(To enable English or Spanish subtitles, click on “View subtitles”.)
Today’s XKCD strip bothers me, a little. It reminds me of the discussion about assertiveness amongst nerd guys brought up when Gabe and Tycho at Penny Arcade were talking about “pick-up artists” (PUAs) a while back.
[…] But I also think that messages like the XKCD strip really reinforce that idea of isolation and make the world out to be filled with potential mates — if only you’d just talk to them! There’s some truth here, in that it’s pretty hard to meet people if you find it hard to talk to communicate with others. But the more insidious, unintended message I’m seeing is one that just feeds into the PUA logic — given enough confidence and skills, all women are yours for the taking.
myoxisbroken of the XKCD forum said it best:
Because so goddamn many of you [nerd-men] believe, for whatever reason, that interacting with women is like solving a Rubik’s cube that turns into a Fleshlight when you win.
Richard Feynman (1918 – 1988) was a famous theoretical physicist, Nobel Prize winner, and sexist. Feynman thought for himself and rebelled against social convention, tradition, and “The Man”. However, Feynman was also a white male professor, and his position with its associated privileges makes him “The Man” relative to those with fewer privileges.
In his amusing autobiography, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, chapter But Is It Art?, Feyman writes:
So I decided to sell my drawings. However, I didn’t want people to buy my drawings because the professor of physics isn’t supposed to be able to draw, isn’t that wonderful, so I made up a false name. My friend Dudley Wright suggested “Au Fait,” which means “It is done” in French. I spelled it O-f-e-y, which turned out to be a name the blacks used for “whitey.” But after all, I was whitey, so it was all right.
While Feynman recognizes that he is “whitey”—which suggests a greater sophistication than that of many white liberals today—his usage of the objectifying and homogenizing term “the blacks” reveals his racial insularity in the context of the United States. He received his Bachelor’s degree, PhD, and professorships before laws against racial segregation were passed in the 1960s. There is no doubt that Feynman was an exceptionally brilliant individual, but he was also a beneficiary of institutional racism and white privilege.