Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Party Balance Requires Diversity

Well, it looks like we hit 200 posts without any fanfare, which is probably a good sign, because it means I am less surprised to make it that far than I was at 100, but may be a bad thing, if it indicates this blog is an elaborate method for me to have long conversations with myself. Anyway, on to the 201st post!

I hope it comes as no surprise to you that the topic of women in nerd culture is one of some interest to me. One of the benefits of having this fact well known is that people sometimes send me relevant articles when they come across them. One such article about women "pretending" to be geeks in order to get male attention can be found here. The article, like most things, has some good points, and some flaws. Some of the flaws were pointed out in a counter-article, which can be found here, but I have enough of my own thoughts on the subject that I wanted to write my own post.

First off, let me complement some of the things I really did like from the article. The author calls out the misogyny that women who game experience and clearly chastises them. Furthermore, he reaffirms the idea that women can be nerds, are nerds, and should be welcome in nerd culture.

However, he does commit a few things that I would consider faux pas. I don't want to go to deeply into these, so I'll just list them. He makes the, "I cannot be a misogynist, I have a female friend," argument, he equivocates booth babes, who are explicitly at conventions to get paid as models, with women actually trying to participate in nerd culture, finally, and this is the point I want to expand upon, he judges that some women are just "not nerdy enough," for nerd culture.

While the linked rebuttal notes that there are problems with guys deciding which girls are nerdy enough to join, "the boys club," and there certainly are, I think that it is insufficient, but not unimportant, to focus on the gendered implications of this statement. First, let us take a moment to realize how much more mainstream "nerdity" has become. I am extremely fortunate that I can be fairly open about my enjoyment of playing Dungeons & Dragons without being ostracized by my friends, condemned by most churches, or suspected of going psychotic. Twenty or thirty years ago I would not have had that freedom. Also, is it just me or does this sound like a metaphor for being gay?

Anyway, things like gadget mania, the widespread use of computers, an invasion of blockbuster movies based on comic book culture, and the incredible popularity of Nerdfighters among young adults signal that nerd is becoming mainstream. Unfortunately that is a somewhat jarring experience for people who found their nerdity an alienating, rather than accepted, trait. It makes sense for their to be a certain, Hipster-eqsue, tendency for some nerds to think, "I am a true nerd, I was a nerd before it was cool," or to view newcomers as disingenuous in some manner. This will, of course, do nothing to dispel the image of nerds as anti-social misanthropists.

Stereotypes within nerd culture that, "gamers aren't nerds," or that, "serious gamers are nerds, but not those belligerent frat-boy Halo-playing jerks," ultimately harm both people within nerd culture, by keeping it exclusive and preventing it from receiving the acceptance that it deserves and flourishing in the way that it can and should, and those attempting to join it, preventing them from receiving the acceptance that they deserve and joining the, often, fulfilling comradery of some of the weirdest hobbies that could ever be so much fun. I mean seriously, I write numbers down on paper and pretend I'm a wizard, that's weird, and awesome! Hopefully we can accept and validate, if not necessarily hang out with all the time, engineers, video gamers, english lit enthusiasts, ren fair participants and the SCA, board/pencil and paper gamers, people who love Joss Whedon (who doesn't love Joss Whedon), and yes, even people who became enthusiastic about A Game of Thrones because of the HBO series *sigh*.


elfarmy17 said...

I do, in fact, know someone who does not love Joss Whedon.
Unfortunately, his arguments make sense.
I just choose to ignore them. xD

Also, one thing I've started doing is instead of identifying as "a nerd," I make it into an adjective. Yeah, I can (and sometimes do) quote Romeo and Juliet in everyday conversation, and I get annoyed when my Psych textbook tries to make a Star Wars reference when there's a far better one available for the context, and those are both undeniably very nerdy of me...but I figure everyone has quirks like that, so making it a description that is sometimes applicable instead of a group that one does or does not belong to can mitigate some of these issues.

elfarmy17 said...

[additional comment so the form will let me subscribe]

Kenny said...

I am interested in hearing good arguments for not liking Joss Whedon, if you happen to remember them? I mean, other than, "I just don't like Joss Whedon," which is a fine argument given how subjective liking things tends to be by nature. If there are some more objective arguments I am interested.

As for being nerdy rather than a nerd, that is fair enough, but the question still can be asked, "are you nerdy enough (to fit in with this group)?" And that is a question I don't think should be asked.

elfarmy17 said...

Joss Whedon arguments:
1. Spike's whole "I have a chip in my head and now I'm good" is bad writing and also makes him infinitely less cool.
2. Zoe and the Shepherd are kind of boring characters.
3. Xander and Willow are awesome characters but for a lot of the show they don't really have any purpose/storyline going other than just being Buffy's friends.
4. Ummm...a lot of it isn't so much "WHEDON SUCKS" as it is "Whedon isn't nearly as good as everyone says he is."

And hmm..."nerdy enough" definitely is a question we ask ourselves on my debate team, but mainly because we worry that the newbies won't feel included, rather than that we don't want them there.

Kenny said...

Vague Buffy and Firefly Spoiler Alert:

1) I don't think Spike actually becomes good until the beginning of Season 7, about three seasons after he gets chipped.

2) In regard to Shepherd Book, I think he is actually an interesting character who never got a chance to become interesting. There are enough hints that something is up with him that I think Whedon would have explored it eventually. On this point I think it is important to note that Firefly also benefits from its early cancellation, if it went on for 5 seasons I think it would have eventually dragged on. Buffy, by contrast, I think hit its all time high in seasons 2 and 3, then dragged on through 4 and 5, eventually surging to finish strong in the second half of 6 and 7. As for Zoe, well, maybe, but is she poorly written, or is her personality type just one we don't find interesting?

3) Since the show is about Buffy, I don't see how this is an issue. All the other characters are defined in relation to Buffy. Giles is her watcher, Grace is her mother, Willow and Xander are her friends, Dawn is an abomination that should never have been kept in the show, etc.

4) I will agree with this, if people are saying that Whedon is perfect. I just assert that Whedon is better than anything else out there, in my opinion.

Kenny said...

So you aren't so much asking are they "nerdy enough," since you won't get rid of them or shun them if they "aren't," as you are asking if you are being "too nerdy," it seems. Of course, this raises issues too, because people should be able to find spaces in which they can let their nerd flag fly.