakewrecks) at her Epbot blog has another great follow-up in her post “Geek Cred” – Stop Qualifying and Start Celebrating.
Also, this is tangential, but every time I read a reference to the Target Batman t-shirt as a signal of not being “true geek” I hear Frank Zappa asking if that’s a real poncho or a Sears poncho.
Another very well written follow up article from Jezebel: http://jezebel.com/5929382/confessions-of-a-sometimes-booth-babe
Ha, ha rcs. I love that one from Zappa. It can be used for things other than ponchos. The first time I used it after I met my wife, she looked at me like I was crazy. I had to explain the whole Zappa thing and dig up the song for her to listen to. We have both used it occasionally ever since as couples short-hand. It comes in especially handy when travelling.
I’m still not certain which notion is weirder; that male geeks are so desirable that armies of pretty young women are allegedly dressing up as Laura Croft to impress them, or that geeks should castigate them if they do.
I’ve certainly heard the appellation “6 of 9” before, but it was generally specifically in reference to Jeri Ryan’s character “7 of 9”. The press release announcing her addition to Voyager could be easily interpretted as if her only purpose was to serve as eye candy. In my opinion, she turned out to be an interesting character, but that press release wasn’t exactly encouraging. The term implied criticism of the writers and producers.
Whether or not we can agree on what is or isn’t a geek, and I don’t define “geek” the way John does, it doesn’t matter. A welcoming greeting is a better plan that exclusion. So let’s go with John’s
“ZOMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE COME WITH ME AND LET US LOVE IT TOGETHER.”
Actually when I first saw Ookla the Mok, part of the introduction involved schtick about Mott the Hoople and I had no idea that there was such a band.
OMG – “Mott the Hoople”. I haven’t thought of those guys in years. I wonder if that is a real hoople, or a Sears hoople.
Sorry, John, getting off topic, but this is fun.
Still pondering how I broke the rules while bringing up the earlier uses of the work ‘geek’, i.e. related to circus freaks who perform acts like biting the head off live chickens. But, c’est la vie. Or rather, ce n’est pas mon blog. The discussion was certainly interesting.
Relevant to Greg’s comment at 4:29pm:
I pay absolutely no attention to anyone on the Internets deciding what the definition of “nerd, dork or geek” actually is, for several reasons:
1) That person most likely isn’t a kid anymore calling people names or being called names by the popular kids, so how would they know?
2) That person may be unaware that -especially in the pre-internet years- kid-generated-insults varied -and varied in meaning- from one region to another (I found this out because I attended 5 different schools between 9th and 12th grades during the 1980s – it was enlightening)
3) The definitions are arbitrarily applied so much, that somehow *enforcing* a true definition is pointless and no one cares.
Argon – yes you broke the rules. You shall burn in hell for eternity, or of equal horror be banned from this website forever. You should have someone hide all the sharp pointy objects where you live.
As a possibly useful data point – hundreds of people, many of them women, contacted me directly about the piece I wrote, and I imagine far more people read and responded to the posts by John Scalzi, on Jezebel and by Nick Mamatas. Most of those comments, although not all, supported the view that Joe Peacock needed to be called out. Generally, I think you are more likely to email people whose viewpoint you support.
I’m not surprised that women didn’t get directly in touch with a man who had shown no hesitation in calling women he disliked failed models, a pox on geek culture and gross. Why would you do that?
Likewise, it’s hardly surprising, if you make it clear that your part of geek culture is going to abuse any woman it feels is “fake”, and try to drive them out of geekdom, that some women will rush to reassure you that _they_ are not fake, and they hate those “fake geek girls” as well.
Greg, quoting Nick:
Where are these allegedly sexless geeks? The Bay Area con fandom community is a din of iniquity…
(Mumble mumble Rule Six mumble party busted mumble)
Daniel Nye Griffiths, your article rocked. Thanks to Scalzi for linking it. I’d not have seen it otherwise.
The Bay Area con fandom community is a din of iniquity
It has oft been suggested that the road to riches is an app that allows one to easily map, and at a moment examine, all the relationships between one’s Silicon Valley friends. “Oh yeah, see the blue line, here? Keiko used to be married to Elias, who is currently Dave the Gearboy’s secondary, who was part of the same Rocky Horror production as Violettina, back when her name was Renee and she had that really painful affair with that dude from Google. Here’s her e-mail.”
Thanks for posting the links about this kerfuffle in your followup. I was just idly checking in, and I read your piece on Peacock, read the Peacock piece, decided to skip comments and come back to read your followup, and then went link surfing. Very interesting few hours. I learned a whole ton of a lot, and it was frequently both depressing and uplifting. Both, because “geek” culture hasn’t changed very much, and yet it also very much has changed, sometimes within the same example. FASCINATING. Also, in addition to some really great reading, I discovered “I’m the One That’s Cool,” and I found myself having a weepy, inspirational moment. TMI, probably, but there you go.
Sometimes, when I visit Whatever, I feel like I’ve been stepped into Callahan’s Place. I hope you don’t take that as an insult; I mean it as a compliment to you, your “regulars,” and Spider Robinson. Anyway, thanks.
Neal Stephenson breaks it down in this oldie but goodie:
Of course he’s talking about knowledge geeks. The more general answer is that geek is a subjective term. It means a thousand different things to millions of people. And that’s perfectly okay because it’s a culture, not a certification program. Room for anyone who wants to participate whether they want to self-indentify and be identified as geek or not (or even as geek on odd number days). The label is incidental. My reluctance a decade ago to embrace my inner geek wasn’t a reluctance toward the label per se, but toward whether I wanted to join a tribe. Then I stopped worrying about it and decided to just be happy to share my passions with others.
The following is a reply to Onna-Kohaku’s query from the original thread. I’m not trying to get around the thread closing, but this wasn’t really to do with the stuff anyway. I just thought she deserved an answer.
And more tags:
For characters, Unicode is your friend:
Nonsense, everyone has to learn from somewhere. Well, unless someone has figured out how to genetically encode knowledge into their genome, in which case I, for one, welcome our new superintelligent overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a geek, I can be helpful in rounding up other geeks to toil in their underground toy factories…
Hey, a fellow Spider Robinson fan! Hi there, Constance. Let’s recommend Spider heartily to those who enjoy Scalzi and Heinlein, shall we? Speaking of ZOMG LET’S SHARE SOMETHING REALLY COOL, I mean.
In the Library
With the Internet
I get some of the point Mr. Peacock made regarding if you have no interest in con stuff, then don’t go to a con. But that could be said of anybody there! Do what you like! Not what you don’t like.
But he wrote, “I find it fantastic that women are finally able to enjoy a culture that has predominately been male-oriented and male-driven.” And that’s kind of hilarious. It’s as if he wrote, “I find it fantastic that women are finally able to do math!” I’m going to pat him on the head and assume the lil guy didn’t know any better. Perhaps this will be a good learning experience for him.
John, your “geek” article was my first exposure to you and, lo, you are awesome. As a casual geek girl who would probably not have defined myself as such until reading you half an hour ago, I salute you, and am off to find your books:).
Dude. Just read “lowest difficulty setting”. Double awesome. I want to bake you pie and knit you sweaters and I can neither knit nor bake. Thank you.
I have to say, I was one who had a massive problem with the use of the currently-more-prominent (and invalid in my book) definition of the word “hipster,” which sadly got so many “this”-es in the previous thread.
It severely undercut the whole “everyone gets to be a geek the way they want” point of the piece, especially to someone (like myself) who completely, utterly rejects the “it’s all about snobbery towards the noobs” part of the current decadent, degraded definition of the word “hipster” that’s become so popular.
Now I’m too old to be an official current-crop hipster (I’ve given up trying to dress at all cool, though I still try as far as keeping up with what can be unfortunately over-generalized as “indie-rock” and the like) but I would have been more-or-less the mid-1980s equivalent.
I remember going back to a con for the first time in a couple of years after a bit of a punk phase and thinking “well, this will be one place I won’t get a weird reception to this mohawk, what with fans being so accepting and all” and being, well, disappointed.
(Also, people clinging to a weird, outmoded 1970s clothing code that went “black leather jacket=violent dangerous guy, brown leather jacket=safe” which was pretty much the exact opposite of my actual experiences at the time; brown leather jackets were the territory of “regular-guy” types who considered a fight a valid part of an evening’s recreation and didn’t like anyone who looked funny, while most people in black leather jackets were harmless art school students trying to look edgy, but who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Like most of my friends.)
Also sad: I went back to the same convention (well, same name, town & club affiliation, you know what I mean) twenty years later and was disappointed to find out how many people (people I liked and had hoped to see in spite of what I’m saying here) had dropped out of fandom because they simply could not bear to socialize for any length of time at all with people whose musical tastes were not absolutely identical to their own, or to tolerate for so much as a second hearing anything from outside a strict playlist established when they first started con-going in the 1970s (also the unfortunately-voiced opinion of many who were there loudly explaining why they weren’t going near the dance).
Bad attitudes, silly prejudices, hypocrisy, cliqiusm, total impatience with the unfamiliar and shocking intolerance are the exclusive monopoly of no social group.
Daniel Nye Griffiths
What BW said. I especially like this bit:
“For a woman, not knowing your subject makes you a “fake”, whereas for a man it seems it is entirely forgivable.”
Because yes. I couldn’t get over how, according to Peacock, Ryan Perez simply failed to do research, but that one girl at a con that he talked to who didn’t know whose costume she was wearing? she’s the one whose totally destroying this beautiful geek culture. Also, it was disturbing how important it seemed to be that he spend a lot of time judging how women look (are they hot enough? are they real models or only wannabes? etc).
It’s just the xkcd cartoon all over again – and then he has the gall to claim that it’s the fault of “fake” geeks that women are being held to higher standards than men, not, you know, the same old shit as before.
John, thanks for linking to the Daniel Nye Griffiths piece.
Daniel, thank you for pretty much everything you’ve written that I’ve read today: your blog post, your response to people commenting on your blog post, and your comments here at Whatever. There are people who turn intelligent take-down of bigotry into an art form; their essays just gleam with style and snark and that makes me happy. And then there’s what you do, which is making that art form look easy.
Like, how you so simply speak to the issue of misogyny perpetrated by women, showing compassion for the women who do it while at the same time not relenting an inch on the fact that yes, this is still misogyny. It’s a subject that gets me tongue-tied and angry and then flustered as my attempts to explain the whole self-preservation angle of patriarchy cookies get shoe-horned into a correspondent’s “Well, aren’t you just saying that women can’t help it? That’s pretty sexist of you!” But you just cut straight to the heart of the Gordian knot like it ain’t no thang. I am totally taking notes on how you do it.
On that note — In case it needs saying again (hey, it’s a brand new day) — if, apropos of the argument towards the end of the previous comment thread, any man thinks he needs a woman to specifically ask him to speak up about sexism before he can feel it’s safe for him and respectful to us to do so — please allow me to sign your permission slip. Seriously, we women need male allies in the conversation. The very mechanism of sexism enables sexists to easily dismiss women who call out sexism. Unfortunate, unfair, yes, but you deal with the sexists you’ve got, not the sexists you wish you had. The flip side of that, though, is that as much as they are predisposed against hearing me, they’re also predisposed to according respect to a male voice. So damn straight I appreciate the male voices (like John and Daniel here, just for example) speaking up against sexism!
One last point I didn’t recall seeing made in the other thread (which isn’t to say it wasn’t made; it was a long thread and I may have missed something): Regarding Peacock’s supporters’ rebuttal that telling fake geek girls from real geeks doesn’t take mind-reading, it only takes a few minutes of conversation?
Please. Guys? Do not try to have those few minutes of conversation with me.
I’m at a con to enjoy myself and to geek out with other geeks about the awesome characters and stories and worlds and games we’re there to love the heck out of. I’m not at a con to be interrogated by every self-appointed elitist gate-keeper (like Peacock) in order to determine how genuine my geekdom is. And if that kind of gate-keeping is why you’re talking to me, trust me, I’m going to pick up on it within the first few seconds of the conversation. And then I’m going to be the kind of geek girl you hate because I wouldn’t give you the time of day, and that’ll just suck for both of us.
So please. Leave the gate-keeping interrogation with all the other bad behaviors you leave behind in your hotel room before coming out to interact with the nice people. You’ll enjoy the con better that way, and so will I.
Having read Joe’s piece I think it and the Anita Sarkeesian are an example of bad communication, as Sarah Hoyt put it how “How NOT to make friends and influence people” (http://accordingtohoyt.com/2012/07/26/how-not-to-make-friends-and-influence-people/)
Geeky guys tend to come across as highly arrogant. They seem to think mocking, ridicule, “telling it as it is” is cool and edgy (I’m no angel on this either).. Anyone who’s ever asked a dumb but necessary question on a coding or gaming thread know this. The assholes will come out in droves to go out of their way to insult and belittle said asker.
But it tends to alienate people and is counter-productive to someone convincing others.
I saw a lot of this in Joe’s original article, as well as the objections to Anita.
But here’s the thing: buried deep within all that snarkiness are decent arguments and viewpoints that should be considered. But who wants to pull a valuable argument out of all that crap?
It’s the same thing over the whole “Chik-Fil-A” nastiness. I support Gay Marriage but I have seen some of the most self-righteously intolerant arguments and actions taken by my so-called allies (I’m looking at you but not only you Mayors Emanuel and Menino) on the issue.
My point: try to be better. And being civil and polite doesn’t make one a “wimp”.
They had a segment on The Nerdist earlier about whether some of the people at SDCC were “real” nerds. They took a light-hearted approach and certainly weren’t sexist about it, but it was pretty snooty. I tweeted @nerdist and referred him to John’s other article. He’s a good friend of Wil Wheaton, so I expect John’s name will mean something to him.
I think I get your point as far as it goes, Scorpius, but have you read some of the truly repugnant shit thrown in Anita Sarkeesian’s direction? Sorry, telling a woman she’s a “ugly dyke c**t” who is trying to “scam money out of people” and posting rape-themed pornography on social media? That is well beyond “snark” and totally undeserving of any kind of consideration whatsoever as opposed to total, annihilating contempt. YMMV, but I think Sarkeesian communicates her views and intentions when it comes to gaming perfectly well. She’s not the problem here.
Oh I know. And those vile imbeciles destroyed the conversation. There’s much to object to in Anita’s thesis and somethings that are flat-out wrong about it, but because of the shitstorm of nastiness that she encountered she won’t even engage even the most polite female critic now. Which is said since it’s destroyed the very conversation she wanted to have making it one-sided.
My thoughts about my purpose on the other comments page can be found on my own web site mythlogicpress.com under the heading Thought Experiment if anyone is interested. I won’t belabor any points here.
I have read a couple of articles now that argue, like Mamata’s piece, that areas traditionally considered “geek” are mainstream and have been for a long time. I think that is certainly true for my children, but I am not sure it was true for me. It could be a generational thing and I would argue that it might also have to do with location.
I have distinct and painful memories of growing up in a small Texas town in the 80’s and early 90’s and being excluded for my interest in fantasy and science fiction and love of reading. In fourth grade I was placed in the G/T program and I can very vividly remember trying to play with the other girls in the class and the moment I started talking about how cool I thought magic and dragons were, I was ostracized, My imagination, which had been a valuable tool for coming up with games to play at recess previously, was now something that set me apart. I was bullied by one girl in particular and just excluded by the other girls and sat at a table with only boys. The following year I was considered strange for having already read and immensely enjoying “A Wrinkle In Time” when we read it for class. In Junior High I can remember the weird looks and blank stares when other girls asked what actor I thought was cute and I responded, Wil Wheaton, instead of the more popular Jonathan Brandis or Leonardo Dicaprio.
Mamata’s argument would suggest that my treatment was not because of my interest in these things, but because either I was socially awkward or because I was a girl interested in things that were not considered gender normal for a girl at the time. My personal experience is that, at least in the rural area where I lived, comics, fantasy and sci-fi were definitely not mainstream for girls or boys. I did not start out socially awkward or shy but I certainly became those things after being treated like an outsider starting in 4th grade and throughout the rest of my school experience. Mamata raises some very interesting points and I do feel that “geek” areas are definitely becoming more mainstream and saturating more of the pop culture landscape. However, I don’t think you could argue that no one was ever picked on for their interests and that they wrongly attribute the bullying or teasing they underwent to their love of something science fiction or fantasy related. Maybe my experience was different simply due to my age but I don’t think that all areas of geek interest enjoy equal levels of pop culture assimilation or that they are now considered “mainstream” in all parts of the country equally. My children would not get teased at the local public school for liking comic books or playing video games or reading a Harry Potter novel, sure. However, if they showed up with Magic cards on the playground or were reading manga then they might not fair so well.
Kelly – I followed up in your space.
I think it scares geeks that now geekdom is now popular. Growing up I was the only one among my friends that liked sci-fi, fantasy and played pc games. And I was a girl who did not like barbies or shopping. I was just strange. So I think since we have been against the world for so long and not accepted we fall back into that role and try to find someone to be the villain. So we don’t have the bullies at school anymore so we pick apart our own group and try this establish the pecking order.
I know there has been times I have been guilty of this. But it is just my insecurities coming out especially when it comes to other women. My head says “there is no way she is really a geek she is way to pretty or sexy” because I am not really pretty or sexy I am average so my self esteem comes from my geek identity. So when compared to a hot girl that also loves sci-fi, fantasy, and pc games I come up short. But that is my issues and hot geek girls should not have to suffer because of my issues.
I wonder also if the virulent and noxious “bimbo” meme isn’t partially responsible. Our culture seems so pervaded by the idea that normative notions of physical beauty are a sign of low intelligence or mental sloth that I’d be surprised if it hasn’t made its way into geek subcultures. I’ve had people respond with unconcealed surprise that I’m a physics major or that I can rattle off entries from Star Trek encyclopedias or that I quote obscure genre literature when I need a pithy riposte. And I’ve known highly intelligent women who did things like wear non-corrective glasses in order to be taken more seriously in academia (a conversation that came up when I explained how I could estimate the refractive index of an eye lens by how much it displaced the edge of the face seen through from the front). There’s a widespread assumption in our culture that if you have so-called “good looks” or acute social intelligence that you have no reason to develop your cognitive assets. These assumptions seem to be shifting, but not quickly. And, as usual, women are more often challenged to “prove their cred” than guys. Someone who might be surprised that I’m a geek is likely to outright dismiss a woman who doesn’t fit their preconceived notions of geekhood.
“…but because of the shitstorm of nastiness that she encountered she won’t even engage even the most polite female critic now.”
I’m…not…entirely certain what this sentence is even supposed to mean. O.o Is she not engaging with critics that are women? As in, is she engaging with critics that are men? But not ones that are women? Or is the idea that she isn’t engaging with any critics – even! ones that are female! (wha?)
Because otherwise it sounds like you are trying to say she isn’t engaging with people that are “politely” critical of the fact that she is female. and um, yeah If so, I don’t really think that’s a new decision of hers, for obvious reasons.
“In Junior High I can remember the weird looks and blank stares when other girls asked what actor I thought was cute and I responded, Wil Wheaton, instead of the more popular Jonathan Brandis or Leonardo Dicaprio.”
Hmmm – but is that strictly geek vs not!geek? It sounds more “cool (slightly geeky)” vs. “not cool (and very geeky)” to me. Wil Wheaton was in Tiger Beat, after all (I should know, I cut out one of the pictures and taped it to my 7th grade folder) not to mention Toy Soldiers. And Jonathan Brandis was known for being in SeaQuest and The Neverending Story sequel. I’m not trying to say you didn’t experience what you say you experienced…just that I grew up at the same time and I remember being an outcast because I was awkward and got good grades, not so much because I liked fantasy novels and watched ST: TNG. So, if there is a difference in whether people were picked on for being geeks or not, I suspect it has as much or more to do with geographical subcultures than it is generational.
Second what Sam said. That bothered me about Mamata’s piece too. Can’t really speak to how kids grow up now, but in the 80s and early 90s you definitely did NOT start off by introducing yourself as a Star Trek fan or Dungeons and Dragons player until you knew what kind of company you were in. There were cool kids who got away with it to be sure, but only by compensating for it by being higher on the totem pole in other accepted areas – like being in a band or on the basketball team. I can remember people making fun of and disavowing their former D&D playing to go popular, but I don’t remember anyone giving up basketball to play D&D. Certainly no one who was popular ever had something like D&D as their main ”thing.” It would invariably be something they did on the side, and never something they did with their other popular friends, and indeed something they were likely to downplay or even deny around their popular friends. Sorry, Mamata, but there really is – or at least was – a hierarchy to these things. Indulging in certain hobbies gave you a social handicap that you then had to overcome. To be fair, some people did manage it. And to save his point a bit – I don’t think he’s wrong that there’s a correlation between social awkwardness and geek hobbies. But it is either just a correlation, or the causation runs the other way, for my money. Geeks are more likely to be socially awkward because the social handicap their hobbies impose gives them a diminished incentive to try to fit in. Being a dedicated Renaissance Fair participant did not get you opposite-sex attention in high school; playing basketball well did.
Quite. I always find it grimly amusing that when feminists decide to protect themselves by withdrawing from on-line harassment and intimidation they’re the problem (dang intolerant Feminazis who can’t take a joke!) not, you know, the cyber-bullies and their enablers.
Oh, so this.
Leaving aside the question of how one is supposed to engage with people whose argument is “you’re a Bolshevik Jew Dyke Whore [further copious vitriol redacted] and I firmly disagree with everything you haven’t said yet, and you don’t have a right to say it you uppity feminazi etcetc.” which was basically the gist of a lot of the “criticism” directed at Anita Sarkeesian. That crap is not an invitation to engage in dialogue. It’s an attack intended to demean and silence someone speaking while female. Just because someone invites you to an argument, doesn’t mean you are obliged to show up.
So, she disengaged and went to make her art. Which will hopefully lead to further intelligent discussion of stereotypes in gaming, who they serve and who they hurt. That’s the best answer to her critics.
cranapia and vian,
Yes. Even if scorpius was trying to say that she is no longer engaging with people that are critical of feminism so what? Also, that’s clearly not entirely true, as that is the entire point of her work in general – anyone who has watched her vids will know that she not only critiques media through a feminist lens, she also spends time addressing common arguments and debunking stereotypes of feminism. Really, the problem seems to be that she is addressing such complaints on her own terms rather than theirs and well, duh. She’s not an elected official or spokesperson for a company, so why should she not get to do that? She’s also a fairly well known media critic at this point; sifting through every single response she gets to find the ones that are even worth reading is an impossible task.
There’s an entitlement being displayed here. And while it’s not limited to men feeling entitled to women’s attention when they want it, that attitude is certainly a factor.
Also…thanks for helping me crystalize some other ideas I wanted to say elsewhere. :)
Kelly: from your post: Even in groups which choose to self identify as “outsiders” to the broader mainstream community at large, a failure to follow normative behaviors, and an association with behaviors considered repulsive leads to rejection.
Dude. You have your definition of “geek”. A lot of people who identify as “geek” don’t subscribe to anything resembling your definition. You’re just going to have to accept that. I don’t identify as a geek because I’m an outsider, I identify as geek because I’ve watched “Buckaroo Bonzai” more than two-dozen times and can quote most of it from memory, because I know a lot about computers, and because I know a lot about certain specific areas of high tech. I consider myself a geek in those areas because I know a lot about those areas and because I love hanging out with people who love talking about those same topics.
You seem unable to view anyone on this and the other “geek” thread as anything other than people who subscribe to the “biting a head of a chicken circus freak” definition. No….., that’s your definition. But because you can’t seem to realize that other people might be using a completely different definition than you, you interpret everything that happened on the thread through your own chicken-biting lens.
So, the premise of your statement above is wrong. This isn’t a group that entirely identifies as “outsiders”. Maybe some people do. But not everyone. Scalzi didn’t define geek as an outsider, but as someone who loves a thing and loves to share it with others. There is no “outsider” in that definition. But you seemed to have completely missed that as well.
And it was Nick’s blog post about geekness that said people aren’t being picked on for being geeks or for liking the things that geeks stereotypically like, such as StarWars or IronMan or similar fictional worlds, because as Nick pointed out, even the jocks nowadays like that kind of stuff. The StarTrek reboot did pretty well with the mainstream crowd. So that was another definition that completely disagrees with your notion that a geek is someone who identifies as an “outsider” to the broader mainstream, because really, mainstream has no problem with good sci-fi or good comic book stories.
So your premise of the definition of “geek” is wrong, or at least clearly not universally agreed upon.
Then there’s your observation about “failure to follow normative behaviors”. This is interesting verbage. I’m not sure what you’re referring to, but if you’re referring to Mr. Peacock’s article, his article was not a “failure to follow normative behaviors”, it was bigotry. Mr. Peacock did not attempt to start a Jar Jar Binks fan club in a culture that loathes JarJar. Mr. Peacock did not say he liked vanilla ice cream in a group that mostly likes chocolate. It was not simply a matter of having different “tastes”. Mr. Peacock attempted to challenge the validity of any woman being a geek.
You then conclude that this “failure to follow normative behaviors” leads to someone, I assume Mr. Peacock, being rejected from the geek group. Three out of three you get wrong. Nobody is rejecting Mr. Peacock. They’re rejecting his notions of sexism, his idea. If he’d say the earth was flat, geeks would reject that idea as well. If he’d said the world was created in six days, that idea would be rejected as well. But, if he gets his post was sexist and apologizes and makes ammends, most people in geek culture would accept him back in.
But maybe you’re not really talking about Mr Peacock being rejected. Maybe you’re talking about yourself. You kept attacking folks in the thread as if they were trying to “censor” Mr. Peacock’s right to Free Speech. Several people pointed out how wrong your position was. You compared yourself to the ACLU defending the neonazi’s right to march in Skokie and multiple people explained how this idea was misplaced. And when all else failed, you mistakenly assumed that I (and a few others) were filled with hate towards Mr. Peacock and had a hate monster gnawing at our bellies, and that deep down, you were just trying to get us not to hate Mr. Peacock, to get us not to lower ourselves to his level. But this too was shown wrong.
You as a human being are not being rejected, Kelly. But you’re ideas are wrong. Your definition of “geek” is definitely not how all geeks identify themselves as. We do not all identify as “outside-mainstream”. Your attempt to portray Mr. Peacock’s post as nothing more than “failure to follow normative behavior” is about as honest as saying “Bernie Madoff used non-standard investment techniques”. And your characterization that Mr. Peacock was personally rejected is conflating the man with a really bad idea. Sexism is a really bad idea. If you were actually referring to yourself being rejected, then that wasn’t accurate either. It’s just that people disagreed with your arguments.
There is a lot of criticism with Anita Sarkeesian’s thesis since there is a whole lot wrong with Anita Sarkeesian’s thesis. Many of the critics are female. But Anita won’t engage the slightest criticism from even feminists about her thesis (I don’t know how many misinterpreted that), won’t even let the slightest criticism show up in her comments and is hiding behind the abuse she received.
Great! So she says she wants a conversation where she accuses a whole industry of one of the most horrible crimes (in a leftist’s mind) “misogyny” and brands a Scarlett letter on their collective foreheads. But she won’t engage the critics.
Her abusers did her one favor: they allowed her to be intentionally close-minded.
If you are one of the few leftists/feminists with an open mind, watch this:
Just because you have been abused and you believe your position is righteous won’t save you from being a self-righteous jerk. Which is a major problem for the left these days.
In response to Jennygadget: I would say that in my example cool vs. not cool was the same as not geek vs. geek. No one who was considered popular or cool in my school knew who Wil Wheaton was by name and found him attractive or if they did, they didn’t admit to it. Jonathan Brandis may not have been a good example simply because I was trying desperately to recall who was popular at the time and was grasping for names. I didn’t start out awkward or shy and my grades were average. When I was placed in the G/T classes in 4th grade (largely because of artistic talent and high reading skill) with the children who were popular and cool and made straight A’s, it was those kids who decided I was uncool because of my enthusiastic interest in reading and fantasy and science fiction. Their treatment of me caused me to become quiet and awkward and by the time Junior High rolled around I was firmly into weird and outsider territories. My point is that a large part of why I was not “cool” was because of my geeky interests which set me apart and contradicts Mamata’s argument that all these things are mainstream now and have been mainstream for a while and that bullying is likely not occurring due to those interests. It was probably not exclusively my geek interests that set me apart, because there are always other factors, life is messy like that. I simply disagree with the idea that geek interests weren’t a large contributing factor because Star Wars made a ton of money in the 70’s and ST: TNG had consistently high ratings for numerous years, thus making them mainstream and widely accepted by my peers.
I definitely agree with cmdrkoenig suggestion that social awkwardness is often often a result of the social handicap a geek interest causes. I would also suggest that there is a different level of tolerance among kids today based on just how “into” something a kid is. While the cool kids may have seen the latest Batman and Spider-man movies are they going to embrace and accept the kid who was in line for the midnight showing in costume and has an extensive action figure and comic collection, all wrapped and sealed in plastic sleeves? Is it then that overly enthusiastic kid’s geek interests or his obsessiveness that singles him out for teasing? How do you separate the two if you consider one of the criteria for geekdom being extremely enthusiastic about a particular thing?
@Scorpius: OK, I get it being disinclined to keep exposing yourself to rape threats, porn and endless abuse makes you “narrow minded” and “a self-righteous jerk”. (Also, let’s not be open to the possibility Sarkeesian might have a gasp! paying day job or more productive on-line stuff to do.) M’kay,
As you kinda, sorta half-arsed acknowledged before swerving back onto a rip against the evil liberal scourge, trawling through a sceptic tank hoping for a seed pearl of insight isn’t most people’s idea of useful activity. But it’s funny how, where Anita Sarkeesian is concerned, it always comes back to what a horrible bitch she is for not “engaging” in a way you deem appropriate. Which strikes me as root issue here: Guys who get epically bent when women don’t behave like they’re supposed to.
I think jennygadget is right – there’s a powerful scent of testosterone-scented entitlement out there in Nerdonia. Oh well, chaps. I’m sure you’ll all get over it, sooner or later.
The original post was blessed with the comment: “Meesa propose that geeks give immediately emergency powers to John Scalzi.”
To this I must belatedly respond:
Jar Jar, you’re a genius!
Sorry but Anita is trying to build a career and make money by being the spokeswoman for feminist thought on Video games. This is her “paying day job”. Many of her initial critics were horribly abusive; but many of them were not. Many were feminists themselves who said “Wha? Anita, your thesis is bunk. Here’s why”.
For a self-appointed spokeswoman who wants to “start a conversation” to turn around and refuse to have that conversation because some people make stupid comments online seems like refusing to have a conversation to me.
But it seems a conversation is not what she wants. She wants to cash in her victim status (which is like gold to leftists) in order to build a career and make money being an unresponsive critic.
Like I said before, Scorpius. Just because someone invites you to an argument, doesn’t mean you have to show up. A lot of people would like Anita to drop everything and address their concerns, but she has judged – and she’s perfectly entitled to – to make her art instead.
People who have a problem with her argument can discuss them, and promulgate their views, and whatall; that’s their right. They are pretty damned clever, mind you, given that she hasn’t actually made the arguments they are taking issue with yet. But, onwards. She is not required to personally engage with each and every one of them (or indeed, any of them) simply because they have offered an opinion. Her way of engaging in this discussion is via her work. That’s how she chooses to contribute. She has that right.
Please also note than refusing to discuss critiques (of stuff you haven’t even done yet, withal!) with everyone who turns up is not the same as dismissing criticisms of your work. I’m sure that as she works, her ideas undergo constant refinement, and the many current dialogues on women, gaming, geek culture, etc all feed into that. But it seems to me she’s made a choice between talking about her art, or making it. And she’s chosen to make it. Go her.
That would be awesome, Dominic. But the moment Mr. Scalzi gets all crusty, starts zapping people with Force lightning and declares the First Galactic Empire while wearing a hooded bathrobe? You have to throw him down the nearest shaft, m’kay?
If you couldn’t engage in an online conversation about your ideas without a small obsessive army of griefers harassing you at every turn, would you consider it a productive conversation when most of your time was spent wading through lewd comments and death threats to get to the real arguments? I have no idea if Anita Sarkeesian’s ideas are sound or not because I’m not a gamer and I hadn’t heard of her until now, but I wouldn’t call not wanting to waste time sifting through asshattery “playing the victim card”. If her feminist critics aren’t satisfied with engaging with her indirectly by creating their own social commentary in reply (like those videos to which you linked did), all they have to do is ignore her. If you don’t think she’s doing the job you believe she’s assumed, then don’t give her your money, problem solved.
What I did see in those videos (among several reasonable and several idiotic other points) was a paranoid inference that Sarkeesian’s criticisms of pop culture were a prelude to calls for legally mandated censorship.
My knowledge of her views is limited to the handful of videos I watched over dinner tonight on Sarkeesian’s website, so not much at all. But I have a question. Are you saying that all of her critics are arguing with arguments she hasn’t made, or only some? I gather she has a rather large audience. Are there no germane criticisms among all her critics?
Sorry; I should have been clearer. I was not talking about people who are discussing her “Tropes vs women” series,which has indeed already been made, and contains much that is worthy of discussion. I’m sure there are germane criticisms among her critics; no argument is perfect, and this is a very young discussion in many ways. And after all, even if you don’t agree with a criticism, it can still be a worthy contribution to the discussion. I should also add that I agree with much of what she says, and even when I don’t, I think she’s a good and eloquent speaker.
I was referring to the people criticising her views on gender stereotyping in video games – the furore erupted when she ran a kickstarter to fund the project where she will — eventually — share them. She hasn’t said anything yet beyond “I want to examine the sexist portrayal of women in video-games; if you are able, please help me fund a series of videos”. Her critics here are basing their criticisms of this project not on the project itself, or on anything she’s said on the subject, but rather on what they have decided she is going to say, based on their interpretation of what she’s said about other portrayals of women in other media. And they haven’t even had the good grace to wait till the videos are released.
Ah, thanks for the clarification. Although I lack a lot of the context for the pop culture she references – especially the games – I found some of her points quite perceptive and some problematical. But at no point did she present as anything other than civil and intelligent. That people would hound her the way many evidently do sort of boggles my mind. I have in my head two images. On the one hand, polite critics putting forth rational critiques, not always right and sometimes acerbic, but generally civilized. And on the other hand, antisocial twelve-year-olds with diarrhea of the keyboard. On the gripping hand, I don’t want to insult twelve-year-olds.
In response to this question by Kelly Martin (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/07/26/who-gets-to-be-a-geek-anyone-who-wants-to-be/#comment-344818): Simple question for anyone here. Are people all equal?
No, haven’t you read “Harrison Bergeron” by Vonnegut?
Is this sufficient to demonstrate enough geek cred to wander around in costume at Worldcon without being bugged about submitting to patriarchal oppression?
Scorpius: Many of her initial critics were horribly abusive; but many of them were not. Many were feminists themselves who said “Wha? Anita, your thesis is bunk. Here’s why”. … She wants to cash in her victim status (which is like gold to leftists)
You equate feminism with playing victim? And then you make a nice swipe at all “leftists” being in love with this nonsensical strawman you invented? I dunno. I’d say this lands in the “horribly abusive” category.
My point: try to be better. And being civil and polite doesn’t make one a “wimp”.
Well, that lasted all of….one comment.
Though, of course, being civil, polite, presenting actual rather than invented facts, and skipping pointless swipes at one’s perceived opponents are useful only if one’s intent is actually to persuade. If one’s intent is to stir up an argument, to garner attention for oneself, or simply to be nasty to perceived members of a different “team”, they’re standard operating procedure.
Turning away from scorpius’ predictable bid for attention and on the actual subject, Mr. Peacock’s essay was a very mild shade of the kind of sullen, resentful, no-girls-allowed sentiment that pervades geekdom, and gods help anyone who points out that such a sentiment exists. To be fair, Mr. Peacock acknowledged the sexism in his essay and is (I hope) striving to do better, but even a geek who claims to have many female friends, who at least superficially calls for a more inclusive community, and who is comfortable cosplaying as a Powerpuff Girl had a knee-jerk reaction to attractive women – and ONLY attractive women – who, through mind-reading, were not deemed sufficiently One Of Us.
What’s almost as sad is that a non-zero number of geeky women feel the only way to be accepted in the community is to pile on, to avoid challenging sexist behavior by their dude-geek friends, and to treat being a female geek as a sort of honored “there can be only one” status which one achieves by declaring one isn’t like those females.
For those interested, my response to Kelly at his space appears to now be out of moderation. For those uninterested THIS IS NOT THE COMMENT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. ::waves::
Kelly: also from your blog post: All comments are moderated by me to determine whether the content is constructive before being presented on the page.
For someone who compared himself to the ACLU fighting for the NeoNazi’s right to free speech, this is definitely an interesting way to approach things.
I love that story!
Of course, Kelly Martin’s question is too general to answer with anything other than Equal in what way?
To be fair, I think what many of the people were defending was the argument against insincere commodification which Peacock buried under all his blatant sexism. Whether it’s a good argument or not, it’s still a valid point. Of course there was also plenty of people defending his gatekeeping, which isn’t valid, IMHO.
Discussions from other blogs should be kept on the other blogs.
1990: A now reasonably famous writer geek (not speculative fiction) who will remain nameless and a physical and then ASCII chart, which as I understand it has been destroyed to protect the guilty
And I still have no idea what the hell that means. I’m reasonably confident that when our host goes out on book tour or accepts an invite to a con, he’s (among other things) sincerely hoping to shift some books and help keep the Scalzi women and menagerie in the style which they will tolerate. For now. What the frak does Peacock think goes on in Hall H at SDCC every year? People trying to promote the crap out of stuff!
I already go to one church; didn’t know genre fandom signed me up for another, and if I have to accept the strictures of Pope Peacock The First I’m going heretic.
After thinking, reflecting and arguing about this for a few days, entering the fray is now an option. Even though some of my thoughts have been rehashed, not all of them seem to have been put into the same post in a continued stream of ideas.
Something interesting happened in the 90s. I do not what, but mainstream culture shifted. I do not know exactly when , or to put a finger on it, but geek no longer ment being ostracized and shunned. Geek ment you were the new middle to middle upper class. In the 80s, I can remember having bones broken (for carrying the 3 brown books and a silver one. I have a rib that pops in and out due to damage to the cartilage. For those that don’t know that is Chainmail and the three supplements that became DnD. Yeah, get off my lawn.), locker doors met, and being a loner. Some where along the line I was reading it was implied that these people were dorks, nerds, and geeks. This is a gross oversimplification of what happened. Geeks were people who spent their time deeply obsessed with things. At the time it was computers, fantasy, science fiction and super heros. Nerds, where I went to school there were the band nerds,the drama nerds, the math nerds and the science nerds. And then there were the dorks. They just did not know how to interact and we might call them Asperger’s today.
These were the people who were driven out of the mainstream.These geeks would form the backbone of the upcoming Internet Revolution. Not everyone would strike it rich, nor would they even be well off. Most of them would work for medium to low wages. Any of them could be in a start-up that was paid with worthless stock options and the dreams of being bought by someone larger. Remember them.
Back to the 90s. These new things called computers were still not quite there yet, and there were these high tech wizards that made them talk. The Web with NCSA Mosaic was just coming online, along with gopher and the Whole Earth Catalog. The big sites on the internet were GeoCities. I think I remember all of 1 female in my computer science class.
Now we fast forward ten years, and I do remember in the naughts reading one of those weekly magazines about how to attract the Geek Male. And what Geek Chic was all about. At the time it was all over the place because Silicon Valley was booming and you could attach yourself to one of these superstars. Gaming was still frowned on and was a dirty hobby. Sorry women, you had not yet arrived. Don’t worry you will, just not yet, but almost. (This is also the time that geek starts to go mainstream, and lose the RMS ambiance.) And Carly is named head of HP…Big win for the female geek, but not quite yet.
Fast forward another 5 years and Buffy had been over for about 2 years. Yet the buzz it created was huge. I credit Joss Whedon with doing more for helping move females front and center in geek male culture than anyone else has been able to do. Now women begin to be more accepted into “geek culture” . Blizzcon is also held for the first time. Now we are hitting Mainstream and those geeks…yeah they are gone.The prescient ones were gone 5-10 years ago. What has happened is mainstream culture, the geeks tormentor, has devoured what was originally a merit based culture.
Now. Now it is okay to larp or tabletop game. Now it is okay to CosPlay or have an interest in toys as an adult. All geek pursuits from the 90s. Now you can express your like of technology without being pushed to the side and excluded. You are not beaten up and shunned for having these interests and are allowed to express them. As a consequence of having these interests you are probably employeed as you are adaptable. Women are still not equal but are now viewed more as sex objects. Looks like you have arrived. Sex and women are used to sell. Take heed women, you have made it like you have in most other venues. I am truly sorry that life is unfair. I am truly sorry that geek culture has been so mainstreamed that you are now both held in awe and despised for your looks. Geek culture was ment to be on merit and not cleavage.
If you are looking for geeks, you do not look at technology, sci-fi or fantasy. Nor do you look at Larping, role-playing or tabletop gaming. These are now all too mainstream and not where the current ostracized and loners hang out. Bromies, Makers, and possibly even hipsters, if these subcultures have not gone away, are where the geeks are. The subcultures that the mainstream ridicules.
On a side note: Mr. Scalzi, you are not Orson Scott Card.
In my opinion, you are a much better and more thoughtful writer even if Mr. Card had one fluke of a book.
It’s not a view to which I personally subscribe, precisely because there is not non-subjective black-and-white test to determine the line between sincere and insincere commercialization. But that doesn’t mean that critics don’t have a point when they say that some business interests pander to the lowest common denominator. One only need look at reality TV or the Backstreet Boys to see products designed solely to pander. But that doesn’t mean Pope Peacock gets to decide what ain’t got no soul for everyone. It does mean that each person may want to ask themselves why they give their money to companies they feel are insulting their intelligence.
This belongs under the dictionary definition of stereotype.
Meant by whom, oh Wise One?
Remember what you said six paragraphs ago about gross oversimplification?
There is a word for the bull you’re promulgating, and it’s neither geek nor, despite Mr. Scalzi’s misunderstanding of the term, hipster. It’s elitist. I’m sorry you got physically bullied, but that’s not what merit means. Nor does it mean being there before there was cool, or being part of some mythical golden age retroscoped through rose-tinted lenses with a sprinkling of harrowing ostracism to validate the cross you bore. Suffering isn’t merit. Obscurity isn’t merit. Getting in on the ground floor isn’t merit. And snobbery most assuredly isn’t merit.
@Gulliver: Sorry – was trying to express my utter bewilderment at the idea of “sincere” and “insincere commodification” (and you’re right? Who the hell gets to split that hair?) not land a bitch-slap on you personally. My apologies.
Sean, you didn’t get beat up because you carried D&D books. You got beat up because you were seen as an easy target by the bullies. You might want to check out Nick Mamatas’ article that Scalzi linked to above about this very thing. The reality is that the amount of flak an individual got for SFFH interests depended on things like their family, their neighborhood, their ethnic background, and their type of school or high school and their personal college experiences. It varied widely from person to person from nothing to sneers from one’s parents. And people tend to extrapolate their experiences and declare inaccurately that this was all the world. But the SFFH media itself was never obscure, out of the mainstream or a sub-culture. It was the main culture. D&D was so popular with so many millions in the 1980’s that it spawned tons of other games, computer game development, tie-in books, toys, and countless cheesy 1980’s fantasy movies. I played D&D in the eighties with my sister’s boyfriend and his pals — burly jocks. Everyone had some form of Star Wars paraphenalia, watched the Superfriends cartoon, played arcade games, went to the Halloween, Back to the Future and Raiders movies. Millions read comics in the 1980’s, a major age for that medium. And they loved the stuff, even if they didn’t identify themselves as geeks. They dressed up in Halloween costumes. As Nick points out, you cannot paint as obscure products coming from companies like Marvel and Universal Pictures on a mass corporate scale and which become a global language among millions. Ice thumping penguins or collecting Papa New Guinea coconut decor — sure, that’s obscure. Star Trek mania — in the 1980’s — not so much.
What changed in the 1990’s was not that SFFH media became less obscure, more popular and mainstream, but that fewer people, whether they called themselves geeks or not, stopped calling SFFH media obscure, not mainstream and unpopular. Because it was dumb. And because the younger ones thought it was just plain weird when the most popular art creations in the world were mainly SFFH. Along with the myth of obscurity is the myth I’ve come to call the myth of the invisible women. Women have been involved with SFFH media from the beginning — books, comics, video games, films, organizing conventions and events, etc. The entire Trek phenomena is mainly due to the initial efforts of female fans. But routinely women were told that they weren’t there, that their involvement wasn’t real or should be credited to men, or, if their existence was acknowledged, that they were rare as unicorns. We weren’t rare. There were millions of us. And the only time we had fewer was when male fans put up barriers to keep us out and discourage us from joining in. (Which makes up a lot of the female fan bullying history.) We aren’t new. We aren’t just arriving. We were always treated as sex objects (see Trek miniskirts.) What is “new” is that now women have more power in fan communities, are given more credit and have more of a voice and platform. Which unfortunately male fans like Peacock regard as an invasion and a threat. And those teenage girls in the costumes now? They’re our daughters. And they don’t have to prove to anyone that they have a right to be there because no one has that authority. And men or women blaming women for the sexualization of our culture, calling them whores? That’s anti-feminism meant to slap down women, not empower them. So please stop with the patronizing “greetings.” And please do not confuse elitism with what subcultures are.
@ cranapia: Thanks. But you had nothing to apologize for. I always choose to interpret arguments in the least hostile tone their wording allows, and that goes especially for someone like you who has a long history of temperate debate. My snark at Sean is about as snippy as I ever get, and even then I try not to flame. After all, I want him to understand that I’m picking at his arguments and not him personally. If I ever sound like I’m bristling, it’s probably not intentional.
Also, I wholeheartedly agree that there aren’t any hard and fast rules for insincere versus sincere commodification. In a way, it’s a question of the relationship between the artist/business and their audience. We know John is personally invested in his creations. But in general, whether someone is doing something for love and money or merely in pursuit of making a buck isn’t knowable until we evolve telepathy. And anyone who appoints themselves Arbiter of Arts & Crafts is only going to succeed in cultivating a unwelcoming atmosphere pervaded by their own brand of monoculture. The state of Arizona’s is only the latest government to foster a checkpoint mentality, but it’s never conducive to the healthy expression within a society. And while private organization have every just right to purge the unworthy, we happily have the right to take our business elsewhere. If, by some remarkable turn of stupidity, the organizers of the San Diego Comic Con heed the intolerance-mongering of the Joe Peacocks, they will only succeed in torpedoing their own credibility. So everyone, fans and artists, who doesn’t want that community to devolve into exclusionary insularity has a vested interest in making certain SDCC knows Peacock doesn’t speak for them.
Gulliver: there aren’t any hard and fast rules for insincere versus sincere commodification
Well, there are, but its in the form of regulations like the FDA prohibiting snake oil salesmen from making promises about a product that aren’t true, or financial regulations prohibiting a stock trader from promising a guaranteed return on a risky investment, or prohibiting a ponzi scheme.
Once we get well inside the boundaries of what is legal, then its mostly a matter of personal tastes.
Sean, I’m wondering: Before your interest in D&D developed, did you feel part of your peer group at school? Were you in general a regular kid, accepted as much as any kid, and then you discovered D&D and it all changed?
If you had been one of the herd before but were now being edged to the outside, the age at which this happened may have played a part. Cliques and in-groups and out-groups are a normal part of adolescent development, connected to the psychological task at that age of separating from the family and identifying more with peers. My personal opinion about this is that because our culture age-stratifies more than was common in the past, this intensifies the effects of in-group/out-group distinctions in adolescence. And the type of culture that one happens to find oneself in is important too. I know of people who were pushed to the out-group for being “smart” or having intellectual interests. I was lucky to attend schools where being “smart” was rewarded, and academic excellence was not a bad thing. In high school, some of my classmates in AP English and were popular cheerleaders, for instance. I never felt the least bit of prejudice against me for being bookish and non-athletically inclined. I know not all who were brainy adolescents can say that. But some of us can, because the school culture plays a big part.
There’s no one size fits all, but I think Nick Mamatas makes some good points that might not be true for all but are worth looking at if one feels that one was ostracized for being a geek. You might decide that, no, it wasn’t about social awkwardness or anything else but being a geek, that other people were just as socially awkward and weren’t ostracized, or you weren’t socially awkward at all, yet you were ostracized for your geek interests. It won’t harm any of us to investigate that question in the privacy of our own minds.
@Gulliver: There is an argument to be made, but Peacock didn’t make it. He was, at best, making a second cousin of an argument to that issue. “Hot babes are secretly contemptuous of me!” is not the same thing as “non-fans who despise us are cynically trying to trick our money out of us” – which has its own problems, of course, but is a different argument.
I find it baffling that the designated Speaker For The Right on this thread thinks that Leftists consider misogyny to be more of a serious blight on society than Rightists do–and that this is a condemnation of the Left. Also he uses scare-quotes: “misogyny.”
It reminds me of when a conservative family member “joked” that he was surprised that I and my husband, having graduated from college and gotten jobs and a middle-class budget, hadn’t started supporting the Republican party. I’m all like, “Dude! Even as a joke, that’s based on a fairly unflattering view of your own party. How can you both support the R. party and genuinely believe it’s all about I Got Mine Now Screw You?”
How can you identify as a Rightist* or condemn the Left* based on the fact of the Left giving more of a damn about how society treats women? Wouldn’t that be an argument for supporting the Left instead?
*I am using these broad terms for the sake of argument–not because I think they are accurate terms for the wide spectrum and intersections of political opinion. Granting the commentator his terms of discourse temporarily for the sake of discussing what he has to say about the people he describes with those terms, you see.
I can only make sense of this position in one of two ways: Either he thinks that opposing misogyny and taking it seriously are bad things, or he thinks that accusations of misogyny are for a large part baseless (possibly because misogyny doesn’t exist; hence the scare-quotes).
Either of these options bode poorly for his attitudes towards women.
I should have said when it comes to art and entertainment. Provable fraud is indeed insincere commodification.
I agree on both counts, at least insofar as if he was trying to make the latter argument, he buried it under the former and his own prejudices. I just wanted to point out that some of the people who found value in the argument Peacock claimed to be making were not necessarily behind the argument he actually made.
@ Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little
All the more ironic since the GOP isn’t fiscally conservative.
Just popping in, belatedly, to say thank you to everyone here who read or had kind words about my minor contribution to this: the response has been hugely informative (and also somewhat disheartening, when women have shared their own accounts of being repeatedly subjected to some sort of geek mettle detector test that their male peers are waved through – but knowing there’s a problem is a start, at least). The discussion here has been fascinating, also…
VERY very late comment here – I heard about this from my wife, Tamora Pierce. Thank you, Mr. Scalzi, for articulating your thoughts on the subject of male fan misogyny far better than I could.
I have known a number of female SF/Fantasy geeks – the one I married, our best friend, our niece (author Julie Holderman), comic book writer Gail Simone, and actress-writer Anne Bobby. I’ve known of many more – X-PLAY’s former female host Morgan Webb, ATTACK OF THE SHOW’s former Head Writer Blair Butler, actress-producer Stana Katic, Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, etc. They’ve all mentioned getting flack from geekboi fans about how they’re not “real” geeks….
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