Tag Archives: geeks

To my fellow nerds, I say, be better!

I am reaching out to a specific group with this post. I want to talk to the men and women of geekdom. If that is you, I ask that you please pay close attention to the following plea.

Ahem…

Geeks, dorks, countrynerds. Lend me your ears!

We have lost our way. We were supposed to be the nice people. The ones who accepted the bullied and the underdogs. We were supposed to be the ones who encouraged learning and tried to build confidence in each other. And if someone wanted to be part of our community, we didn’t chase them away.

What happened?

I’m seeing far too much nastiness in the geek community. Admittedly, this is a problem that is present all over society. I don’t know what the big answer is, but I can at least try to talk to those with whom I should have some common ground. So I am addressing you, my people. I speak to those of us who have at some point been punished for loving the things that we do. That is the common thread of those who have earned the geek and nerd tag. We got shunned or called names or physically attacked. In many cases, it was a combination of these things. But things have changed and it’s a little more mainstream. You can love sci-fi and fantasy, comic books and games, cosplay and computers and science and mythology and all kinds of stuff. It’s not 100 percent ridicule free, but it isn’t seen as that unusual either.

The problem is we’re attacking each other now. We’re being our own bullies. It needs to stop. We can all do better.

What happened to the whole idea of treating people like you want to be treated? It’s bad enough that so much of the larger world tends toward nastiness. We don’t need to get sucked up into that shit when it comes to geek culture. We don’t need nasty cliques in the cosplay community. We don’t need online trolls attacking women and kids from behind a gamertag. If someone posts some fantasy-themed artwork or a picture of themselves in a new costume we need to be supportive. Don’t rip apart their work. Don’t mock the artist’s technique or choice of subject. Don’t body shame the cosplayer or question their “nerd cred” on the character. If being kind is too difficult then try silence. You don’t like what you see? Fine. Move along. If you can’t be supportive, don’t be destructive. There is no need to harm anyone.

Is it because the old stereotypes blended? Are people angry because you have athletes that like comic books and nerds who watch sports now? Hey, I’m the classic sports-hating nerd and I’ve got no problem having friends who are football fans. We aren’t the authority on which person gets to like what fandom!

I think we can be better. I know we can! We are a small portion of humanity. If we can’t fix our own shit, how can we expect anything else to get better? So please. Try harder. Be kinder, smarter, more accepting. Be the nerdy, geeky champions I know we can be. Humanity needs us to be better. The multiverse needs us to be better. We need us to be better!

For the lady geek

Let me play Captain Obvious for a moment. I’m a great big pile of nerd in the classic sense. I love board games and video games. I like superheroes and fantasy and science-fiction. I read about folklore and mythology for fun. I love Muppets and books about wizard detectives. I have no interest in sports that aren’t Quidditch or Calvinball. When I was a kid, these are all things that would get me picked on. Now, it has become a little more acceptable and mainstream to like at least some of these things. That’s not to say I still don’t get some crap for the things I love. I do. But when it comes right down to it, I don’t have things that bad. I’m a geeky guy and this is fine.

For geeky girls, it’s another thing entirely.

I’m probably not the best person in the world to talk about this, if for no other reason but the existence of my Y chromosome. I may identify as a nerd, a geek, and a beta male but I’m still a MALE. I live in a world where that gives me a bit of an edge on most things socially. But I’m also a guy who has had a very large number of female friends. I married a woman who is a great big geek like myself. I have two little girls. And I’m not stupid. I know society overall gives women a hard time and in comparison, I have it easy in many ways. Patriarchy exists and, whether I like it or not, I benefit from it. But for the moment, I want to focus on this particular struggle that the lady geek deals with. Because I see it frequently. I see it in person, online, and in various media. And it pisses me off to see the crap that these women take just because they like the things I do. So we’re going to talk about it.

Comic books:

I’m not the world’s greatest sage of comic knowledge, but I like to think I can hold my own. I’ve met more than one person who can easily outclass me in this category, however, and some of them happen to be women. So I get irritated when I hear stories of women going into a comics store and being treated like idiots. Here’s the thing, guys. If a girl is looking at comics I, for one, am going to assume she’s at least INTERESTED in it. Chances are that she’s also got some background knowledge to boot and does not require my assistance. And even if this is her first time checking them out, why would you want to crush that by being a bag of douche?

My wife is fairly new to things like superheroes and graphic novels, but I love that she’s interested now. If my girls show interest in them, it’s something I plan to encourage. Gender does not mean you get a monopoly on liking certain things. It also doesn’t mean you’re necessarily any good at playing Monopoly, either. This brings me to the next point of discussion.

Gaming:

This is a subject that seems to go different ways, depending on what game we’re talking about. If we’re taking about video games, this is a big issue for women right now. It has been for awhile, even if it’s only recently gotten attention. I am not going to waste my time talking about the assholes involved in the whole “gamergate” debacle. If you don’t know what that is, go to Google and look it up. Not a proud moment for those who love video games.

The video game industry caters to males. That’s a fact. What is also a fact is that there are a huge number of girls and women that play video games. Do both genders play the same games? Yes, a lot of the time they do. I’d say that the interest varies in type among girls just as much as guys. I am not a big Call of Duty fan, but give me something like the Dragon Age series and I’m all in. I also spent plenty of hours on Skyrim, but not nearly as many as my wife. We’ve also played a good number of the Lego games together. I also know there are a lot of women who play MMO games, like World of Warcraft and League of Legends. So when women are asking to be given more consideration by game developers, I think they more than deserve it. What they don’t deserve is guys giving them shit online, or in some cases, rape threats. How the hell is that okay? Let me rephrase that. It’s NOT okay! If you think there is any scenario where that behavior is acceptable, I question both your sense of morality and your sanity.

I do have to say that the tabletop gaming world seems to be a little more accepting, at least in my personal experience. Board games seem to be making a comeback for both genders. I’ve also met a fair number of women who previously or still play D&D. Again, my wife is the current Dungeon Master for our game. It also has a mix of men and women playing. I’m hoping that my girls will be interested because I can’t think of a better thing for a family game night.

Cosplay:

This is a pretty new world for me. It’s only in the past year and a half that I’ve come to appreciate the art form. Yes, I consider cosplay an art form. Really passionate cosplayers put just as much work into what they do as any dedicated artist. Not surprisingly to me, there are a large number of women who cosplay. I’ll take a brief moment to acknowledge that there are really talented guys who cosplay as well and deserve to have their work appreciated, since this is an area where ladies do get more attention. I follow a few cosplayers and that includes both genders. But I’m focusing on lady nerds right now, so back to them.

Cosplay is something that is very expensive and very time consuming. The cosplayers I follow online put an insane amount of work into what they do. For many, this isn’t how they make their living. Some sell prints and take donations, but appearing at a convention seems to be more of an expense than it is a payoff. So why do this? Because it’s a passion and they care about it. I follow quite a few lady cosplayers and they are all different. These are women of different ages, body types, and a few from different countries. I admit, I find all of them physically beautiful but that is honestly easy to find. One thing these women have in common, and the reason I keep following them, is they all do beautiful work. Another common factor, unfortunately, is that they get an unnecessary amount of hate. For all the compliments they are given on a picture they share there seem to be at least a few things that are less than pleasant. It probably happens the most with sexy cosplay, but I’ve seen it with cute cosplay and cosplay designed strictly for character accuracy. They get told that they have no idea who the character they dressed at is. They get told they’re too skinny or too fat. They get told by men AND women that they look like a whore. Sometimes it can be the other extreme. I’ve read posts when these women beg people to be respectful, saying they’ve had to block men who send them dick pics and vulgar messages. I’ve seen comments on pictures that are only about boobs and asses, even if the outfit has full pants and no cleavage. Really classy stuff, morons. I mean, I enjoy boobs and butts just as much as anyone else attracted to women but I know how to be respectful. It isn’t difficult to do. And it doesn’t just apply to online. I’ve chatted with some cosplayers who’ve talked about being at conventions where, while most people are cool, some guys have tried to do “upskirt” photos or reach out to cop a feel. That behavior, in my opinion, is just flat out asking for a swift kick to the jellybeans. It’s also part of a bigger problem. What a woman wears does not give you permission to insult them. It does not give you permission act to like they are beneath you. Also, and I can’t believe I live in a world where I have to say this, it does not give you permission to ASSAULT THEM! So to all the would-be and current online trolls, body shamers, and outright assholes of both genders I say this: grow the fuck up!

I look back at each section and realize I had more to say as I progressed. It’s because I’m kind of fired up about this. I don’t get why more people aren’t. Maybe it’s because we’ve become complacent to things like rape culture, gender subjugation, and the whole “that’s the way it’s always been” mentality. It’s definitely a huge global problem, not just one limited to America. I guess this particular facet gets to me because it is MY world. The geeks and the nerds. We’re the ones who got crapped on for the things we loved. We aren’t supposed to do it to someone else. We’re supposed to want other people to be excited about the things we love. I’m thrilled that I found a woman who wants to do nerdy things with me. There are a lot of women like this out there. They should be appreciated and respected, not tormented. It’s the way I want to be treated. So I will now speak directly to the lady nerds out there. I am a great big geek. I’m an imperfect guy and I make a lot of mistakes. But I’m so happy you’re out there. I’m happy you love games and cosplay and comics and Star Wars and Tolkien and all of it. Please don’t go away. Continue being who you are. It’s awesome. I see the crap you take and will do something about it where I can. I don’t know how successful I’ll be, but I’m trying to be an ally.

I’m a geek. I’m a man. And for what it’s worth, I’m with you.

 

 

 

Bully

I like to think of myself as a very tolerant guy. With most things I’m pretty easy-going. I don’t make a habit of judging because I don’t know how to be perfect. I get frustrated, I screw up, I let my faults get the best of me sometimes. I try my best to be a little better each day. Sure there are things that people do I don’t like. Sometimes I get pissed off about it. But in the end, there are very few things that I truly hate and refuse to put up with.

I hate bullying. I am against the practice and it enrages me more than just about anything else.

Does this come from personal experience? You bet it goes. I’m one of those people who was a geek before it was socially acceptable. I’m also not a very big guy. So yeah, I was a target of more than one bully. I also look back on my life and realize something that I’m not proud of. I’m pretty sure there were a few times when acted like a bully myself. What? Someone can get bullied and then tries to do the same to someone else? What form of voodoo is this?

Do I still encounter this as an adult? Yes, I do. Not from the same people, of course. I’ve actually had the experience of being bullied by someone when we were young and then, when we were both older, being friends because people can actually grow and change. Sadly, this isn’t everyone. And to me, adults who bully other adults are just pathetic examples of humanity. It reinforces the idea that some people never move past who they were as children. And now the tactic doesn’t scare me. It just gets me mad. But it does make me wonder who made this particular bully. Was it a peer? A parent? Just poor decision-making?

This brings me to something that really upsets me, which is parents who are bullies. Do you honestly think you are raising a well-adjusted person? You think that’s making your child strong? Sorry, but you are just raising an asshole and probably another bully. And don’t think it won’t bite you in the ass when you’re old. The bully you’ve helped create isn’t going to have much empathy for an elderly parent. I know people who were raised this way. They now have part of their personality that is a bully. I give credit to the ones who have acknowledged this and try to be better. The ones who can’t or won’t, I simply have no use for them in my life. Trust me, I understand that kids are a pain. I’ve been one and I’m raising two. But I refuse to sink to the level of bullying to get my kids to act a certain way. I’ll put it like this. Do you bully your child? Is that your go-to parenting tactic? Then you SUCK as a parent. You’ve failed. Period. You will never convince me otherwise.

I am happy that there has started to be a social backlash to bully behavior. And people who throw around the whole “We’re making pussies out of America” argument need to stop yelling and use their eyes and brains for a minute. Look at the country and the world at large. Do you really think raising the Legion of Ass-hats worked out well? And I’m willing to acknowledge that this argument has a point. A world of weak minds and hearts won’t get us anywhere either. But bullying does not build character. At best, it builds stand-up comedians. At worst, you get people who will cause pain with anything they can. They will use their politics, their religion, their money, their sheer physical strength. Because they have determined that this is how you get your way. Basically, we are a world of toddlers throwing temper tantrums. You can have a middle ground, people. I’m not in favor of handing out participation trophies when you didn’t win the game, but you can still acknowledge a person’s effort and encourage them to do better. It’s fine to thank someone for doing their job, especially if it’s not an easy one. No one is asking you to shower them with pots of gold and cupcakes. How hard is it for us to learn that we should treat people how we want to be treated? Apparently, pretty fucking hard.

Do you want to know what makes me the most angry about bullying now? You can’t escape it anymore. I’m terrified of what this means for my kids. Technology has made it easier to be a bully and never have to see the pain on your target’s face. They never have to see how alone, how less than human, this person now feels. Every time I hear about a kid trying to kill themselves (or succeeding in doing so) and bullying was the reason, I feel sick. It’s so much easier to do terrible things and not be accountable for it. It’s so tempting to just become a bully yourself. I love my kids and I’m confident that I can accept pretty much any choice they could make in their lives. If I ever find out that they were a bully to someone, I will unleash science fiction levels of punishment on them! And if anyone bullies them? In the words of one of my favorite authors, there will be a reckoning.

I’ve rambled a bit, and I apologize for that. Like I said, this enrages me. What is this need to cause pain in order to make ourselves feel big? I’m not completely naive. I know that bullying will never completely go away. But no one will ever convince me that trying to be a good person is a weakness. This is what I want my kids to embrace. It may be hard to do, but people need to realize there is a difference between a firm hand and a fist.

The quest for cool

I am a few months shy of my 36th birthday. For better or for worse, I am considered an adult. A grown up. A somewhat productive member of society. I like to think that I’ve had some success in my life to go along with some of the failure. For instance, I have never left the house without remembering to put on pants. Hey, I didn’t say I always set the bar high! You try walking around town with no pants and see how far you get. I dare you.

Anyway, one thing I don’t think I ever quite reached was that point where a person becomes cool. That’s right. One of the holy artifacts of high school. The mantle of cool. That point when you look in the mirror and not only think it yourself, but you KNOW that everyone else thinks the same thing. You are deemed to be cool. It’s a quest everyone starts in their youth, whether we realize it or not, and it never seems to go away.

So why am I not cool? For starters, this is not a word I’ve heard others use to describe me. That’s not to say I don’t ever get compliments, all of which I appreciate. Of course I’ve heard some less flattering things. Self-described beta male, remember? We kind of invite a certain level of mockery. But even that isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes just teasing from friends (or a loving yet snarky wife) that is meant in fun. But the point is, I can’t say I get told that I am cool.

I’m pretty sure I don’t dress cool. When I’m not dressed for work, I wear jeans and a T-shirt I likely purchased from ThinkGeek . Maybe a flannel shirt or sweatshirt over that. My style hasn’t changed much since the 90’s. I just like to be comfortable.

The things I like tend to lean towards nerdy. I enjoy fantasy novels and I play Dungeons and Dragons. If you haven’t yet read it, my last post was dedicated to superheroes. I have an undying love of all things Muppet. Seriously, you don’t know how excited I am that I get to watch Sesame Street with my kids. I own an R2-D2 bottle opener. I make up songs about our cat. Now, I realize some of these things are more acceptable to love now than they once were. Saying you like comics or the Lord of the Rings won’t make you quite the bully target that they used to. Neither will playing board games. But are they considered cool. I doubt it. I’m pretty sure making up a song about the cat to the tune of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” will always be very far from cool.

The funny thing is, I’m not quite sure what would make me cool. What is the current standard? I’m pretty sure that by the time I caught up to it, the definition will have changed again. Is it about confidence? If that’s the case, I think there are fewer cool people in the world than we realize. I don’t know many people who are void of insecurities. The ones who are may very well think they are cool. Those few people also happen to be totally oblivious to their flaws or the consequences of their actions. If that is what it takes to be cool, I don’t know that it’s worth the trade. I like that I am capable of introspection. Sure, I sometimes do this to a fault, but I think it proves that I’m still able to learn.

One last thing. I am the father of two little girls. One day, they will be two teenage girls. There is no way in Hell that they will think I am cool. What teenager really thinks that their parents are cool? So I like to think that I have one up on any parents who, unlike myself, are of the opinion that they are cool. I have the benefit of saying to my kids, “You don’t think I’m cool? That’s fine. I’m used to it. Now help Daddy find his dragon coffee mug.”