Nerds and Feminism: Feminists Behaving Badly

We are two weeks into the new year, and feminists have begun the year in true form by going after the most oppressive of all men: nerds.

Granted, feminists engaged in a great deal of nerd-bashing last summer with the fallout from GamerGate. The current round, however, has a different cause.

Scott Aaronson, a scientist and blogger, wrote a comment describing his fear of approaching women as a young man:

I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not “entitled,” not “privileged,” but terrified. I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison. And furthermore, that the people who did these things to me would somehow be morally right to do them—even if I couldn’t understand how.

Aaronson’s fear came from feminism, specifically the feminist notion that all interactions between men and women contain a power differential that men use to exploit women. Aaronson tried to conform to feminist demands, yet it only made the situation worse, to the point that he contemplated suicide.

One would think such revelations would prompt sympathy, but one would be wrong. What followed was a digital pile-on by feminists on most of the prominent feminist and leftist blogs. All made the same argument: Aaronson is an entitled, privileged idiot. He responded to those comments, noting that feminists were only showing why his fear was justified. As he noted:

I took the most dramatic, almost self-immolating step I could to get people to see me as I was, rather than according to some preexisting mental template of a “privileged, entitled, elite male scientist.”  And many responded by pressing down the template all the more firmly, twisting my words until they fit, and then congratulating each other for their bravery in doing so.

Here, of course, these twitterers (and redditors and facebookers) inadvertently helped make my argument for me.  Does anyone still not understand the sort of paralyzing fear that I endured as a teenager, that millions of other nerds endure, and that I tried to explain in the comment—the fear that civilized people will condemn you as soon as they find out who you really are (even if the truth seems far from uncommonly bad), that your only escape is to hide or lie?

Yet even this response prompted nothing but criticism from feminists, and the pile-on continues. For example, Harris O’Malley wrote two articles about Aaronson, because apparently one malicious punch to the gut was not good enough. O’Malley starts his second blow in earnest:

This idea – that nerds and geeks are unfairly maligned, that we’re the low-man on the social totem pole and we’re misunderstood, slandered and persecuted(!) – is a common one. We’re the underdog! We’ve been bullied, picked-on and insulted, how can we have privilege?!

This is a common feminist retort. The intent is obvious: as a man, nothing bad can ever truly happen to you. Your life is easy. O’Malley demonstrates this argument by making the bulk of his vitriolic rant against nerds about how horrible women have it. Bad things happen to women, and those things never to men (except when they do), ergo… vis a vis… concordantly… men are privileged.

O’Malley attempts to weasel out of this:

One of the most common responses men have to discussions about privilege – especially when being asked to acknowledge their privilege – is to deny it exists. “My life hasn’t been easy,” they may say. “Look at all the ways my life hasn’t been fair! Look at all the ways I’ve been screwed over!” And let’s be fair: they’re not wrong. Yes, men, even straight, white men, get dealt shitty hands in life. They may be poor. They may be sick or handicapped. Their entire life may well be one long series of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. The gods themselves may very well seem to have singled them out to be the eternal buttmonkey, doomed to suffer for other the amusement of the uncaring cosmos.

I feel a “but” coming on:

But here’s where privilege kicks in: as bad as things may be, how much worse would they be if he were gay? If he were trans? If he he were an ethnic minority?

If he was a woman?

Because, as we all know, no one has it as bad as women. It is much better to be a gay man, transgender, or an ethnic minority than female. The least that will happen to the former three groups is that people will sympathetically attempt to:

In contrast, women will be “harassed, stalked, threatened, chased from their homes and even SWATted over opinions about video games,” which never happens to men.

All this victim-shaming does is remind nerds that what happened to them really was not that bad. It could be “worse,” as if possessing a X-chromosome, dark skin, or a sexual preference for members of the same sex makes bullying, discrimination, and hatred hurt more.

O’Malley also attempted the “I’m one of you” ploy:

Don’t get me wrong: I’m beyond sympathetic to my geeky brethren. I’ve written before about growing up with the same fears, self-limiting beliefs and identity problems that come with being a pasty, awkward ball of anxieties.

Again, I feel a “but” coming on:

But the problem is that we’re not the underdog; we just keep telling ourselves that we are.

For the record, “but” is a term of negation. One uses it to show that the preceding clause is not entirely true. So what O’Malley actually states is that he is not that sympathetic to geeks. In truth, he thinks the problems they face are all in their heads:

The stories we tell ourselves shape how we see the world, and the idea that nerds and geeks are weak, powerless and socially undesirable ends up blinding us not only to our true position in the world, but the effects of our own behavior. When you tell yourself that you’re the hero for long enough, you tend to not see when you’re acting like the villain.

Batman, do you have something you would like to share?
2379724-batman-facepalm1Not only did O’Malley misquote the line (the correct line is, “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.), but he followed it up with this:

Now let’s be clear: I’m not calling geeks the bad guy.

For the love of…
giphyO’Malley stated, “When you tell yourself that you’re the hero for long enough, you tend to not see when you’re acting like the villain.” I will set aside the obvious irony of that statement coming from someone who spent two long-winded articles bashing nerds. The quoted statement implies that if you are a nerd who considers himself a good guy, then you are actually a villain.

Yet I feel another “but” coming on:

But by mythologizing the nerd as downtrodden and powerless, we end up not seeing how we treat others badly… acting, ironically enough, in much the same way that the jocks and bullies act towards us.

You know, I do not think this works well with my interruptions, so I will list the whole quote in sequence:

The stories we tell ourselves shape how we see the world, and the idea that nerds and geeks are weak, powerless and socially undesirable ends up blinding us not only to our true position in the world, but the effects of our own behavior. When you tell yourself that you’re the hero for long enough, you tend to not see when you’re acting like the villain.

Now let’s be clear: I’m not calling geeks the bad guy. But by mythologizing the nerd as downtrodden and powerless, we end up not seeing how we treat others badly… acting, ironically enough, in much the same way that the jocks and bullies act towards us.

I am most impressed. That is a double negation. O’Malley accuses nerds of making up their negative experiences and claims they are villains, then claims they are not villains, and then immediately reclaims they are. It is rare to see that kind of quality double speak out of politics. Again, I am most impressed

O’Malley is not done. He not only wanta nerds to know that nothing bad really happens to them and that other groups (but really only women) have it worse, but that nerds are now the popular ones:

Frankly, the nerds have won. Nerd culture is culture, period. Of the top 50 highest-grossing movies of all time only one of them – Titanic – isn’t a cartoon or geek property. Guardians of the Galaxy was the highest grossing movie of the year. The Avengers: Age of Ultron  and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are 2015’s most anticipated blockbusters. TV Guide’s list of the most popular shows in America include Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Originals, Sleepy Hollow, Reign and Arrow. Every Barnes and Noble is stuffed to the gills with Doctor Who toys, calendars and plushies. Video games have gone from being the province of “basement dwelling man-children” to something everyone does – the jocks are playing as much Call of Duty, Destiny and NFL 2015 as the geeks and everybody and their goddamn dogs are playing Angry Birds, Bejewelled and Candy Crush Saga. Our entire lives – from work to friendships to romance – take place online now. Joss Whedon is in charge of one of the most ambitious and profitable movie franchises of all time; Elon Musk is positioning himself as a real life Tony Stark; Bill Gates dominated our computers; Steve Jobs redefined how we consume music, television and put the Internet in all of our pockets; Bill Nye the Science Guy is on Dancing With the Stars; Neil deGrasse Tyson is a goddamn rock star, and Mark Zuckerberg knows when you masturbate  controls your social life.

You mean like how everyone listens to hip hop and R&B, loves black athletes, adopted the black communities fashion style and slang, enjoys their food, copies their hairstyles and physical mannerism, and elected a mixed race president twice? Surely if all those things happened there is no way black people could still face racism, right? It must be over because look at how much people accept them and their culture, right?

It is as if O’Malley has no concept of popular culture and fads. That these nerdy things hit pop culture does not mean everyone accepts them. It means they are in for the moment. The kid wearing the lens-less nerd glasses is chic. The kid wearing the nerd glasses to actually correct his vision will be mocked. Yes, you can wear your Avengers T-shirt, but if you talk about the comic, people will hate you. You can see Lord of the Rings dozens of times, but if you quote Elvish, people will think you suck. You can like Neil deGrasse Tyson, but if you have a nerdgasm about physics like Tyson occasionally does, people will call you gay.

There is a limit to what is acceptable, and the limit is being a genuine fan. If you like nerdy things because you find them genuinely interesting, you are, have been, and will always be considered a loser. Want proof? Read O’Malley’s articles.

He ends with this:

Whenever I write on anything touching on feminist issues or critiquing geek culture, I get people demanding to know why I’m attacking men and/or nerds. And the reason is simple: I love nerds. I love geek culture. I want to see it grow, I want to see it thrive and I want to watch it become the amazing force of creativity and culture and community that I know it can be. And it’s because I love it that I tend to be so damn hard on it.  We can be so much better than we are if we’re only willing to recognize and address our own shitty beliefs and behaviors.

I will drop the sarcasm for a moment to say I find it incredibly counterproductive to tell a someone who has been repeatedly bullied that it is all in his head and that he is not really a victim. The antipathy is understandable given the ideology driving this argument, yet I cannot fathom anyone could be so blind as to not realize how harmful and hateful such statements are. Likewise, I fail to see the value of shaming bullied nerds into silence by playing the “women have it worse” game.

I realize O’Malley’s article is not intended for nerds or geeks. Yet some of them are going to read it, and I hope they have enough self-worth to not allow this kind of vitriolic victim-shaming to make them think they are bad people because their interests or for talking about their negative experiences.

They are not.

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35 thoughts on “Nerds and Feminism: Feminists Behaving Badly

  1. Thank god I’m gay.

    I mean, we gay dudes have our own problems, but I don’t think I could handle all the contradictory expectations that men have to deal with in heterosexual courtship.

    Sometimes I sincerely feel bad for straight dudes.

  2. Pingback: Nerds and Feminism: Feminists Behaving Badly | The blog of COOPER APPAREL. Find us at https://www.facebook.com/Coopertees

  3. Sorry to be the anti here, but:

    Scott: “I believe there still exist men who think women are inferior, that they have no business in science, that they’re good only for sandwich-making and sex. Though I don’t consider it legally practicable, as a moral matter I’d be fine if every such man were thrown in prison for life.”

    Uh, yeah, sure Scott. That’s wonderfully progressive of you. You do realize this makes you no different from all those harsh critics who lambasted you on the internet right?

    I’d rather we not throw ANYONE in prison for life even if they express discomforting, bigoted opinions.

    Scott: “I believe in the principle of always adopting the other side’s terms of reference, whenever doing so will facilitate understanding and not sacrifice what actually matters to you.

    Smash the Patriarchy!”

    Patriarchy, Male Privilege, and every term related have been abused so many times and used so many ways in order to shame people (like you, Scott. Hello? Did you forget?) that it goes against my principles to adopt them. Male Privilege was used to discredit my experiences. I’d feel better if these words were cast out period until such time when they can be applied properly by people who know what they’re talking about and aren’t obsessed with cutting others down to size.

    Scott: “The second concession is that, all my life, I’ve benefited from male privilege, white privilege, and straight privilege.”

    You realize, Scott, you’re taking a collective dump all over all your hard work and struggling? Yes, you added the concession of the misery and loathing you endured. But wouldn’t be better leaving out the tired “I am a white male so I benefit from Male Privilege, Straight Privelege, and White Privilege”?

    Conclusion: I don’t get this. How am I supposed to parse someone who has been whip lashed by fowl tongues yet utters the same old gynocentric tripe that’s existed for decades that has been dis proven countless times and also got him into this mess in the first place?

    Sorry. But while I sympathize and support, I draw the line with people acting apologetic towards the tropes that harmed them.

    I am reluctant to post this comment in there as it’s, nonetheless, frequented by similar mindsets that’ll likely wear me out on a mental level debating with them.

  4. Thank you for this post. This is a subject I’ve been turning over in my mind since reading the Slatestarcodex post referenced before. I think the time is ripe for a good, hard look at why feminism is so against “nerdy” men. Is it because we claim to be victims like feminists do, or is there more to it? (Black people don’t face open feminist hostility for talking about their difficulties, after all). In a way, this goes back to why I finally repudiated feminism–feminists just couldn’t accept that I wasn’t a master of the world because I’m a man, that pretty much no one cares what a depressed, socially anxious, goffy-looking, introverted dork says about anything. Especially women. We’ve come full circle!

  5. “I’d rather we not throw ANYONE in prison for life even if they express discomforting, bigoted opinions.”

    Wow, that’s a radical opinion you’ve got there!

    What a flat-out stupid thing of Scott to say. Should George Washington have been jailed for owning slaves, rather than allowed to lead the American revolution? Sure, the world would really be better off then! I just lost all respect for Professor Aaronson.

  6. Its amazing. For all intensive purposes Aaronson is both a very progressive liberal and is 97% on board with feminism.

    That didn’t stop people like O Malley (Dr Nerd Love) from mercilessly attacking this guy. Marcottes piece was even more vicious. In fact, I didn’t believe anyone could actually be completely devoid of compassion until I read her piece.

    This guy shows some vulnerability and doesn’t actually blame feminism. He is rewarded by being reminded he is a white male from the Patriarchy whose problems don’t matter and that he is entitled.

    At this rate, the feminists won’t have any allies left.

  7. armenia4ever: “This guy shows some vulnerability and doesn’t actually blame feminism. He is rewarded by being reminded he is a white male from the Patriarchy whose problems don’t matter and that he is entitled.”

    He ALREADY THINKS that he is a white male whose problems don’t matter and that he’s entitled. How else would he spout that “I’m white, straight and male so I’ve benefited from privelge” bullshit? Did he really need that?

    I should also mention this little comment of his:

    “I believe that even if they don’t hold views anything like the above (as, overwhelmingly, they don’t), there might be nerdy males who unintentionally behave in ways that tend to drive some women away from science.”

    Unintentionally behave that way? Just what makes a nerd behave in an unintentionally sexist way? How do we measure it, quantify it?

    Or shall we take that “Toss every misogynist male into prison for life” one step further. We’ll do what was done to the Japanese and the Jews: Lock them up in interment camps. You never know, they may be UNINTENTIONALLY making it hard for everybody.

    The more I think about it, the more I feel mistaken in sympathizing with this guy.

    He’s going to have to learn, THE HARD WAY, that those absolutist thoughts and the movement that supports them will lead to further destruction for him should he find himself on their bad side. Just ask Hugo Schwartzyer.

  8. @Toysoldier:

    “It is, although O’Malley did not care for it.”

    And yet he ironically went on to prove Scott Alexander’s exact point, while mocking him.

    Scott made the point that female concerns are taken seriously, while the concerns of men (particulary nerds) are just treated as more justification for accusing them of being privileged.

    And that’s exactly what Dr Nerdsrespectfullytowardsyou went on to do. He didn’t challenge the Schrodinger’s Rapist mindset he brought up – SOP these days, it is completely above question – and yet the notion of a male being irrationally afraid of women because of how a minority of women behave? Lolworthy.

    I’d suggest O’Malley start paying a bit more attention to the men he sneers at so regularly for feminist brownie points. He might also want to reconsider lionising one irrational mindset while mocking another.

  9. Hearing Feminists bitch about misogyny is like hearing Al Sharpton and his ilk bitch about racism.

    They cause the very things they complain about.

  10. TS, I notice you had a few comments on Nerdlove’s page that got memory-holed. I’m curious to know what you posted there. Doesn’t seem like a blog that’s strong on the whole not-censoring-criticism side of things.

  11. Orishm: TS, I notice you had a few comments on Nerdlove’s page that got memory-holed. I’m curious to know what you posted there. Doesn’t seem like a blog that’s strong on the whole not-censoring-criticism side of things.

    Oh and how, Orishm.

    Author’s like Dr. Nerdlove (or how I learned to stop worrying and lob click bait bombs) are a protected lot over there. Anyone on that list and you’ll find their commentary section heavily moderated. Tread lightly.

  12. Oirishm, I have commented on the blog before, so I expected a hostile response and thought to screen crap the comments as I posted. Here are the comments that no longer appear on the site. As you can see, merely mentioning that men are more likely to be victims of military and prison rape and therefore, according one of the commenter’s logic, should be the focus of those discussions set them off. They proceeded, unprompted mind you, to call talking about male victimization “MRA crap.” When I noted that I understand feminists do not consider male survivors legitimate or rape victims, as illustrated by the preceding comments, the feminists got offended. However, if you read the comments in general, the feminists are hostile to anyone who disagrees with them regardless of what they state.

    I am most impressed by the level of stupidity demonstrated on both threads, particularly one commenter’s tender-lipped insight that men are more likely to be victimized by violence, but women “EXPERIENCE violence.”

  13. What a halfwit. Honestly! His idea of teaching sexual interaction is ridiculous. While I was going through sexual assault therapy, I was fired from my job because I was going through therapy, and I’m a white straight male. Any ‘women have it worse’ arguments do not wash with me, nor am I unable to emphasise with similarly victimised women, who – in my experience – are usually sympathetic. Which is more than I can say for most feminists.

    Having said that, he does make a good point so credit where credits due:

    ‘When you tell yourself that you’re the hero long enough, you tend not to see when you’re acting like the villain.’

    True for many groups, such a shame that he and his fellow feminists won’t take their own advice.

  14. Also I think feminists like Marcotte should be grateful to Scott Aaronson and conditions for expressing feelings and ‘talking about their problems’ as they’ve called on men to do so for years, but when they don’t turn out to be emotions that feminists wanted, they turn on them? That graceless imbecile Marcotte shows creationist level stupidity by twisting whatever meaning she wanted to see in Aaronson’s speech, with less evidence than the Koran to back herself up.

    Seriously though guys, check out Maggie mcneill, she mostly talks about sex workers rights which might not interest everyone, but she has some of the most well thought out arguments in reference to feminism (she’s not the movement’s biggest fan), and explains much of the phenomena in feminism (misandry, ‘rape culture’ dogma, the hypocrisy of their ‘patriarchy’ rhetoric, you name it).

    And she has a damn sight better understanding of rape than most of – if not all of – the feminist movement!

  15. Well, most of mine stayed up, but I’m putting that down to being a new commenter.

    A surprising number of non-mods there are quite aggressive, telling people who don’t toe the line to shut up and leave.

    Can’t say I was particularly impressed by the place.

  16. I am not surprised by the level of hostility. It is a closed group of very insecure ideologues. That reaction tends to happen in such spaces.

  17. “men are more likely to be victimized by violence, but women ‘EXPERIENCE’ violence.”

    Men are just brutes, you know, barely more than animals. If you kicked a chair it wouldn’t feel anything, and neither would a man.

  18. Toysoldier my guess is you were banned by directly attacking the sacred cow, feminism, by name. But I could be wrong.

    One wonders how I will manage without chance to express my opinions. Oh, wait…

  19. Interestingly, doctornerdlove.com (acc’ding to Alexa) gets slightly more female then male traffic. Kind of weird for a dating site aimed at men. Or not weird at all, considering his message.

  20. Roe, it is not surprising. The blog is primarily a feminist space, so it is likely to attract more feminists, who tend to be female, than men, who tend not to be feminists.

  21. Thanks real Peterman. Unfortunately I have no proof, and to be honest I’d rather eat my own fingers than work in that lousy place if that’s the attitude I face there. Anyway I’m much happier in my new job. 🙂

  22. Nerdlove once said, in his “how not to be a creeper” article, that men shouldn’t face women directly when chatting them up, and doing so was “incredibly intense”.

  23. Nerdlove once said, in his “how not to be a creeper” article, that men shouldn’t face women directly when chatting them up, and doing so was “incredibly intense”.

    Well, at least he is consistent in his stupidity.

  24. “Nerdlove once said, in his “how not to be a creeper” article, that men shouldn’t face women directly when chatting them up, and doing so was “incredibly intense”.

    It’s like our two eyes are armed with Photon Rape-idos that, with only a precise hit, would set off an unwanted “Chain Reaction”.

    “That’s impossible, even for a computer!”

  25. Anyone placing any bets yet on how long until his inevitable Schwyzer-esque meltdown? I’d give it 2 years at most :p

  26. Only the muscular, highly social geeks succeed in life.

    Elon Musk knows how to network; Bill Gates knows how to market; Steve Jobs knew how to talk to audiences; Bill Nye the Science Guy is fashionable; Neil deGrasse Tyson is a goddamn science commuincator, and Mark Zuckerberg was the captain of his high school fencing team. None of them are overweight or have a neckbeard.

    And let’s face it, with privilege comes responsibility too. It takes a lot of hard work, and thinking of yourself as “talented” isn’t going to motivate you.

    I used to be the most dedicated tumblr user. Everyday, when I would talk about my problems regarding this, I would get spammed with thousands of messages from feminists screaming meaningless phrases like “fat!” “fedora!” “neckbeard!” “brony!” ect.

  27. This bullshit is why people go suicidal.
    There are 5 type of people in a bully situation
    1 The bully
    2 Her/his buddies who help him/her.
    3 The bullied
    4 The rare person who helps (maybe)
    5 The people who ignore the bullied.

    Every time I see a person say this stupid drivel they where in their youths either 1, 2, or 5.
    This is basically saying *O sorry you where bullied and have been traumatised in your youth, but you need to understand YOU had it better then any one else in ”see long list” even though we never met you. And because some other guy with white skin and a penis is rich you need check you’re privilege and man-up!* Or something like that. It totally undermines any one who has been bullied. And they wonder why suicide is on the rise.

    I am the type of person who without trying to fit in to a stereotype am comfortable with crying every 6 years or so. Reminding me about being bullied didn’t make me cry again. its the indifference and sheer ignorance to the subject that did it.

    Fuck these bullies

  28. Women, especially feminists hate the fact that in reality, as opposed to the social engineering environment of TV and Hollywood, the top minds in society are men.
    The top IQs are men, fact.
    This is why the vast majority of nerds are men, one reason is the social adeptness of women and superior communicative skills and EQ, but another is the much larger numbers of males in the high IQ bracket.

    The IQ distributions in all major IQ tests are markedly different between men and women, on average men and women are roughly equal but women’s IQs are more grouped around the middle whereas men’s are more spread across the spectrum, meaning there are more stupid men than women but a lot more highly intelligent men than women.
    This is because the bigger the difference between men the easier it is for women to select the smartest mates and the best selected from an evenly spread group is going to be much more intelligent than the best selected from an average group thus humanity’s intellectual evolution advances more rapidly via natural selection.
    With greater variety amongst the males, natural selection has more to work with.

  29. Pingback: Top Posts of 2015 | Toy Soldiers

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