Can you spot the female geek?

''... developing new Drupal modules and building complex websites!'' There is a double-arrow pointing to a white man flexing his bicep and a white woman wearing a bikini and holding a whip. The double-arrow says, ''A PERFECT GAME FOR GEEKS TO CONNECT WITH NON-GEEKS''I have been a geek for most of my life. However, my geek identity is rarely recognized in meatspace interactions, probably because I am female. You would expect that people’s assumptions about the science, math, and tech abilities of girls and women would be challenged upon encountering female geeks in real life, but I have found that being a female geek actually reinforces sexist convictions that girls and women do not really belong in science, math, and tech.

I remember when I won some physics award in high school, a male rival complained bitterly in the library that the physics award he felt he should have won ended up going to “some girl”. He actually said that, emphasizing the word girl, as if my very gender invalidates my right to win a physics award. He complained loudly on purpose so that I would overhear the barb. I was shocked that people could say such blatantly sexist things in [current year], in which sexism was no longer supposed to exist, especially among my youthful generation. Instead of challenging gender stereotypes, my physics geekery apparently reinforced this guy’s perception that male rights are being eroded by uppity females who get awards we don’t really deserve. If he remembers me at all, he probably won’t remember me as the geeky girl in the library, but as some bitch from high school.

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The traditional male is an endangered species.

Why We Need to Reimagine Masculinity (Newsweek):

To survive in a hostile world, guys need to embrace girly jobs and dirty diapers. Why it’s time to reimagine masculinity at work and at home.


[S]uggesting that men should stick to some musty script of masculinity only perpetuates the problem. For starters, it encourages them to confront new challenges the same way they dealt with earlier upheavals: by blaming women, retreating into the woods, or burying their anxieties beneath machismo. And it does nothing to help them succeed in school, secure sustainable jobs, or be better fathers in an economy that’s rapidly outgrowing Marlboro Manliness.

I wish mainstream men’s rights activism looked more like this.

I suspect that most men don’t want to embrace girly jobs and dirty diapers, because they are associated with women, and therefore low-status.

Link: Why We Need to Reimagine Masculinity

(Female) Geek = Geek^2

Over at Geek Feminism, Metaneira explains why Team Unicorn of G33k & G4M3R Girls fame are doing it wrong. The “G33k & G4M3R Girls” music video, stereotypically, portrayals female geeks and gamers as sex fantasies of male geeks and gamers. Metaneira writes:

From the very start, Seth Green asks, “Hello friends… don’t you want to meet a nice girl?” The video is not aimed at the women it is purporting to celebrate: it is straight-up pandering to the largely sexist, male-centric geek subculture. It is geek women served up for the male gaze on a shiny latex platter. This is not empowering. […] It isn’t really about geek women at all — it’s just about how men would want to have a smoking hot girlfriend who can talk about Star Wars and play D&D with them.

It’s a pretty good post, and she relates the video to a general pattern in geek culture, where straight male geeks express positivity towards the idea of “geek girls”, but only so that they can get girlfriends:

And I’m tired of a subculture telling me that the only way I can belong to it is if I offer myself up as a sex object to the men involved. […] my status as a female in this male-dominated space was always underscored: my Otherness had to be reinforced at frequent intervals. I didn’t really belong.

Serendipitously, a few days later, I came across this song written and sung by Marian Call and made into a YouTube video by mercutio531. I thought it was an “answer” to the G33k & G4M3R Girls video at first, but it was actually uploaded a long time ago and written years ago.

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If you were hacking since age 8, it means you were privileged.

Often, computer geeks who started programming at a young age brag about it, as it is a source of geeky prestige. However, most computer geeks are oblivious to the fact that your parents being able to afford a computer back in the 1980s is a product of class privilege, not your innate geekiness. Additionally, the child’s gender affects how much the parents are willing to financially invest in the child’s computer education. If parents in the 1980s think that it is unlikely their eight-year-old daughter will have a career in technology, then purchasing a computer may seem like a frivolous expense.

Because of systemic racism, class differences correlate with racial demographics. In the Racialicious post Gaming Masculinity, Latoya quotes a researcher’s exchange with an African American male computer science (CS) undergraduate:

“Me and some of my black friends were talking about the other guys in CS. Some of them have been programming since they were eight. We can’t compete with that. Now, the only thing that I have been doing since I was eight is playing basketball. I would own them on the court. I mean it wouldn’t be fair, they would just stand there and I would dominate. It is sort of like that in CS.”
– Undergraduate CS Major

Those “other guys” in CS are those white, male geeks who brag in CS newsgroups about hacking away at their Commodore 64s as young children, where successive posters reveal younger and younger ages in order to trump the previous poster. This disgusting flaunting of privilege completely demoralizes those of us who gained computer access only recently. However, CS departments—which tend to be dominated by even more privileged computer geeks of an earlier era when computers were even rarer—also assume that early computer adoption is a meritocratic measure of innate interest and ability.

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Male geeks reclaim masculinity at the expense of female geeks.

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.

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Black Coolness is higher-status than Asian Dorkiness.

''Power to the people. Black power to black people. Yellow power to yellow people.''The Racialicious post, Talking About The Things We Do To Each Other, is an important intra-POC conversation about tensions between black people and (East) Asian people (or rather between non-Asian black people and non-black Asian people). This is an incredibly complex topic, and I will have to respond to this issue through multiple posts.

Firstly, however, I must strongly disagree with Thea Lim’s characterization of East Asians:

I had a long convo with my friend L about this last week, where he said that East Asian students always gravitate towards white students, whereas African American students will usually stick together. The more we talked about it, the more I realised that he thought East Asian students do that because they aspire to whiteness, and because they can – economic privilege or light skin privilege allows them to do so. I was surprised to realise that he didn’t get it – East Asian students gravitate towards white students as a means of protection from the particular kind of racism that East Asians experience; where they are always made to feel as if they are from somewhere else.

Not only does this not apply to me as a (non-black) Chinese Canadian, but this whole situation does not apply to the schools I attended growing up. Perhaps it is a class difference and/or regional demographic difference, but the situation that Thea describes would be impossible at the public schools I attended.

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Multiculturalism displaces anti-racism, upholds white supremacy.

Dr. Sunera Thobani, of the University of British Columbia, criticizes the discourse of multiculturalism in Canada (transcript):

I think multiculturalism has been a very effective way of silencing anti-racist politics in this country. Multiculturalism has allowed for certain communities—people of colour—to be constructed as cultural communities. Their culture is defined in very Orientalist and colonial ways—as static, they will always be that, they have always been that. And culture has now become the only space from which people of colour can actually have participation in national political life; it’s through this discourse of multiculturalism. And what it has done very successfully is it has displaced an anti-racist discourse.

You know, I teach and I have young students of colour, they come, and they completely bought into this multiculturalism ideology. They have no language to talk about racism. They know that if they talk about racism, they will get attacked.

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