A vending machine containing RPG cards

Geeks as bullied and bullies

Warning: some misogynist and ableist slurs quoted, and links may contain comments with additional slurs.


Alyssa Bereznak went on a date, discovered her date was a champion Magic: The Gathering player whose life centred on it and thought it was uncool of him not to mention that in his OKCupid profile. She didn’t really spare the snark:

At dinner I got straight down to it. Did he still play [Magic: The Gathering]? “Yes.” Strike one. How often? “I’m preparing for a tournament this weekend.” Strike two. Who did he hang out with? “I’ve met all my best friends through Magic.” Strike three. I smiled and nodded and listened. Eventually I even felt a little bit bad that I didn’t know shit about the game. Here was a guy who had dedicated a good chunk of his life to mastering Magic, on a date with a girl who can barely play Solitaire. This is what happens, I thought, when you lie in your online profile. I was lured on a date thinking I’d met a normal finance guy, only to realise he was a champion dweeb in hedge funder’s clothing… Mothers, warn your daughters! This could happen to you. You’ll think you’ve found a normal bearded guy with a job, only to end up sharing goat cheese with a world champion of nerds.

Elly Hart describes Bereznak’s actions as creepy, bitchy and predatory (and apparently there’s much worse out there).

Sady Doyle argues that it’s OK, good in fact, to have preferences in dating and to exercise them:

NOT SO FAST THERE! The Internet, Ph.D. has found you guilty of OPPRESSION! That most horrible, socially harmful, Internet-comment-generating of all “oppressions:” Thinking stuff is kind of dorky. It’s awful! It’s mean! It’s unfair! And, worst of all, it results in women thinking they have the right not to sleep with men they find unattractive!

Doyle’s comment thread is worth a read. There’s a lot of push back, particularly noting that while the Internet at large has been massively faily, Alyssa Bereznak’s date (Jon Finkel) has himself responded quite calmly and non-horribly, and some people talking about Bereznak’s use of anti-geek snobbery and contempt. See for example Lilivati at 59:

I’m not defending the misogyny and sexism evident in the comments, because there is no call for that. Nor am I going to argue that nerds are an “oppressed group” on the order of other groups.

But when I’m at work and people are talking about their weekends, about how they rerouted the cable in their house or won a softball game or other “acceptable” uses of free time, when asked about MY weekend, I do not say “Oh, I picked out some new miniatures to paint and then spent most of Sunday playing Pathfinder online with my friends.”

Why not? Because -this- is what happens when you do. Your hobbies are not acceptable, so the “normal people” around you do their best to shame and humiliate you into more acceptable behavior.

And Kiturak at 77:

My problem is that there are people in my life who know about my being [feminist/ bi/ poly/ genderqueer/ mentally disabled] – and to whom I still wouldn’t tell What I Did During The Weekend.
Especially if I spend too much time(tm) on said embarrassing activity. Which I do as a means of escaping all that shit for just a little while, and doing something fun.
The problem is that this is what happens when I tell, as Lilivati said. I won’t even small-talk to people about my harmless fun-times. Because I don’t need yet another way of being called a freak.

There’s pushback against the pushback too. Amy at 69:

This is more about how sexism can function independently within a group of educated people. There are very few single comments here that I disagree with. BUT. There have been vastly more words exhausted on whether or not Ms. Bereznek’s article is mean/bad/elitist than on the truly horrible misogyny directed at her. And the latter was the point of [Doyles’s] article…

…women who say “no,” without any qualifiers or excuses, get a lot of dangerous backlash. Here we have a woman doing just that in a truly spectacular way. And there has been backlash. I didn’t expect to see backlash here, but it’s been here too. Not in any one comment, but in people expressing the same thoughts I originally had: “The misogyny is bad and no one deserves that, but she’s kind of an asshole.” And then proceeding to spend a lot more words on why she’s an asshole than on the misogynistic comments thrown her way.

Doyle at 74:

I’m really uncomfortable with the number of people here who are looking at “being kind of snobby about social interests” vs. “being openly misogynist,” and deciding that Problem A is more serious than Problem B. And it’s disappointing to me that so many women are willing to participate in that. Just above, I’ve got a (probably going to get deleted) comment that actually talks about nerds as a “minority” and says that her post is actually equivalent to a misogynist statement. And that’s just bullshit. I care a hell of a lot more about an institutional, structural oppression that’s gone on for thousands of years and resulted in the denial of human rights to half the planet than I do about people being snobby to each other sometimes. I don’t love snobbiness, either, but that doesn’t mean I have to pretend it’s even close to being a structural oppression, and deserves the same weight or importance in conversations.

Doyle continues at 83:

Actually? From what I can see, there’s a power dynamic that nobody is willing to talk about. Which is that nerds, on the Internet, are not bullied. They are the bullies. Maybe you just don’t want to talk to me about this, this week. Or maybe there’s the fact that the subculture is known for being aggressive, abusive, and misogynist, and that if you dare to think you’re allowed to have an opinion about it, you will receive (as I have done) the following comments:

* Bitch
* Cunt
* Psychotic
* Retard
* Shrill
* Hysterical…

The bully-bullied dynamic in geekdom and by geekdom is complex. Right now, there are people like Lilivati and Kiturak being shamed at best and hurt at worst for geeky interests. Geeks may not be a protected class experiencing oppression in the way the term is used in social justice, but victims of bullying and the bullying dynamic need and deserve systemic intervention. And women geeks have it worse: our geekiness is viewed as a more unacceptable departure from social norms, and our relative powerlessness leads to more bullying. Geeks rule parts of the Internet, but right now, there’s a geek (or a hundred) being shamed, teased or abused online too.

And absolutely, many geeks are bullies too. They bully within geekdom, they bully non-geeks when they can. Having been a victim of bullying is not protective against becoming a bully, in fact often experiencing bullying and abuse is where one learns the art of bullying others. It’s not news on this site that geek culture has its own takes on misogyny and other oppressions with a side of geeky spin.

So what then? I’m absolutely clear that Bereznak can end or never start relationships based on any criteria she pleases, and that women exercising preferences shouldn’t be a secret thing. (“Sure, women can reject men, but ssssssh it’s a secret.”) And Internet snark from women results in an unjustified maelstrom of hate, that’s for sure. On the other hand Bereznak isn’t exactly challenging acceptable-hobby hierachies here and while she may not have harmed Jon Finkel as it happens, people like Lilivati and Kiturak, geeky people who are also in marginalised groups, got hurt. And I don’t think that’s nothing, either. Geek marginalisation is important because organising one’s life around fields of interests is the way that some people prefer to live or the only way their mind works, it’s not inherently oppressive or unethical (although it is not inherently free of same either), and some (many) geeks are not cruel, entitled, misogynist, empowered Internet trolls. We’re not trying to improve geek culture for the high earning able-bodied etc geeks: we are doing it for the oppressed geeks, whose oppression comes with extra lumps of shaming and excluding for their geekiness.

I see Amy’s point though: it’s not acceptable either to say quickly: sure-there-was-some-misogynist-nastiness BUT HEY LOOK AT THAT ANTI-GEEK SNARK LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT 100%. I worry that in some ways we don’t talk about the misogyny because it’s simply such constant news. A woman spoke on the Internet. Cue hate. Even feminists are burned out or too scared to look, now.

Hard stuff folks: what do you think?

Elsewhere: On A Woman Choosing Not To Date A Geek

26 thoughts on “Geeks as bullied and bullies

  1. kiturak

    Hey, thanks for quoting me! I would really love to take part in this discussion, but, as I hinted in the linked comment, I won’t be there for the next two weeks.
    It’s all so difficult.
    Thanks for having the discussion here.

  2. Kaonashi

    It’s hard for a woman to express an opnion online without bringing out sexist trolls. I see that in comment threats all the time, and it is indeed a big problem. But it’s so common that it’s often going be the biggest problem around, making it hard to discuss anything else, especially a less distinct and serious prejudice against a more priviledged group.
    I try to call out sexism and misogyny when I see it, and discuss with the more reasonable commenters. But I could do that all day long and never get to problems that are closer to me personally, like Bereznak’s belittling geek prejudice, public shaming and hack journalism for pageviews. That’s not ignoring or dimissing sexism, just prioritizing and fighting my own battles sometimes. I don’t pretend I’m as oppressed, but I won’t pretend it’s not a problem either.

  3. Dina

    I didn’t have any part in the original discussion, but what comes to mind reading this is that I would be equally appalled if a man wrote a blog post about going on a date with a woman who played in Magic tournaments with the same level of snark. (Possibly more so, but that would be due to issues around the likelihood that the snark came from a place of misogyny itself, etc.)

    Having not seen the misogynistic comments, I can’t really say, but obviously that’s not on, either.

  4. Mackenzie

    I figure any comments on the post should have stayed away from misogyny and stuck to “why are you shaming someone for having different interests and treating playing a card game as some dangerous and highly contagious disease that you’ll catch from being in the same room?”

    I also wonder who writes articles purely for the purpose of making fun of people. Why do that?

    Seems like the commenters went for mean (“cunt”) over accurate (“mean-spirited”).

  5. Esteleth

    The thing is? Both sides have a point.
    Bereznak is 100% entitled to have standards of what she does, and does not, find hot and datable. Because she’s a person.
    Her treatment of Finkel (naming and shaming him online) was mean. She is not entitled to be mean. Because he’s a person.

    Many times, geeks – tired of begin bullied by the mainstream – respond by trying to puff themselves up by pushing others down. As a result, bullying and bigotry within the geek community is rampant. I’ve seen a lot of it. I’ve seen it directed against women, against LGBT people, against disabled people, against fat people, against POC, against older people, against younger people. It is a HUGE problem.
    I’m sympathetic to the arguments of Kiturak and Lilivati. I’ve been on the receiving end of anti-geek bullying myself and I’ve seen it dished out way to often. I just don’t see how more bullying or bigotry – against Bereznak or against anyone else – is the solution.

  6. Quill

    [tw: bullying, slurs, nastiness]
    [sorry for the wall of text]
    I have, as a result of my two years at The Polytechnic Institute That Shall Not Be Named, pretty much zero sympathy for the “geeks are bullied too!” argument in this context. In the context of “being cruel to people/treating them like freaks is pretty horrible, there’s intersectional experiences for people who are geek+queer/geek+female/geek+whatever, and people who are geeks should have empathy for others experiencing marginalization because geeks get it, too” it is an argument I’ve used. “WAAAH but geeky people are ALSO bullied and I’d rather talk about that experience of mine than listen to you whine about your non-cis-white-het-male problems!!!eleventy!” is Oppression Olympics and a silencing tactic. “Poor treatment of geeks is bad” does not make poor treatment of anyone else any less bad or less important.

    Also, quite frankly, I’ve known people to succeed in job interviews based upon their leadership volunteer work as con chairs or LARP staff. Sure, high school and middle school are awful, but that is true for a hell of a lot of people – especially people who aren’t performing gender acceptably. I’ve yet to hear a case of even professional discrimination based on geekery, never mind a geek day of remembrance where we talk about all the people murdered for being geeky this year, never mind geekiness ever being illegal anywhere, never mind geeks being unable to marry. The argument that discrimination against geeks should be the focus of our discussions about discrimination is absurd, the argument that this experience should be included is sensible. I think kink and poly have as much of a claim to this sort of inclusion as geekery.

    Speaking of that tech school where I learned to instantly be on the defensive when people said “but geeks are bullied too!”: I had a friend who was insistent on the point that Boy Scouts was cool and awesome because it was (relatively) safe space for male, straight, non-atheist geeks, and their systematic driving out of atheists and queers didn’t matter. I had a lot of friends who claimed that geek culture being openly racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic (some of which was aimed at me, personally) was not a big deal because geeks got bullied in high school.

    And then in my final year at the school (I was seriously considering leaving, but this had a not too insubstantial impact), Dickwolves happened. Dear geeks: if you make me choose, if you ever ask me to choose, between communities that value all of me and support the radical notion that women are people and a community I thought I belonged in when I was a bitty kid, a community that never hesitates to call me a bitch or remind me I am less than and less wanted here, well, fuck you all, I am taking my shiny dice and my LARP and my books and going home to Shakesville. And I did, and on my way out I had a lot of angry, difficult conversations with people who did. not. understand. how anyone could be so “hysterical” as to think that Penny Arcade had done anything wrong.

    There’s actually a kind of happy ending here: the Boston/Brandeis LARP and geek community has orders of magnitude more ladies and less bullshit than my old one, and I’ve moved, and I’m looking into continuing my education in a space where I’m not The Only Woman Ever and The Only Queer Ever and constantly on guard. Also: I’m one of several women to have had precisely this experience at that school, and the ones who graduated were intense introverts who avoided humanity for years. I liked people too much to stay away from the horribleness, and it was my undoing.

  7. Tal

    Not a lot of time to go over what’s been said before, but I do wonder if anyone’s pointed out the obvious: anti-geek bigotry (as demonstrated in the original post) has its roots in sexism.

    Male geeks get crap because their pursuits are largely intellectual and creative, and those things are considered unmanly by those who believe masculinity ought to be defined by relative prowess at physical combat.

    And female geeks get crap because we’re not supposed to be interested in anything intellectual at all.

    Bereznak is, of course, entitled to her choice of dating partners, and sexist attacks on her for this are unacceptable. But has anyone properly taken her to task for her own part in furthering sexist ideals of gender roles?

    Also, as a side note, I think the reason a lot of male geeks turn into sexist jerks is because they’re trying to make up for the fact that they’re not traditionally masculine. You get bullied long enough for not being a real man and you end up trying to compensate for that in any way you can. Doesn’t excuse the behavior, mind. Just an explanation for how it can happen.

  8. Elizabeth G.

    First, I totally agree that she was being a jerk, not in that she dismissed a guy who was really heavily involved in something that she had no knowledge or interest in (that is why you don’t go out with people) but that she went on to denigrate his interests (that was the mean part). But let me say that this fellow was probably looking for a partner outside of his interests because there are not a lot of potential partners involved in his hobby. I don’t know very much about Magic: The Gathering but I do know some and I don’t think that there is anything inherent in it that would turn women away (any more than WOW, which women do participate in) but I would assume that like WOW the community is not particularly welcoming to women, the difference being that there is some anonymity in WOW. Although this one gentlemen should not be held responsible for all his communities short comings, I would imagine that he would be able to find women that are interested in Magic if the community would make an effort to be more inclusive to women.

  9. Cheryl Trooskin-Zoller

    Looks to me like another case of letting those with less power wear each other down so we’re easier pickings when the mainstream comes around with the more uncomplicated garden-variety oppression.

    The status quo gives women cookies for snarking at and dissing geeky men. Similarly, the status quo gives geeky men cookies for misogyny. There’s some non-institutionalized power-over that geeks have on the internet due to our facility with technology. And, as I’ve heard complained before, there’s some non-institutionalized power-over that women have in the romantic arena due to an artificially created sense of scarcity around sex. And somehow, we’ve come to believe that our route to real power is to pick on other people who also don’t have real institutionalized power?

    Finally, everyone is diminished if we start playing oppression olympics, here. People have pretty strong opinions about which one they’re pissed off about, and that’s okay — but arguing about which to take more seriously bugs me.

  10. Meg

    That she faced misogynistic pushback doesn’t automatically make what she did originally okay. Doyle appears to miss that in her defense of the original geek-mockery. She especially seems to miss the part where these same anti-geek social judgments do intersect with misogyny in the first place. Bereznak, in policing what “acceptable” male activities are, is acting as a member of the patriarchy.

    Just because people express massive entitlement doesn’t mean they don’t have a point. It isn’t as though Bereznak was writing out of any less-developed sense of entitlement. She feels entitled to a world where Magic: the Gathering is both too shameful to mention around her and where all such players somehow magically advertise that fact so she never has to be surprised by their hidden characteristics.
    There are plenty of other situations where feminists are willing to condemn the narrative of “deceitful” romantic partners simply because they don’t advertise their entire life history.

    I tried to raise the problems with Bereznak’s original approach in her comments, but just faced ridicule for attempting to deconstruct the backlash that emerged. Hadn’t I considered that men who took offense were just hateful, entitled people? *sigh*

    Tone arguments no more apply when we apply them to anti-feminists than they do when they apply them to us.

    1. deborah


      There was hateful, misogynistic pushback about something a woman said publicly on the Internet? It must be a day that ends in “Y”.

      This is not to say that we don’t need to attack hateful, misogynistic commenting on the Internet. But every time a woman speaks publicly on the Internet about anything controversial, she will get called obscene things and treated horribly. If misogyny were enough to make us not call women to account for the things they say, we would never be calling women to account for anything.

      The argument degenerates once it starts being about poor, tormented geekboys and the way women torment them, but that doesn’t mean that none of the other responses to her arguments are invalid.

      And Sady’s pushback is a strawman — nobody is defending people using misogyny as an argument against Bereznak. But we can attack misogyny and attack mean-spirited social policing (“shouldn’t someone also be required to disclose any indisputably geeky world championship titles?”) at the same time.

  11. Annalee

    When I read Bereznak’s original post, I didn’t just see an insult to geeks. I also saw a hell of a lot of gender policing. What is “mothers warn your daughters” supposed to mean to me, whose mother bought me my first Magic cards?

    It sure seems like it means I can’t possibly be a real woman if I’m a geek, or if I’m attracted to geeks–because obviously, real women recoil from geeks, like she did.

    Then, of course, the sexist jerks came out of the woodwork to make this about how she’s a woman. She doesn’t deserve to have sexist slurs and harassment hurled at her. I don’t think there’s any equivalence between the insulting things she said in her post and the harassment and abuse that have been leveled at her.

    But neither do we as women geeks deserve to have a bunch of misogynistic trolls erasing our identities by implying that Bereznak hates geeks because she’s a woman, and the rest of us are just like her.

    She wasn’t just insulting geeks, and the trolls who’ve harassed her aren’t just insulting women. They’ve both insulted women geeks, and we’re once again caught in the middle of a fight between two bureaus of gender police.

    So yes, I’m both burned out and too scared to look, because I’m sick of being erased, and it doesn’t feel any better coming from a non-geek woman than it does from a pack of geek men–and as soon as I saw her post, I knew it was only going downhill from there.

  12. 2ndnin

    I agree with Tadhg that shaming isn’t appropriate in any circumstance. While the geek community may not be welcoming and may harbor grudges (the misogynistic culture) from their treatment as kids / young adults that is no excuse to have a go at any specific geek for a non-related reason.

    Her article itself is snarky and designed to get post views (Gizmodo wins there) and suggests that she is a very shallow person since (from what I have read of the situation and the tweets from Jon) she stopped wanting to date him because of what he does in his free time. By her own standards she should have a warning up about her preferences and what exactly she wants so people don’t need to be exposed to her venomous comments.

    If we rule out the race analogy (look at Sady Doyle’s post for that one) since someone cannot change their race (though they could equally change social groups etc as suggested for geeks) and instead look at a feminist example:

    Male journalist (mj) meets a female lawyer online (fl) her profile doesn’t mention she is a feminist. The fl decides to take her date to the vagina monologues (they discussed something related earlier), afterwards over coffee the mj finds out fl is Jill Valenti and is a feminist (strike 1), she is blogging today (strike 2), and she met most of her friends through feminism (strike 3). How vile of her not to reveal she was a feminist, and poisoning the dating pool for normal people with her feminist ways.

    I really can’t see anyone here supporting the mj in that example that something someone does in their free time, and perhaps has influenced their outlook on life should simply be something that is considered bad and not fit for public consumption. Often we do see posts here about why women won’t call themselves feminists (a misogynistic backlash as is often described), this is the same thing a community not liking being tanned with the same brush that hits the truly vile members of their group.

    1. Mary Post author

      While the geek community may not be welcoming and may harbor grudges (the misogynistic culture) from their treatment as kids / young adults

      Uh, citation needed. This is where some in the geek community like to claim their misogyny arises from, but you don’t get to assume it without proof.

      Actually scratch that, it would be way off topic for this post. But suffice to say: it’s possible to argue (and a more common belief around here) that misogyny in geekdom is a result of inheriting misogyny from mainstream culture and applying it to people who are more powerless (women geeks) both by virtue of women’s oppression and women’s numerical minority status in a lot of geekdoms, not simply the helpless and inevitable actions of bullying victims. It’s not exactly the same thing, but I posted on an at least related topic here.

      1. 2ndnin

        I’d wonder how you would actually get proof for that Mary, since a lot of geeks come from very different backgrounds. What does seem common though amongst the experiences a lot of male geeks list is being isolated by the ‘popular’ kids and having very few women in their early social groups. So yeah I can’t say this is a 100% valid reason for a misogynistic outlook (though I would say it is more a backlash against popular culture rather than women in particular) however it would sensibly seem to be a contributing factor.

        I am not sure it really is off topic as having main stream women express this kind of expression is someone with an institutional power base speaking out against a less privileged group (on the social axis). Again we aren’t considering geek-women in this situation but rather a socionormative person vs a sociodeviant which makes this relevant. Again as per many things you need to listen to the people who are actually being affected here, and many people are simply dismissing the responses on Gizmodo because of the language used rather than looking at the underlying complaints.

        1. Mary Post author

          Except that misogyny is not (well, I guess citation needed again, but still, let’s say in my percerption) correlated very tightly with being a survivor of bullying or a member of a disliked subculture and so on. Many geek men bully women. Many non-geek men bully women. Many extremely popular and successful men on any axis you can name (except possibly “not a jerk”) bully women. Now you can either argue that all of these men are justified in doing this by the actions of women. You can argue that it arises from similar causes, namely, the relative power of men and women. Or you can argue that geek men do this as a reaction to being bullying survivors, which leaves you with a problem of the other men.

          I’m unlikely to approve more comments in this subthread. Unless someone is moved to post a relevant thread this argument is done. Further: it’s safe to say that on this site, you cannot use any argument along the lines of “yeah, but look at the reasons for the rape threats!” Rape threats: not acceptable, not condonable, not excusable, never ever.

        2. Jayn

          “What does seem common though amongst the experiences a lot of male geeks list is being isolated by the “popular’ kids and having very few women in their early social groups.”

          You can probably safely knock ‘male’ out of that sentence–it certainly describes my experiences. And it has, at times, led to me being a bit of a bully myself, partly as a ‘give what I get’ thing and partly just to reassure myself that I wasn’t at the bottom of the social heap. When all you get is crap, it feels nice to be able to shit on someone else for a change.

      2. BethA

        [tw for bullying and abuse, including relationship abuse]

        I lived through it. I was the a girl in a group of predominantly-male geeks, and I watched my male friends be subject to gender-policing violence on a daily basis that I and the other woman were never targeted by. They were sexually assaulted, beaten, mocked and socially ostracized (we were socially ostracized and got the occasional prank call, but were otherwise ignored, unlike the boys.) For those who didn’t leave our small, rural town after graduation, the mockery, social ostracism and sexual harassment continued after graduation.

        It isn’t an excuse for their misogyny, but it is an explanation; women were both part of the patriarchy that kept them down and a safe, dehumanized target for their anger (they considered me “not a girl”. At the time I took it as a complement; boys aren’t the only ones who can protect themselves by buying into misogyny.) The only time I saw one of them interact with a girl romantically, it was a practical joke by one of the “popular” girls. I know it’s an unpopular position around here, but at least sometimes these things are real. I saw them happen.

        It also doesn’t stop at high school: I had a guy at my (very geeky) job call LARPers stupid, pathetic, bizarre and immature (they had no idea I larped, of course, because I was terrified of being considered all those things. Instead, I went out of my way to learn the names of several campgrounds I could claim to be camping at those weekends.) The men who learned to blend in during high school or college may not continue to have problems (unless a date googles their name), but the men who still fail to fit society’s standards of “acceptable”, by being over-weight, not understanding the rules of social interaction, being excessively interested in nerdy topics or wearing super-thick glasses continue to be excluded and possibly lonely. I meet them at conventions and in nerdy spaces and I can understand the exclusion; it is uncomfortable to interact with someone who so clearly doesn’t understand social graces. But that doesn’t mean the exclusion isn’t real, or hurtful.

        This also isn’t to say that every geeky man is a misogynist. I’ve seen some who correctly draw parallels or formed alliances with queer, artsy or otherwise-deviant boys and became feminist allies. I have also met men, more common among my friends group now than the misogynists, who married the first woman he had a long-term relationship with and stays with her no matter how badly she treats him, because he thinks she’s doing him a favor by being with him. Almost a quarter of my male friends are in what I consider to be abusive relationships, and they seem really surprised when they confess their unhappiness to me and my response is, “you know you’re not the only one, right?” For some reason none of them talk with the others about living in misery in order to avoid being alone.

        Do either group of men have it “worse” than woman under the patriarchy? Probably not, though I believe Oppression Olympics is unhelpful and a sign of derailing. I can guarantee you that individual men who were harassed and abused for not fitting in to a non-nerdy culture have had it worse than individual women who have been otherwise rewarded by the kyriarchy, because I can think of two people on either side of that equation.

        It’s a privilege to not have seen or experienced the social ostracism, harassment and violence that I have seen and experienced being targeted at boys and men because of their status as geeks, but just because you didn’t see it happen doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

  13. knightofsummer

    I think it should be possible to reject, deconstruct and critique the misogynist responses without defending what she said in the first place. However, that’s not what Doyle did; she took the opportunity to double-down on the critique that geeks care “too much” and deserve ridicule and rejection because of it.

    While there are plenty of places where geeks and geek-dom is privileged, such as technical colleges, software development or conventions, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other places where it is not. Just because women’s colleges exist doesn’t mean there aren’t other places where women are disadvantaged in academia. Individuals may have different experiences of “geekiness”, especially based on intersecting oppressions. Not everyone can live in one of those geek paradises.

    Since many geeky traits are geeky specifically because they would otherwise be gendered feminine, anti-geek sentiments seems to often overlap with chauvinism itself. Rejecting the systematic and observable phenomenon of people disparaging geekiness because we don’t think the people subject to it deserve to complain seems counter-productive. I have never found generalizing to the point of erasing other people’s lived experiences to serve me well or make anyone realize how good they have it.

    It is certainly true that male geeks often seem to defend their geekiness by asserting that it really is masculine after all and defining themselves against women. But that’s why Geek Feminism is so necessary as a movement, not why geekiness is really terrible after all.

  14. Mel

    I expect misogynist geek men to be misogynist assholes.

    I don’t expect feminists to think mocking non-mainstream interests for being non-mainstream is an awesome, cool, non-nasty thing to do.

    So, as a geek and a woman, I’m frankly more upset by Bereznak and Doyle than by the dudes. I expect feminists to think about intersection, and remember that hey, women can be geeks, too. I expect feminists to accept and respect me as a person, instead of kicking me out of the club because they like to do $mainstreamthing and I like to do $geekthing and $geekthing is so weeeeeeeird and not awesome like their interests.

    Does that make Bereznak’s behavior worse than misogyny? No. But I’m a lot less inured to “your passion and enthusiasm for non-mainstream subjects makes you a sad, pathetic person” (?!) from feminists than I am misogyny from misogynists.

    I think that’s probably true of a lot of geek women’s reactions, hence the focus on the original article instead of the (very predictable) backlash.

    1. Meg

      That’s a good point. I’m used to fighting my way into the world of geek-dom; it’s new-er to be alienated from feminism because I’m not cool enough or I should hide who I am or they have a feminism-backed right to be mean to me. The surprise led me to take it more personally than I usually do these days.

  15. takingitoutside

    I read Bereznak’s original post as linked above, and it’s not particularly bad. I got the impression she was writing it in response to what she perceived as the guy’s hiding his interest – an interest he admits consumes most of his weekends – as much, if not more than because she thought that interest was geeky. She went on multiple dates with him, she asked explicit questions about how much time he spent on it and how embedded he was in the community before deciding they weren’t going to work out… Yes, she wrote a snarky essay, and it’s not what I would consider polite, but if he Googled her like she suggested he would have turned up the fact that her brand of journalism sometimes involves things like snarky blog posts about her dates.

    No one would be saying she did anything particularly wrong if she had written a snarky essay about a guy who neglected to mention in his online profile that he spends all of his weekends practicing rock climbing and only had climbers as friends. That the hobby in question is geeky added a bit of bite to her snark, but people don’t exist in vacuums; if your significant other spends all their time doing something and hanging out with people related to that something, by default you also get involved in it. Sounds like she didn’t want to spend weekends watching him practice for and win at conventions, and she was irritated that even when she met a non-jerk on OKC it turned out that he had misrepresented himself.

    1. Tadhg

      Bereznak clearly implies that an interest in Magic: The Gathering is abnormal, and that this abnormality is entirely tied up with its geekiness. Her feeling that he had “misrepresented” himself by not listing the hobby is also clearly predicated on the idea that such a high level of “abnormality” should have to be declared in one’s profile.

      She wouldn’t have been as snarky if it had been rock climbing, because she wouldn’t have engaged in declaring rock climbing to be abnormal, because there’s no particularly strong cultural prejudice to back that up; there is such a prejudice about “geeky” activities, which prejudice she was actively working to reinforce.

  16. nakedthoughts

    “Her article itself is snarky and designed to get post views (Gizmodo wins there) and suggests that she is a very shallow person since (from what I have read of the situation and the tweets from Jon) she stopped wanting to date him because of what he does in his free time. By her own standards she should have a warning up about her preferences and what exactly she wants so people don’t need to be exposed to her venomous comments.” —-2ndnin

    Wanting to date people you have things in common with is shallow? I’m not dating someone whose spare time is heavily invested in something I have no interest in. Wanting shared interests is not shallow, it is sensible. Dating is done in free time, if I’m looking for someone to share my free time, we better want to do things together in it. otherwise what would we do together? shallow would be NOT caring what he did in his free time and only caring that he was “a finance guy” since that would make him economically a “good catch.” Listing your interests on a dating site is generally standard practice since, what I do in my spare time is what I like to do with significant others. Hiding an important part of you personality will lead to bad dates.

    1. flyingkal

      1. So, you are saying that we should avoid dating journalists, otherwise we just have ourself to blame if we end up in a snarky blog post?

      2. How is he hiding it, if he casually mentions it on the first date?

      3. They went on one date. The second one was just so she could interrogate him about his interest. Hardly what I would constitute as a date. And even if two is plural, it’s not really considered “multiple” in my book. :-)

      4. From what I gathered, he’s stepped down a fair bit from his playing. Just because you have a tournament/climbing trip this (upcoming) weekend, doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be tied up or going away every weekend.

      Bottom line. Wanting to date people you have things in common with is not shallow.
      Assuming that all people have common interests that you have, and requiring all “deviant” people to carry visible disclaimers and warning labels so that you (or anyone else of the “normal” tribe) won’t interact with them by chance (and, god forbid, maybe learn something new in the process, or discover that these people are individuals too and some of them might be able to hold a coherent conversation.) Now, that is shallow!

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