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Musing on High School & Male Geek Misogyny - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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January 13th, 2015


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01:56 am - Musing on High School & Male Geek Misogyny
I've seen a number of references to this impressively entitled, clueless, and exceedingly dodgy statement by blogger Scott Aaronson about his geeky youth, where he talks about the difficulty of growing up as a geeky nerd and identifies his two biggest problems as social exclusion by others and a serious lack of social skills on his part. So far so good, but he then goes on to say that in those same days he longed for the era of arranged marriages where women were treated as property. Then, he gave the perpetual "nice guy" cry of dismay about allegedly seeing the bullies who treated both him and the women they were around badly being popular with women while he wasn't.

In reading commentary about this piece, I encountered this excellent statement by a female geek, where she talks about how she experienced all of these issues growing up and had sexism to deal with too, which was far more interesting then Aaronson's piece and a useful antidote to it.

Reading these two pieces also got me thinking about my own experiences in high school, and to a lesser extent in college. In high school, I was a geek with essentially no social skills. I was regularly bullied (mostly via mockery and people stealing my stuff, physical attacks were thankfully rare, but not unknown). However, my experiences and reactions were quite different, and I'm both pleased at these differences and also puzzled as to their possible causes.

The biggest difference I can see is that I've never had self-esteem problems – I always knew that I was brilliant and I liked myself. Unfortunately, my eagerness to share my brilliance with others did very little to help my social status in high school one bit. Also, and perhaps just as importantly, it never occurred to me to blame girls for any of my problems. I knew precisely who to blame – other boys – specifically the ones who bullied me. In general, girls my own age were either mildly nice to me or ignored me. My tormentors were all male, and I loathed them and considered them to be stupid and at best semi-human.

A bit later on, I was also certain why I was an utter failure asking people out – there were two problems. The first part was that I lacked the social skills to interact with other people my own age in anything like a comfortable fashion – not knowing how to ask someone out was merely part of a much larger problem that included almost all aspects of social interaction with people my own age – one that I eventually confronted by a mixture of practice, observation, and most of all modelling behavior from the novels I loved. The second problem was related to the first - I knew no one who had anything like the same passion for or knowledge of science fiction & fantasy I had. Even more importantly, from reading a multitude of novels written by Andre Norton and various similar authors, I had keenly developed expectations of what I wanted and expected closeness, friendship, and love to be like, and I didn't see anyone remotely suitable around me.

When my attempts as closeness with others failed, I assumed that the problem was both a need for more practice on my part and a lack of suitable people. It never occurred to me to model or even notice the behavior of those who bullied me, since to me they were lesser beings whose actions were inherently worthless. Also, given how much I lived in my head and how little I tended to observe the world around me I simply didn't notice others' social interactions unless I made a special effort to do so. As a result, I had no idea how the boys who bullied me treated women or whether they were successful at finding someone to go out with – even asking that question would have made no sense to me at the time.

Learning basic social skills improved my interactions, but what helped most was finding people who had sufficient amounts in common with me that I was both interested in becoming close to them and likely to be successful at doing so. In writing this and looking over older posts on similar topics, I was amused to notice that my strategies and assumptions about getting to know people mirrored those found in the novels I mentioned.

In any case, I find many of the attitudes I held in High School to be quite dubious (specifically the bits where I regarded most people and especially the boys who bullied me as lesser beings unworthy of my attention other than as subjects of various revenge fantasies). As a result, my avoidance of the sort of misogyny that seems all too common among young geeky males is clearly not due to any moral or ethical superiority on my part. Instead, I'm puzzled as to the reasons some young male geeks end up regarding women with a mixture of hatred and loathing and others end up with less vile and problematic views.

I suspect that having positive self-esteem helped me avoid the sort of misogyny that seems to be at least as common among young male geeks as among other young males. My conviction that I would only be happy in a romantic relationship with someone with similar interests and attitudes and my determination to seek out such people likely also helped. Best of all (from my PoV at least) the later assumption proved to be entirely correct once I had the means to meet people with similar interests via letters, email, and similar means. However, I'm still uncertain about what factors caused some young male geeks to embrace misogyny and other to reject it.

On a somewhat related note to the above, I'm constantly puzzled to see various gamergate-related idiocy where what I assume to be young het men are filled with rage at the prospect of women being interested in, playing and writing about the same sorts of games that they are into. I'm aware that my preference for knowing and becoming close to people like myself is clearly not universal, but I have always been overjoyed to encounter potential friends and romantic partners who share my interests. There seems a level of self-destructiveness inherent in the male geek rage that lies at the heart of the gamergate phenomena, in that these men clearly wish to drive women out of gaming and related hobbies and careers, thus reducing the number of women that they have major portions of their life in common with. Even leaving aside its inherent vileness, the entire gamergate morass makes absolutely no sense to me.

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:martianmooncrab
Date:January 13th, 2015 07:59 pm (UTC)
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they have never evolved past the "boys are stupid" phase, so us with the girl cooties wont have much to do with them...
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From:heron61
Date:January 14th, 2015 10:33 am (UTC)
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The idea that these people are (at least in that way) mentally 8, is deeply pathetic, but definitely seems to fit all the facts.
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From:mlerules
Date:January 13th, 2015 09:38 pm (UTC)
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"social interaction with people my own age" - did you then get on w/older folks decently?

I quite enjoy reading your bits when you write 'em here. It'd be nice to hang out s'more in 2015, were that a mutually feeling.
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From:heron61
Date:January 13th, 2015 10:32 pm (UTC)
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did you then get on w/older folks decently?

I was quite good at socializing with teachers and could also do the expected performing bear act that seems the lot of gifted children when dealing with my parents and their friends.

It'd be nice to hang out s'more in 2015, were that a mutually feeling.

Absolutely! Email me or perhaps I'll email you and we shall do this thing.
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From:mlerules
Date:January 13th, 2015 11:28 pm (UTC)
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Marvelous! Don't expect to hear from me this week though, as I'm recovering from a nasty cold and'm hosting a friend's 50th this weekend. :-)

I, too, got along far better w/grown-ups growing up. Nice now having friends who're my contemporaries, too. Actually, I've got friends in their 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's. Variety is the spice of life...and I like spice!
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From:tcpip
Date:January 14th, 2015 03:06 am (UTC)
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... where I regarded most people and especially the boys who bullied me as lesser beings unworthy of my attention other than as subjects of various revenge fantasies)

Did any of them make it your publications as NPC antagonists? ;)
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From:benlehman
Date:January 14th, 2015 10:49 pm (UTC)
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Reading this, it strikes me that socially awkward boys who were bullied by girls or mixed groups might well have a very different reaction from those bullied by boys.

(this is not to diminish other influences, like general cultural misogyny, male entitlement, and thinking that failure to get a date is the other person's problem. It just struck me.)

yrs--
--Ben
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From:heron61
Date:January 14th, 2015 11:47 pm (UTC)
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Does that even happen much? At least wrt bullying by peers, every man I've talked to who was bullied as a child or teen mentions that other boys were either the only bullies or by far the most common bullies.
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From:benlehman
Date:January 15th, 2015 12:29 am (UTC)
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huh. I was only bullied for a short time, but my recollection is that it was girls and boys both. But my memories of that year are not great (also, it was too early for me to have romantic desires: grade school.)
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