Geekdom and men

So, Tauriq Moosa has made another post. In this one, he takes on an anonymous comment and proceeds to at least attempt to tear it apart. Unfortunately, most of the post is pretty much a rant, as evidenced by this exchange:

Where can they flee? They’re backed into a corner. Attacking invading women is not harrassment – it is defense.

**** you.

Look, I’d have more sympathy for the idea that you only want discussion if, well, you wouldn’t reply to comments like this of at most mild rhetoric with an utterly dismissive statement. Either his point works that he needs to attack — and note that what “attack” means is not specified, so it could mean anything from disagreeing, to replies of the form that Moosa makes right here, to egregious harassment — in order to defend his own space, or it doesn’t. And at this point in the post, Moosa has either demonstrated that his point doesn’t work, or he hasn’t. This response here is nothing more than a strong statement of how angry and upset and offended Moosa is, which is irrelevant for the purposes of the discussion. The anonymous commenter’s statement here deserves that sort of response about as much as “Gamers are dead” does. I doubt, however, that Moosa would see those responding that way to “Gamers are dead” as being a righteously angry as he almost certainly sees himself here.

He then immediately falls into the trap of trying to defend women entering into the geek sphere by arguing that they have always been there:

First, it’s blatant nonsense that women – or rather not cis dudes – were never part of “geekdom”, it’s bullshit to say women “invade” geek spaces. The first games I bought were by Roberta Williams and Jane Jensen; I was reading Ursula le Guin before I knew I was apparently supposed to hate all girls (i.e. teens); and the most popular character among me and my friends for Halloween was Frankenstein’s monster, created by – *gasp* – a woman.

But, I don’t need to list women who revolutionised the various mediums they were part of or elaborate on the quality and beauty they brought to their various genres. The works speak for themselves.

But if women have revolutionized the geek mediums, then they are, in fact, responsible for a lot of what it is … and, therefore, a lot of what is criticized by the Social Justice advocates. They can’t take responsibility for what is considered good but dodge responsibility for anything that’s purportedly bad about geek culture. If women have been in and strongly influential in geek culture as Moosa asserts, then they have to accept responsibility for the shape of geek culture, and for many of the elements of it that are criticized they have either fostered it or at least learned to live with it and ignore it in order to participate in the culture. And if women have been in the culture from the beginning, then how can the critics of geek culture argue that it is the way it is to appeal to men and that it reflects male power fantasies, and that that is what needs to change in order to appeal to women? If women already find it appealing, then why does it have to change?

The fact is that both the critics and defenders of geek culture consider it to be a male domain that women are trying or hoping to get into. In order for this fight to get off the ground and for the criticisms to be based on sexism or misogyny or patriarchy, you have to assume that women are not already there and not already participating. Sure, even with that there may still be issues — as there are in anything — but you would not be able to claim that geek culture is a male culture that needs to change to include women; some women are already there and (reasonably) happy with it, and so maybe, just maybe, the reason that some women don’t feel “included” in geek culture is because, wait for it, they’re not geeks. Maybe it isn’t that women aren’t geeks, but that those women aren’t geeks, and yet are still coming and and demanding that the culture change to suit them.

And let’s return to how “geek culture” got that whole “male realm” label slapped on it in the first place. While there may indeed have been a number of women in it, geek culture was seen as a male thing because it was the case that pretty much only men would admit to it. And that number of those men were socially inept and awkward, and that admitting their geek tendencies didn’t make things any better. While the commenter talks a lot about being rejected, the key is that being seen as a geek didn’t help one’s social standing. In general, women tried to avoid being labelled a geek, because to be labelled a geek was ever worse for women than for men. But while they would be forced to hide those tendencies, that also meant that they didn’t get picked on for them either. In short, many women who might have liked to be geeks chose not to be, while many men did accept it and suffered the slings and arrows of that choice from almost everyone except their own group.

Before about, oh, 2012 (as Moosa comments), being a geek was not something that people respected or thought good. Adults who enjoyed many of the key elements of geek culture — comics, video games, cartoons, etc — were seen as immature and socially inept just for enjoying those things. It’s only since then that geek culture has been seen in the mainstream as having the depth and strength that it has always had, and this is creating new audiences. And with new audiences comes new demands.

So, again, the big thrust of the criticisms is that geek culture isn’t welcoming enough to women, and must change to be more welcoming to them. This is indeed, as the commenter says, them wanting the culture to conform “to their wants and rules”. And it is reasonable to ask why in the world it should do that. Why should it do that especially for the women who have never been part of the culture but now want to jump on its bandwagon? And it’s not simply “anti-sexism” in the sense of ditching harassment; they want to change major aspects of presentation and what is produced to suit their desires. Why are their desires more important than those who created and maintained the culture just because they can appeal to some kind of minority status and wrap their claims in the wrapper of “sexism”?

Look, these are indeed issues that we can indeed have some serious discussions about. This post is not an example of how to discuss this, and isn’t a discussion at all. And I imagine that a lot of “geeks” are tired of “discussions” that are essentially people ranting while expecting any dissenters to simply nod meekly or else be ranted at much more. As Commander Sinclair said, if you want to talk to me, talk to me. There is not much “talking to” going on here except in the “I gave him a talking to” sense … and that’s not a discussion, that’s a lecture. And this is not the time for lectures.

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