Society Magazine

Geek Culture and Male Privilege

Posted on the 18 June 2012 by Juliez

Geek Culture and Male Privilege

An example of a "Friend Zone Fiona" meme

Spend any time on website like 9Gag or Memebase (and you know you do), and you’ll quickly realize that most of these websites are populated by guys. Men are both the readers and the ones creating and submitting the content. As a girl who spends time on these websites, I find myself discouraged and disenfranchised all the time. I’m constantly being told that the contents of my underwear disqualify me from being a big nerd, and it just isn’t true.

This isn’t uncommon by any means. Geek girls have always dealt with male privilege within their communities. Take a look at some comic books and video games. A guy looking for himself in a comic book is going to find what he wants, be it a villain or a hero, and the character will be fully formed and fully clothed. On the other hand, a girl looking for herself in a comic book will find a parade of women in skimpy clothing that seems to defy gravity with the lack of nip-slips and wedgies. The female characters also have next-to-no backstory or history to their name. While men are seen as powerful, useful, and diverse, women are portrayed as having a single useful quality – sexuality.

The new meme culture and the advent of the rage comics is just a new facet of this struggle. For instance, the “Friend Zone” meme provides a prime chance for geeky guys to put down girls. The central idea of the meme is that girls will tend to date a guy who is mean or rude to her (but is attractive by society’s standards) over a nice, nerdy guy who isn’t necessarily ‘attractive.’ Although the idea of the “Friend Zone” has existed for awhile, this new, online context has made it less about navigating the divide between platonic and romantic relationships and more about beating up on girls who (for whatever reason) decide not to date one particular guy.

The meme continues to grow at the expense of women. The assumption is always that girls are so vain we’d rather date someone who’s attractive than someone who’s nice. It’s an oversimplification that doesn’t bother to account for the variety of factors that go into dating and relationships. At the same time though, girls who make their own “Friend Zone” memes (pointing out that the street goes both ways, that nerdy guys often shut down their female counterparts for reasons that seem just as silly) get laughed at, called fat, ugly, stupid, a lesbian, a slut or a variety of other demeaning things.

The inherent problem here is that girls are simply treated differently than guys within the community. A lot of people don’t think think of that as a problem, but to me, it’s the biggest issue of all. Every thought about a girl is filtered through the very idea that she is female, while thoughts on guys are just thoughts, with no relationship with the gender of the person being thought about. Geeky girls are thought of as girls first and geeks second, while the guys are just geeks. Issues of male privilege within geek culture are shrugged off most of the time, because girls are still outnumbered by guys in large ratios. The first step towards making it better though is making people notice it, and I’ve watched my nerdy female friends stand up for themselves in greater and greater numbers. Hopefully change is in the near future, but let’s keep talking about it even while it’s in the works.

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