Today I have Thoughts on Geeks, prompted by this post by brilliant fantasy author Nick Mamatas, which I mostly just link because it is the trollziest thing ever and I fully expect the comments to feud with each other for days over it. (Side note: if you like Beat poetry or Lovecraft, and you haven’t read Move Under Ground, do so. It’s available for free online! </plug>)
First off: I agree with Nick that being a geek is not an axis of oppression. You can make even less of an argument for it than you can for kinkiness or veganism, neither of which is probably an axis of oppression either. Geeks do not have a wage gap. Geeks do not experience noticeably worse life outcomes. No one has ever been fired from their job for being openly geeky. You do not have to hide your pony figurines and Marvel comics for fear of being arrested. No one has been murdered for being a geek.
However, just because geekiness is not an oppression, does not mean that anti-geek sentiment is not a product of the kyriarchy at all. Specifically, anti-geek sentiment is related to both ableism and sexism.
Ableism is the simplest. Look, when someone wants to insult a geek, what’s the first word they always fucking reach for? “Aspie.”
Look, many (perhaps most) geeks are neurotypical, the same way that most people are neurotypical. However, we have a fairly substantial concentration of people with certain neurodivergences– most notably, social phobia and the autism spectrum. So when people try to insult geeks… well, a whole lot of times, they end up insulting us for being socially phobic and autistic. Hell, I’ve been called autistic loads of times, apparently because every socially awkward and obsessive geek secretly has Asperger’s, no matter how badly they fit the criteria.
This is multiple levels of fucked. First of all, social phobia and autism are not insults. Social phobia is, if it causes distress, an illness; the autism spectrum is simply a somewhat uncommon (although stigmatized) form of ordinary human variation. Neither of them makes one a bad person or in any way worthy of being used as an insult. Second, it’s simply bizarre to equate “neurotypical geek” with “neurodivergent”: it trivializes disability, it spreads misinformation about what these neurodivergences actually looks like, and it’s simply idiotic. Finally, using these conditions as insults is not only ableist as fuck but also encourages stigma against them.
But anti-geek sentiment can also be really fucking sexist. I mean, think about the negative stereotype of a geeky dude: he lives in his mom’s basement, he can’t get laid, and he’s a man-child. So… he has failed at being a success the way real men are supposed to be, he’s not sexually successful the way men are supposed to be, and he’s failed to “man up” and be a real man. (Gender studies students of the future! Someone should write a thesis about why “woman up” is not a concept.)
The anti-geek-girl sentiment is a little harder to catalog, mostly because people who hate geeks haven’t caught up with the times and still mostly think that geek girls don’t exist. (Yeah, fuck you.) But let’s see here… they’re fat, they’re ugly, they write creepy porn, and they can’t find real love and so escape into fanfic. So they’ve failed at performing for the male gaze, they’re openly sexual AND not performing for the male gaze, and they’ve failed at finding Twoo Wuv the way women are supposed to.
Geeks in general are not very good at performing our assigned genders (although many individual geeks are femme or butch as fuck); it’s anyone’s guess why, although I think the primary culprits are “but wearing makeup/playing sports takes away from vitally important reading/science/Magic time!”, “well, the normal people don’t like me, guess I’ll be a geek” and “but adhering to those gender roles is what those people do.” So of course that’s a cause of anti-geek insults. (It’s interesting to note that, while geeks tend to be less good at their genders, they aren’t particularly feminine either– it’s relatively rare that someone says “geeks are all fags/dykes,” outside of 4Chan, which uses ‘fag’ as punctuation.)
Finally, a lot of times anti-geek thoughts are just silly. Why do you care if someone spends all their free time talking about video games or inventing imaginary languages or writing rage comics, if it makes them happy and doesn’t hurt anyone any? Honestly, this whole “you must be doing something important or it is worthless!” thought process needs to die a hot fiery death. Joy is enough of a justification.