This is a follow-on my previous post in response to Damien Walter’s piece in The Guardian, and assumes you’ve already read that. If you haven’t, go and read that first.
One thing that makes his piece confused is that among the sweeping generalisations he doesn’t make clear idea of what he actually meeds by ‘geek culture’, and seems to conflate a lot of completely unrelated things.
For a start, is there really a single “Geek culture”? I see a lot of overlapping subcultures centred on different things. Some of those a quite progressive, others can be a bit reactionary, and some are guilty of propagating bad ideas that ought to be challenged.
His reference to young white males being told that they’re going to be millionaires or rock stars sounds far more like shallow reality TV and celebrity culture than anything else. Not only are X-Factor and Big Brother not any part of any geek subculture, but they’re a part of mainstream culture that most of those who identify as a geeks explicitly reject.
There is no point trying to deny many geek subculture do contain a disproportionate number of socially awkward people used to being mocked and ostracised, who cling to their subculture as a “safe space” from a hostile and uncaring world. A lot of this may be down to the toxic nature of many US high schools with their endemic bullying and zero-sum popularity-based caste systems. Yes I know full well that those experiences are by no means universal, but they’re still common enough to have an impact on why some aspects of geek culture are the way they are.
Which is why having confident and successful people patronisingly lecturing to them about “White male privilege” and calling them losers provokes such a defensive backlash; it comes over as yet another round of the same sort of bullying they suffered at school. As one game designer I know of has stated, it’s akin to poking a wounded animal with a stick.
Yes, some people do need to grow up, and need to stop defining themselves by how they were treated at high school. But self-righteous lecturing laced with jargon that comes from critical race theory or academic gender studies isn’t the best way to do it. There needs to be a lot more empathy and understanding if the scenes are to be made truly inclusive.
This isn’t to excuse the racism and misogyny that geek cultures tolerates far too much; value systems created out of self-defined victimhood are never going to be pretty. The much-vaulted “all are welcome” inclusiveness of geekdom includes a failure to recognise that the crude bigotry of a minority is completely out of order. That is a major problem, and it does need to be addressed.
I have noticed that James Desborough has blogged about the same subject and makes a number of the same points. But I do think he’s badly wrong about sexism and racism not being a problem.