On Geekdom and Privilege: Sympathy For The ‘Pretty’?

By Arturo R. García

According to some of my fellow geeky bloggers, the woman in the picture above is a victim.

That’s the new Miss USA, Alyssa Campanella, who some people are seemingly rushing to induct into the “scene” because of some comments she made in this interview:

Campanella expresses her love for shows like The Tudors and Camelot, and says she was a “science geek” in high school, which is commendable. I don’t question her fandom. But interpreting her statements as some sort of victory for fandom in general not only appropriates her words, but strikes me as vexing for a number of reasons.

First is the fact that this interview was only aired because of Campanella’s participation in an industry promoting an exclusionary body standard, an industry that tacitly encourages parents to exploit their children in hopes of “moving up the ranks” to reach her level. Campanella was on this platform to begin with because she’s trafficking in privilege. If she were a plus-sized woman, a transgender woman, or a woman of color, it would be much less likely for us to even hear the name “Alyssa Campanella” in this setting.

In Campanella’s case, her geekdom will more than likely be framed as a way to make her “exotic” to certain advertising demographics – and make no mistake, she is not there because she enjoyed studying biology, or chemistry. She is there because of her body, and people who do not have her kind of body, or the cis-male equivalent, are Othered by many of the people who both control events like Miss USA or watch it. That is privilege, and while recognizing that doesn’t excuse any rationalization for insulting her, neither is it evidence of “jealousy” or “self-loathing” when discussing that privilege.

At this point I’d like to make a couple of key distinctions: it is sexist when people only accuse female celebrities of “pandering” to geeky audiences. There’s little evidence that male actors and performers aren’t scripted to declare “relatability” any less than their female counterparts; male celebrities have their own set of stereotypes and corporate messages to live up to. But it’s also problematic to equate skepticism regarding declarations of “geeky cred” by celebrities of any gender with the street-level harassment many women have reported at conventions or at comic-book shops.

The factors behind that harassment go beyond the individual misogynous acts or attitudes practiced by their attackers. It’s the encouragement of that mindset by many of the companies supplying our geeky products. When DC Comics tells retailers it plans to continue to target the 18-to-34-year old male demographic, despite promises of a “new, diverse DC Universe,” that fuels the narrative depicting fandom as an all-male fiefdom. That attitude should be questioned by geek media at every turn, not only at the storefront, but at the corporate level.

When DC promotes hyper-sexualized character designs like the new one (shown at right) for Harley Quinn, or allows writers like Judd Winick to emphasize that titles like Catwoman will be “sexy,” while marginalizing female creators, that sends a message of exclusion to anyone who is not a white cis-hetero male, and it perpetuates the corporate-driven perception that women who look much like Campanella are only valued at all because they’re handy props to entice customers to buy their products.

The fact is, geeky women are not, and have never been “Unicorns.” Despite what advertisers want you to believe, women have always been involved in fandom, be it as creators, critics, cosplayers and consumers, of all body types and ethnicities. Want proof? Here’s a picture from Newsweek, taken at an early Star Trek convention, along with the caption, emphasis mine:

In the early conventions, a majority of attendees were women, [costume designer Angelique] Trouvere says. Because of that, more men started to attend, and today convention audiences are usually evenly split along gender lines.

Despite that fact, businesses haven’t just been ignoring female consumers, they have been telling their clienteles that “hot girls” can’t be geeky, and telling them that geeky women have to be “hot” for their opinions to matter, or to be taken seriously as characters across the media spectrum. Movies like She’s All That and television shows like The Big Bang Theory depict female geekdom as something that is Not Normal, something they must be “cured of” before they can be accepted into society at large.

And make no mistake, a lack of acceptance is part of the real-life experience for many geeks, both male and female: in some of the threads involving the debate over “hotness” and geekdom, people have mentioned being mocked, harassed or outright bullied by schoolyard peers. But seemingly at every turn, people who discuss being bullied are told to “grow up” or to “get over high school.” As if bullying doesn’t really do anyone any harm. Just tell that to the parents of this anonymous child in Lakeside, Calif.:

“My prevailing thought when I wake up in the morning is, ‘I don’t want to find my son hanging from the rafters,’ ” said the mother of a Lakeside middle schooler who has been bullied for three years. She asked that her name not be used for fear of further assaults on her son.

He has been punched, slapped, hit with rocks, called names. Asked about transferring to another campus, he declined. What if the same fate — or worse — awaited him there?

“And why should he have to leave?” his mother asked. (The students and parents interviewed for this story asked that their names not be used for fear of further assaults.)

Or tell that to the mother of 17-year-old Tyler Long in Murray County, Ga.:

“They would take his things from him, spit in his food, call him ‘gay, faggot’,” Long said. “One day to the next, it was continuous harassment from the other kids in the classroom.”

His parents said they complained to school authorities about the pattern of bullying early on, but no action was taken.

“‘Boys will be boys’,” was the response Long said he got from school officials. “‘How can I stop every kid from saying things that shouldn’t be said? What do you want me to do Mr. and Mrs. Long? I’ve done all I can.’”

Is death now the litmus test for bullying? At what age does the “Get Over It” caucus believe bullying becomes “official”? Would these people also tell women who like Star Wars but are not “hot” to “get over it” if they’re sexually harassed at conventions, or while playing games online?

I know friends who were pelted with pieces of meat by schoolmates, years before any PSA campaign was there to tell them “It Gets Better.” In my own experience, I was able to avoid physical harm because a) I was fortunate enough to develop a circle of friends with some of my fellow Honors students and b) I showed just enough athletic ability in phys-ed classes and pick-up games in the playground to not receive much more invective than to be accused of “acting white” because I was a good student.

That was a privilege that I worked for, sure, but it was privilege just the same. Other people were not as fortunate, and there are kids out there today who will continue to be subjected to the same stereotypes older geeks were regarding gender and body identity, only through many more media outlets. These problems will not automatically start to disappear because an actor or popular musician tells a breathless interviewer he or she is a gamer, regardless of intention.

All of which is not to say that celebrities or “hot” people can never be members of the community. In calling herself “a history geek,” Campanella herself seems to fit the definition of a geek ally: she has some geeky interests, and she believes in evolution (thank goodness), but it’s not like she chose to cosplay Wonder Woman for the swimsuit competition, either. There might be some common tastes between some celebrities and their fanbases. But, again, barring any evidence to the contrary, there’s experiences common – not unanimous, but common – to this subculture that they did not go through. A star watching The Tudors doesn’t make him or her a “bandwagon jumper,” but it also doesn’t mean he or she can automatically empathize with a non-famous woman who’s treated coldly or ignored by her local comics retailer, or a non-famous man whose geekdom, while acknowledged “without complaint,” is painted as “less of a man” because of it.

Acknowledging that disconnect doesn’t make either side a bad person. That’s often a good starting point for newcomers to learn, and for day-to-day members to share their stories. That’s one way communities strengthen their ties. But it takes effort on both sides.

As rosasparks pointed out (via our own AJ Plaid) on Tumblr:

Perez Hilton may be a gay man, Lady Gaga may be an out bisexual woman but their identities alone do not make them awesome members of any particular tribe.

I am a bisexual woman of color. I don’t get a cookie, a medal or even a high-five. Not because of identity alone, because I hope my actions and contributions to society speak louder than my identifying markers.

If I act like shit, say horribly hateful and ignorant things, I’m not doing anyone any favors, myself and whatever tribe I belong to, nor does it reflect well on my ‘tribe’.

Come on. It’s absurd to assume that one’s self-identified ‘group’ makes them somehow an ally or a responsible member. That’s bullshit. We’re all required to be more than our ‘titles’.

F-CK THAT.

And there is nothing wrong with being an ally; people like Tim Wise do valuable anti-racist work from that position. When celebrities participate in campaigns like “It Gets Better,” it’s a gesture of support and empathy that deserves credit. But that is different than just saying, “I like [x] television show” – it’s people doing work for the communities they’re supporting. Even then, I don’t think Wise would argue that his work as an ally disqualifies him from his white privilege.

Recognizing that distinction, and the fact that many of the industries of choice for celebrities have played to insecurities and biases defining millions of people – geeky or not – as falling below a set of money-driven “standards” is self-awareness, borne of individual experiences that cannot be trivialized just because corporate America tells us geekdom is “chic” right now. And Campanella is the latest example of someone who is in a position to become a valuable ally, if she chooses to. But that takes more than telling us she’s a fan. Without that acknowledgement, any claim of “empowerment” is really an argument for privilege. And no celebrity, male or female, needs our help with that.

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  • Anonymous

    “Casual fan” is no help — you’re still belittling her geekdom without any basis to do so beyond your stereotyped assumptions about her life.

    That’s not a belittlement at all – it’s allowing her the agency to define her fandom, something both sides of the pro- and anti-celeb people have refused to do, and recognizing the fact that there are several levels of fan involvement – all of them valid, all of them welcome. If you think “casual fandom” is an insult, well, now I see why you throw around words like “Mundane.”

    • Anonymous

      Context matters:  If she says she’s a geek and you say she’s a casual fan, you’re belittling her geekdom.  She already exercised her agency to define her fandom, she called herself a “science geek.”  You’ve yet to acknowledge or validate her exercise of her agency and self-definition.

  • Anonymous

    Just FYI, the reason Angry Broomstick (formerly known as Deaf Muslim Anarchist Punk) made the normal clothes distinction is because she is punk and talks about whiteness and brownness in punk space. She can speak for herself, but I just wanted to point that out, in case you read her comment differently, knowing that.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know what a “geek ally” is, or whether we geeks need one.

    Would the term “casual fan” make you more comfortable? Because those are valuable, too. And those experiences are different than those of the day-to-day fan.

    Also, yes, let’s talk about gatekeeping. I’m arguing that people on both sides are assigning too much importance to celebrity fandom declarations. As for myself, personally, I do recognize my male privilege – that’s why I took care to write this:

    At this point I’d like to make a couple of key distinctions: it is sexist when people only accuse female celebrities
    of “pandering” to geeky audiences. There’s little evidence that male
    actors and performers aren’t scripted to declare “relatability” any less
    than their female counterparts; male celebrities have their own set of
    stereotypes and corporate messages to live up to. But it’s also
    problematic to equate skepticism regarding declarations of “geeky cred”
    by celebrities of any gender with the street-level harassment many women
    have reported at conventions or at comic-book shops.

    and this:

    The fact is, geeky women are not, and have never been “Unicorns.”
    Despite what advertisers want you to believe, women have always been
    involved in fandom, be it as creators, critics, cosplayers and
    consumers, of all body types and ethnicities.

    I’m not keeping any gate – I’m making the case that there should never have been a gate to begin with, and that there are a wide variety of experiences in fandom, which are being neglected by both the pro- and anti-celeb voices.

  • anna

    Why are we carping on the statements of a lone, admittedly privileged, woman instead of addressing the rampant seething misogyny perpetuated BY MEN (of all colors btw) in geekdom?  

    I think this article is a little sloppy, and blurs the line between two things: Campanella’s self-identification, and the way some male geeks have latched onto her statements to make her One Of Them.  It is bizarre to cluck your tongue at Campanella for the reactions of MEN, which just reeks of the old sexist trope that women must modify their actions in order to make life easier for men. 

    Attractive women have privileges, especially white women.  But I think “beauty privilege” is really not the same as male privilege, white privilege or heterosexual privilege.  “Beauty privilege” is bound up with the way our sexist society demands women perform their femininity.  And I think it misses the fact that even a beautiful woman is subjected to people who want to “put her in place,” which frankly this article carries more than a whiff of. 

    • Anonymous

      Why are we carping on the statements of a lone, admittedly
      privileged, woman instead of addressing the rampant seething misogyny
      perpetuated BY MEN (of all colors btw) in geekdom?

      I addressed that misogyny here:

      When DC promotes hyper-sexualized character designs like the new one (shown at right) for Harley Quinn, or allows writers like Judd Winick to emphasize that titles like Catwoman will be “sexy,” while marginalizing female creators,
      that sends a message of exclusion to anyone who is not a white
      cis-hetero male, and it perpetuates the corporate-driven perception that
      women who look much like Campanella are only valued at all because
      they’re handy props to entice customers to buy their products.

      And here:

      Would these people also tell women who like Star Wars but are not “hot” to “get over it” if they’re sexually harassed at conventions, or while playing games online?

      Also, it’s worth noting that it’s not just (self-identified) men making statements like Campanella’s interview signalling “The Death of Geek” or somesuch, as Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams demonstrates. But there are also people equating her interview with the gay marriage debate, which is also an overstatement in my eyes. In the case of celebrities – female, especially – people on both extremes of the debate are wanting to assign her a “place.” What I am saying is, there’s a variety of experiences in fandom.

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  • BSGFansterita

    I read through this a couple of times and walked away with the feeling that it’s just a very long-winded, convoluted argument that a geek can’t be a geek if they’re also a pretty white heterosexual female, ever, no exceptions.

    Somehow, that kind of automatic door-barring feels kind of, well, small-minded and discriminatory. 

    • Anonymous

      You might want to check again, because I included these specific words to argue that the door shouldn’t have been barred to begin with:

      I don’t question her fandom.

      it is sexist when people only accuse female celebrities
      of “pandering” to geeky audiences. There’s little evidence that male
      actors and performers aren’t scripted to declare “relatability” any less
      than their female counterparts; male celebrities have their own set of
      stereotypes and corporate messages to live up to. But it’s also
      problematic to equate skepticism regarding declarations of “geeky cred”
      by celebrities of any gender with the street-level harassment many women
      have reported at conventions or at comic-book shops.

      When DC promotes hyper-sexualized character designs like the new one (shown at right) for Harley Quinn, or allows writers like Judd Winick to emphasize that titles like Catwoman will be “sexy,” while marginalizing female creators,
      that sends a message of exclusion to anyone who is not a white
      cis-hetero male, and it perpetuates the corporate-driven perception that
      women who look much like Campanella are only valued at all because
      they’re handy props to entice customers to buy their products.

      Despite what advertisers want you to believe, women have always been
      involved in fandom, be it as creators, critics, cosplayers and
      consumers, of all body types and ethnicities.

      Despite that fact, businesses haven’t just been ignoring female
      consumers, they have been telling their clienteles that “hot girls”
      can’t be geeky, and telling them that geeky women have to be “hot” for their opinions to matter, or to be taken seriously as characters across the media spectrum.

  • Nightsky

    The trouble I have with attempts to classify Campanella as a non-geek/geek ally/etc. is that there isn’t, so far as I know, a litmus test for geekdom.  I’m sympathetic to your argument that geekdom is linked to shared experiences of bullying, but 1) that’s increasingly unlikely to be the case for young people going forward (geekdom has been ascendent for the majority of Campanella’s life), and 2) it assumes facts not in evidence. How do you know that Campanella wasn’t bullied for being a geek? Because of the way she looks?

    Female geeks have always been subjected to a double standard: guy geeks are geeks on their say-so, but women are generally called upon to provide bona fides for skeptical guy geeks. Campanella says she’s a geek? Then she’s a geek in my book.

    (I wrote about this over at my group blog: http://www.geekachicas.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=one-of-us-one-of-us.html&Itemid=55

    • Anonymous

      Female geeks have always been subjected to a double standard: guy geeks
      are geeks on their say-so, but women are generally called upon to
      provide bona fides for skeptical guy geeks.

      Absolutely true, and as I wrote, absolutely inexcusable. But, again, those experiences are not the same as one celebrity’s declaration of geekdom. And that celebrity’s words by themselves are not going to bring about some sort of epiphany for chauvinistic comic-book store owners or company executives who continue profiting off marketing strategies driven by the male-gaze phenomenon.

      And speaking of assuming facts not in evidence, we don’t know anything else about her except that she likes a few tv shows that are popular with a pretty good range of consumers. 

      At no point do I question that appreciation. But, while I respect your take and appreciate your sympathy, I would point to the parallel I mention to Chaia: Liking some musical artists in a particular genre doesn’t make me an automatic part of that genre’s fanbase. And being a history geek is different than being a pop-culture geek. Not worse. Just different.

      • Nightsky

        I would point to the parallel I mention to Chaia: Liking some musical
        artists in a particular genre doesn’t make me an automatic part of that
        genre’s fanbase.

        Why wouldn’t it? Is there a meaningful distinction between “liking some musical artists in a particular genre” and “being part of that genre’s fanbase”?

        • Anonymous

          There often is, and many people will often make that distinction themselves: there’s folks out there who will dance to hip-hop songs at a club or at a wedding, but aren’t necessarily interested in collecting the discography of, say, A Tribe Called Quest. And there’s ATCQ fans who might dig one or two Dr. Dre songs, but not enough to buy The Chronic. Recognizing that distinction doesn’t invalidate that experience or render it “inferior.” And that’s what I’m doing – recognizing the distinction, not condemning it.

          • Nightsky

            Yes! People make the distinction THEMSELVES.  You’re not a punk fan because you like at least X of Y bands and have at least 1 Ramones t-shirt, you’re a punk fan because you identify as one.

            Campanella identifies as a geek.  As with your music analogy, there’s no entrance exam, initiation ceremony, or membership card. You’re a geek if you identify as one… unless you’re a woman, in which case you’re assumed to be a poser unless proved otherwise to the satisfaction of guy geeks.

            Geek litmus tests are being imposed on Campanella. You condemned this in your first reply to my first comment, but you’re participating in it.

          • Anonymous

            I am commenting on not only the difference in how her experience is framed versus those of the day-to-day fan, but the people who are both automatically calling her a poser and jumping to the conclusion she’s a day-to-day fan based on a snippet of an interview. Both sides are denying the existence of the casual fan.

    • Anonymous

      I’m not sympathetic to the argument that geekdom is linked to shared experiences of bullying.  I’m not a geek because I was bullied, I was bullied because I’m a geek.  If someone managed to grow up geek and not get bullied, more power to ‘em, and phooey on anyone who says that not being bullied means they’re not a geek.

      • Anonymous

        At the same time, though, I’ve read people dismiss the experience of bullying outright, and phooey on that, too. It’s also worth considering that the formation of other creative communities like the punk, hip-hop and disco/dance communities, not only were artistic interests a point of commonality, but so was a shared feeling of disenfranchisement from people around them.

        • Anonymous

          That shared feeling of disenfranchisment was also a part of the Heavy Metal community I came up in in the ’80s, but again that wasn’t what defined one as a Geek or a Metalhead.  In 40+ years of being a geek, no one has ever questioned whether I was sufficiently disenfranchised to qualify as a geek.  It’s about what things I’m into (computers, science fiction, fantasty, role playing, etc.), how passionate I get about them, and how unwilling I am to pretend I’m into what the Mundanes think of as normal.

          • Anonymous

            It’s not a definition, but it’s been a part of the experience, and your lack of sympathy is devaluing that experience. Also – and I join you in this regard – our geekiness is generally accepted up-front precisely because we are male, in large part because of the industry factors I mentioned above.

            Lastly, let me remind you that “Mundane” is as derogative a term in the context you’re using it in as “nerd” can be.

          • Anonymous

            I agree with you completely regarding your analysis of the industry: like the rest of society, industry that caters to geeks caters primarily to privileged geeks.  I think we also agree that insofar as being a geek is an oppressed status, it is one that frequently intersects with a whole slew of privileges.

            The notion of the existence of a casual fan as different from a geek has also been around for a while — SF fen have made references to people who Just Read The Stuff at least since the ’60s.  My issue with you around the notion is your presuming to classify Ms. Campanella as one or the other based on assumptions you’ve made about her life experience and on what privileges she possesses intersectionally.

            I don’t devalue our shared experience of having been bullied: I value that sharing highly.  But it’s neither necessary nor sufficient to qualify as a geek.  We share the experience of being bullied with people who are not geeks and we share the experience of being geeks with people who have not been bullied.

  • Chaia

    Why should her geekdom have to be on display at all times? Sure, she didn’t cosplay as Wonder Woman, but what if she’s not into cosplay? Is there only one way to be a geek, now? Or if she’s minimizing her geekiness in this venue because of the oppression she might receive (and I’m with the people who’ve said it’s usually a racial/sex thing in geek clothes, not a specific oppression as such), why is she downgraded to geek “ally?” It seems like you’re doing as much policing as anyone, and that strikes me as problematic.

    Geekdom is more than an oppression, so she doesn’t have to do anything for the community in order to be an identified geek–self-identification is enough. We don’t ask bisexual people to kiss both genders in order to prove their orientation, it seems a little silly to have a different standard of proof for geeks.

    • Anonymous

      We don’t ask bisexual people to kiss both genders in order to prove their orientation

      You’re darn right we don’t. But we also shouldn’t equate a choice of interests with somebody’s own sexual preferences. You can find a closer parallel by looking to other pop-culture related communities. Liking Sex Pistols songs doesn’t automatically translate to being “into punk.”

      Also, it’s not accurate to count “ally” as a prejorative term. As I stated, allies are a welcome part of any community. But Tim Wise doesn’t claim his work makes him an “honorary black man.” The seeming rush to declare any celebrity – male or female – One Of Us is just as presumptuous, and it denigrates the experiences of men and women who’ve gotten to see their fandoms become, if not completely socially accepted, then at least more economically feasible.

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  • http://twitter.com/RockingJamboree RockingJamboree

    A pretty geek is like a white soul singer, there will be some who will deny them their credentials based solely on their appearances.  And that’s simply wrong.  I’m not denying that being pretty or white isn’t generally a position of privilege or power.   But nobody should have their talents or especially their interests questioned based solely on something like race, gender, sexual preference, religion or comeliness.  Yes, a 350 pound construction worker will never be a famous runway model or ballerina, but if that person is interested in fashion design or dance, who could deny them that!

    • Anonymous

      As Clutch Magazine wrote regarding rapper Kreayshawn: “White rappers aren’t the problem. Exploitation of Black culture is.”

      And while artists like Adele, Duffy and John Mayer have traditionally taken care to honor their influences among the black artists who preceded them – Mayer toured with Buddy Guy, which deserves credit despite his own problematic statements – the fact remains that their participation in the genre is promoted much differently than, say, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. It’s not their fault, personally, but that’s the way the business around them operates.

      nobody should have their talents or especially their interests
      questioned based solely on something like race, gender, sexual
      preference, religion or comeliness.

      You’re absolutely right. But we should take care to recognize where those disparities come from, and to recognize the difference between celebrity “endorsement culture” and day-to-day fandom.

  • dersk

    What I found a little bit depressing is that it came from a question if evolution should be taught in schools. It shouldn’t take a science geek to realize that science and not religion should be taught in science class.

    There’s a big distance between being battered with bologna (or in my case being mugged for my lunch money) and being hounded to the point where you commit suicide.

    And I think you’re mixing up geekiness and nerdiness – to me, geekiness is about collecting knowledge while nerdiness is more about diving into a culture (history geek vs. cosplay nerd, for example). 

    • Anonymous

      Re: definitions, the key words there are “to me.” It goes back to the question of self-identification.

      And yes, there’s a distance between being assaulted and committing suicide. But this isn’t a zero-sum game, and it’s not confined to physical abuse. Check out http://microaggressions.com/

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  • Gabe

    “A transgendered person identifying as female” is a transphobic characterization of someone more properly described as a transgender woman.

    • Anonymous

      I apologize for the mis-identification, and will correct that ASAP. Thank you for the correction.

      • Gabe

        Thanks for listening!

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

    good article. Just to re-iterate the point of beauty privilege within geekdom (tall, thin, feminine, and “pretty” by mainstream society’s standards of feminine beauty), you mentioned the movie “She’s All That” as an exa,ple of something-not-normal, but that movie was actually an epic fail. Rachel Leigh Cook was already still beautiful and gorgeous as a geek and still beautiful even after the “geek to chic” transformation.” Just wanted to mention that.

    • Anonymous

      That was especially highlighted in “Not Another Teen Movie.” 

  • http://www.scribblesandsonnets.blogspot.com Jessica Isabel

    I guess what confuses me is who’s Alyssa Campanella going to be a potential ally for, exactly? A geek-ally? Do we really need geek allies? As a queer Latina geek, I’ve been disenfranchized because of my sexuality, my gender, my “race,” my culture and my language, but the issues I’ve felt regarding the “oppression” of geekiness seems to stem from something… problematic.

    I feel like a lot of the Geek Pride stuff that’s been going around the interwebs has been written and propagated by cis-gender middle-class white men so that they have a banner under which they can complain about the injustices they’ve suffered. This is different from childhood bullying – which IS a serious issue and should be taken as such. Looking at that sort of geek, the sort of geek that claims well into his late 20′s / early 30′s that he is being oppressed by mainstream society… Well it’s bullshit. Hollywood’s catering to geeks in recent years with all of the comic book adaptations, science fiction reboots, fantasy epics. I know that this opinion probably isn’t popular but as a geek, I tend to find that we a) stick together and b) outnumber ”normal” people when we’re out of the nerdy closet.

    So in conclusion, I think the whole searching for geek allyship is really, really suspect. I think it stems from a cisgender white male desire to have something they can say “Look, see I’m oppressed too!” about. 

    • Anonymous

      I have to agree. I’m a geek too, but the only times my geekdom has become a problem is when it has been seen as being in some kind of contrast with my race or sexuality, a point put forth usually by the cisgendered straight white males within geekdom trying to police that genre and who can be a part of it. Much of geekdom is aimed at fulfilling the supposed needs of the cisgendered straight white male and whenever someone who doesn’t fit into those categories makes an effort to cause some change in the way geekdom operates to include more people, the Powers That be are quick to shut them down. While I understand that within geekdom people experience bullying for their interests, many of those interests conform to the norms and hierarchies set up by the rest of society, so when geeks try to set themselves apart from the mainstream, even as genre fiction explodes in popularity, I can’t help but roll my eyes a bit. Your heroes are on the screen, big and small every summer, but I’m still waiting for someone to bring a black gay superhero to the cinema so I too can have adventures through someone who looks and feels like me.

      • Ladyguerita

         I find that my nerdyness is seen as a quirk or as something positive in my mother’s culture( Mexican) while in American culture, I am regraded  like a unicorn, the nerdy Mexican American girl.  I know that was bullied for being smart.   It’s even harder when you are  told you you are not a ” good woman” 
        and  you are not  latino if you are a nerd.  not into comic books(I’m more into graphic novels) but you can image my delight when I found out that Spider-Man 2099  was Mexican American and Roberto Orci  wrote the new Star trek  Movie( not to mention that Zoe Saldana  is the new Uhura).

        • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

          same here for me (being Desi/South Asian and Muslim and Deaf).

    • Anonymous

      Absolutely. Especially when it’s used as an excuse for otherwise-unacceptable behavior (like the misogyny in Big Bang Theory).  I think it is a way for white men to articulate feeling adrift and alienated, and for them to adopt a positive cultural identity, but unfortunately it is a cultural identity that continues to marginalize, exploit and objectify traditionally marginalized, exploited and objectified people.

    • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

      it reminds me of when punks (who happen to be mostly white) complain about being discriminated and targetted by police. But hey, take off that leather jacket, wash that dye out of your hair, and wear normal clothes and you’re treated normal again. Its not the same as being a black man who is routinely stopped by cops all the damn time, and he has no choice to take off his black skin.

      • Donald

        That really sounds like victim blaming. If only you dressed differently, did what is expected of you, etc. then you wouldn’t be attacked or discriminated against. Given that Sophie Lancaster was murdered  for being a Goth it seems no different to me.

    • Donald

       Geek oppression may not on the same scale as some others. However it is
      not just middle class white people looking for something to be oppressed
      about.  It is part of the policing of masculine behaviour. A male geek
      is someone who prefers to read a book rather than watch football,
      someone who prefers to drink for pleasure rather than to get drunk. This
      is supposed to make them somehow less masculine according to the social
      norm. It is an exact parallel to the social pressures on women to be
      beautiful rather than clever.

      It’s true there are more middle class geeks than lower class ones but
      that’s because the middle class tends to have more tolerance of
      non-physical activity. As for outnumbering “normal” people that’s just
      group selection, I doubt that more than 1% of the population are geeks
      but 1% of the population of a big city is a lot of people.

      I have to say I don’t recognise the accusations of misogyny, racism etc.
      among geeks. It may just be the geeks I mix with but there seems to be a
      greater acceptance of difference than among the general population.

      • Restructure!

        No, geek oppression is not simply a subset of the policing of masculine behaviour, and it’s not a “parallel” to social pressures on women to be beautiful rather than clever. You are, like a typical male geek, suggesting that only men can experience geek oppression, and that what female geeks experience is “outside” of or only a “parallel” to “real” geek oppression.

        Yes, a lot of the geek pride stuff on the interwebs is about white male geeks conflating geekiness with being a white male geek, and contrasting it with being a POC or a woman.

        You don’t see any misogyny? Go watch Revenge of Nerds, in which women who reject nerdy men deserve to be raped.

        • Donald

          I’m not suggesting geek oppression  is a male only experience just that society expresses it differently in respect to men and women. With women it is “Why are you bothering with this rather than making yourself beautiful to catch a rich husband?” With men it is “Why are you bothering with this when you could be making your fortune or become a sporting hero?” Neither is more or less “real” than the other. Both are oppressive gender policing.

          I’m sure there are misogynist geeks and racist geeks, just as there are misogynist POC and racist feminists. No doubt they congregate in some parts of the web.

          When I refer to my experiences I’m talking about people I’ve met locally, at cons and on the web. Not sensationalist media depictions of geeks. Do you accept Hollywood’s depiction of POC or women as representative? If not why claim Revenge of the Nerds is any more so?

          • Restructure!

            Good point. I read a part of geek-scholar Jason Tocci’s PhD (geekstudies.org) thesis
            on geeks, and he focuses a lot on Revenge of the Nerds as shaping
            geek/nerd identity, as least historically. Tocci self-identifies as a
            geek.  According to him, there is not a lot of academic literature on
            geek identity, so I took his RotN-depedent research as part of the
            academic ‘canon’.

            But you’re right. I never saw RotN until recently, and one geek academic
            does not speak on behalf of all geeks. However, I have written a few
            posts on geek sexism at the Geek Feminism blog, and my experiences come
            from online geek communities (although I am a geek IRL too, of course). 
            Here is an example post, which I hope is non-controversial:

            http://geekfeminism.org/2011/01/05/feynman-you-just-ask-them-pua/

            It’s about Feynman, but the context is that geek culture idolizes
            Feynman without criticizing his blatant misogyny. The comments are
            interesting.