The flourishing of entrenched and vicious misogyny

Amanda Marcotte is familiar with the problem. She doesn’t stare in bewilderment if you mention it. She doesn’t tell you to lighten up or to ignore it or to grow a pair or to stfu.

I’ve got a toe in some geek stuff, but mostly I watch the culture from the outside, and I have to say, from an outside perspective, it actually looks like geek culture has allowed a form of entrenched and vicious misogyny to flourish. It’s not the majority or anything like that, but there’s a loud minority of geek men who have a hate-on for women that’s so grotesque that it often gets to fundamentalist Christianity levels.

That’s the problem. Amanda is familiar with it.

She lists six examples of battles within geek culture over misogyny and feminism. Number 5 will ring a bell.

5) Let’s not forget the ongoing battles over sexual harassment at geek-intensive skeptics events. It appears that women who speak out against sexual harassment with an eye towards making the conferences better and more fun for everyone can expect to be dismissed, minimized, and even directly lied about at Psychology Today. Apparently, a whole lot of people would far rather preserve their right to be hostile to the few women who show up at their events rather than create an atmosphere where more women show up and actual fun is had.

That first link is to the video we here at FTB did a week ago. The second is to that horrible article by Doctor Marty Klein telling a prettied-up version of how the swingin’ couple approached Elyse Anders.

There do seem to be a whole lot of people who are desperate to preserve their right to be hostile to the few women who show up at their events.



  1. 'Tis Himself says

    There do seem to be a whole lot of people who are desperate to preserve their right to be hostile to the few women who show up at their events.

    But if they don’t ask a woman for sex then they’ll never get laid. And getting laid is the only reason to go to those silly conferences. :-þ

  2. Matt Penfold says

    I totally fail at understanding the thought processes of these people.

    Sometimes, just sometimes, such ignorance is something to be proud of. This is such an occasion.

  3. lmm22 says

    @3: So I’m not the only one who hasn’t been able to access the site in the past few days?

    I checked Marcotte’s Twitter feed but didn’t see her comment on it, so I figured it was just me.

  4. says


    Seems not I keep getting an error message saying it’ll be back soon but I’ve only been trying since this post 🙁 Still nice to know its not just me.

  5. says

    I don’t have time to go into a deeper comment than this, but as someone who has had more than a toe in geek culture for a long time I think I can add a little bit of insight into the irrational defensiveness that you see displayed here, because I have experienced a little bit of it. To a lot of old school geeks, gaming culture was a last resort safehouse from a society that treated us like garbage during our really vulnerable adolescences. So we take it really personally when we see geek culture under attack. This is no excuse, its an emotional reaction and a misguided one as well. But there it is. It is also an ironic reaction considering that geek culture is more mainstream than ever.

    And that last sentence is the thing that gets me. Why are we still talking, in the age of Xbox Live and iPads and Harry Potter and the Avengers, like geek culture is some exotic tribe? Aren’t most of us geeks now? At least a lot more than when I was a young nerd in 1984. Maybe the problem isn’t geeks as much as it is jerks, and jerks are endemic to society. Over the last 30 years they have just snuck into our tribe.

    Not trying to set anything into stone, just tossing some ideas up before I have to run out the door.

  6. says

    Ah, that’s interesting, Lou, thanks.

    You know…I wonder…if you’re right about that, I wonder if that tells us something about why Rebecca draws so much venom. She’s funny and popular and everybody wants to hang out with her – maybe unfunny unpopular geeks hate that because she’s a geek too so she should be unfunny and unpopular!

    I dunno. Armchair psych.

  7. Lyanna says

    I wholly believe that, Ophelia. It’s related to the Nice Guy syndrome of male resentment to women who won’t have sex with them–there must be something WRONG with the women, and it must be because the women don’t appreciate how NICE the men are. That resentment gets extended to any attractive, popular, funny woman who doesn’t take nonsense. She is (probably accurately) pre-judged as someone who WOULD reject them.

    And if she goes around saying that she doesn’t find it endearing and sweet when a guy asks her for “coffee” at 4 am in an elevator, well, that just proves it! The uppity, snobby “bitch”! How mean of her!

    Lou: yup, most of us are geeks! Which means the white geeky men have full access to the systemic benefits of being a white male. But some of them don’t want to admit that because it would mess up their sense of victimization.

    Geek culture is really a hotbed of weird psycho-sexual issues.

  8. says

    Ahhhhhh right. I hadn’t really thought of that. They see Rebecca saying “no thanks” and they identify – she would say “no thanks” to them.

    Aw, that’s sad. No wonder they’re making a new life by throwing their feces at her.

  9. says

    @Lyanna… What I’m trying to get across is that for a lot of us on the geek spectrum its not a “sense of victimization”, its victimization period. I had two friends in high school bullied to the point of suicide. I was pushed damn fucking close to it. That’s actually one of the reasons I can’t stand the idiots accusing Ophelia of bullying. They don’t have a clue.

    I’m thankfully removed from that environment now, happily married and only lightly scarred. But back when I was in the thick of it. Back when pretty much every day of school was a literal torture chamber, incredibly lonely… I might have reacted differently to a popular, pretty woman, someone I essentially saw as an interloper, lecturing me about how fucking privileged I was.

    It would still be wrong to react the way these people have, in fact i don’t believe that the majority of bad actors in this case fit the description I’ve outlined above, as I said before I think a lot of the problem we are seeing are people who would not have been a part of the geek culture 30 years ago, its mainstream misogyny seeping in from the outside.

  10. Lyanna says

    @Lou: yes, for many older geeks especially, I bet the victimization was real and the bullying vicious. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

    I think the dynamic has changed nowadays, though. In my high school (which was less than 10 years ago), the geeks weren’t bullied. In fact there wasn’t a sharp line between the geeks and the non-geeks.

    In my observation, nowadays the bullied aren’t white straight male geeks. They are LGBTQ kids and Asian kids. (FTR, that seems to be what studies on bullying indicate as well). The LGBTQ and Asian kids are usually not geeks in the sense of being into geek culture.

    So it seems, to my mind, that what distinguishes geek culture now is precisely a SENSE of victimization and a SENSE of being a misfit…but that’s so often a pose, disguising a superiority complex. Geeks seem to think they’re better, smarter, more creative, less “shallow” (read: less mannerly and well-groomed) than the “mundanes.” They also seem to think that geeks “deserve” women like some kind of prize. Maybe that’s the result of mainstream misogyny seeping in; I really wouldn’t know. Perhaps it is. The only Olde Geeke Culture artifacts that I know of are Lord of the Rings (which has few female characters, but the ones that are there get to keep their dignity), and Star Wars. And in Star Wars, Princess Leia, though she was ignominiously stuffed into a slave-girl bikini in the 3rd movie*, spent most of it (1) sensibly and fully clothed, and (2) being a true hero and leader. She was the token female but was better than a lot of what exists in geek culture today.

    *A plot development that made no sense except for the titillation of fanboiz. Jabba the Hutt is a giant alien slug. There is no reason why a giant alien slug would be more attracted to human females than to human males. So there’s no good reason why he would choose to sexually humiliate Leia rather than Han, who he actually had a grudge against! Why not put Han in a golden speedo and make him prance around at the end of a leash?

    /geeking out

  11. Godless Heathen says

    Why not put Han in a golden speedo and make him prance around at the end of a leash?

    If only…

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