On the Whole “Nerd Girl” Thing

I’m pretty dismayed that in the new damn millennium, the term “NERD” is gendered. Nerd. Geek. Gamer. Otaku. If you’ve attended a comic con or anime con or gaming con any time in the past ten years, it’s empirically observable that these terms apply to people of all genders. Yet there are those in the new damn millennium who feel that these terms are reserved for men. SMBC Theater has a sketch that accurately portrays this nerd-shaming phenomenon.

Sadly, this satirical sketch isn’t too far from the truth. Two recent incidents in the comics nerdosphere highlight the so-called “Nerd Girl Thing.” Comics web journalist Dirk Manning shared a meme on his facebook page that says “Dear girls who take pictures in slutty clothes & glasses & label the caption ‘nerd lol’ You’re not a nerd; you’re a whore who found glasses.” Dirk clarifies that he didn’t intend to call anyone a whore. He agreed with the sentiment and he objected to women objectifying themselves to pander “to what they see as the lowest common denominator of the social hierarchy (‘nerds’) in desperate bids for attention.” Ugh, it hurts to even copy and paste that.

In a similar vein, comic artist Tony Harris called out cosplayers who dress up for attention from nerds but don’t know a thing about the characters they are portraying. His facebook post is pretty long and pretty angry.

Checking my “Give a Shit” stat.

Oh… I don’t give a shit!

From time immemorial, nerds have been the social outcasts of the playground. Long taunted by jocks, cheerleaders, and even the band kids, nerds have been shunned by almost every strata of the pre-college hierarchy. We know what it feels like to be bullied, to be picked on, to be shamed. And now that nerdom is becoming mainstream and attracting non-outcasts, now we turn around and do the same?

Grow. The fuck. Up.

I don’t understand why you would want to keep awesome things to yourself. Awesome, nerdy things must be shared if we want more awesome nerdy things. We wouldn’t have awesome comic book movies if non-nerds didn’t buy tickets.

To me, beyond comics or toys or Kamen Rider, at its core Nerdom is about acceptance. Accepting who you are and not measuring or judging yourself by other’s so called standards is the very essence of Nerdom. And in turn, accepting others for who they are or choose to be is all a part of that. Why do you give a shit if a girl where’s a costume because she thinks its awesome yet has no idea who the character is? At least she’s comfortable enough with herself to go out in the world dressed in something fucking rad. That’s nerd to me.

To anyone who’s ever been accused of being a poseur by a butthurt nerd, you can hang out with the rest of us. Those dudes think their lawn is shrinking. The rest of us recognize that nerdom grows stronger with more of us so come on in and join the party!

  • iebizz

    The BBC have just had an article up about the growing acceptance of ‘nerds’. Here’s the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20325517

  • torsoboy

    Being in the cosplay circuit myself, I see this all the time. It’s so frustrating because I know all this stuff is wholly superficial. Our interests speak volumes about us, but really, the people who are all in a huff over a girl wearing some sexy Stormtrooper armor need to step back and reevaluate what they’re thinking/saying. It’s just playing dress up. Or it’s just reading a comic book. Or it’s just playing with toys. Whatever your fandom is, it’s just a superficial means of associating your free time with some property that isn’t even returning the damn favor. If the comic book companies or toy companies or film companies don’t care about their fans (aside from the whole “making money off of them” factor), then why the fuck should the fans be all in a huff over someone else liking the same stuff?

    It’s not like any one group of friends’ interest in a particular fandom matches up person to person anyways. Ask any isolated group of friends why they all like “movie X” and they’ll all give you different answers. They’re not taking anything of their experience of fandom away from each other by having different opinions, so why do boobs and a vagina all of a sudden become threats? I can hazard a guess, but it would be calling on stereotypes, and I’d rather not generalize.

    Being a male, my perspective is skewed by default, so I can’t quite speak on behalf of the female experience here. But I actually currently have an interest in something that I have zero experience with, so in a sense, I can relate to the object of these jerks’ discontent. I’m hugely interested in making a Journey costume, but I have not played Journey (particularly due to not wanting to buy a PS3 for one game), and I really don’t even want to play it. I understand the concept of the game, and I think it’s a pretty neat idea, but my only interest in it is the character design. I couldn’t care less what’s going on in the game, those are just some kickass character designs, and I find some intellectual, conceptual dialogue there that I’m really attracted to. I know that’s a little deeper than what’s going on in this War Against Women: Nerd War II, but it’s pretty damn shallow compared to my other interests, and I’m totally fine with that. As long as you like something for even a teeny tiny socially insignificant reason, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t celebrate it.

    • torsoboy

      I want to clarify: I don’t mean to say that the companies that produce this stuff don’t care about their fans. They do, but it comes from a top-level desire to make money. Their care of the fans comes from a commercial perspective, not a personal one. So what I mean to say is that there is a certain emotional disconnect there in that for these companies, fans’ happiness means fans spending money. But that’s beside the point of my comment.

  • http://duagcore.wordpress.com Lord Awesome

    This is a bit of a hard thing to really comment on and examine. As a forward, I’ll say most of my schooling was in the form of being in the ‘nerd class’ with other nerd girls and such, so it’s a thing that’s always been there and accepted.

    But for a lot of people who didn’t have that social background, yeah I can see this as being a bit of a shock. Yes on the large influx of women into things which were hugely a male subculture, but peripherally a subculture becoming mainstream so fast. You see this a lot in all sort of social circles. Take a look at the republican party for a non-geek/nerd example.

    Here however is a better example: The Transformers Movies, the Micheal Bay ones. In theory they should have been about robots fighting, and for the most part that did happen. To change that up and basically make it marketable to people other than the fans and car enthusiasts, they threw in the military, massive explosions, bitching yet confusing CGI and ye classic hook, tits and ass. The results will speak for themselves. The backlash mostly came from fans of the 80s transformers not getting the shot vodka, but instead a Caesar, which completely ignores the fact that Transformers (after the Beasties/Beast Wars cartoons) was more or less a dying franchise (imho).

    I think a lot in the nerd community are afraid of the implications that becoming more mainstream brings. Look at the chronology and cycle that Punk music has taken in the last four decades. Still, I understand some of the anger that’s coming out because it’s very much ‘these things have been around forever, why are you suddenly interested in them now?’, which may never get a satisfactory answer.

    Realistically the old boys should learn to play nice, or take a step forward and be the wise guide role to new comers. Not all of them will, but it should be a worthwhile goal to aim for which wouldn’t be a bad role to fill. It will be rough for them, but the opportunity to take control of where it benefits everyone exists.

  • Kunoichi

    Maybe this is sort of like the nerd community’s tea party. See, a bunch of nerds already think this bullshit, they just don’t articulate it directly. But as more women stop putting up with it and move towards more respected inclusion in the community, that fringe line of thought decides it is threatened and starts vocalizing too damn loudly for anyone’s comfort.

    I’ve been a nerd and video gamer as well as a cis-gendered female for….we’ll go with, “since the moment I entered primary school”. You know what? For a very long time, I was something of a rare commodity, and the attitudes I dealt with fell into only two categories: “she is a rare and precious gem, we must treat her like glass when we can manage to string coherent sentences together at all” or “no girls allowed in our activities!!”. I *still* prefer for my husband to make our video game purchases in person for me. I catch all kinds of shit no matter what game I want to buy. If it’s cute or girly, I have to deal with “this is a good game for girls, it’s nice to see girls trying out video games”. And yes, they always use “girl”, not “woman”. I have big breasts and a wedding ring, my height does not make me a child. If I ask for or buy a manly game, they try to redirect me to something with pink or mention that I’m making a great gift purchase for the man in my life. It almost makes me wish I was a lesbian just so I could reply that my wife will certainly like it.

    The local comics shop gave me the run around when I wanted to buy the hardcover edition of Tsutomu Nihei’s “Snikt”. I’m guessing they thought I was a mainstream Wolvie fan and didn’t “deserve” the book or didn’t know what I wanted and would get mad when I saw the product.

    On the progress side, our local gaming store is owned by a woman, and while the Magic players seem to still be a boys club with troglodyte ideas, our Warmachine group is 1/4 ladies, who are quite vocal calling out misogyny, and at least some of the guys have our backs on it. And you know what? Some of the people who were called out have changed. And some of those changed guys changed so much they’re now people who call out misogyny.

    So, anecdotally, this is nothing new. Let’s hope this is actually the death throes of pervasive sexism in the nerd world. I think the best thing we can do is calmly call out it when it happens, and explain without patronizing to the asshat why ze is an asshat.

  • SamuraiArtGuy

    This is pure AW350M3.

    “Welcome to a larger world”, Obi-Wan Kenobi
    “Wave your freak flag high”, Jimi Hendrix

    Fandom had me at “Live Long and Prosper.” … in 1968.

    Now mind you, I have since earned third degree black belts in Shotokan Karate, Nintai-ryu Jujutsu, Shaolin Kempo Karate, and a Instructor’s Certificate in Ta’i Chi Ch’uan. … and BSA Rifle and Shotgun Shooting Merit Badge. Getting picked on by the football team, even at such a nerdy place as Brooklyn Tech, got old REAL fast.