This post was originally published at Restructure!
Most male geeks believe that they are subverting traditional masculinity by reclaiming and self-identifying with the term “geek”. For most male geeks, geek identity is defined partly as a rejection of the “jock” identity. According to the traditional high school male social hierarchy, jocks are high-status males and male geeks are low-status males; jocks are alpha males and male geeks are beta males; jocks are masculine and male geeks are “effeminate”. Thus, when a man proudly self-identifies as a “geek” in response, what he is doing is redefining what it is to be a man, redefining geek identity as masculine.
Typical male geeks argue that to be a geek is to be masculine by interpreting the scientific, mathematical, and technological achievements of overwhelmingly male persons as definitive proof that science, math, and technology are inherently male and define maleness. Such male geeks typically argue that there are innate differences between male and female brains that make success in science, math, and technology exclusive to men. Thus, arguments and studies that suggest otherwise are perceived as a direct attack on the masculinity and male identity of male geeks. According this male geek worldview, if women are equally capable in science, math, and technology, then male geeks lose their claim on masculinity and become low-status, beta, and “effeminate” males once again, because there would be nothing left to separate male geeks from women. Thus, male geeks—much more than non-geek men—tend to be emotionally and socially invested in maintaining the idea women’s brains are hardwired against understanding science, math, and technology to the same extent as men.
The mere possibility that women and men may be equally capable in science, math, and technology threatens the typical male geek’s self-identity. This explains why male geeks in Internet comment threads generally vote up speculations about women’s hard-wired brain limitations and speculations about our evolutionary past, while ignoring or dismissing empirical studies showing gender bias. When male geeks discuss the topic of women in science, math, and technology, the skeptical and critical attitudes towards anecdotes normally valued in geek communities are eschewed in favour of narratives that appeal to male-geek self esteem and superiority.
In other words, male geek bias prevents an objective discussion about women in science, math, and technology from occurring. We need to recognize the existence of and motivations behind this male geek bias to truly address the hostility in geek communities against the idea of female geeks.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are those of Restructure!, and do not represent the views of other Geek Feminism bloggers unless they indicate otherwise.
I never thought of geek pride as trying to define geekiness as “masculine”. That might be what some swaggery male geeks are doing, but I see geek pride as simply pointing out that nerdiness is MADE OF AWESOME, and AWESOME knows no gender. I mean, that’s why I’m a proud geek/nerd…
Most male geeks believe that they are subverting traditional masculinity by reclaiming and self-identifying with the term “geek”. 
I sure as hell don’t believe that, nor can I off the top of my head name any other male geeks that seem likely to believe that. I can, however, name plenty who considers “masculine” a term very close to meaningless. Okay, so males tend to have a penis and a y-chromosome, but even those characteristics are not really universal.
The author has given a number of studies that support her assertion. You’ve given personal anecdotes as a counter-argument, without in any way addressing the rampant gender imbalance and sexism within geek culture.
Just in case you missed it:
“the skeptical and critical attitudes towards anecdotes normally valued in geek communities are eschewed in favour of narratives that appeal to male-geek self esteem and superiority”
> The author has given a number of studies that support her assertion.
No, this is completely false — the author named *no* studies that support her assertions.
The author gave a link to studies that show that differences in ability are mainly due to social factors, which absolutely everyone here already agrees with, and then the author linked to Digg and Slashdot and called it done. There are no linked studies that support any assertions about male geeks considering themselves to be engaging in a masculine activity, about male geeks being disproportionately likely to promote a biological basis for ability over a social one, or about male geeks being scared of losing their geek masculinity to women.
What do you consider:
a) competitive pissing matches on lkml
b) targeting female-identified players of MMORPGs for sexual harassment
c) porn-tastic slides at professional conference presentations
Are these not canonical examples of geeks engaging in masculine (or hyper-masculine) activity?
The 1500+ words of analysis of ” why male geeks in Internet comment threads generally vote up” you dismiss as “linked to Digg and Slashdot and called it done” closes with …
“Sexism, not learning, is the general male geek reaction to the study. Apparently, the mere suggestion that men are not innately superior is a vicious attack on men that must be responded to with hysteria, defensiveness, and mental gymnastics.
Once again, men use sexism to argue that sexism no longer exists. For most male geeks, it is unfathomable that there could be sexism or hostility towards women among male geeks. Sexism is such a constant in male geek culture that it is invisible to them.”
I note you’ve not proposed an alternate mechanism for why geek culture is so disproportionately sexist.
Daniel Smith: it always puzzles me as to why framing competitiveness as an exclusively masculine thing is supposed to help end sexism…
Yeah. I’m open to the idea behind this post, but I’m not finding it at all convincing yet. What we seem to have is:
a) Observation: some male geeks seem to think of being a geek as a “masculine” thing. The evidence for this is that they “claimed” it, therefore it must be a masculine activity, because they are male.
b) Observation: some male geeks have claimed innate gender differences in brain function relating to science and math.
c) Conclusion: the reason they claim (b) must be because they’re threatened by not being masculine anymore.
My thoughts are:
(a) doesn’t ring true for me (it actually feels mildly insulting), and seems like a misuse of argument.
(b) may be true, but how are you showing causation rather than correlation? If *non-geek* males *also* claim these innate gender differences to exist (as I think many clearly do), doesn’t that suggest that you can’t have successfully found the reason for this belief? Doesn’t it suggest that this could be equally explained by the existence of a larger problem with the perceptions of society in general and stereotyping and lack of role models and access to equivalent education/technology and everything else that tries to tell women that they can’t succeed as scientists or engineers?
(c) is also a logical leap that doesn’t seem to be backed.
Although gender essentialism is prevalent among non-geek males as well, male geeks are generally focused on a specific gender essentialism that proposes innate sex differences in science, math, and technology.
This is a hypothesis purposely written with strong claims and without apologetic hedges, similar to those hypotheses about women’s alleged innate technical inability. However, unlike those other narratives, this one is meant to be debated.
In any case, science is not really about collecting empirical evidence first to create a hypothesis. It’s really about starting with a (null) hypothesis and seeing if empirical evidence disproves the hypothesis.
Hi, thanks for the reply.
Do you mean that more male geeks than male non-geeks believe in this gender essentialism? What’s your evidence for believing this? I’m surprised by it.
I feel like you’re saying that your response to my questioning of the soundness of your assertions is “well, other people [who aren’t here] make unjustified assertions too, and two wrongs make a right, so I’m excused”. Is there a better way to interpret this statement?
I totally agree. I feel like you published a hypothesis that you have collected no empirical data on, and described it as established fact. (“In other words, male geek bias prevents an objective discussion about women in science, math, and technology from occurring.”, for example, is not a hypothesis seeking data; it’s an assertion of fact.)
About ‘unjustified assertions’, it sounds to me like what Restructure wrote came from her own experiences and observations of the world around her. Sometimes as we go through life we notice patterns in what’s going on around us, but we don’t stop to carry out a double-blind trial. I personally find it very useful and interesting to discuss such observations, even though obviously they don’t carry the same weight as they would if they were backed by peer-reviewed study.
See the Slashdot and Digg entries. If you’re surprised by it, perhaps you are not familiar with those sites?
Some people make claims about a group of people, and do so with the expectation that the subject under discussion is not present and do not need to be present for a proper debate to take place. I’m putting this out there with the expectation that male geeks will be reading it and can weigh in. (However, replies like “I’m not like that, and neither are my friends!” are not relevant, because I never claimed that all male geeks are like that.)
Well, we are working from the assumption that there is such a thing as male privilege and associated male bias, especially in male-dominated communities. If you feel that this assumption needs to be debated, then perhaps you need to go to the Feminism 101 link first.
The “it doesn’t work for ME” argument does not refute a description of the work of ideology, whether you are male or female-identified. It just means you confuse anecdote with data and therefore are not thinking scientifically.
I think the author has confused “male geeks” with “male assholes.”
Honestly, I don’t think it’s really fair to pass judgement all male geeks / nerds by the commenters on boards like slashdot, digg or the chans. The vast majority of people who use those sites are lurkers, and they’re all rife with trolling.
Are there sexist asshole geeks? Indisputably. But I don’t think it’s fair to label the entire male geek community as such, and say they’re striving to reclaim some lost idea of “masculinity.” Especially given the vast differences in behavior among the geek community. Being a geek doesn’t mean one can’t also do “manly” things like sports or drive fast cars or whatever other ridiculous example fits. Personally, I consider myself a huge geek, and I spend 2 hours/day in the gym and play rugby. I have no trouble reconciling geekiness with my sports life.
That said, i will agree with the author in that I believe there are some very systemic problems with those boards’ relationships with women. From the “no girls on teh internet” rule to the whole notion that any woman on a board is there for the sexual gratification of the other users, the problems are long established. How many comments pass after somebody says “oh I’m a girl” to “OMG WILL YOU GO OUT WITH ME?!” or “tits or GTFO” Five? Six? (granted, those are more a *chan phenomenon than a slashdot/digg phenomenon, but I’m guessing there is some significant overlap in userbase).
I never wrote “all” male geeks/nerds. I’m not really surprised that people read “all” into it anyway (even when I took care to add qualifiers to all instances of “male geeks”), as if defensiveness prevents people from reading.
True; you never wrote “all”, – you wrote “most male geeks believe…”
While significanly more nuanced than “all” (most sentences with ‘all’ outside of mathemathics tend to be suspect), “most” is still a high hurdle to jump.
It’s not sufficient to show that “some” do, which I’d believe without a problem. But when you claim, withot offering the tinitest shred of evidence, that “most” believe a certain something, I get skeptical.
You continue in the same vein with “The mere possibility that women and men may be equally capable in science, math, and technology threatens the typical male geek’s self-identity.”
That’s an offensive claim to many, and again, you don’t say it threathens ALL male geek’s self-identity. But you -do- say it threatens “the typical male geek”, i.e. that it is very common for male geeks to be threathened by the mere possibility that women may be equally capable.
Again you offer no evidence whatsoever. I readily believe there exists -some- male geeks, who feel threathened by such a suggestion. But no, I don’t believe they are “typical”.
And notice: “typical among those who are loud on slashdot” is not the same as “typical among the general population of male geeks”
Comments on slashdot have ratings, and the ratings represent how much the community agrees. In this post (which I had linked to in the original post), I highlighted only the comments with high ratings, and also emphasized how the comment was voted upon.
I’m not sure that comment threads on slashdot or digg can be reliably considered representative of anything other than comment threads on slashdot or digg. There are a fair number of male geeks — and here I have to rely on anecdote, unfortunately — who’ve given up on slashdot comment threads as being nothing but immature name-calling and chest-beating, not a good use of their time. Mostly we’ll browse the front page, use it as a source of interesting linkes, and not go much deeper.
And yes, I realise this makes it difficult to make a broad-brush assertion about “the community”. After all, one can only make observations about what’s there to observe. And I’m pretty sympathetic to your overall hypothesis — I’m sure there are plenty of male geeks who are doing precisely this, both consciously and unconsciously.
Sure, for Slashdot, I bet most just read the links and avoid the comment threads, although I think this has more to do with being productive/lazy than being feminist.
For Digg, however, in which links are user-submitted and make the front page by getting enough community up-votes, the links that make the front page also tend to be (blatantly) sexist, not just the comment threads. Most people who read Digg probably do not contribute either, but when it comes to community-approved links, name-calling and chest-beating is not a factor (other than name-calling and chest-beating against “women” in general). Now that I think about it, name-calling and chest-beating are more about competition among individual (usually male) geeks, while misogyny and sexism are more about invoking male-geek bonding and assumed (male) geek commonality.
I’m not sure I’d characterize a person who doesn’t participate in Slashdot threads as “lazy”, but I’ll happily concede that it doesn’t imply feminism. I wasn’t suggesting it did, only that the comment threads themselves shouldn’t be considered representative of anything wider than the people who participate in the comment threads.
Digg, I am not really familiar with. My impression early on was that it was full of teenaged boys doing what teenaged boys do, and given a lack of interest in that when I was one…
I would be curious, though, to see what the demographics are like for Digg and Slashdot commenters. Do you know if anyone’s looked into that? My impression — and again this is based on anecdote not firm data — is that they both skew heavily toward younger men and teenaged boys.
Again, given the comment moderation system of Slashdot to deal with abusive comments, the comment threads themselves represent more than people who participate in the comment threads. The fact that some comments more than others are boosted as signal to noise, and that these comments are often sexist, indicates something about the community. Talking about how most male geeks (probably) don’t read the comments anyway seems like you are going out of your way to defend “male geeks” as a group and dissociate “male geeks” as a group from sexism, versus just yourself.
“Digg is full of teenaged boys” is also an easy way to dismiss a whole category of sexism as “doesn’t count towards male geek sexism”. Besides, I don’t think Digg is really full of teenaged boys, but it just looks that way, because of the immature behaviour (which is only a few degrees more immature than comments on Slashdot). These are real people attending university or working as professionals, who like to argue or discuss geeky news items online, and probably conduct themselves more maturely offline when there are social consequences.
Those who don’t read the comments don’t participate in the moderation either. So, yet again, the Slashdot comments are representative only of the people who participate in Slashdot comments. Is that a specific subset of (male) geeks, or is it a broad representative sample? Impossible to say without further study, but assuming that “the community” is actually representative of all people identified with it is a pretty common error.
I am not making some claim that there’s no sexism in male geek circles. There quite demonstrably is. I am only suggesting that your sample may be unrepresentative, and if that were so then your specific conclusion might be off.
Having thought about it some more, I’m not sure that this particular behaviour is specific to (male) geeks — male culture is in general pretty sexist, and similar ridiculous ideas hold sway among some members of other male-dominated subcultures. “Girls can’t fight”, “women have no mechanical aptitude”, and so on and so forth. And even in the most “macho” of fields there are always some guys who are considered “less manly”. Is there a correlation between those men and these pseudo-science ideas, or can even the most high-status manly-man be as dumb as a box of hammers?
I won’t even pretend to have the answer.
OK, I will copy and paste the text of two previous contiguous comments I made in this very thread, and delete characters to tailor it to you:
This is also irrelevant, because the point of this post isn’t to vilify male geeks over non-geek men. There isn’t something sinister about geekiness. I wrote, “Thus, male geeks—much more than non-geek men—tend to be emotionally and socially invested in maintaining the idea women’s brains are hardwired against understanding science, math, and technology to the same extent as men.” To think that this implies that male geeks are more sexist than non-geek men in other male-dominated industries is to think that “women’s brains are hardwired against excelling in math” is the only type of sexism.
How is that important for a female geek who deals with sexism within a geek community? Even if it’s the same level, it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. The issue is how sexism manifests in the geek community. As Mary said, “Much of geek sexism is a geeky spin on plain old sexism”.
I can see how the sexism of male geeks versus non-geek men is “important” if one is concerned about male geek versus non-geek men moral status, though.
Oh dear, Matt is unsure of something. That means it must be wrong and/or unworthy of discussing, right?
And we seem to have another one with reading comprehension issues, arguing against strawmen no one proposed. Guys, seriously, look up “strawman fallacy” and check your comments for it before clicking “submit”. This is one of the most commonly understood fallacies, and you just plain make yourselves look silly when you commit it. If 13-year-old script kiddies raging on testosterone in their moms’ basements can figure it out, you can too.
I did not say “don’t discuss it”. You’re reading what you want to read, not what I wrote.
I may be guilty of the same thing here with respect to your comments, because what I’m getting is “if you have a dick, fuck off.”
Moderator edit: Yes, this comment is inappropriate. ~Restructure
Sorry, that really wasn’t appropriate.
Matt, you really need to read up on Feminism 101 or any other Privilege 101 if that comment caused you anything more than a self-reflective chuckle.
You’ve got members of a badly battered group talking about something they think might be going on with some members of the dominant group. As a member of the dominant group, if you keep coming back repeatedly with, “but I’m not sure this is so,” the fact that you are the member of the dominant group used to having your thoughts given more weight puts the “my thoughts deserve more weight” into your comments, whether you mean it to be there or not. I’m not putting it there. Society is. It’s screwing you over as it does everybody.
Matt, since it seems you might be making a good-faith effort at not sounding like a privileged twit, please do take a look at John’s behavior on this thread. He set a nice example.
Moderator edit: No name-calling here. ~Restructure
I thought Matt was making a reasonable point.
I look on survey results where participants are self selected with deep, deep skepticism. And where the sample have self-selected to participate in contentious, troll infested, sensation-seeking forums like Digg, I cannot help but impute that the sample consists of a far higher proportion of argumentative, sensation-seeking trolls than is represented in the broader community.
To point out that online communities differ in their levels of erudition and fair-mindedness is not an attempt to dismiss the argument being made out of hand, as has been suggested.
I’d suggest that if a study were done where two test groups (and appropriate controls, of course) were surveyed, there would be a substantial difference between Group A: “Men who regularly participate in Digg comment threads” and Group B: “Men who do not participate in Digg comment threads because they find them intolerable/distasteful”, there would be a significant difference in the results between the two groups.
If you agree with that, then I am unsure* how it can be argued that citations of Digg stats can be viewed as representing more than the attitudes of people who participate in Digg comment threads. No straw-man there, is there?
I’m not arguing that those details are not interesting, indicating that there is deeply entrenched sexism in areas of geekdom. There is. I see it there, I see it in non-geek areas, too. But in a somewhat different form.
What I see is that where the broader community has generic “women just want to marry a rich man”, “women are instinctively nurturing” “women can’t read maps” blah blah blah… many geeks, with their penchant for science and deeper details, have latched on to a meta-explanation, a “grand unifying theory” for all the blah-blah: brain wiring.
No matter that it’s popular pseudo-science, it provides, at first blush, a satisfying theory that reinforces their existing beliefs.
Helen Huntingdon, you may want to look up “Ad Hominem”. Also, while we are on the subject of logical fallacies, with respect to the OP, I think a brush up on “Biased Sample” and “Hasty Generalisation” might be a good idea.
*may I have a scathing retort, too, please?
I’d suggest that if a study were done where two test groups (and appropriate controls, of course) were surveyed, there would be a substantial difference between Group A: “Men who regularly participate in Digg comment threads” and Group B: “Men who do not participate in Digg comment threads because they find them intolerable/distasteful”, there would be a significant difference in the results between the two groups.
Significant how? And to whom? Significant to the men in Group B who want to claim some sort of moral superiority, undoubtedly. But I’m not seeing any real difference between two groups of men who both are merely seeking what makes them comfortable. Suppose there’s a Group C made up of men who actually wade in and argue for reason in the face of bigotry — I’d say that qualifies as significantly different from Group AB.
These are not the relevant two groups being compared, though. Group A is “Male readers of Digg who regularly participate in Digg comment threads”, but Group B is “Male readers of Digg who do not participate in Digg comment threads”. There are other reasons why male Digg readers would not participate in Digg comment threads, one of the strongest reasons is that not participating requires less effort, e.g., you don’t even have to register for an account or login if you are not participating.
Group B is probably much bigger than Group A, but you are conflating Group B with Group B’: “Male readers of Digg who do not participate in Digg comment threads because they find them intolerable/distasteful”, which may be a minority of Group B, and I don’t see why Group B’ would constitute the majority of male Digg readers.
Huh, seems controversial, but this post did actually ring true for me somewhat. I’ve had several conversations in the past year where I’ve had with another person (a man) explaining that the reason there are so few woman mathematicians/physicists/computer-programmers is that women are (supposedly) genetically predisposed to be less good at these things, with quite flimsy evidence, and getting very defensive and angry at the suggestion that this isn’t true. Where does this anger and defensiveness come from? There are definitely SOME male geeks (certainly not all or even most) who seem to think that anyone who suggests that women can be equally as geeky as men is trying to take something away from them.
And there are a LOT of geeks, women and men, who totally refuse to listen to the suggestion that their success in their field might be due, not only to innate ability and hard work, but also advantages related to things like class, race, and gender.
“….getting very defensive and angry at the suggestion that this isn’t true. Where does this anger and defensiveness come from? ”
I think it comes from those specific men being sexist idiots who are threatened by the idea of being on equal footing with women and invent fairy tales to reassure themselves that they’re somehow better than women by virtue of a y-chromosome.
Nobody is saying that there aren’t sexist geeks. The question is whether sexism is more or less prevalent in the geek community than in the community at large.
I honestly can’t say for sure, but I’m optimistic in hoping it’s a vocal minority.
That’s optimistic? A vocal minority can be very successful in making certain spaces very uncomfortable to be in.
Yes. And when the arguments of a vocal minority go unchallenged, the majority can too readily come to accept it as ambient noise, a fact of life, something that must simply be accepted and tolerated, if not embraced.
That’s why it’s so important that, as tedious as it can be for people who argue back, that the counter arguments be made loudly and repeatedly. For the sake of observers, even when there is no chance of changing the minds of the vocal minority themselves.
I think it -is- more common. But I’m not entirely sure what is the chicken and what is the egg.
Are there less females in many fields dominated by male geeks BECAUSE they tend to act sexist, and thus scare the females away ?
Or does the near-absence of females in a certain environment tend to allow the environment to be more blatantly sexist ?
I consider it fairly likely that both are the case. If you’ve spent time in -other- environments that have few women, they don’t really tend to be any better, so I don’t see any reason to buy into the “geeks believe particularily bad things about women” idea. If they do, then I can report that car-mechanics and military recruits (to name two random male-dominated subcultures I’ve been part of) seem no better at all.
What the heck? That’s quite strawman. The OP suggested that male geek sexism is different from other varieties in some ways, not that it’s the worst variety.
This is somewhat off-topic, since sexism is a Bad ThingTM, independent of whether it’s responsible for the gender imbalance.
This is also irrelevant, because the point of this post isn’t to vilify male geeks over non-geek men. There isn’t something sinister about geekiness, which is how many “vocal” male geeks seem to be interpreting my post, for some reason, as if I am anti-geek instead of pro-geek.
I wrote, “Thus, male geeks—much more than non-geek men—tend to be emotionally and socially invested in maintaining the idea women’s brains are hardwired against understanding science, math, and technology to the same extent as men.” To think that this implies that male geeks are more sexist than non-geek men in other male-dominated industries is to think that “women’s brains are hardwired against excelling in math” is the only type of gender essentialism or sexism. I find this weird, and I’m not sure if it’s because as a male geek, you are over-exposed to only this type of gender essentialism/sexism and believe that it’s the only kind, or if it is for another reason.
How is that important for a female geek who deals with sexism within a geek community? Even if it’s the same level, it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. The issue is how sexism manifests in the geek community. As Mary said, “Much of geek sexism is a geeky spin on plain old sexism”.
I can see how the sexism of male geeks versus non-geek men is “important” if one is concerned about male geek versus non-geek men moral status, though.
It’s important if you are looking for explanations, or looking for strategies to combat the sexism. If geek-sexism is distinct from general sexism, then it’s likely that the explanations and/or the strategies for combating it should be distinct too.
If, however, geek sexism is just a thin veneer over plain old general sexism, then it’s less likely that it will be fruitful to seek explanations that apply *only* to geek sexism.
Offcourse, real-life is rarely black-or-white, I guess it’s likely that a lot of geek sexism is just plain old sexism – but also that some parts of are distinctly geeky.
As a male geek who has always felt uncomfortable for not jiving with more mainstream notions of masculinity, one of the big attractions for me of geekdom has been the ideal that everyone should be accepted as they present themselves. From “The Hacker Manifesto:”
I know that computers are only a small part of geekdom, and I know that the real situation is nowhere near the ideal expressed in this quote. But am I wrong or mythologizing geekdom when I feel as though one of the central ideals is that everyone should be accepted as they present themselves and on their terms? While sex and gender are not specifically mentioned in this quote, it still seems as though they are naturally covered.
I agree that we are far from that ideal, but it certainly feels to me as though (coding) geekdom definitely lauds some masculine qualities. Both in, with rockstar programmers, all-nighters, and creative ways to burn the competition, and alongside, where there can very much be a “lads on tour” atmosphere.
Even if we could reach the ideal where people are judged “by what they say and think,” I’m not sure that the criteria by which words and thoughts were judged wouldn’t retain some of this and so still be somewhat masculine.
As for the OP, I believe that many, many people who proudly identify as geek are glad to have a group of which they can at least feel part, that doesn’t judge them by standards they can’t/do not want to live up to.
I can certainly believe that they also have “masculine == good” stamped in to some level of their conciousness, as it’s a fight for anyone to avoid this.
I’m not sure I follow from this to dismissing arguments against geek traits being linked to genes, but I’m certainly not going to dismiss it either. I think it’s certainly worthy of more thought and study.
You’re mythologizing. One of the central ideals is that everyone should be accepted as they present themselves and on their terms, if that self happens to be a certain kind of male.
While sex and gender are not specifically mentioned in this quote, it still seems as though they are naturally covered.
I would argue that it seems TO ME that they are “naturally” completely ignored.
You’re right. Sorry to derail the discussion. I was taken aback by the post, because my own experience of geekdom has been one of greater acceptance. I didn’t stop (for long, at least) to consider that it might have been greater acceptance for me, which I really should have.
It was especially childish to grab this quote, in a (patriarchal?) appeal to authority. The real acceptance I experienced didn’t come from some essay written before I was born; it came from the people around me. Thank you for calling me out.
Woops, I mean it was especially childish for me to grab the quote. I was criticizing my original post. I should really just stick to reading here like usual and stay away from comment box… >_<
John, nice breakdown of your own post/behavior. I think you did serve to illustrate Restructure!’s point quite nicely, actually. Geekdom ideals rebel against certain conventions, but the people they apply to are certain kinds of men, and women and other kinds of men aren’t people under those ideals.
Oh, for anyone interested, John’s self-analysis and apology is what it looks like when a non-bigot makes a mistake. Anything short of that makes you just another nasty-minded bigot.
I think there’s some truth to this. I think some male geeks try to be macho through their geekdom, as they’ve been denied it in the rest of the world. The douchebags in online games who are so obsessed with pwning, teabagging and bigoted insults are one example. If a female player shows skill or becomes uppity, she’ll be called rocket bitch.
(Replying to Daniel Smith down at the bottom because I can’t reply directly.)
That’s because *no-one’s shown* that geek culture is disproportionately sexist compared to male culture at large, even to a vague and handwavy level (which I’d be generally sympathetic to). Pointing out some examples of male geek culture being sexist does not make it *more* sexist than male culture in general.
We need a study that says (for example) “we asked fifty random male geeks and fifty random men whether men are innately better at science than women, and the numbers were “. When we have that, and geeks are more willing to claim innate ability than random men, there’ll be a great blog post here, and it’ll be backed by sound sociology. Until we have that, there’s just anecdotal speculation that demeans us all.
Uh… Okay, let me get this straight. You’re saying that nobody has shown that geek culture is more sexist than the norm. Are you also waiting for a formal study showing that water is wet?
I say this because, if you look at the stats for participation in geek employment, geek recreation or other geek activities, women make up a disproportionately small portion of the total. Compared, say, to non-geek employment, recreation or activities (where women are not explicitly excluded).
Do you have an alternative explanation? Or are you going to default to the broader cultural trope of “girls aren’t interested/good at that kind of thing”?
I think we’re getting a bit confused here. Yes, there is disproportionately low representation by women in many technical fields. No, this does not automatically mean that “geek culture” is to blame for this, as you seem to imply. We have an entire society to blame for this, from everyone including the math teachers who didn’t show an interest in their female students, to the parents who bought their daughters princess dolls and their sons computers and lego kits, to the members (geeks or not) of said technical fields for implicitly or explicitly excluding women.
So, what I’m trying to say is that I think there *is* disturbing sexism present in some geek communities — I’ve spoken out against it more than once — but that I don’t see that it’s justified to assign blame for what seems to me to be a *generally-held* (and erroneous) view that women have significantly less innate ability at math and science onto those communities. Not without some evidence that backs that up.
No, of course not. My wife has a science Ph.D, and I don’t have any advanced schooling, so I’d never come close to saying anything like that.
The OP: “male geeks in Internet comment threads generally vote up speculations about women’s hard-wired brain limitations and speculations about our evolutionary past, while ignoring or dismissing empirical studies showing gender bias. ”
Forgive me if I appear confused, but you seem to ascribe this to “…a *generally-held* (and erroneous) view that women have significantly less innate ability at math and science…”
Where are the studies to backup your assertion?
I’d suggest that, at the very least, any subculture which is so predominantly occupied and “claimed” by males will not generate and entrench more gender bias than exists in the population as a whole?
Dang. Last paragraph should read:
I’d suggest that, at the very least, any subculture which is so predominantly occupied and “claimed” by males will generate and entrench more gender bias than exists in the population as a whole.
That will teach me not to post before coffee.
Do you propose that the only mechanism by which a certain subculture can have very few of a certain gender, is by having that subculture significantly more sexist than average ?
Are nurses -particularily- sexist towards males, and is this the only, or at least the dominant reason why there are so few male nurses ? I don’t think so.
Showing that culture X has less participation from sex Y, is easy.
Jumping straight from that and to “the reason is that most members of X are sexist toward Y”, seems premature. I’m just not convinced that car-mechanics, nurses, male-geeks or preschool-teachers are all that much more sexist than the general population. It even gets tricky mathematically since a pretty large portion of the general population is a member of at least one subgroup that is 75%+ of one gender, thus one comes really close to saying “most members of the general public, are more sexist than the general public”, which is a nonsense statement.
I -do- however think that having a very uneven gender-balance in a group, will over time tend to make the group more sexist. Simply because there’s fewer people to slap down any tendencies. Sure, some people act blatantly sexist even in settings where both sexes are fairly evenly represented. But they do tend to get slapped down a lot quicker and more effectively.
In answer to your first paragraph: No.
It’s a mechanism, but not the only one.
I do posit that minorities are ‘othered’.
(Replying to jac)
I don’t know; it could be true, I just don’t share the intuition. My intuition is that there is a gigantic set of reasons why technical fields are predominantly occupied by men, and masculinity-losing-fear has got to be tiny in comparison to some of the other ones we’re talking about. For example, women receive their first computer a few years later than men, on average, often after they enter college. Does that impact whether they’re likely to choose a technical field to study? Hell yes. Does it have anything to do with a geek community’s masculinity-losing-fear? Hell no.
Yet, you’re willing to look at a technical field’s subculture’s community and say that it must be the case that it’s more gender biased than the larger society *just because* there are fewer women in it than in larger society — when it could very well be *the larger society’s fault* that there are fewer women in a position to show up and join the community even if it were free of bias once you get there!
The extrapolation just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that it doesn’t make sense to me. That’s why I ask for evidence.
My argument boils down to the fact that minorities are ‘othered’. If/when male geeks appropriate the term “geek” as a masculine descriptor, they deny the existence of feminine geeks of any sex. They can only get away with that because males makeup such a large proportion of the geek population.
It’s not the first time that slippery definitions have excluded women from geek acknowledgement. Here’s an example: http://geekfeminism.org/2009/11/21/metagaming-casual-vs-hardcore/
You can argue that society, more broadly, is to blame for the low levels of females participating in gaming, tech or geeky fields, and you won’t hear me arguing against you. But you will hear me telling you* that it’s beside the point.
*Or maybe you won’t.
(Replying to Jen.)
I wouldn’t want to deny/invalidate someone’s personal experience; you’re right, that’s always useful to hear. I simply didn’t hear any of Restructure!’s personal experiences in the post — in fact, no interaction with any other person is mentioned *at all*, let alone described or interviewed to find out what they think about geeks and masculinity. The post is simply nothing *but* declarative statements about how the world at large works.
Yup, the post is just declarative statements. So to me there are two possibilities:
(a) Restructure said these things because she genuinely believes them to be true, at least in part, and she has some reasons for that belief. However she didn’t bother to share those reasons.
(b) Restructure doesn’t believe the stuff she wrote to be true and the post is just a malicious joke. That’s why she doesn’t give justifications for her statements; there are no justifications since the statements are just made up.
It sounds like you’re suggesting (b), which I think is really rude. Why even bother to participate in a conversation when you think the person who started the conversation is being insincere?
Sexism can be very hard to talk about: it’s hard to find language to describe it, and the ways in which sexism are expressed are sometimes very subtle and difficult to describe. While it is certainly the case that an opinion given without evidence may be false, it is also the case that there are some true opinions for which evidence CANNOT be given, because we lack the tools to gather and describe such evidence. To exclude all opinions which are give without evidence would be to shut down some important conversations.
Also: pointing out that someone’s opinions are given without evidence is a valid thing to do, but it is not the same as debunking those opinions or even giving a counter-argument to them.
Thanks for this post, I think it’s really helpful. You’re right that, without an explanation in the original post I should be assuming (a), and instead of responding with a tone of “You didn’t give any justification for these assertions, and that’s unfair”, I should have been closer to “I’d like to hear more about the experiences you’ve had that led you to believe this”. I’m sorry about that; I honestly would like to hear more about the opinions and experiences that formed the belief. I don’t think that Restructure! invented anything with malice.
I also agree with you that sexism can be hard to talk about, and that demanding evidence for every claim would be a derailing tactic. I don’t want to do that either.
I think perhaps the biggest shame in this thread is that collecting evidence for the basic claim (that male geeks believe in gender essentialism more than the male non-geek population) is not impossible, or even very difficult, and we perhaps should have used our time to design such a survey. It could all be collected online, and I know a bunch of sociologists and scientists who might be interested in helping to validate the survey design. Would anyone else be interested in working on that?
OK, some “jocks” are loud-mouthed assholes; some “geeks” are loud-mouthed assholes.
Can someone suggest a way of (even approximately) measuring the levels, and their ratios? (Yeah, personally I’m on the geek side.) I wish I could think of one. It would be interesting.
Since both the acting out gynophobes and their public opponents are self-selected, it’s difficult to generalize about the “silent majority”.
Replying to Restructure!:
I think we have a fundamental disagreement on how knowledge works, then. You claim that group (a) contains more of a certain belief than group (b). As evidence, you’re offering an example of some people in group (a) showing that belief.
This is utterly unacceptable by any standard at all. You need to also show whether the belief is *representative* of group (a), and even more importantly, you need to show how representative the belief is *by comparison* in group (b).
Maybe it will help to pick another example. Along your lines, I could argue (but do not believe) that gay men are more promiscuous than straight men. When asked for supporting evidence, I could say “Just look at Grindr and Guyslink, they’re full of guys having casual sex with each other!”
In response, you *should* say that I haven’t proven that *most* gay men have casual sex, or even that most straight men don’t have casual sex *too*. You would be right to do this, and I would have committed a grave error in argument.
I think the situation is entirely analogous. If you disagree, please explain why.
I don’t know of a more polite way to say this: the existence (which I agree with, as would be obvious by studying my previous positions) of male privilege and male bias is not an excuse for presenting assertions that lack *any* evidence as if they were facts. The two concepts are simply orthogonal. It is as ridiculous as if you were saying that cooperating with the scientific method is a form of patriachy.
There could indeed be a Popperian disagreement at work here between male commenters and female commenters (crudely deliniated) about what constitutes assertable knowledge and how we construct subjective interpretation into fact.
Or it might be the case that male geeks are genuinely innocent of all this highly speculative, non-scientific, unproven online geekly sexism because it’s not directed at them, and it doesn’t occur to them to give a shit about it until they feel attacked/threatened by referrals to it?
Certainly not the latter: I am very much aware that there’s a lot of sexist crap going on in the geek-subculture. I notice, and I’m annoyed at it, and I try to combat it whenever given half a chance.
BUT: I’m -not- convinced that there is *more* of it, than there are in other male-dominated subcultures, nor am I convinced that overproportional sexism is a significant factor in the low female participation.
What are some other largish male-dominated subcultures ? military/weapons ? cars/motorsport ? many sports ? Are these other subcultures less sexist than the geek one ? Judging from those I have personal experience with, I would have to say no, infact I’d argue that the military and the mechanical ones are substantially WORSE.
My honest impression is that the geek subculture is fairly sexist — but that this is, unfortunately, about par for the course, and indeed probably for society generally speaking.
Again with your obsession with your pet strawman. Restructure! suggested that male geek sexism is different from other varieties in some ways, not that it’s the worst variety.
Helen: That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’ve not claimed that Restructure! suggests geek sexism is “the worst kind”.
*I* am however suggesting that claiming that “male geeks are X” is aiming at the wrong target, if the truth is that “male-dominated subcultures GENERALLY tend to be X”.
Because if the latter is true, then you cannot expect to find an explanation for X in things spesific to geeks. (if the reasons where specific to geeks, you’d expect to find different results, for example, among jocks)
Restructure! -does- claim that geek sexism is rooted is related to the social status of being a “geek”, but if the very same sexism is present among the group she mentions as the oposite end of the spectrum (“jocks”), then the argument kind of falls apart, does it not ?
I think that you first need to demonstrate that male geeks are more sexist than other male-dominated subcultures, before it’s very sensible to offer complex explanations as to -why- they are. I ain’t seen that demonstration, nor do I find it likely.
Can’t you read? She didn’t say it’s worst than other male-dominated sub-cultures. She said it’s subtly different.
Heh, you can’t read, and I can’t spell “worse”.
On sites like Slashdot and Digg, comments have a karma or digg vote. The vote represents how much the community agrees or disagrees with a comment. People can vote a comment up or down without commenting themselves (they can be lurkers). Yet comments that propose innate sex differences in science, math, and technology are very popular, i.e., the numerical value associated with the comment’s popularity is generally positive and large.
It is harder to quantify the gender essentialism of non-geek men, but perhaps it’s that non-geek men don’t usually discuss this type of gender essentialism, or participate on sites with an established comment voting system. However, why do you think or feel that non-geek men agree with this specific type of gender essentialism as much as male geeks?
If it were the case that anyone had disagreed with/proclaimed innocence of the existence of the online geekly sexism, I think you would have a really good point — however, no-one’s doing that. I believe that this gender essentialism (and general sexism) can be seen on Slashdot and Digg, and it sucks, and I give a shit, and I think everyone participating in GF is here because they want to help to correct attitudes like these.
What we disagree about is whether, *given* the observed existence of gender essentialism on Slashdot or Digg, it’s helpful or proper to make assertions about the “typical male geek”, and about the relative levels of belief in gender essentialism between Slashdot and Digg readers and the non-geek population at large.
And so, we’re at the question of “Can we claim knowledge about the beliefs of the typical male geek and the non-geek population without introducing more evidence than is found on Slashdot and Digg?”. I think the answer is no, and I don’t think that men and women should have different answers to that question.
Well this thread certainly reveals a lot about those posting on it.
When someone less pasty white than I talks about whitey perceptions of race, it simply does not occur to me to behave as many of the posters here do. It wouldn’t even enter my mind to spout off with, “but I’m not like that”, or “I have a friend not like that,” or “prove it, gimme studies that *I* am willing to accept as flawless (there are none) or if you can’t, SHUT UP.”
Only the outrageously bigoted who think they have nothing to learn go there.
What tends to go through my head is something like, “Is there anything I can learn about how someone different from me sees the world? I can’t see from their perspective due to genetics, so the best I can get is secondhand, in which case I’d better make the most of it. This person clearly has a lot of accumulated experience leading to seeing things they way they do; listening to how they see things tells me quite a bit about that experience that I could never get myself.”
Am I the only one who is struck by the fact that the majority of commenters in this thread — and, in particular, commenters arguing against the OP — are male?
I don’t know if Restructure! is Right(tm) or Wrong(tm), but when Dude Nation turns out in force to defend themselves against a post you make in an obscure blog, you’ve got to figure you’re getting close to Patriarchy’s “family jewels.”
Personally, I think that’s a much more interesting discussion topic (and much more feminist-ic) than hair-splitting over “some”, “any”, and “all” and stuff like that. But probably a lot less comfortable for the representatives of Dude Nation.
Isn’t it kinda natural that when you post a series of very strong negative claims about “most” and “the typical” male geek, with no supporting evidence whatsoever — that people who belong to the group being discussed, will tend to take part.
There’s less discussion about posts everyone generally agree with. The fact that something is hotly debated can NOT be used as evidence of anything – except that it contains controversial statements.
It’s my impression that most of the males who participate here — do so because they’d honestly like to have a less sexist community. Thus I don’t agree with you at all. I (and others) haven’t been debating this post because it is “comfortable” or because it is close to “family jewels”, but much more mundanely, because it is, I think, simply -wrong.
I’m not comfortable with being part of a sexist group. I would like the group to be a lot LESS sexist. That’s why I’m here, you know ? For that matter, I would like to be part of a less sexist WORLD.
Making well-intended, but wrong claims, won’t advance that goal. Instead it will alienate people who are allies.
Isn’t it kinda natural that when you post a series of very strong negative claims about “most” and “the typical” male geek, … — that [they]… will tend to take part[?]
If you replace “male geek” with any less advantaged group, then suddenly it isn’t so natural. Assuming that it is your right to go and correct people who say things you don’t agree with, and more importantly, being used to people paying attention to you when you do, is an example of privilege.
It’s a privilege that, for instance, female geeks don’t have. Just peruse some of the stories by women gamers, programmers, etc., of being essentially shut out or driven out of gaming groups, programming discussions, etc., for disagreeing with how women are portrayed and treated there. It’s way up there on the list of reasons female geeks give for not participating in groups.
It doesn’t matter whether you are right or wrong. By jumping in and dominating the discussion, by coming in and asserting that the non-privileged should drop what they are doing to deal with what (privileged) you think is important, you are doing more to perpetuate Patriarchal patterns than the wrongs that you think you are righting.
And, yes, I’m suggesting that just shutting up is one reasonable way of dealing with your privilege. (For bonus points, you could try to imagine what it’s like to really be non-privileged.)
Even if someone is wrong (http://www.xkcd.org/386/)
I wouldn’t say “correct”, that would assume I have the power to define truth, which I most certainly don’t. I would however suggest that I have the right to state my opinion, to point out flaws I see in the argument of others, and to offer alternative suggestions.
If people pay attention or not, is similarily out of my control. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I would -wish- that they decided to listen or not, after evaluating the merit of my argument, and not whether or not I have an Y-chromosome, but you are right: Sometimes that is not so, and an argument IS given more or less weight depending on irrelevancies like the sex of the poster. And yes, this happens a lot more often to females. We agree on this.
This reads a lot like “if you are male, you should shut up”.
I disagree with the “wrong” part, for the reasons I have given in this comment thread, my latest comments not having replies.
However, the “it will alienate people who are allies” veers into a derailing tactic where the marginalised person is expected to tiptoe around the privileged person’s feelings, as if the ally’s alienation within what is supposed to be the marginalized-people-centred movement is worse than the marginalized person’s alienation within wider society.
Agreed, Restructure. That was a silly argument to make, and I apologize.
Relevant is if the argument is -true- or not, not whether making it will annoy someone.
Good heavens, Eivind is concern-trolling. What a shock.
It really, truly does depend.
The programmers I have worked with professionally, and the gamers / programmers that I have hung out with socially, have in general tended to be quite accepting of women geeks, women programmers, and feminist causes.
At least two of my four brothers self-identify as geeks.
Brother #1 took the “Hacker culture” approach to programming, and he acts as though it’s the only way to become a programmer. He’s also quite the chauvinist, and likes to talk down to me on every visit.
Brothers 2 & 3 are pretty decent guys.
So brother #1 also likes to hang out in places on the internet where profanity, insulting others, and generally offensive “trolling” behavior is accepted and encouraged. He’s full of the utilitarian discourse system, and tends to reject any other form of discourse.
Most of the websites I frequent have higher standards and more discourse-friendly standards than that.
Some general points:
The false consensus effect is “the tendency for people to project their way of thinking onto other people.” There is absolutely no reason to assume that the “silent majority” (of male geeks) thinks the same as you.
Slashdot and Digg, as well as other tech geek sites, implement a comment rating system to deal with trolling and poor-quality comments. The community rates the comments, and so the comments themselves have a numerical value associated with how much the community values the comment. (You don’t have to be loud or vocal to vote; most voters of a comment would be lurkers.) When the community approves of the comment, the comment has a positive value and is boosted, but when the community disapproves, the comment has a negative value and is buried. As a general trend, sexist comments are rated positively by the community – see here for a Slashdot example and here for a Digg example. There is quantifiable evidence that the majority of male geeks at Slashdot and Digg are sexist (since sexist comments are rated positively and large-positively, meaning more people agree than disagree), but there is no evidence for the claim that these opinions belong to a “vocal minority”, other than “I’m not like that, and neither are my friends!” anecdotes. Have you considered that a male geek who reads Geek Feminism is not representative of the general male geek population?
Also note that sexist comments are not considered “trolling” on these geeky sites, since trolling is relative to what a community finds offensive, and sexist comments on such sites are promoted instead of buried. Sexist comments are considered insightful, witty, etc., instead.
I was growing increasing discouraged with the comments until AMM came along. Well played.
I’m a bit blown away by how people are seem to just be accepting the dominant paradigm of analysis as applicable to social phenomena. It’s fantastic for certain types of analysis but let’s not pretend that bias never has an effect. I’d argue that in this discussion applying the “logic” argument is asserting another type of privilege, one which considers everything quantifiable. Personal or anecdotal experiences have an important role in the evaluation of social or group phenomena.
Exactly. In social or group phenomena, the plural of anecdote *is* data.
The thing that keeps me in neverending giggles over dude logic is how intensely incompetent they are at it. (Note that in my vocabulary, ‘dude’ and ‘man’ are mutually exclusive terms.) Dudes like Eivind play at logic the way a 6-year-old plays at what they see grown-ups doing, reducing whatever it is to something they feel comfortable with imitating. Dude logic involves over-simplifying something to ridiculous extremes, then applying logic or pseudo-logic ridden with fallacies and claiming to have arrived at The Answer.
Hilariously, they tend to claim to be “more logical” than those who actually understand what logical reasoning is. It’s the Dunning-Kruger effect run pathetically amok.
Helen ? Could you please do me a favor and drop the name-calling ? It is distracting, and I really don’t want this discussion to degrade into a shouting-match with you.
Because I referred to you as a dude, you think you want to have a shouting match? Really?
If I’m “distracting” to someone who uses concern-troll logic and who clearly hasn’t done their feminism-101 reading, so much the better, I’d imagine.
No, not because you refered to me as “dude”. But because you wrote this:
I consider that rude. If you don’t, I suppose you might have a little learning to do too.
I -do- want to learn. And I do acknowledge I don’t know all there is to know about feminism. That is one of the reasons I’m here – to learn more.
There are more effective ways of teaching that tossing insults left and right, though.
LOL. Of course I’m aware of the possible rudeness in there. However:
1. I’m also aware that this is a geek-oriented blog, and in most geek circles I’ve traveled in, that was actually a pretty mild “hey, you might want to do something about what you sound like”, which would most often be regarded as a helpful heads-up and not particularly hostile.
2. No matter how you slice it, it was a heck of a lot more polite than your behavior on this thread, between the repeated strawmen, the concern trolling, and the general insistence on splattering your opinion everywhere without doing the basic reading to be part of the discussion. So if you of all people want to call me rude, I can’t do anything but laugh my head off.
I’m sorry, I forgot to respond to this bit: There are more effective ways of teaching that tossing insults left and right, though.(sic)
The blog authors have explicitly stated this blog is not here to teach feminism-101, since that is so ably covered elsewhere. Any expectation that anyone here should teach you such material is fantastically rude.
Then I suppose I’m “fantastically rude”, because I expect to have to continue learning for the rest of my life, thus when I participate in ANY forum, even one on a subject where I’m an expert, (I am not claiming to be an expert on feminism) it will nearly always be with the expectation that I might learn something from it. I don’t think that is rude at all, but again, we obviously have different standards for what is rude, and what isn’t.
Oh looky, more strawmen! Let’s see, there’s the conflating “teach me” with “I hope to learn something”, which are very different things, and the conflating “learn feminism 101 concepts” with “learn anything at all” or “learn something related to what this blog’s stated purpose is”.
You really might want to work on that reading comprehension issue.
I thought that sentence was rude as well, although I see where you’re coming from. Please focus the snark on specific arguments made by people, instead of suggesting something about a person’s perpetual state.
Helen and Eivind,
I don’t want the discussion to keep revolving around Eivind.
Understood! (I hope. Please cluebat in future if otherwise.)
Personal or anecdotal experiences have an important role in the evaluation of social or group phenomena.
No they don’t. More precisely, the scientific method isn’t just favoured over anecdotes and personal experience because it’s the “dominant paradigm of analysis”. The anecdote-based method has some fairly undesirable properties due to issues like confirmation bias, the availability heuristic and availability cascades, outgroup homogeneity bias, illusory correlation. In short, you’re very likely to end up with the answer you want, not the answer that’s correct. (Science is hardly flawless in practice, but at least it tries to avoid this problem in a systematic way.)
If anything, evaluating social and group phenomena is a particularly unwise thing to favour anecdote over the scientific method for if you want accurate conclusions, with problems above and beyond the usual issues. Especially once you start talking about groups you’re not a member of…
*facepalm* How do you even know what questions to ask in studies of social phenomena if you don’t investigate anecdotal evidence of subordinate groups?
If you don’t, you wind up with studies on whether a new perfume or a new vacuum cleaner will make the little woman feel sexier, rather than studies on why the heck men don’t do their share of the work that’s killing their wives’ sex drives in droves. In other words, you wind up with some pretty silly pseudo-science.
For my part, I am ASTONISHED that a topic about sexism in geekdom elicited posts from men who completely glossed over the problem at hand and instead delved into semantic parsing. Let’s be honest- no one saw that coming.
I think there is some interesting interplay between this idea and the gender binary fractal.
Please allow me to draw a line for you, and see if you follow along.
At each level the flavours of geek pursuit deemed to be more masculine are held in higher esteem, which to me would be further evidence that male geeks (being the dominant portion of the population) seek masculinity within geekdom.
Certain pursuits are then labelled feminine, and then women are pushed towards them, hence reinforcing that belief. This allows the men, who work to ensure that their area of expertise stays on the masculine side of the line, to strengthen their own sense of masculinity.
I’ve certainly seen an association between the fractal and gender essentialism too. Quoting Mary from the referenced post:
That’s certainly an argument I have heard way too many times.
I think that the gender binary fractal shows that many male geeks seek confirmation of their masculinity within geekdom. If the fractal exists, then it has to be at least a large number, if not a majority that seek that, as the fractal itself is just a construct created by the consensus opinion of the group.
Further I think that it is evidence of the statement in the title of this post: “Male geeks reclaim masculinity at the expense of female geeks.” As the number of women in a sub-field grows, it becomes seen as a feminine pursuit, and its stature within the community diminishes too. The achievements of women are lessened in order to maintain the masculinity of the other, male-dominated, parts of the field.
I have no studies to cite, but I believe I am just using a combination of widely-held beliefs of geek feminists, and my own observations to draw this conclusion, as that is the best I have.
I’m not sure that Restructure! would see these as arguments supporting her points in the original post, but either way I would like to thank her for a thought-provoking piece that stuck with me and led me down this path.
Restructure! I am not conflating “guys who find misogyny distasteful and choose not to participate in forums where it is the default” with “guys who can’t be bothered participating in the forums for whatever reason”. Your original article ignores the possibility of the existence of geek guys who do not participate in the Digg threads because they can’t tolerate the misogynistic attitudes there, instead characterising them as Lazy or too busy to join up.
They are self-excluding from your sample. Don’t you see how taking a sample of geeks, removing all the ones who don’t participate in the Digg forums for a multitude of reasons including those who can’t abide the misogynistic crap there (who instead, perhaps, spend their internet reading time on Geek Feminism and other sources more in line with their personal philosophy. Hi Matt!) and polling the rest will skew the results to show more misogyny than if the whole group were polled? Aieee!
However, the fact that you acknowledge that these groups are not the same actually supports Matt’s argument that Digg vote stats may not be the most unbiased sample. Or that is the deferential sort of way he put it. As a woman, I can instead say “Bwahahahaha! I would not accept assertions based on such a hideously skewed sample as credible in any argument anywhere!”
I know that it’s handy to focus on misogynist enclaves as examples of what women have to endure if you’re intending to get your rant on, but generalising to all male geeks? Bad.
Complaining that male geeks have glommed on to the brain-wiring pseudoscience while supporting your argument with stat citations of extremely dubious nature and which so closely resemble pseudoscience? Bad!
Digg do not, thank the deity or non-religious concept of your choice, represent “Male Geeks”.
From what he has said about choosing not to participate there because of the entrenched misogyny there, they don’t represent the likes of Matt, and I cringe for the distress geeks like him clearly feel when they are judged by the actions of Digg thread voting. I’m dismayed that when he respectfully noted that maybe Digg isn’t representative and got pole-axed with extreme prejudice by Helen Huntington (who, having failed to see how proving that when group A is not like Group B, groups A and B are not alike, therefore group B is not a representative sample of group AB) goes on, with exquisite irony, to posit the existence of men who … how did it go again? “actually wade in and argue for reason in the face of bigotry” which is what Matt was, very respectfully and reasonably (and with the dewy-eyed hope that rational discourse is possible here when it clearly is not in places like Digg) trying to do right here.
Ah, but I forget. Bigotry cannot every be perpetrated by women against men. Women never over-generalise, use cherry-picked data or take the most extreme examples of bad/stupid behaviour and use it to define the group they wish to deride or villainize. *
If Matt had posted with a feminine pseudonym, I firmly believe his argument would have had a far different reception. And no, he’s not just putting forward his point because he’s seeking to preserve his privilege. He’s pointing out something so fundamental about sample bias that high school students should know it.
And I’m also dismayed to observe that I believe that if I were posting under a male identity, my comments here would never have made it into view.
*Logical fallacy check: “Two wrongs make a right.” Don’t do it!
To clarify, by “lazy”, I meant the “geeks are lazy” sense, i.e., we don’t do things the effortful way when there is an easier, more efficient way to get the job done.
Secondly, the original article does not ignore the possibility of the existence of geek guys who do not participate in the Digg threads because they can’t tolerate the misogynistic attitudes there. That’s a pretty strong claim, and I don’t see how that follows from anything.
Other self-excluding male geeks include those who think Digg is Too Liberal and go off to less-known conservative/right-wing geek blogs to find like-minded people. Why don’t you include these people as well, not just the minority left-of-left geeks who are interested in social-sciencey topics like anti-oppression and intersectionality?
More of this “all” strawman again?
I’m putting this out there as a hypothesis and I welcome the possibility of a formal study to address the hypothesis. Perhaps you think that science works by people gathering “raw data” indiscriminately and then forming an ad-hoc hypothesis to fit the data, but it doesn’t. You are interpreting the post using the wrong frame, as if people can conduct randomized, controlled experiments lacking any theoretical framework or questions to be answered and reach an empirical conclusion before any theory is advanced. You appear to believe that any discussion of how the world works should not take place before formal studies are conducted, as if discussion of how the world works can only come after formal studies, not be the inspiration for them.
Because that’s the only reason I can think of why you would think making claims is “pseudoscience”. And yes, this is different from male geeks who glom the same-old brain-wiring pseudoscience over and over again as if it’s an original idea, pontificating to an audience that they expect to be all-male and zero-female, and assuming that they are the most qualified to talk about the science of women’s brains because women’s brains are incapable of understanding science anyway.
You seem to be under the impression that I am trying to “deride or villainize” “male geeks” and “define” male geeks as inherently misogynist by definition. These are also non sequiturs from my post, I would like you to re-examine your logical thought process that brought you to this conclusion.
*facepalm* Yet another one who can’t read. Sheesh, jac, you’re so all over the place with things Restructure! never said I don’t know where to start.
Perhaps you and Matt could help each other out since you seem to be even more behind on your feminism 101 / any-privilege 101 reading than he is. It’s not possible to take you seriously when you haven’t even done the basic reading to be part of the discussion.
One more point on sites like Digg, Reddit, etc: sidestepping for a moment the question of whether or not they’re composed of geeks, what’s the majority reaction of people one would consider geeks to the conduct that prevails there? Do they distance themselves from it or tacitly accept it? While I think there’s a general sentiment in geekdom that the comments section of Slashdot is inhabited mainly by trolls and flamers, I don’t see any similar repudiation of Digg and Reddit.
So, you want to dismiss me as though I know nothing of science. You’ve not told me anything that I have not known since antiquity, but fine. Go for it.
Your original post was not structured as a hypothesis, and it concluded “male geek bias prevents an objective discussion about women in science, math, and technology from occurring. We need to recognize the existence of and motivations behind this male geek bias to truly address the hostility in geek communities against the idea of female geeks.”
Which is going further than proposing a hypothesis. It is recommending that we treat the idea as knowledge and act on it.
What you call ‘the “all” strawman’ is drawn from the OP which contains the terms “most male geeks” and “typical male geeks” in ways that presume that the atypical and the minority may be safely disregarded for the sake of your theory about “male geek bias”. How are you defining “geeks” anyway?
You use the well known idea that geeks are lazy, and that commenting in reddit/digg threads is not lazy, so clearly people who comment in digg/reddit comment threads are not geeks. So we can exclude them from our discussion of geekdom.
See, there’s an example of making a statement rather than asking a question, as well as suggesting an action based on the conclusion. Not a hypothesis either.
Meanwhile, I’m dismayed that someone who argues that the dubiousness of the “brain wiring” arguments invalidates them would offer the Reddit/Digg stats, which could be such an interesting discussion point, as though they are indicative of more than the mind-set of the people who participate in voting there. I hold that generalising from that to “male geek culture” (which magically does not include “all” male geeks) is erroneous.
Good luck getting your formal study.
jac, since you’re evidently unwilling to catch up on your Feminism 101, you really can’t expect the blog authors to worry about addressing your concerns. You haven’t done the minimum required to be part of the discussion.
If a post putting forth some ideas for discussion and argument about what might be going on with some male geeks (which further offers links to some strong evidence that the ideas apply to at least some of the loudest male geeks) “dismay”s you, I have to wonder what you’re doing on a feminist blog.
For heaven’s sake, how do you think people go about rooting out their own prejudices? The most common and effective way I know is paying attention to ideas like this and doing some self-examination to see if they offer any insight into one’s own mind or behavior, and using that insight for self-improvement if possible.
The OP dismays me because doing the self-same stuff you are objecting to while you are objecting to it is not a good way to gain credibility for your argument.
Here’s a sketch of the scenario which I find upsetting: “Their beliefs are wrong! It is based on pop psychology and pseudoscience drawn from data which is cherry-picked and flawed! And here is my pop-psychology explanation for why they do that, supported by flawed data which I have cherry-picked!”
I’m not sure whether to *facepalm* or *headdesk*
(I tried to do both at once and hurt my wrist. Ow.)
And I’m on a geek feminist blog because I’m a geek and I’m a feminist.
I am not ashamed to say that I have not been a feminist all my life. I thought I was, but it is not many years, since I did my 101, and that was some years after I first encountered feminist forums where, posting under a gender-neutral handle, I was assumed to be a man and routinely set on fire for putting forth the beliefs I, as a relatively uneducated person, held.
I can promise you that scathing attacks and put downs are not doing the feminist cause any favours. Such responses, to what were perfectly reasonable questions and remarks from what was then my perspective, did not make me think “Oh gee, these perfectly reasonable and intelligent people know something I need to learn” they made me think “Holy [expletive]! Angry radical feminist attack-loonies! Run away! Don’t make eye contact!” Yes. Really. That’s how feminist forums come across to naive people. I know because I was one.
I’m still recovering. I’m still learning. I tend to consider Hanlon’s Razor when I encounter sexism. Odds are that people are simply oblivious. So I find it exasperating when some feminsts jump in, making assumptions of bad faith, and cudgel people who are potential allies and acolytes, and who were not transgressing against forum rules, but making salient points and asking pertinent questions. How is that helpful? How?
So yeah, anyway, I have done the 101 and then some. From a different perspective than many, perhaps, because I lived for so many years in a culture where women were expected to be dim, servile baby-incubators.
In my opinion I do qualify to participate in the discussion. Of course I’d prefer you didn’t, Helen, but unlike you, I do not believe that this discussion is off the table for anyone who does not break the rules at the discretion of the mods.
I’m not sure why many people see this part of the post as the most controversial. Perhaps you are reading “male geek bias” as some kind of malicious, deliberate misogyny innate to all male geeks. No. The idea is systemic bias, an emergent bias resulting from the social system.
Ah, so your reading is based on confusing systemic bias with the idea that bias is innate.
The definition of “geek” is constantly evolving, but the way I am using it is more in line with how it is used on this site by other GF bloggers. When this was first posted on my (main) blog and before I linked to Slashdot and Digg entries as narrowing the definition, some sci-fi/comic male geeks came in and complained, “I don’t see that being true, other than for IT male geeks”, one of the main comment activities revolving around distancing their male geekdom from IT male geekdom. Here, there is no one complaining about “IT” geekdom not being representative of scifi geekdom, so there generally is a shared understanding of what “geek” means. However, here there are male geeks distancing themselves from the comment sections of Slashdot and Digg, and at least one female geek who sees male commenters on Geek Feminism as more representative of mainstream male geeks than male commenters on Digg.
Yet this is a trend across tech/science news sites, sites that have the shared characteristic of only being a tech/science news site, not a specialized political site such as this one.
More of this “all” strawman again.
Hello there! I’m new here, so please be gentle! :)
Thought this was a really interesting article. However, though I am a geek (sci-fi, fantasy, and comics mostly), I don’t use Digg or Slashdot at all. So I can’t comment on the data found there, because I’m just not that familiar with how those sites work. Nor do I care to be, honestly. Twitter is enough for me as far as having random articles hurtled at me (which is how I found this one!). Don’t need any other sites to spew content at me in chunks.
However, something I thought was interesting was the idea at the very beginning of the piece that “Most male geeks believe that they are subverting traditional masculinity by reclaiming and self-identifying with the term “geek”.” I’m not sure it’s as conscious as all that. All of the male geeks I know just grew up with that stuff. It’s great that we have an all-purpose term (“geek”) for someone who enjoys certain things, but I think people identify as such only after already liking the things that would qualify them for membership. So, I don’t think that ideas about masculinity and femininity even OCCUR to men who identify as “geeks.” They identify as geeks because they like geeky things. Women do the same. It’s not as if men decide to become geeks *in order to* buck what’s considered masculine. It might be a claim they make afterwards, but it’s not what first brought them to the club.
I think the discrepancy between male and female participation in geekery happens because boy children are handed certain things that girl children aren’t. Using comics as an example, it’s EXPECTED that little boys will enjoy comic books. Little boys are taken to comic shops with their allowance. If a little boy is seen reading a comic, it’s not a surprise. Little girls just aren’t – usually because it’s assumed they wouldn’t enjoy it. Or if they ARE given comics, it’s stuff like Archie Comics or comic strips in newspapers (both of which I read when I was little), which are not considered “real” comics. Sometimes, little girls are lucky. For example, I was lucky to have an older brother who introduced me to Star Trek when I was 7 or 8, making me a Trekkie for life! :) My dad would tell me to go to bed, because if I didn’t get enough sleep “how will [I] ever grow up to be an astrophysicist?” :) However, most girls, because they have to try that much harder to seek out certain things on their own, either never do, or do later in life. Using myself as an example again, I only started reading comics obsessively after a male friend of mine introduced me to Sandman in 2003. Once I was made aware of how awesome comics are, how not inane they are, and how much they can accomplish as a medium, I fell in love with them.
I suppose this puts me in the “sexism in geekery is a byproduct of sexism everywhere” camp. But that’s how I see that it works in specific relation to geekery. And while it’s true that my male geek friends, as well as the ones I associate with at conventions and such, DO tend to reject the standard definitions of masculine and feminine, I think that it happens because it takes a certain kind of personality to enjoy fantasy stories about superheroes, or time travel, or knights and broadswords, and that personality type, which exists in both genders, does not allow for rigid definitions of ANYTHING. How can you allow for something like the existence of elves or traveling through time, but NOT allow for something like girls being good at science, which is decidedly LESS fantastical. :)
I’ve read, been told, or overheard far too many first-person narratives of male geeks talking about embracing a geek identity during adolescence as part of dealing with anger against jocks and/or popular kids to discount the phenomenon. It’s real. Not universal among male geeks, certainly, but I’m starting to realized it’s a lot more common than I would have guessed.
Right, but so did I as an adolescent. You don’t have to be a male to consciously embrace “outsiderness.” Still has nothing to do with rejecting “traditional notions of masculinity/femininity.” Or even becoming a geek. It has to do with rejecting “traditional notions.” Full stop. Do they end UP rejecting traditional notions of masculinity/femininity as a result of lashing out against the popular kids? Sure. If you’re a skinny, quiet, studious boy who’s not into football, and you’re angry that your lot is to be made fun of because your community values boys who are athletic over boys who are intelligent, then by default, you are rejecting the traditional notions about your gender. I’m just saying that’s not why they consciously decided to do it.
Also, not all boys who hate jocks/popular kids are or become geeks. Some become the dudes who brood and smoke at the loading dock. Some become the class clown that no one takes seriously, but everyone keeps around for a laugh. I still maintain that those who become geeks do so because they ALREADY enjoyed stuff like comics, or D&D, or whatever. They didn’t decide to start playing D&D to subvert masculinity.
Really? Because I’ve heard first-person accounts where that’s exactly what they say they did — took up geek things in an attempt to find a way to define themselves as masculine in a way that opposed the masculinity of boys they perceived as bullying them. If this is what a man tells me was his thinking, I’m going to believe him. I’m just a bit flabbergasted that men saying this is much more common than I ever would have expected.
I’m not suggesting that male geeks start doing geeky things to in response to being rejected by male jocks. I’m suggesting that if a male geek proudly self-identifies as a geek in response to the male social hierarchy, he is attempting to reclaim masculinity. There is a difference between knowing that you are a geek and being proud of it, like there is a difference between knowing/accepting that you wear glasses and being proud of it.
There are indeed some studies suggesting that male geeks have used the ‘geek’ term to reclaim masculinity in alternate/non-hegemonic forms –Â and also some interesting work suggesting that female geeks and nerds have similarly used such terms to do likewise with regard to femininity. (Check out Lori Kendall’s and Mary Bucholtz’s work for some of the latter.)
I have definitely witnessed the phenomenon you describe in my own research on geeks (on which I recently completed a doctoral dissertation in a Communication program). It’s extremely important to point this out and offer geeks some food for thought.
That said, I wouldn’t necessarily say that this approach to geek identity among males is “typical” for the population I interacted with at large, which included qualitative study both in person and online. It does seem representative of a large portion of Slashdot, and is certainly more visible online in general than in person, but Slashdot != geekdom. (Also note that comments on Slashdot that vehemently and intelligently disagree with misogynistic perspectives are often rated comparably highly to those that are clearly sexist, which complicates claims that Slashdot users consistently vote in alignment with a particular perspective.)
Personally, I think it may be reductive to assume that most geeks’ attempts to subvert the norms of hegemonic masculinity necessarily mean excluding or oppressing members of other gender identities. While I find many self-proclaimed geeks’ hostility toward “jocks” and women in general to be hugely troubling (to say the least), I’ve also witnessed a lot of men conceptualizing their geek identity as a way of rejecting aggressiveness and competition over women, valuing playfulness and intellectualism as qualities that should be open to anyone and everyone, juvenile/sexual stigmas be damned. No researcher that I’m aware of has crunched hard numbers on what the proportions are between self-avowed feminist and egalitarian geeks versus ignorant and sexist geeks, but I’d estimate that the former are not so inconsiderable in number as to declare the latter “typical.” The ignorant and sexist ones are definitely loud on the internet, but it remains hard to say whether this is because that’s where their true numbers become apparent or because comment threads and forums disproportionately attract the socially unacceptable opinions that people can’t get away with saying “IRL.”