"My Knowledge Is Superior To Your Enthusiasm"

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 8.442% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

The latest tragic geekstorm is this: fake nerd girls. Women are pretending to be nerdy, because it’s trendy!  How dare they?!
In other breaking news, my eighteen year-old self is has just flown through the time barrier to punch every one of these complainers in the nuts.
Seriously, guys?  Your complaint is that comic books have become so popular that cute girls are emulating you?  I feel an attack of Condescending Wonka coming on:
condescending_wonka
“But Ferrett, you don’t understand!” the haters complain.  “These girls?  They’re not real fans.  They just watched, like, the Justice League cartoon and the only Green Lantern they know is Kyle Rayner!  They don’t deserve to wear the T-shirt!”
Really, dipweed?  Who decided what level of knowledge someone had to possess before they could become a fan?
The thing that constantly amazes me about minority groups is how, after being beaten up by the outside world for not fitting in, they retreat to a hidden locale where they’re accepted among others like themselves… and then manufacture reasons why other people can’t fit in with their group.  Hey, we’re gay – but those creepy bisexuals are playing at their gaydom, kissing women for male approval!  Hey, we’re a bunch of dominants and submissives, inflicting pain for pleasure – but those switches, the ones who alternate between dispensing pain and receiving it, well, they’re not really committed to the scene!
One of the Great Nerd Dysfunctions is that we confuse “depth of knowledge” for “depth of love.”  It’s a given in many nerd communities that you can’t be a True Doctor Who Fan until you’ve watched all fifty years of the show, seen every episode from every Doctor, and can discuss the differences between the BBC audio dramas and the novelizations.  Because that’s what you’re supposed to do, if you’re a nerd: consume relentlessly.  Become an authority.  Acquire the mantle of respectability, so when those Doctor Who Dick Wars come a-knockin’, you know exactly what happened to the footage from lost Shada, and which episode it was later reused in, and the embarrassing reason why.
And if someone doesn’t know all of that stuff and yet they claim to be a fan, well, they haven’t put in the same work as you.  Therefore, they cannot love as deeply as you do.
Read: they are not as good as you.
But the truth is, knowledge does not equal enthusiasm.  I’ve known Star Wars “fans” who had counted the number of shots were fired in the hallway battle in A New Hope, and they treated their fandom with a grim, possessive bullishness: I have invested my life in this, and even though I hate this new book series and this new set of toys is crap, I must have all the things or it doesn’t count. They often speak bitterly about the crappy novels they’ve read, the way Lucas is fucking things up, the way Disney will now fuck things up, showing not a love of Star Wars but a constant disappointment that it does not match up with the imaginary construct in their head.
Whereas there are people who have never heard of the novelizations, but love the fucking fuck out of the six hours they’ve invested in the movies.
So who’s better?  Trick question: the answer is, “neither.”  They both express love in their own way.
Point is that the real complaint of a lot of these disgruntled fanboys is, “They don’t know as much as I do!”  Which is true.  But that doesn’t make these fans fakers.  It means they love a small part of a much vaster whole, but that love is deep and real.  Maybe they’ll choose to explore more, when they get the chance.  Maybe they don’t get pleasure from tracking down every last scrap of continuity.  Who the hell cares? Fandom is large.  I do not have to have read every last Star Wars novel to call myself a Star Wars fan. That girl does not have to know about every being who’s taken on the mantle of the Green Lantern ring to have the heroic adventures of that incarnation of Kyle Rayner resonate with her.
What you’re upset about is that they’re not respecting your hierarchy.  And in that, you can fuck off.  You tried to escape hierarchies when you were on the bottom, and now you’re trying to manufacture one where you’re on the top?  That makes you a petty, shallow sonuvabitch.
Plus, there’s a hidden misogyny in there, in that you hardly ever see this sort of kerfluffle about guys wearing Green Lantern shirts and not meaning it.  The geek refuge is all too often the He-Man’s Woman-Haters Club meeting, where any guy who wears the clothes is accepted without question, but any woman has to pass the secret test.
Why?  For fuck’s sake, I’ve been playing Magic since The Dark, which puts me in the old grognard club of Magic players.  I’ve edited a Magic site.  I’ve been a Magic celebrity, such as it was.  And when I talk to some some twenty-something college kid and discover we both play and he tells me, “I love Magic!  I’m totally into it.  I have, like, all the cards,” I don’t think, oh, you ignorant fuck, let me show you how it’s done.  I think, boy, I’m glad he’s getting such pleasure out of it, and he’s gonna learn soon how many cards he doesn’t have, and I hope that encourages him to get all the ones he wants.  It’s okay that he doesn’t have all the dual lands like I do, or that he’s never played Rochester Draft, or that he’s probably not really understanding of what Standard is or how it works.
I think he has a love.  A love that may lead him down the same paths as me, or it may not.  But the joy he gets in slinging cards, incompetently, with his buddies over the lunchroom table is no less true.
And that’s why yes.  You can wear the T-shirt.

26 Comments

  1. Mat
    Nov 14, 2012

    This is also prevalent among sports fans (the geekdom that was socially acceptable first): if you SAY you love the team, but you don’t remember who the quarterback coach was in the year they went 1-15, you’re a bandwagon-jumping front-runner. You say you’re a Giants fan?! But you know not Butch Woolfolk? New-hat-wearing front runner!

    • Erik
      Nov 14, 2012

      Oh yeah? Oh YEAAAHHH? Well, *I* spent far too many of my youthful Saturdays watching Woolfolk playing in a winged helmet at the Big House. Just so you know who REALLY likes him.

  2. Richard
    Nov 14, 2012

    I think it stems from fear. So many nerds have been duped by girls over the years. The whole “my friend likes you” then you go talk to her and get made fun of. The hot girls in the nerd culture thing feels like that. There is this feeling in the back of my skull that I am being played and manipulated.
    When a person from what you’re used to gets into your thing, your happy because you relate to them. When a group that used to denigrate what you do gets into your thing, it’s off putting.
    A similar thing goes on in video game culture. The RPG playing hard core gamers have a thing against the “bro gamer” because he is the jock who teased him in high school for loving final fantasy.
    I don’t think it’s a rational thing. I think it’s a safety mechanism. These people didn’t like me, don’t trust them. It’s normal in any transitional period. It will pass. At this point the Modern warfare bro guys are just part of the video game landscape. Eventually hot chicks that like to dress up will be normal, and all this will go away.

    • TheFerrett
      Nov 14, 2012

      And it may be fear, but it’s still a stupid thing. I fear jocks myself on some visceral level, but they play Modern Warfare and I was never once, “They’re not real gamers.” Building your identity around exclusivity is a moe’s game.

      • Richard
        Nov 14, 2012

        I agree it’s stupid, but it’s still normal. Look at what happens when any two groups of people mix for the first time. There is distrust and susupicion. From the irish to the Hipjak Turks, it has always happened.
        I chalk it up to growing pains, then ignore it.

        • Rachel Swirsky
          Nov 16, 2012

          In 43 years, Tony Harris has never encountered a lady-type person before?
          Women have been around in geekdom since the beginning; the fact that some dude-type people have decided not to pay attention is not our fault. Also, some lady-type geeks — no joking! — got made fun of in high school, too!
          Entitlement. Entitlement. Entitlement.

    • Lisa Nohealani Morton
      Nov 16, 2012

      The whole “my friend likes you” then you go talk to her and get made fun of.
      This happened to me over and over and over again in elementary and middle school. I know it doesn’t make it any better that it happened to you, but keep in mind, a lot of geeky girls get that treatment too – and oh yeah, a lot of us aren’t entering nerd culture for “the first time”, because we’ve been there all along.
      “Has boobs” isn’t really a good predictive method for “length of time in nerd culture”, which is exactly what has a lot of nerds of the female persuasion up in arms about this series of kerfluffles.

  3. Mistie
    Nov 14, 2012

    Excellent piece!!!

  4. Friday
    Nov 14, 2012

    It blows my mind that things like this is an issue. People are interested in the things I’m passionate about? That’s freaking awesome! The elitist attitude that too many people in the geek community has is terrible. All this stuff is sweet, let everyone else in.

  5. Dora
    Nov 14, 2012

    Spot on, Ferrett!

  6. Jeff Phillips
    Nov 14, 2012

    I wrote this in regards to sports fandom in 2010. A friend was being mocked for rooting for a team he recently took a liking to.
    ” As a born and bred BSU fan, I’m happy to welcome all fans to the BSU train.
    I have a dream, that one day, all fans can wear blue and orange on(sic) harmony, where they will be judged by their love of the team, not how long they have suffered. That they will be judged by the Bronco in their heart, not the address on their home!”
    This specific process is sadly prevalent in anything people engage in, from sports to comics to music.

  7. John Rundell
    Nov 14, 2012

    The thing that constantly amazes me about minority groups is how, after being beaten up by the outside world for not fitting in, they retreat to a hidden locale where they’re accepted among others like themselves… and then manufacture reasons why other people can’t fit in with their group.
    This happens so often within the law, I just cannot even…well…you get the drift. The point being is that there’s a certain level of perpetual schadenfraude that happens. And, there’s a fine line between having the trappings of some sort of group and actually being a member of that same group IMHO. I see it all the time, and the social dynamic SEEMS to be changing. The hive mind just shifting focus here and there to new and unexpected places, but overall seems quicker to be dismantled due to t3h c0mun1c4t10nz imprum3ntz.
    When I (and presumably you) were kids, we were shunned for things like being members of the D&D club, hanging out in the library, getting excited by playing the Apple IIe’s new release of Oregon Trail, and mastering both Tetris, Duck Hunt, and corduroy.
    It’s shocking how the trappings of popularity and “coolness” shift with the times.
    Personally, I cannot wait until Hypercolor t-shirts come back. Because, those were dope…er….awesome…er….rad….um….nifty keen?

  8. Amber
    Nov 14, 2012

    My issue has always been people who claim to be nerds because nerd is the new cool, supposedly. Nerd used to mean socially awkward and obsessive about something. Now it more means that you like something obsessively. Which is fine, word meanings change over time. But being a nerd is misunderstood by some people as being into “nerdy” things. Like Doctor Who, or MTG, or anime. Which is more just being a fan of something, but I can understand their confusion of the title.
    The real issue comes in when people, and yes, particularly women, try to say that they are nerds to appeal to men more, because again, nerd is now cool(er). So they play a few flash games on their phones and wear glasses without lenses, and say that they are nerds. They aren’t obsessively into anything, or even like anything “nerdy” a lot, they just want the popularity of being able to say that they are a nerd, and the distinction of being a hot nerd.

    • TheFerrett
      Nov 14, 2012

      And I think the panic over OMG THE FAKE NERDS is ridiculous. If someone wants to pretend to be one of us? Shit, that means we’re now the cool kids. And all they’re going to do is, you know, seduce a few nerds.
      THAT’S SO TERRIBLE.
      Admittedly, some nerds might have a broken heart when they realize she wasn’t really into Avatar, but in general I think you alienate several “real” fans for every “fake” one you weed out. Might as well get really concerned about voter fraud.

      • alexander hollins
        Nov 20, 2012

        I gotta say, I saw that a lot back in the day. Women pretending to have a bit of an interest in being nerdy in order to get attention and fawned over and stuff bought for her. And it’s a con job, just like any other con job. That said, you don’t automatically assume the guy sitting next to you on the bus is a con man. You don’t automatically assume any woman in cosplay is trying to rewire guys through their gonads to get to their wallets. We don’t have a right to assume and judge, unless we SEE the person doing that.
        But on the same token, insisting that these con women don’t exist, and that suggesting they do is some mark of being an immature guy who can’t handle girls in their fandom is bullshit and not helping the situation any.

        • Paper
          Jan 16, 2013

          Have to say, if I were running a con to part geek guys from their money, cosplay wouldn’t be the way to do it – he’ll of an investment in time, effort and money to develop the skill to make the costume, for what? Some geeky toys that, because I’m apparently not a real geek girl, I’m not interested in in the first place?
          I could just hand out in the bar and have people buy me drinks. Less effort, more universal reward.

  9. Rebecca
    Nov 14, 2012

    Hey Ferrett! Long time, not since the SCG email list!
    Loved the article, well put and very entertaining.
    I have had some people give me shit for only being into the new Doctor Who series once or twice, fuck ’em! I still love the hell out of modern Who, so they can go frot each other while reciting classic Who trivia for all I care.
    Everyone becomes a fan of something starting as a noob, I used to think Mesa Pegasus was a great card! “But it has flying AND banding for just 2 mana! It’s awesome!!!!”
    We should be welcoming to hot girls who like nerdy things, seriously, hot girls who like geeky stuff! THIS is what nerd guys are complaining about? Too many hot girls??? SHUT DA FUCK *UP*!!! We shouldn’t be attacking them, we should find out how that particular wish got granted and go make a few MOAR WISHES!!!
    Just saying…
    Bec

  10. Navi
    Nov 14, 2012

    I absolutely love seeing more ladies getting into geekdoms, what I cannot stand are girls that do it solely for attention. We all know at least one attention hog that wears the tight geeky shirt for a show she’s seen the commercial for and bounces around the gaming store to the adulation of comic browsing geeks.
    What I love even more are the guys that ask, hey is that army of ‘Nids your brothers? No, they are mine. My husband helped pick them out, now shoo, I have to plan my next turn.

  11. Amanda
    Nov 14, 2012

    And then there are those of us who have been “nerds” from the before-time of middle school, because we were girls who wore glasses and liked to read. (For the record, I am still a girl who wears glasses and likes to read. I am also happily married to another well-adjusted nerd.)
    I don’t get the insecurity against an entire gender, many of whom have been happy nerds for quite some time. The idea that girls can’t be nerds is ridiculous–and incredibly sexist. This isn’t a fad; this isn’t a trend. This is Who We Are. Nobody gets to tell us who to be.
    Long story short–Right on, Ferrett. Preach it. I’m going to go watch Doctor Who and knit for a while.

  12. Terra
    Nov 14, 2012

    Reminds me of the huge kerfluffle that happened back around 1999 when AD&D 3.0 came out and there was *gasp* gender neutral language!!! And so MANY men wrote in to say that the gender-neutral language was an affront to them because it showed that the publishers were pandering to women and treating women specially and anyway, women didn’t game. As a woman and a gamer I found those comments to be extraordinarily petty-minded and cruel-hearted, and I wondered why, if those men wanted their “dream woman” (ie a gamer girl) so much, they had such a problem creating an environment where women didn’t feel so readily shunned.
    As for hot girls into nerd-dom … why is it always about the hot girls? How about just *girls.* Why does my exterior have to be a certain way for people to judge if I’m serious or phony? Isn’t it a slam on geekery in general to assume that “regular” girls can authentically be into it but “hot” girls are just doing it to be “popular”?

  13. Alexis
    Nov 15, 2012

    I’m a girl who loves nerdy things like playing D&D, or X-Box games like Skyrim and Mass Effect. I’ve been gaming since I first went to college in 1999. For the most part, I love the geek community, and I’m still friends with the people I first started gaming with.
    Still, I do think that sometimes nerd guys get really frightened of women. It’s like some of them see the nerd community as a perpetual basement of safety, where you don’t interact with women and thus avoid facing your real life shortcomings and anxieties. It’s time to come into the light, my friends. Women like gaming and movies just like you do, and that’s okay. Once you start regularly talking to these women you’ll realize that they aren’t so scary after all. In the meantime, breath into your paper bag and try not to be an asshole.
    http://thewiseserpent.blogspot.com/2012/07/dungeons-and-dragons-fun-and-creative.html

    • TheFerrett
      Nov 16, 2012

      It’s like some of them see the nerd community as a perpetual basement of safety…

      I think that is, sadly, how many view communities in general.

  14. Lisa Nohealani Morton
    Nov 16, 2012

    I have to object in the strongest possible fashion on the grounds that Justice League Unlimited was amazing.
    Also John Stewart was the Green Lantern in that show. Proof, proof! that you’re clearly a fake geek who’s only in it for the attention!

  15. Marc
    Nov 19, 2012

    I still don’t really get it.
    Even if it was true, a really hot girl is dressing up as your favorite anime character, she pretends to like the stuff that you like so she can hang out with you and your friend. Maybe some nerd somewhere is getting sex from a girl who is just pretending….
    Oh the horror!!!
    We gonna stop those hot girls from ruining those innocent lives!
    I only saw this non sense online btw, never in person. Maybe I’m not into nerdidom enough myself ….

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