[Edit] It has been pointed out to me that this rant ties in neatly with the hate supposedly “fake” nerd girls get from men, especially on the internet. Buzzfeed has a nice collection of memes dealing with the topic. Also, here’s another great collection entitled “taking back idiot nerd girl”.
I am currently teaching a tutorial class at Uni alongside several other almost-graduates accompanying the introductory lecture to English Literature. Our students are required to read Nick Hornby’s Juliet Naked. We’re talking about narrative situations, focalization and so on. I haven’t finished Juliet Naked yet, but so far I find it entertaining. (One of my students already described it as intensely boring though.)
Our professor introduced the novel in the lecture, saying that Nick Hornby seems to display a fascination with “male obsessiveness”. He was, of course, referring in particular to Hornby’s other novels, High Fidelity and Fever Pitch, creating three male protagonists who are obsessed with a rock star, music in general, or football. My professor didn’t outline his opinion precisely, but he made a comment on the nature of what could be called male nerdiness.
I am unable to reproduce his exact words, but he insinuated that men simply have a penchant for obsessive behaviour with nerdy topics. To add some context: he himself is a music fan (I deduce this from his choices in t-shirts). He also (in another class) already made comments in the direction of saying that, well, men are just different than women in that respect, aren’t they?
This made me quite angry, as things always do that suggest anything in that direction. The thing is, it’s not really his fault. I really like that professor, he’s young and relatively open-minded. What makes me angry is simply the unfortunate fact that most people share his opinion.
And that is what it is: an opinion. Not a fact. “Men are more likely to be nerdy, geeks, obsessed with a single topic.” A statement that is meant negatively, that goes in the same lines as “Women are more likely to obsess about their appearance” or “talk excessively to their friends” and suchlike. Of course, many men and women accept the role that society allows them to play gladly. If you deviate, you have to live with the consequences – being called a freak, being an outsider, etc. As much as the cliché of the “outsider nerd” has become as annoying, it’s still very prominent.
Now what is a nerd, though? A person who devotes large amounts of their time to a single occupation that – at first glance – serves no direct purpose. Playing video games, learning the rulebook of a role-playing-game by heart, painting miniatures, going to LARPs… many things are called nerdy for exactly that reason.
Now I could end this story simply by saying: yes, there are also many women who are part of nerdy communities. Who play games (video or otherwise), read comics or get into heated Star Trek discussions. I might add that this description fits me very well, and I happen to be a woman. A grown-up, who is actually thinking about starting a family one day, and who has the same every-day troubles as everyone else. Now why would I be less likely to become a nerd for something or other?
Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe I turned out so geeky because I have an elder brother who was into these things first. I also recently noticed that my dad has certain nerdy streaks in him – he certainly taught himself how to handle a computer well and is making music videos with nerdy perfectionism. So it’s not an age thing, and it’s certainly not a gender thing either.
I cannot explain why the things that interest me have such a fascination for me. I spent most of my summer holidays last year translating an obscure time-travel-role-playing-game into German, certainly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, just to be able to play it with a group of friends and find out it was almost too hard to play. Now I’m wrecking my brain over how to make it more playable and how to fine-tune the skill system. I love video games. I love board games and table-top stuff. I don’t know why – I’d like to think that I always need to occupy my brain to prevent myself from overthinking other things – but just because I prefer these things to going out to bars every other night “partying” doesn’t make me a freak. Nor does it make me an “unfeminine” woman or whatever.
I am pissed off with this whole idea that nerdy occupations are a man-thing, and a “childish”, “immature” man-thing at that. And I will always fight to be taken seriously as an adult woman, even though I like to run RPGs or obsess over cardgames. End of rant, thank you for reading.