Ok, ok. I have tried to be calm. I have tried to deal with the fact that a great many of my people are reacting in a completely irresponsible manner to the problems confronting us. #Gamergate and the bullshit that surrounds it, the 4channers, the trolls; these people are nowhere near in the right.
But then I see the response to it, and it pisses me off.
“We Must Bulldoze What’s Left of the Nerdy White Man’s Internet” is the title of this post. Can I now feel like I am being attacked? Is it finally, at last, politically correct for me to point out that this article is designed to lump together all nerdy white men and call them assholes? Or if I feel offended at that particular title, am I still being selfish? Am I refusing to check my privilege? After all, I am a white, heterosexual male. It’s my job to keep my god damn privileged mouth shut while people talk about how evil people like me are if I can’t join in their hatred of me, right?
I’m calming down. Caalllllming. I am not, and in no way will I ever be, a supporter of the #gamergate bullshit. I think the trolls on the internet basically enjoy being assholes, and I’m not down with their racist, sexist bullshit. Mr. Broderick has every right to point out that this small but vocal portion of nerdy white male culture has issues, and needs to be eliminated. 75% of his article is great, and I agree with it.
Then he says this:
The ‘suffering nerd’ is dead
“Nerds,” as people have come to identify themselves, simply don’t exist anymore. We live in a world where 27 million people gather to watch an international video game tournament, where the third-highest-selling movie of all time is based on The Avengers comic books, and 6 million people tuned in to watch Game of Thrones. The concept of the suffering, ostracized nerd is quickly losing relevance.
Fuck you, Ryan Broderick. I exist.
You want to know why some nerds are angry? Because of bullshit like this. You’re absolutely right that the rest of the world is starting to enjoy the things that my people have enjoyed for so long, and that’s great. But you have to go one step further and say that the universal acceptance of this media means nerds don’t exist anymore. This is exactly the sort of thing that makes nerds angry.
I work in the juvenile justice system, and I am here to tell you that offline, nerds are still getting their asses kicked in our schools. Being a nerd still means you get laughed at in the hallways. Oh, the jokes may not be about you liking comic books, but you’re still a nerd. You still find intellectual pursuits more appealing than physical ones. You would still rather join the Knowledge Bowl team than the one that plays football. That makes other people feel just a little bit stupid when they’re around you, and they find they can improve their self-confidence by beating the shit out of you. All you need to do to realize that nerds are still the subject of ridicule is watch an episode of Big Bang Theory, in which the good-looking worldly-but-average-intelligence woman teaches the four intelligent-but-socially-awkward men the facts of life, and in doing so the audience laughs, not with the nerds, but at them and their pathetic attempts to normalize.
There used to be a safe place for people like this to go. It used to be that we could go find a gaming group, or a sci-fi con, and it would be filled with people like us. People who life has beat the living shit out of, and who can and do empathize with us. Only among such people did we feel safe, and at home. But now that nerd culture has outrun the original nerds, and has embraced people from all walks of life, it becomes very difficult to for someone like me to be a nerd. There’s very little actual bullying that goes on at a con, and it’s still a safe and welcoming environment, but it doesn’t feel that way, because it is no longer populated only by people like me. That’s an emotional reaction on my part, not a realistic one, but it still exists. And it exists as the product of me taking a face-full of urine from the football guys my sophomore year of high school.
On the whole, I am happy that nerd culture is expanding. It has expanded my world, and it has brought me a great many friends I would not otherwise have. But I fear it as well. I fear that people will decide that people like me should no longer be a part of nerd culture. I’ve been excluded from every other social group, and now that this one is filling up with people who are not like me, my reaction is to get nervous that, one day, they’ll decide I shouldn’t be a part of it. Now, rationally I know that’s silly, but it doesn’t mean the traumatic experiences of my youth are just gone. They’re not. Those experiences are a part of who I am.
The very idea that Mr. Broderick puts forth – the one that says the word “nerd” really doesn’t have any meaning any more? That idea terrifies the shit out of me. Because people like me exist. And if I don’t even get to be a nerd anymore, then I don’t know what I am. All I know is, I’m getting kicked out of yet another social group.
I try, very hard, not to take the anger that I have over those things out on other people. There are others like me, obviously, who have little such restraint. But these assholes are a vocal minority of ostracized, suffering nerds. And the response to them should not be to deny my existence. Because, here’s the thing: my traumatic childhood is over. I now get a basically well-balanced life as an adult. But there are teens right now who are going through the hell that I had to go through, and I want to make sure they know that they exist. They matter. And the fact that some of them are going to react very, very poorly to the extraordinarily negative shit they’re going through in no way means I’m going to take the lot of them and chuck them. I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, here.
We don’t need to bulldoze anything. I’m fine if we want to build up a culture around the things we all love, together. But just because the culture is being more inclusive doesn’t mean we should destroy the white, male people who started it. It just means that more than white males need to be added in. After all, I am certain there are both male and female people of all races who are feeling ostracized by the rest of the world. And they exist, too.
Mr. Broderick has good intentions in his piece. He’s right that the vocal minority of nerdy white males are making the rest of us look pretty bad, and maybe the rest of us should do something about that. His basic direction there is good.
But he also refuses to acknowledge that I exist.