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Posts Tagged ‘my life (as a geek)’
Oh lordy, this sort of thing again. While I don’t find that article particularly offensive (though… fairy tales? Really?), it’s back to a whole bunch of pretty dumb concepts. Specifically the one-two punch of “Scifi is for boys and girls don’t get it!” and “Girls who do like scifi are amaaaaaazing and I looooooooooove them.” On the assumption that I don’t need to retread why either one of those points is ridiculous, let’s move on.
I’ve been the half of a relationship who loves scifi, with a significant other who thought it was, at best, silly — but mostly thought it was kind of dumb and immature. And it is indeed frustrating, but guess what? The way to deal with that was not being thinking about how awesome the dude in question would have been if only he had liked the same things I did. Because here’s a thing about relationships: why would you ever be in one if you aren’t happy with the person you’re dating? Not an idealized version of who you’re dating, not what you hope that person can someday become. Why would you date someone if you don’t like him or her for who he or she is?
Look, I have no real qualifications for giving relationship advice. I’ve been in a few serious relationships but am single at the moment. I’m not a therapist. But here’s a quick rundown of how I survived and (gasp!) enjoyed being in a relationship with a non-scifi-lover. And guess what? It wasn’t by trying to change him. It was pretty much all things I did, and internal decisions on my part.*
ONE: Accept that you and your partner have different feelings about scifi, and his feelings are not positive. You know what? Science fiction certainly contains great literature, great stories, and great concepts and characters; it also contains a lot of things that are ridiculous. It’s associated with being a big nerd. So it’s kind of on you to accept that hey — you love something that’s nerdy and sometimes ridiculous.
This wasn’t such a big deal for me, but I do my best to empathize with people who have a hard time with it. That scifi is nerdy and ridiculous is not a negative thing, or a negative reflection of you as a person. It’s not bad. It’s not a problem. It is what it is; you are who you are. Know thyself. Embrace thyself. Don’t be ashamed of who you are or what you love: that’s painful. If you’re secure in your own tastes, you’ll not just feel better overall, but you won’t feel as much need for your partner to love what you love to validate you.
TWO: Relationships are about people coming together, not becoming each other. It’s not just that you shouldn’t need your partner’s approval to validate your interests, it’s that it’s completely okay to have interests and hobbies that you and your partner doesn’t share. There’s no reason why you should do everything together, and it’s always seemed to me to be way healthier to have your own identity than to get subsumed by a relationship anyway. Yay for feminism, which has certainly helped me learn and internalize that idea.
THREE: Respect goes both ways. Your partner may not like scifi, and may not get scifi, but that doesn’t entitle your partner to make disparaging comments about something he knows you love. Communication is hard, and calling someone you care about out for making you feel bad is often even harder, but regardless of how he feels about the genre, he should respect you — your intelligence, and your taste — enough to not say things that will make you feel shitty about a hobby you love.
However, this is a two-edged blade. He has every right to dislike scifi, and to think it’s ridiculous. Expressing those feelings in a way that’s still respectful to you is hard, but if he does, guess what? He’s not any less intelligent than you are, and there’s nothing wrong with him for not getting it. You’re not entitled to disparage him for that, either.
So yeah, it’s hard to talk about it, sometimes. Ideally, he’d be able to enjoy your glee when you find something you really love and adore even if he doesn’t get it, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, the best you can do really is to respectfully simply agree to disagree and change the topic to something neither one of you will find frustrating.
FOUR: If you feel you must — really, truly must — try and get him into science fiction, there is no magic combination of shows/movies/books that is guaranteed to work. Approaching in terms of “girls like fairy tales,” or “boys like space ships,” isn’t going to fly, because this isn’t about what a group of people allegedly likes. It’s about what your partner, specifically, might like. You know your partner’s tastes in stories and characters; only you can gage what he or she might appreciate.
My recommendation, if you’re going to do this, is also in how you approach it. Tell your partner, “Hey, I think you might like this one, I think it would be cool if we watched it together.” Be prepared to accept a similar overture in response, or even to suggest one. Don’t over-intro or spend too much time talking up whatever you’re suggesting: you want him to feel free to respond genuinely, not to force himself to have a positive reaction to please you — that will only lead to resentment down the line. Be okay with giving up or turning it off if he doesn’t like it after all. Be prepared for him to like one or two specific shows or books, but not interested in the genre as a whole. Try not to be too disappointed if these things happen, because not everyone will get it.
Hey. Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. Either way as long as what he does get is that it’s important to you and a part of who you are, and as long as he likes you for who you are… Well, at the end of the day, does it really matter if he gets science fiction or not?
* From this point forward, I’m talking from my perspective, which is as a woman who loves scifi dating a dude who does not. This relationship is obviously not indicative of all kinds of relationships out there. So not only may what works for me not work for everyone, but I’ve got no idea how this might apply to other kinds of relationships.
This article (via Chaos Theory) is absolutely excellent. Both in its analysis of the show Beauty and the Geek (which is fascinating and touching, despite being incredibly shallow), and in its analysis of why it’s so uncomfortable to add Nicole and Sam, the female geek and male beauty, to the show.
But I think there’s also more to it than that. I’ve discussed the idea of a reverse-gender cast with GC before (as we accidentally watched all of season two together in a New Years marathon last year. In one sitting,) and have always been against the idea. Which at first struck GC as odd, what with me being, you know, a female geek and all. But there are two points I’d like to make about this.
First: I don’t like having Sam in the competition against the female beauties. First off, because a lot of their challenges are things which are, in this society, gendered as male activities*, such as the week they were building bottle rockets. As GC pointed out, there’s a much bigger chance that at some point in his childhood, Sam had already done that, or at least known kids who did and was familiar with it. But it isn’t just that.
The stereotype of the shallow, sexy woman is also invariably tied to low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence. The theory seems to be that the cliche beauty, the sort found on the show, uses her body in place of brains, and thus has never tried to use her brains. She may not be dumb, but she’s uncomfortable and doesn’t like being put in a position where her smarts and not her body are being judged. So that’s what the show does. It repeatedly challenges these walking stereotypes to learn something, and to be confident in their newly-acquired knowledge, and in almost any competition, the most confident wins.
The thing is? Good looking men aren’t socialized that way. That stereotype does exist for guys, but with guys, “lack of confidence” and “attractive” aren’t inextricably linked. Where beauty for women is generally passive and objectified (literally meaning they’re at their prettiest when they’re not contributing anything but good looks), it isn’t for men; a man can be attractive and shallow without getting the message that he should shut up. So to have a contest such as the one where the beauties had to debate against each other, but throwing him in the mix, is unfair. The show is a learning journey, where the beauties gain that confidence. Sam, raised in a society that can appreciate his opinions as well as his attractiveness (not to mention one which urges him to be competitive while it urges women to be supportive and gentle), is not lacking in that confidence.
And then there’s the matter of judges. Society already values male opinions over female one; in a contest where there are, what, eight women stumbling to find an answer and one guy (who, while not especially well-spoken, is also not shy or nervous), who is going to stand out more? I’m not saying that he didn’t genuinely learn his material and present it well, but regardless, the whole competition was already biased in his favor.
Point two: let’s talk about being female and geeky. It isn’t easy. Though male geeks tend to appreciate your existence, society overall is confused, baffled, and just doesn’t know what to do with you. You’re smart, but instead of being judged on competence, you’re judged on looks. But the thing is, inherent attractiveness isn’t even the point. Different things tend to be important to geeks as compared to most of the rest of the population, and one of the major differences is that looks (and with them, fashion, the ability to use make-up, or do your hair) are waaaay further down on the priority list.
Look at Nicole. She’s not ugly, but she doesn’t dress with attractiveness in mind. Especially when she’s surrounded by other women, all of whom are concerned primarily about being attractive, the message is that she’s lacking. Actually ugly or not, she might as well be, because not caring means being ugly, and being ugly means, well…dealing with it.
This is not a society that’s kind to the unattractive. At all. And when all you want is to be judged by your intelligence, and instead you spend your life having all of your hard work barely noticed but your physical attractiveness scrutinized…well, it’s hard. It’s frustrating. Being yourself without apologizing for it is hard, because no matter how awesome you are, you’re fully aware you’d be treated better if you were prettier.
So back to the show. The reason having the female geek on a show where the geeks all get makeovers and learn to better fit in with society is that it’s damn hard to not do that. It strikes me as very much taking someone who has, consciously or not, rejected the patriarchal idea of female beauty, and trying to shoehorn her right back into it. Because the thing is, guys can be appreciated for being geeks. Which isn’t to write off their legitimate struggles with social awkwardness or attractiveness; when I said this society isn’t kind to the unattractive, I meant that, full stop. Both genders. But for men, there are other ways to contribute to society and be appreciated for them. For women, it’s beauty first, kindness and femininity second, and everything else after that. So for male geeks, learning to jump these hurdles and conquer personal demons is a bonus. It’ll make life much easier, sure.
But for a female geek? It’s akin to saying, “You’re really great at what you do. But you’d be better if you were prettier and easier to get along with.” Which is the same damn thing women are told every day. It isn’t subverting the societal message of what a woman should be, it’s reinforcing it.
I get enough of that in my daily life, as someone who’s female and a geek. I identify with Nicole, and it’s rare to find someone on reality TV (or, for that matter, TV generally) I can see myself in. I really don’t want to see her buy into this.
* Mostly unrelatedly, fuck you and your “boys are different” campaign, Playskool toys. Because sure, only little boys like toy trucks and want to run around…but at least they make girl toys! Play houses! With play kitchens and a play washing machine! Seriously, fuck you.
Good Christ. I just found and read through this. Ahem:
“I’m at the local wine bar and a very attractive hostess is recommending books in the science fiction genre to another (far less attractive) hostess. So far I’ve heard Ender’s Game, Hyperion and Snow Crash tossed off as appropriate for a “newbie.” Is this the Twlight Zone??? Am I a freak to think this is freaky? I haven’t had a sip of wine, so it isn’t the alcohol.”
So now, please let me explain why I’m dating GC, who, while he has his nerdy tendencies (such as an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of baseball, which I find perhaps a little too hot), has no interest in anything even vaguely related to scifi; and not someone who has a fetish for hot nerds.
Whether you call it a nerd, a dork, a geek, or a brain, I am one. I’m a woman who loves science fiction, for example. And on the one hand, I’ve always been proud of my geekiness — much prouder of that than of my looks, in fact. Part of being in a subculture that’s often mocked is that if you don’t embrace it, there’s a good chance you’ll be miserable. So I embraced it. I own my nerdiness and my fangirly glee. But I don’t advertise it anymore, because, quite frankly, I’m sick to fucking death of male nerds being amazed by my very existence.
Case in point. GC and I met when we were both working at Borders. He and I had gone out on a couple of dates before the subject of Batman came up. I don’t remember how it happened, but I suspect it was something along the lines of favorite actors → Christian Bale → Batman Begins → Batman. He likes Batman, in an abstract sense, but has never been into comics. And while most of my friends are hardcore comics fans whose knowledge makes mine look miniscule, I’ve read a whole bunch of trade paperbacks, and a couple of histories/social studies of Batman. I’m definitely at least conversant on the subject. GC was impressed (and perhaps terrified, but he got over that), and in the break room the next week, he asked me a Batman-related question. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only people in the room. Two other guys, both of them nerds, were there. Both of them overheard. And upon affirming that yes, I really like Batman and have a mild interest in and knowledge of comics, I was asked what other titles I read.
This was not a friendly question. It wasn’t the way you’d ask a new acquaintance what they read to see if there’s anything to discuss or bond over. It was a challenge, which they made very clear. The question may have been, “What other comics do you like?” but the subtext was very clearly, “You’re a girl, what other comics could you possibly actually be familiar with?”
But I am, as I said, conversant in Batman and passingly interested in comics. So I answered honestly that I don’t really read a lot of comics, and definitely know more about Batman than anything else, but thanks to friends who were really into them, I enjoy both Green Lantern and Green Arrow. And the guys in the staff room, well, freaked out.
The questions began. First I was asked to establish more credentials, and it wasn’t even innocently phrased anymore. One guy said, word for word, “If you really like Batman, name three Robins.” Because hey, I’m me, I busted out Stephanie Brown, in fact, and not Tim Drake. I was then told that I’d forgotten one. (“No, you asked for three and I named three. If you wanted Tim, you should have asked who the three male Robins were.”) I was asked who killed Jason Todd. I was asked to detail current storylines.
And again, keep in mind, these were questions to establish that, good god, I really was a living, breathing girl — an attractive one, no less! — who was into something nerdy. One of the guys responded with wonder. The other, who many women at the store have had other, far worse kinds of run ins with, was angry and condescending. (Needless to say, he was the one who hadn’t even realized Stephanie was a valid answer to the Robin question.) This all went on for a good twenty minutes (until our break ended, in fact) and through the whole thing I got more flustered and more angry, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why until later.
I later pondered and realized that what pissed me off was the notion that, because I’m female, I need to prove to men that I can join their exclusive club. And once that proof is established, I’m still not really allowed into their clubhouse. In the same way that so many nerds consider jocks to be practically another species, well, women are, too. We are Other. We’re confusing and mystifying. And it doesn’t matter if we like the same things, if we read the same things, if we discuss the same things. ‘Female’ is ‘Other’. But a female who is into those same things is put into yet another classification — as both female and nerd (especially if you’re attractive) you’re now a fetish. You’re someone who can share the joy of videogames and comics and science fiction, so he doesn’t have to alter his interests to impress you — and on top of that, you might have sex with him. You’re not just a girl, you’re a dream girl.
I used to be pretty pleased with that. I grew up awkward (as many nerds do) and when I first met a group of male nerds who treated me as Queen Nerd, it was a heady, thrilling feeling. But as I grew more comfortable and confident with myself, it started to feel creepier. I don’t like being someone’s concept, I like being a person. And Nerd Girl is not the same as Person.
To refer back to the title, though it’s a vast overstatement (there are many reasons why I’m dating GC, and I have definitely dated nerds in the past), one thing about the way GC and I interact that makes me feel really good is that he likes me as a person, and not as a Nerd Girl. He likes that I’m intelligent, he likes that I’m happy to kick back and watch baseball with him, he likes that I’m cute. And he finds my nerdiness to be an endearing quirk, one he’s fond of, but when it comes down to it, he likes me for me, nerdiness included, but not because I’m a nerd. And that is a much better feeling.
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