What’s The Point of All This?
There’s a good question as to just why there’s this active core of hatred and fear of women in geek culture and why they seem so determined to silence anyone – women especially – who dares question male privilege.
Now let’s be clear: I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, so take this as just my opinion borne out of what I’ve seen in over 20+ years of being on the Internet.
The misogyny we’re seeing in nerd culture is more about what happens when entitlement and resentment melt together and form a bitter little pill.
I’ve mentioned before that nerds frequently see themselves as “special”; we are the outcasts and misfits whom society looks down upon but are unaware that secretly we are in fact superior beings in disguise. And in video games – since that’s what started this whole mess -that’s exactly what we are. Nerds can be the unstoppable powerhouses and mighty heroes that men envy and women desire. Women as consumable objects, designed specifically for their tastes? Perfect! Fits right in with the fantasy world they long for.
Increased female particpation in geek culture makes them feel that their special little world where they are kings is being threatened. The fantasy is being rudely interrupted by reality. They worry that, once again, they’re going to be left at the supposed whims and mercies of women. And they resent it.
Mix in a whole lot of frustrated desire and sublimated anger over never getting the girl they think they deserve and you get folks like Ben Spurr and the other asshats who rampaged all over Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter.
Nerds and geeks, for all that we like to pretend that we are a separate and superior culture unto ourselves, want the same things everybody else wants; community, intimacy, love, sex… However, thanks to a combination of social awkwardness, inexperience and an unfortunate trend in anti-intellectualism, we frequently find ourselves cut off from a lot of it. We form our own community because, well, we all understand each other.
But it’s small, insular and reinforces a certain level of reclusiveness; when you spend most of your time communing with people who speak the same language and understand all of your references, you tend to be most comfortable with them and are less likely to branch out.
The problem, of course, is that these insular communities tend to be boys clubs. A lot of nerd culture has catered to men exclusively almost since its inception; science fiction – for example – was born out of the hard sciences; most of the early SF writers were scientists and engineers in their own right, and these were industries that actively discouraged female participation. While there were exceptions – women were involved in Star Trek fandom from the beginning – it’s really only been recently that women have made inroads into geek culture.
Now, nerd guys are still guys; they want sex. They want love. They want relationships. But that social awkwardness isn’t improved by the fact that nerd communities are still predominantly white and male. Turning geek culture into one giant heteronormative sausage-fest doesn’t really allow for one to get used to dealing with women. Nerd guys want those relationships, but they don’t really know how to get them and they’re afraid of being rejected and humiliated. They tend to feel as though they have to beg for a relationship because they don’t have the confidence that says they deserve one. As a result: you end up with the idea that women are the ones who get to choose. This means that women have the power.
As a result, they tend to see women as intimidating.
That intimidation makes them angry.
They’re it because they feel as though they’re *owed* a relationship and somebody isn’t playing by the rules. And now even their fantasy worlds – because everything in life is a zero-sum game to them – are being taken over and THAT’S being taken from them as well.
So what happens when you have a combination of desire frustrated by intimidation and a sense of being kept from something that they are entitled to? In some cases, you end up with people getting bitter and resentful towards the very thing they want. And they lash out.
So Now What?
Here’s the important thing: As horrific the harassment campaign against Anita Sarkeesian has been – as similar campaigns against other industry icons and luminaries such as Felicia Day, Aisha Tyler and Jennifer Hepler – it hasn’t worked. Tropes vs. Women has been funded and all of the impotent nerdrage can’t change that. Sarkeesian hasn’t backed down or shut up in the face of harassment. Neither, for that matter, have Steph Guthrie or any of the others. As disturbing as it may be, the haters’ goals have been to shut people up.
The harassment and arguing that occurs whenever the topic of sexism or privilege comes up is an attempt to make people stop talking about it; if we quit bringing up the misogyny in gaming then maybe people will quit challenging the trolls’ and haters’ ability to wallow in it. Standing strong – not letting the bastards win by letting them silence the voices – and calling them to task for their fucked up attitudes and actions means that they lose.
The fucked up part is that this isn’t a zero-sum game. Nobody is trying to take men’s toys away – unless you are so vested in the ability to revel in the worst impulses of bullshit images of masculinity that you can’t stand life without it. All that’s being asked is that we acknowledge that things in geek culture have been a little fucked up and to try and make things less fucked up in the future so that everybody can enjoy it.