The Sexist

Misogyny: Geeks vs. Jocks

Relevant to this blog's conversations on geek feminism and male-dominated nerddom: Restructure! argues that misogyny in geek spaces is a product of the construction of geek masculinity, which sees itself as a necessarily male rival to the Alpha male "jock" identity:

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 piece makes me curious about the relative experiences of women in geek vs. jock cultures. Does the inherent gender-segregation of the jock's world (at least in the traditional athletic sense) preclude arguments over who should be let into the club, or merely exacerbate disputes over the natural hard-wiring of women and men?

Photo via katybate, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

  • ruiqiu

    @Athenia

    Oh, I am a math and science geek, and I've definitely seen misogynist geeks get pissy when a woman (me) outperforms them in the sciences. A geek-woman often faces open hostility or subtly nasty misogynist jokes when she performs well, whereas a high-performing geek-man does not.

    Not that all geeks are raging misogynists, either. But one of the problems with geek culture is that the geeks who don't actually hate women still support the misogyny by not speaking up. Here's what I mean: Douchewad Joe tells a sickening misogynist joke and a few guys laugh out loud (also douches) while the one woman present is definitely uncomfortable, but knows if she calls DJoe out on his crap, she's the one being "oversensitive", and DJoe won't listen to a woman, anyways...

    But why can't all those Decent Bobs say something? When Bob laughs uncomfortably at the joke and doesn't want to make it a big deal, he is contributing to misogynist culture, even though he would never say something that offensive himself. By not speaking up, Bob has publicly accepted the misogyny. And Bob is anything but alone: geek culture itself condones Bob's silence, because hey, geeks aren't part of that PC mainstream oversensitivity, and he's just trying to be funny, right? That's just one aspect of geek misogyny that I am just Oh! so lucky to experience.

  • http://birthdaybreadhorse.wordpress.com Jess

    If you guys keep this up I’m going to burn my feminist card.

    Shorter Archangel: [BONERS]

  • Shadow

    Well, the NT(neurotypical) comment was one of the things I was going to comment on, but it seems NbyNW and Groggette has already sorted it out. NT is used as a synonym for 'normal', meaning no mental illnesses or other unusual differences. The two of you put it very well. :) (I'm used to hearing the term NT as I know some AS people and have read quite a bit about AS).

    To the subject at hand.
    In my experience it is impossible to say 'geek culture' and then describe it as a whole unit, because it isn't. Geek cultures would be more appropriate. There's great differences between the different branches of geekdom.
    Personally I 'belong' to the sci-fi/fantasy crowd and even that one is a pretty diverse group. In that geek group I also identifies a part of the costumer and cosplay culture, but not the anime group.
    Somewhere in this culture of sci-fi/fantasy/costuming/cosplaying I've meet some pretty cool guys, who hasn't reduced me to sex, but I've also heard my share of suggestions on 'sexy' costumes I could do. Though this is mostly said jockingly.(And I refuse to 'sex up' a costume; I'm all for accuracy. Doesn't mind sexy costumes though).
    Most of the misogyny I have experienced has actually come from people outside this geek culture(or other geek cultures) that doesn't seem to understand how I, as a woman, can be so interested in these things and so 'geeky'. Especially when I have been cosplaying outside of conventions. So yes, there is some notion existing that women shouldn't be geeks or interested in geeky things.

    I really think it's not so much about being a geek or a jock or whatever. It's about personality and how you wiev your fellow humans whether man, woman or something else.
    The best you can do is really just try to be yourself and let others see you as you are. Then they will either have to accept that that is the way you are or find someone else.
    Wish it was that simple.

  • Seph

    I've had the same thing happen as @Lisa says, "I’ve had quite a few bad experiences with male geek friends that inevitably realize I am not ever going to be available to them (and they get really pissy about it, let me tell you)"

    The wide acceptability of this tactic ('befriending' a woman, then dumping her if she won't sleep with you) hurts women by impeding access. My engineering grad program operates on informal study groups of friends and friendly acquaintances, so when this un-friending occurs, it's not just about losing a jerky friend, it's about being pushed out of a study group that was helping your grades.

    It creates one more tiny hurdle we have to 'bootstrap' ourselves over, and it does not happen to the dudes.

    (Oh, and to actually address the post, this affirms geeks' masculinity by asserting their power over women.)

  • Emily S.

    Well, I'm 100% a self-identified geek and nerd (geek referring to sci-fi/fantasy/etc enthusiasm, nerd referring to my math and science skills). I've had some mixed experiences.

    For example, I was in the chess club at my local high school, only somehow nobody there ever played chess (only Risk and similar games) so it was more like the "LGBTA board game club." It was pretty laid-back, and the guys were perfectly welcoming of women but didn't see us in a sexual way.

    I did find in an engineering school I was in (but didn't finish cause I realised it just wasn't right for me) the guys were largely socially awkward, and did kinda view the pretty girls (ie, NOT me at the time) as a chance for sex.

    I still wound up in a hard-science major, but I've only ever had one of my classmates try flirting with me, but he was very nice and respectful anyways... but most of my other classmates treated me just like they treated other guys (except for one point when I pointed out that the stereotypically "female" trait of reading instruction manuals meant that I could get better results on an experiment. Then I saw something kind of click, that they started actually thinking critically about gender roles).

    Now, most of the geeks that I hang out with are more the sci-fi/DnD type geeks, and when they see female geeks they're generally happy that there are women sharing in their interests. It's not really a sexual thing, either, but more that they're happy that I can share in what they enjoy, or that their geeky little sister will have role models, or they can help us network with their other female geek friends - in general, their reaction to female geeks is "high-five!" rather than "oooh pix plz?". And, I LOVE hanging out with those kinds of guys =)

  • makomk

    Archangel: that is a set of requirements absolutely, positively dripping with all sorts of intersting flavours of privilege. Having "reasonable and proportionate reactions to emotional events" pretty much requires being both neurotypical and having not had any seriously traumatic experience. Being "able to set and achieve goals" again requires being neurotypical, but there's also a whole lot of other stuff that can get in the way - lack of financial stability, illness and disability, poor social standing, etc. Just how you can "handle conflict" depends how physically and vocally intimidating you're perceived as. And so on...

  • Michael Hatfield

    This is total and complete bullshit, and this post demonstrates that feminism is intellectually bankrupt, and many feminists are illiterate morons.

    1) So brains vs. brawn are inversely correlated? Really? Wow is that belief based on science or just retarded stereotypes you absorbed from watching hours and hours of shit television.

    2) The stereotypes of Nerds and Jocks are Misandrist and anti-intellectual. As a man and an intellectual I am deeply offended. According to these media stereotypes men come in two flavors:

    A) Big dumb brutes who are good at sports and other physical activities.

    B) Borderline autistic weirdos who are technically gifted but socially retarded.

    These misandrist stereotypes are every bit as offensive as the anti-black stereotypes in "Birth of a Nation," and the minstrel shows of the 19th century. Of course because of political correctness you can't criticize anti-male stereotypes, and the retards who learned everything they know about gender from watching "the big bang theory."

  • http://www.covertchemistry.com Archangel

    Thanks, Mr. Hatfield, for introducing the 900lb gorilla in the room.

    You ladies have gotten just what your intellectual predecessors asked for: a generation of men neutered by their own socialization. You date the man that supplicates himself and desire the man who's independent enough to call you on your misandrist bullshit.

    Are men and women equal? Yes. But they're not identical.

    What really scares the feminists in the room (and on this thread) is the fact that guys like us (and by us I mean MY community, not necessarily Mr. Hatfield) is that we've turned your regime against itself. We're not willing to submit to your demands anymore.

    What the majority of straight women (i.e. those who use the leather and latex sparingly and don't engage in the aforementioned various permutations of sexual activities //shudder//) in America want is confidence.

    We've got it. Others don't. But don't take my word for it.

    http://miter.mit.edu/node/188

  • swoovy

    As the female manager of a dozen male software developers and two women, I say: these guys are excluded from almost every area of normal life. If they want to build their own fortress of Monty Python in-jokes and Star Trek analogies, and exclude other people, it doesn't bother me.

  • http://thedisenchantedworld.blogspot.com/ Matt K

    @Archangel

    I lol'd.

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