by Lawrence Sonntag
A friend of mine recently shared this comic, which is an amazing peek at what it feels like to be a woman and suffer the near-universal scorn of boys in geek culture. At least … I think it’s an amazing peek. I’m not a woman and haven’t experienced that unique brand of shitty exclusionism, so I can’t say for sure. I have lived through my own brand of exclusionism, however (at least, I believed I did, but more on that later), so I wanted to share my interpretation of why this happens.
Let me first make a few disclaimers. What follows are not excuses but possible explanations. The behavior is inexcusable, but I believe that to correct it, one must understand it. Also: This is obviously just one person’s perspective. The second I claim to understand the breadth of the human condition is the second anyone should stop listening to me.
Why do so many guys in geek circles act so antagonistically toward women? It doesn’t make any sense. In a culture that’s been predominantly male for so long, you’d think women would be celebrated in any capacity. Instead they’re often ridiculed and berated out of visibility. As weird as this sounds, emotionally immature men can experience cognitive dissonance in the presence of women, and rather than work through it they just lash out at the agitant.
It’s a problem that usually forms over a number of years. When I was in junior high and high school, for instance, geeky activities like video games and tech stuff were a rarity in my small Texas town, and I had a small and almost exclusively male group of friends who shared those interests. This provided very fertile ground for my typical adolescent fear of dating and social interactions.
Of course I’m not dating anyone, I’d think while sitting at home playing video games. They don’t like what I do anyway. In fact, good for me being so true to myself instead of changing myself just for some woman.
See how early the toxicity enters the equation? Without knowing it, geeky activity became my excuse, a shield from potential failures. It’s not my fault that I’m not meeting more people and learning social skills, it’s their fault for liking football instead of cool stuff like Star Trek. The only reason I can’t get a girlfriend is because none of them like what I do.
Never mind that, you know, I was also terrible at talking to people. Also a prick. Irrelevant.
This thought, nestled near the core of my social insecurities, pervaded for years. Any girls I did meet who liked geeky stuff were almost always already dating geeky friends of mine. They became rarities, and as time went on I became increasingly contemptible of the situation and, by association, of women in general.
Of course, at no point did I think was this my fault. It’s simply that there are no single geeky girls out there. I repeated this mantra every night alone in my room.
Now, with 10 years of emotional neglect thrown on top of my original excuses, I’m in a really bad place. I’m harboring a secret anger toward dating and having relationships with females, but it’s all hidden behind the excuse that it’s not my fault. Furthermore, I’ve been doing this for years, so I’m very emotionally dedicated to the excuse. To reverse the thinking and realize that I’ve just been a coward all this time would require courage and humility, which are virtues typically not bestowed on young men by the Internet.
That’s what kept my thinking so poisonous for so long. It wasn’t until another good friend of mine gave me some real talk that I realized just how off-base my self-perception was. At no point did I consciously acknowledge that I was running from my own social insecurities. It was just there. After this conversation I was able to realize what crap I had buried deep down in my social thinking.
My theory is that there are a lot of guys out there just like me. Adolescence spurs an emotional need for companionship, but rather than be brave and face the hurt and potential rejection of real human interaction, a lot of guys often hide behind their hobbies. It’s a much more convenient solution.
And so, when a boy sees a girl who’s just trying to share her love of geek stuff, he lashes out at her. She’s an indication that this wall of excuses he’s built up is total bullshit. Rather than sit back and untangle the web of flawed convictions he has, he’d rather attack the reminder of his own cowardice. You see this all the time when people’s belief structures are threatened by reality. Rather than incorporate new information, they attack and try to discredit it.
To an insecure geek guy, a genuine geek woman’s existence is saying “you have no excuse.” And boy are we invested in those excuses.
It’s my hope that some guy out there will read this and realize that my development has been similar to his, and hopefully understand that he can save himself and those around him a lot of grief by looking within first. I’m glad I came to my senses before I went full moron, and I can only apologize for what hurt I caused in the meantime.
And for the women who have the courage to stand up to this garbage on a daily basis? Please, never think for one second that you deserve a fraction of it. It’s just guys being idiotic, and hopefully one day they’ll have the sense to apologize for their behavior.
Lawrence Sonntag is a full-time freelance writer with an education in computer programming and an eight-year-old jar of sausages on his shelf. He primarily works for the video game coverage outlet Inside Gaming as well as providing eSports content for One World Sports. Someone’s got to fill this Internet with words, after all.