What Are Misogynist Geeks So Afraid Of?

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, April 18, 2014 12:54 EDT
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Dr. Nerdlove has a new column up about the latest in an unending parade of attempts by angry misogynist geeks to drum out any woman who dares utter an actual opinion (though mindless adulation from women remains, as always, welcome) about things like comic books or video games. The latest victim is Janelle Asselin, an established comics editor who wrote a critique of a cover of Teen Titans where she pointed out that it’s gross putting the kind of breast implants that you only get for breast implant fetish porn on the body of Wonder Girl, who is supposed to be 16.

For this, she got the predictable onslaught of rape threats and other abuse. Read more at Dr. Nerdlove for the rundown on what happened and why it sucks. I particularly like his denunciation of people who try to derail the discussion with a bunch of red herrings and other nonsense:

Whenever the subject of how women are treated in geek culture comes up, people will immediately rush to dismiss and diminish and derail the conversation. They will argue that everyone takes shit online. Or that women just need to learn to grow a thicker skin because this is how the big boys do it. There will be people who want to say “it’s important to note that guys get this too!” or rush to complain that it’s not all men who do this. They will want to play “devil’s advocate” or complain that they don’t harass women so it’s unfair for people to bring it up because it’s “tarring men with a broad brush” or maligning otherwise well-meaning dudes so just shut up about it already because it’s not really a problem anyway because theirfriend is totally a woman and is cool with this shit and never gets threatened.

Again, read his post to see all this stuff put down effectively. No need to reinvent the wheel here. I have another question, and it’s one that’s been bothering me for years now as I watch this sort of thing happen again and again: What are the misogynist geeks so afraid of?

I’m serious. What’s the worst thing that could happen if women were able to write criticisms of the objectification and marginalization of female characters in comic books and video games, all without being silenced and derailed with a bunch of abuse from Dudes With Serious Issues? Quite literally, the worst that could happen is that their criticisms are heard and artists and developers cut it out. Wonder Girl’s tits would get smaller. There would be fewer women in video games begging the hero to  kill them rather than let them live this way. More women would be doing things and fewer would be dead stuffed in refrigerators. Oh boy, sounds terrible. Sounds like a hellscape that would destroy the very souls of men. (This is sarcasm, for the overly literal.)

Take this shitstorm for example. Do these guys really need Wonder Girl to have comically huge anti-gravity boobs? Do they have some kind of debilitating sexual fetish wherein they can’t get aroused unless staring at a woman drawn this way? If so, that’s a bummer, especially since it means a sex life that is entirely masturbation-based, since real women don’t look this way. Even women who get surgery to look this way don’t really look this way. Sucks for them, but honestly, even if that’s true, it’s not like there isn’t a bunch of hand-drawn porn to meet your needs. You aren’t entitled to have comics meant for general audiences drawn to meet your very rare sexual fetish. I mean, it’s not like furries or people who get off on balloon-popping expect the mainstream non-porn media to meet their needs. They make their own porn.

No, I expect that it’s not because there’s a widespread problem of this specific sexual fetish in the geek community that, for some reason, cannot be met elsewhere. I suspect it’s something else entirely. I suspect that what misogynist geeks get out of media that treats women like they are a sex class put here to serve men is a cheap and unearned boost of self-esteem. It feels good to believe that, by virtue of being born male, you get to believe you’re automatically better than half the human race and moreover, that they exist to serve you. Having that belief challenged is scary. It might mean that, in order to feel good about yourself, you need to have something more going on than the fact that you’re carting a penis around in your pants. You might have to develop skills and become more interesting yourself. You might have to actually level up instead of feeling like you were already born there.

You see, as a big punk and indie rock fan, I witnessed something similar happen in the 90s in that scene. Women who wanted to play instruments in rock bands got a lot of shit from dudes. A lot of men who otherwise thought of themselves as progressive and enlightened would immediately bunch up the second they saw a woman playing guitar. This woman could do something they couldn’t do, or could do it better. The possibility that they weren’t inherently better just by virtue of being male was raised. So they tried to shut it down, reassert themselves and their social superiority, usually through sexual harassment, which is the cheapest and easiest way for a man to assert his male privilege. It sucked. Women fought back. Sexists dudes heckled louder.

Eventually, however—in no small part because the ugly attempts to assert male privilege started to evolve into bands like Limp Bizkit, showing exactly how much of an intellectual embarrassment misogyny really is—the women started winning. Nowadays, you go to clubs and women are up there playing and by and large, they are left alone. Occasionally some asshole will try to say something, but it’s a lot better than it used to be, by a long shot. The number of women on stage in punk and indie clubs seems much higher to me than it did when I was in my late teens and early 20s.

And let me tell you, the world didn’t end. You hear all sorts of dark warnings from misogynist geeks about the hell that awaits their community if the feminists get the upper hand: The end of creativity and flirting and possibly sexual intercourse. Having been through this before, I can safely say none of that happened. People are still creative—more so in many ways, now that the brain trust has doubled. Sex continues to happen. Probably more so, since women tend to feel more open to having random conversations with new men when they are less worried about being sexually harassed. Life goes on. It’s just more peaceful and, frankly happy. I mean, I don’t know what happens to men whose sole source of self-esteem is their gender in these circumstances. Then again, I don’t really care.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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