There’s a lot of talk recently about sexism and people being phenomenal asshats to each other across a shockingly broad range of scenarios. And to my great (genuine) surprise, I’ve been asked by a number of friends, online and off, to comment on the state of womanhood in the world – specifically as it’s treated and presented in geek* culture. People who respect my opinion (for some reason) want to hear how I, a practicing nerd with boobs and a brain and everything, feel about it.
But I don’t really want to talk about it, to be honest.
These things never go well. No matter what I say, it’s practically asking for someone to tear me apart for overlooking a particular detail or being too conservative/liberal/stupid to make a cogent argument. While I don’t like describing myself as conflict-averse, I regularly get my feelings hurt by the viciousness that inevitably arises in these discussions. Which is the opposite of what should be happening.
I’m also fiercely interested in changing the conversation (about all sexism, not just in nerd culture) so it’s more inclusive, compassionate, and balanced. Yes, I used the word “balance” when talking about sexism. Because there’s more than one side.
And so, despite my fear of being flamed, trolled, letter-bombed, 4-channed, and Reddited, I’m going to share my perspective. Hopefully, you read the title before you comment.
My awkward and incomplete thoughts on sexism in nerd culture:
- Sexism is not limited to men oppressing/hating on women. Women do it to men (and other women), too. We just don’t talk about it as much because it makes shit complicated. I’m not saying there isn’t an issue with sexism in geek culture – there is. But it’s not one-sided. And not all negative interactions are sexism; sometimes the person’s just a fuckhead.
- There’s no such thing as a “fake” or “real” geek-person. Just like bodies and egos come in all sizes and shapes, so do nerds. Stop belittling people.
- Impossibly-proportioned superheroes are harmful to everyone, not just women. If you think there aren’t any strong, badass, normal-looking people in comics, you’re reading the wrong titles.
- Wear what you dig, but folks are going look at your corseted boob-glory or your David-Bowie-in-Labyrinth package if it’s on display. Have the confidence and empathy to tell the difference between a look, an ogle, and a threat.
- Don’t assume someone’s relationship status – single, dating, married, divorced, open, complicated – is an invitation.
- No one is asking for or consenting to anything unless they actually ask or consent. Communicate, dammit.
In the end, the most baffling thing I see being forgotten in geek-sexism conversations is that this culture arose from the connection born from shared love. We’re bonded through our delight in beautiful settings, compelling characters, and intense emotion. How did we forget this in our hurt over being objectified and overlooked – as men, women, goths, steampunks, furries, cosplayers, boffers, LARPers, Whedonites, Trekkies, and Whovians?
Love your nerd brothers and sisters. Respectfully. With their consent. Regardless of their crotch arrangement or identification. The way you’d want to be treated. The way they want to be treated.
So say we all.
1 I interchange geek, nerd, and dork. I know it’s controversial, but relax.
2 My blog, my rules. Act like a fool in the comments, and I’ll delete you.