Lately, I’ve become aware of sexism and misogyny in the most unexpected of place – geek fandom culture.
I admit that I was largely unaware of this phenomenon simply because I’m not really some uber fan of much geeky stuff in the modern sense. I grew up reading super hero comic books, and even worked in a comic shop and at a comic distribution center at one point, but I don’t read super hero comics, and haven’t in almost thirty years.
I like technology and video games, but I hate online playing (of anything) and I don’t hang out on Internet forums discussing those things. I suppose that the geeky stuff I DO like is enjoyed in a solitary way these days. I don’t generally feel motivated to hang out with other fans, nor do I generally go to places where other fans congregate.
So you’ll have to excuse me for thinking that fandom stuff was still primarily the territory of awkward, but mostly benevolent, too-fat or too-skinny nerds that are persecuted for their interests. See, that’s the thing. I grew up as one of those people, and most of my friends were into the same role playing games, comic books, and horror movies that I was. Some of them were also early computer nerds, so fascinated by the possibilities of the extremely primitive home computers they had at the time, that they were willing to spend more time practicing old timey programming languages instead of hanging out with the cool kids at school.
And that wasn’t going to be happening in most cases, even if they’d wanted it to. The cool kids weren’t exactly embracing many of the terminally nerdy back then. People like that were generally outcasts among the majority of their peer group, and without the benefit of the Internet, being a nerd was often a lonely existence.
Finding friends, or anyone really, that would accept that you were into entertainment and activities that marked you as a weirdo to everyone else, felt special way back when I was a youngster. That’s why I find it troubling that misogyny and sexism seems to have exploded along with the mainstreaming of fandom.
I know I’m late to this party. This phenomenon has been getting a lot of press for awhile, with women being mistreated for being “fake geeks” and treated poorly if they are brave enough to stumble into the shitacular, still mostly male-dominated world of online video game play.
It makes me sad that hobbies which once marked a person as a weirdo, but were generally open and welcoming to almost anyone willing to pursue them, have attracted a hateful minority of men that think women are only valuable to be humiliated or as a sexual reward to losers like themselves. What the fuck, guys? That’s the kind of shitty behavior that many of us old school nerds witnessed from our jock tormentors. Why indulge in that shit?
Maybe part of the answer to that is the fact that geek culture has become a lot more “acceptable.” This mainstreaming of traditionally outsider activities has made those activities open to the types of males that might not have once been attracted to them. Being a computer nerd these days is seen as cool, it’s not the life sentence to “Never gets laid” island that it might have seemed to be in the early 80’s. Playing video games is popular with all sorts of people now, and I see more asshole “bros” talking about their passion for games as commonly or more so than “nerds” these days.
A lot of those dipshit bros are the types of guys that probably think taking a woman to the movies means they’re entitled to a blowjob at the end of the night, so it’s not surprising that online game play with jackasses like that might get nasty quick. And since adolescent boys are almost universally into video games these days, it’s also not surprising that an age group not often noted for its sensitivity might make online play or certain types of enthusiast online forums abusive places for a woman to venture into.
I recently encountered a manturd that was apparently an online gamer, who admitted to making “rape jokes” and being pretty shitty online. His defense was that there is no longer a line of any kind as far as humor goes, and that his online persona did not reflect who he was in “real life.”
What this brainless shitfuck failed to grok is that while there may not be an uncrossable line in regards to jokes anymore, consistently mean-spirited or abusive “humor” marks the person making those jokes as a complete asshole. He didn’t seem to get the fact that, yes, the way a person acts online IS a reflection of who they really are in “real life.”
In the end, I was left with the disquieting feeling that maybe the Internet has really poisoned the well of geekdom, and that some good old fashioned ass beatings might actually make some of these fuckheads a little more sensitive to the feelings of others.
But, online abuse and rape culture aside, is there some other force at work that makes a lot of these geek men so antagonistic towards women?
I don’t know. Even twenty years ago, when I helped run a comic book store, I noticed a lot of misogyny. There were guys that ate up the hypersexualized depictions of women in comics and other media, but who seemed distrustful or hateful towards real women. One regular customer of ours even suggested that the comic shop should be off limits to women, and open to men only, sort of a Taliban outpost of stinky man nerds that probably masturbated to She Hulk comics. He was sadly not alone in that sort of extreme opinion.
I personally feel that the typical classic comic mythologies are partially to blame. Most of the Silver Age comics that still seem to steer comic fandom’s boat started out as wish fulfillment fantasies for powerless teenaged boys. There’s a deeply rooted idea that a formerly weak and ostracized protagonist can earn the romantic attention of the girl he wants if he just is heroic enough, in essence “earning” her affection.
The problem is, real women and real romance doesn’t work like that. It’s why being a woman’s close friend doesn’t ensure that the friendship will ever blossom into romance. I think a lot of men have a serious problem understanding that, and accepting that scenario when they encounter it.
Instead, they complain about being permanently “friend zoned”, and I think that the comic book myth of being the helpful supportive male in a woman’s life being enough to “earn” her as a romantic partner is at least partially to blame.
Also, it’s been noted by others that male nerds were often told that all the abuse they were enduring as kids would eventually be worth it. Their tormentors would be reduced to horrible menial jobs while they would be rewarded great gigs as computer programmers, and the attractive females that weren’t interested in them in high school would be lining up for their favors later in life.
I suppose that, for some of them, that DID come to pass, but to expect some sort of almost karmic force to punish ones enemies and to reward a nerd with a hot romantic/sexual partner, seems pretty messed up to me. It fosters certain expectations with those guys, and a woman that doesn’t play into those expectations is likely to be treated like she’s a “bitch.” Maybe she’s just not interested in a guy only because he has a good job and seems nice.
There’s a sense of entitlement I see with a lot of these guys. Perhaps it’s an extension of Internet culture, where porn fantasies are readily available, but no one is entitled to a woman as if she is a “prize” or product. I see a weird attitude with males of a certain age, as if they can look like a bag of fail, but somehow deserve a hot sexual partner on demand.
The idea that a guy can “earn” a woman’s affection in some predictable fashion is ridiculous. Women are individuals, and it’s insulting to assume they’ll all like the same thing or respond to a male’s actions in the same way. Spider-Man be damned, maybe it works occasionally, but a guy can’t count on winning a woman over by pretending to be her best friend or being there whenever she needs something.
Comic books and other fandom pursuits rely to a certain degree on wish fulfillment. If a guy believes that shit enough, it’s not surprising that he might think that a woman who spurns him is a “cunt.” It’s also not surprising that he, and others like him, might make geek culture very unfriendly towards women that don’t fill the role they want them to, or who don’t think rape jokes are funny because “anything goes for a laugh” or whatever it is these creeps are telling themselves.
Any dude that tries to project comic book reality into real life interactions with females, then who gets angry and bitter when they don’t play along? That guy deserves to get his ass kicked a few times. He deserves to be called out and humiliated for being such a prick.
There’s no excuse for treating women as either bitches for not being interested, or as a sexual prize for a worthy male nerd. Fuck that, women and people in general are a lot more complicated than that.
So asshole male geeks, shape up. More people are onto you and your bullshit. That stuff isn’t going to be tolerated indefinitely.
If you want a compliant female that will fawn over you and submit to your sexual desires without question, build yourself that long promised “girl robot.” Make her look like She Hulk if you want. Whatever. Just quit treating the real women out there like they don’t belong in fandom if they expect to be taken as equals.
Don’t bring back systematic bullying of male nerds. It could happen. Let’s not pull that trigger.