I’m pretty dismayed that in the new damn millennium, the term “NERD” is gendered. Nerd. Geek. Gamer. Otaku. If you’ve attended a comic con or anime con or gaming con any time in the past ten years, it’s empirically observable that these terms apply to people of all genders. Yet there are those in the new damn millennium who feel that these terms are reserved for men. SMBC Theater has a sketch that accurately portrays this nerd-shaming phenomenon.

Sadly, this satirical sketch isn’t too far from the truth. Two recent incidents in the comics nerdosphere highlight the so-called “Nerd Girl Thing.” Comics web journalist Dirk Manning shared a meme on his facebook page that says “Dear girls who take pictures in slutty clothes & glasses & label the caption ‘nerd lol’ You’re not a nerd; you’re a whore who found glasses.” Dirk clarifies that he didn’t intend to call anyone a whore. He agreed with the sentiment and he objected to women objectifying themselves to pander “to what they see as the lowest common denominator of the social hierarchy (‘nerds’) in desperate bids for attention.” Ugh, it hurts to even copy and paste that.

In a similar vein, comic artist Tony Harris called out cosplayers who dress up for attention from nerds but don’t know a thing about the characters they are portraying. His facebook post is pretty long and pretty angry.

Checking my “Give a Shit” stat.

Oh… I don’t give a shit!

From time immemorial, nerds have been the social outcasts of the playground. Long taunted by jocks, cheerleaders, and even the band kids, nerds have been shunned by almost every strata of the pre-college hierarchy. We know what it feels like to be bullied, to be picked on, to be shamed. And now that nerdom is becoming mainstream and attracting non-outcasts, now we turn around and do the same?

Grow. The fuck. Up.

I don’t understand why you would want to keep awesome things to yourself. Awesome, nerdy things must be shared if we want more awesome nerdy things. We wouldn’t have awesome comic book movies if non-nerds didn’t buy tickets.

To me, beyond comics or toys or Kamen Rider, at its core Nerdom is about acceptance. Accepting who you are and not measuring or judging yourself by other’s so called standards is the very essence of Nerdom. And in turn, accepting others for who they are or choose to be is all a part of that. Why do you give a shit if a girl where’s a costume because she thinks its awesome yet has no idea who the character is? At least she’s comfortable enough with herself to go out in the world dressed in something fucking rad. That’s nerd to me.

To anyone who’s ever been accused of being a poseur by a butthurt nerd, you can hang out with the rest of us. Those dudes think their lawn is shrinking. The rest of us recognize that nerdom grows stronger with more of us so come on in and join the party!

  • FmF!

    You know if a women go out her way to make and model a costume after a character and then go cost playing as the character she just a different kind of nerd.She not a comic book/manga/book nerd she’s a sewing nerd.She enjoy sewing and this a place is where she can show off her skill.I see no problem with that.Beside if she like the costume enough wouldn’t that make it easier for you to convince her to look in to the series?

    Also yes there are people out there who trying to use nerd culture for some kind of gain but I’m more worry about the CEO of the company’s who owns the rights to what we enjoy, and who have again and again have proven they do not care for their property then some women who may or may not fit in to what ever narrow idea of what I think the culture actually mean.

  • Michael R.

    Watch one Twillight or Emo-Spiderman-Movie… Now, tell me again about mainstream-nerddome. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/aenya.silverleaf Aenya Hiri Silverleaf

    How long do I have to be a nerd in order to be a “real” one? What nerd activities must I participate in? Can I like Lord of the Rings and not like Superman? Or is it forbidden? Do I have to read the comics in order to know I like or dislike the characters that were portrayed in the movies based on the franchise? Sure they’re not accurate depictions, but have you ever seen any movie adaptation that’s 100% on the spot? Does me not reading comics render me incapable of liking something? Does not knowing a character’s full biography that spans over twenty years of various comic appearances make me discluded from the fandom centred on that character? It’s too subjective. We aren’t all nerdy about the
    same things and we don’t all participate in nerd culture the same way. By attempting to make ourselves the arbiters of being a “nerd”, we create a space that’s hostile and more like a high school clique than an inclusive culture. Which, frankly, hurts industries like comics a lot. Mainly because we alienate huge audiences with this attitude. The idea that women are not “real” nerds, or have no right to discuss nerd topics is just damned stupid. Men simply just don’t have to day after day deal with the assumption that they don’t belong, automatically, because of their gender. They aren’t required to “prove” their dedication to a fandom based on their gender. They aren’t asked to dress differently. They aren’t called specifically gendered insults if they don’t meet a given person’s standards. I don’t even remember the amount of times I’ve been looked at with an extremely scrunched up face whenever I told someone in that fandom that I’ve always been really into Star Wars but fell out of the loop a while back. I had to fight tooth and nail to prove that the Expanded Universe was my life for a while, when the real world didn’t really get in the way with it. And at some point I stopped trying because I didn’t NEED TO appease someone’s sense of judgment, to prove that I am adequate enough to call myself a fan, and THAT apparently just meant that I was lying all along. It’s a double-edged sword and I just WISH I could have a magic wand that would turn all men into women just once so they could deal with this crap at least once. This is basically why I don’t participate in basically ANY fandom anymore that doesn’t “pander to women” at least a little bit either with the plot or characters or art or who knows what else. The objectification and sexist and misogynistic views of the men involved in the “really nerdy” stuff made me turn around and just keep it to myself, if it didn’t ruin the enjoyment of the thing completely. Anyway, no matter how other people may arbitrarily disapprove of us or how we display our nerdery individually, some women are nerds, deal with it guys. No meme will change that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aenya.silverleaf Aenya Hiri Silverleaf

    Whoa rant much. SORRY.

  • Kyle Wright

    This is just one of the reasons why I consider you a friend.

  • Rex

    I guess the thing that people take offence to isn’t actually the sharing of fandoms- It’s the damage to the reclusiveness of shared ostracism.

    When I was a kid, a nerd was a hateful, miserable thing to be. You don’t define yourself as a nerd, it’s something you try to avoid, but people labelled you with. Anything else was better than being the nerd/geek/dork- the one people pushed around and kicked and ostracised. I’m not sure how it was for girls- I went to an all-boy’s highschool, but I’m willing to bet they received a lot less physical violence over it.

    Real “Nerds” still get bullied. The kid (or adult, I guess) with glasses and poor social skills still gets kicked in the mud by the popular kids. Except now his conventions and escapes and fan groups are being filled with the popular people that he can’t interact with on any sensible level.

    I’m not a fan of this trend of “nerdy is cool”- “I am a nerd”- “I am proud to be a nerd” because when people think of it, they’re not thinking about the overweight, smelly, ugly, skin problem, eating disorder kind of nerd- they’re thinking about Big Bang Theory. Or the linguist guy on StarGate or whatever- and they’re just NOT nerds in the older sense of the word. Noone’s kicking these people and labelling them.

    For sure, everyone can and should enjoy everything the entertainment industry has to offer, and by all means- enjoy cosplay and conventions and fandoms etc- but maybe keep in mind that the nerd isn’t getting his time in the sun. People are just taking what little light he has from him.

  • antonio

    Why do you give a shit if a girl where’s a costume because she thinks its awesome yet has no idea who the character is? At least she’s comfortable enough with herself to go out in the world dressed in something fucking rad. That’s nerd to me.

    I disagree with your definition of nerd. What exactly about wearing a rad costume is “nerd” ? Most nerds I know do not wear rad costumes ever. If they do happen to be wearing a rad costume, the fact it is rad is a mere accident, and they are wearing the costume because they love the character/comic/movie/series whatever. They probably do in fact know the character’s backstory inside out.

    At the same time I hardly think we should chastise people who wear rad costumes even if they know absolutely nothing about the character. Nerd or not nerd, who gives a shit. More people wearing rad costumes, yes please.

  • Michael R.

    I had a little talk with a real hard-core death and black-metal … nerd and musician. Who once chased a wrist cutting emo around a metal concert (with a single growl), because that twerp told him he’s a huge fan of this and this band too, like him. Couldn’t stop laughing after hearing it. Maybe it’s that,

    if you always get bullied or yelled at, for beeing yourself, you don’t want to see an attention seeking kid, pretending to be like you, just because your hobby is the latest trend for some time. I was a nerd, I am a nerd and as long as my brain and soul stay intact I’ll be a nerd. Geek Pride!!!

  • FmF!

    If you can change all guys in to girls we will just play with our boobs all day.Yes we are idiots.Joking aside as far as I care even knowing what the extended universe is enough for me say your a nerd and to hug you out of sympathy for going through the trauma of what amount to being 20 years of fanfics.

    Given I’m not a women it very hard for me to encompass the issue you might face so I don’t understand how these things would effect me and I’m probably guilty of some of what you said.Especially the looks you might have gotten when it come to women who like gaming(though it not internal or ill willed) but I don’t think you should have gave up and go to some thing that is more excepting of you(though you can defiantly enjoy that to). Yes you do not need to prove who you are but also you do not need those people to accept you either.Cause hay there what a few million star wars fans all you need is what 5 of them the rest can go fuck them selves.Then again I don’t care if people like me.

  • antonio

    Why do you care at all if the ‘attention seeking kid’ pretends to be like you. If anything you should be flattered.
    Is it just because he did not somehow earn it by being bullied or yelled at ? Well it sounds to me like the emo kid in your story did in fact get bullied and growled at. So there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aenya.silverleaf Aenya Hiri Silverleaf

    I used to participate in three big international Star Wars roleplaying forums, one of them being an Imperial Training Academy for future Praetorians, and I also was in the Fleet Commander’s Honor Guard on the Emperor’s Hammer website, the Tie Corps sub-site, after having served as a Commander for one of the Squadrons of the elite SSSD Sovereign for forever and a day. Such “titles” mean nothing to the “outside fandom” world, but those years, and I was something like 16 at the time, were probably the best years of my SW fun. Being treated equally while completing custom-made missions for the Tie Fighter and X-Wing Alliance games, and feeling no less capable than any other guy (and I was like one of three girls on the whole HUMONGOUS ship) was priceless, now that I look back at it. And then I quit the site, fell out of fandom, and coming back to it again many years later it was like everyone expected me to dress up in the Slave-Leia outfit and that was my only designation. So I fell out even further and I’m not really looking to rejoin again. I tried reading some of the new books but they suck. Or maybe I just came across the ones that suck. So yeah nowadays I just stick to the fandoms where at least some people care whether I have something to say and will value it. And actually most of the ones I like right now don’t “require” any cosplay, so I can’t outwardly be labelled as nerdy anyway. Meh. It just really freaking sucks to have to prove your commitment when it’s questioned just because you have a set of tits.

  • White Rice

    Something I’ve noticed recently is that “nerd” has become the same as “geek” again (nit-picking, I know)

    Anyway, nerd/geek/whatever has changed quite a bit from what it once meant, what with the poor social skills, instant genius level knowlege of everything (save social skills/what is/isn’t “cool”) and poor physiology (either scrawny, overweight, poor eyesight, braces/retainer, breathing problems, lack of muscle mass, etc) to now mean: really likes something. We have gaming nerds, we have math nerds, music nerds, movie nerds, sports nerds, art nerds. There’s a “nerd” or “geek” for everything. If you like something with any sort of passion, you’re a nerd/geek for it, and that’s just how things are now.

    Sure, many of today’s nerds didn’t get the same “nerd treatment” that used to be commonplace in school and life, but that isn’t any reason to ostracize them. People like what they like, how they like it, and if they feel they belong in the nerd/geek social group of said enjoyed thing, then more power to them. It’s less “they’re taking our word” and more “what once made us outcasts is now mainstream” and I’m okay with the idea that people can like what the do, without being looked down upon for it (even if they don’t know everything about whatever it is they like)

    All that rant-y text aside, we don’t need labels, but they’re out there anyway, and regardless of what we lable ourselves, and others, we’re all people, and we all deserve the same basic respect.

  • Michael R.


  • Keysmash

    “but I’m willing to bet they received a lot less physical violence over it.”

    You would lose that bet.
    People think that because the female bullies only use words when the authorities are watching that it ends there, it doesn’t. Also it is assuming to think the the females only get bullied by their own gender (and would therefore be in for gentler treatment from other females), bullies dont care about gender. And the comments on any openly female blogger (or whatever) in a field that men consider to be theirs aptly demonstrates that.

  • Rex

    What planet are you from?
    Yes, members of both genders get “Bullied”, and yes, girls can be physically violent. but No. teenage girls are not as physically violent as boys. Any given boy is much much much more likely to receive a permanent or even fatal injury at the hands of his peers. And an all-boy’s school is a deeply violent and physical place, in my experience far outclassing local co-ed and all-girl’s schools. Are you seriously gonna contest these things?

    Also, you’ve somehow grabbed the only gender-specific statement I made- in hindsight, plainly removed from all my other statements. I take it then you agree with everything else I said? Oh good. We were talking about the changing definition of “nerd” culture. If you want to discuss gender and bullying issues further, please feel free to hit me up at undercoverdojang@gmail.com .

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000593326352 M.f. Lawless

    I have mixed feelings about this. I’ve been a nerd and geek my entire life, but I look like a football player. I’ve never had to put up with the bullying part of being a nerd or geek. I’ve always had tons of friends, and Ive never been socially awkward so does that mean I havent earned my nerd/geek status? Were all my nights reading fantasy books not enough? Does my extensive knowledge and love of comics count for nothing? I find that hard to believe. That being said, I do dislike pretenders. It does make me angry to find someone, man or woman, dressed as a character I love, that I have an emotion attachment too, when they don’t care about the character at all. It feels as though the character is being defiled. I know I don’t own the character and have no claims to who may dress up as them, but it still hurts when I meet someone who knows/cares nothing about who they are trying to portray. It just seems half assed, and disrespectful to the character. Im not agreeing with Harris here though. I dont think its done for attention. Cosplaying is a hobby, and like all hobbies once you actually get into it you want to be around other people who are into it as well. But as a hobby you would think that if they see a character in a costume and they like the way they look, the cosplayer would be interested in knowing more about the character which is the case like 99% of the time. The other time where someone pretends to be into nerd/geek things in order to gain attention and some sort of advantage while looking down on the people they want the attention from (which we should call ‘Pulling a Munn’) I find utterly disgusting.

  • Keysmash

    No, not emailing.

    But you ignored me. Gender doesn’t matter when it comes to bullying. Girls ARE violent, and boys WILL hit girls. You did not automatically have it worse than a girl in an all girl school just because it was boys hitting you.

    I went to coed. A girl pushed me down a flight of stairs, a boy threw a basketball at my face, causing stitches.

    Bullying sucks and it sucks equally for anyone experiencing it. So please, see my point and acknowledge – Gender Does Not Matter.

  • SmilingAhab

    “And now that nerdom is becoming mainstream and attracting non-outcasts, now we turn around and do the same?”

    People generally do what they’re taught, and become what is expected of them.

    The activities typically associated with nerddom do not require social skill or assertiveness, LARPing excluded. It attracts mentally unhealthy people. The people feed off each others’ pain and dysfunction, which becomes amplified in the isolation of the obsession at the core of nerddom, and the whole thing becomes a self-perpetuating abyss.

    Since the consumer trends associated with traditional nerddom is becoming mainstream, the injection of less mentally unhealthy people is forcing many to look into the abyss they have become. Some become hostile at the confidence and social grace (relatively) presented that they themselves have never been able to summon. As well, some feel threatened to see the dilution of what made them special – rare knowledge, even if it is merely trivial. I’d imagine it’s how a wizened magister must feel at the sight of children casually playing with fireballs. WIth each passing year however, less and less of the hardcore crowd is left as a total of the nerd kingdom, or some heal a bit.

    I know it sounds harsh, but to me nerddom is obsessing over various consumer goods that appeal to a sense of minutia and escapism as a means of psychic pain relief. There’s a big difference between trying to fill a hole psychological damage has dug and enjoying a good yarn or toy.

    “I don’t understand why you would want to keep awesome things to yourself.”
    Because they are only half-alive, and live vicariously through the conspicuous consumption of nerddom. They are our zombies. The rest, as White Rice said, have moved on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aenya.silverleaf Aenya Hiri Silverleaf


  • Rex

    Look, I’m not gonna get pulled into this here. I didn’t ignore you, I addressed your points. This discussion is irrelevant to this topic: defining nerddom, so take it to email if you want to discuss it further. Which I’m happy to do.

  • Michael R.

    good nerd!

  • Aurora

    Kyriarchy is the word you’re looking for here. It’s where, within an oppressed minority, different groups appear and start oppressing each other, in an attempt to not be the absolute bottom of the totem pole. Basically, it’s the desperate trying to feel better than they subconsciously are seeing themselves to be.

  • purplelibraryguy

    That’s pretty hostile. Lotta victim-blaming in that little speech. People only get bullied because they’re bad people, apparently.

    No. They got bullied because they were different. In many cases they got bullied quite simply because they *liked to read*. I’m not willing to accept that as a dysfunction or measure of mental unhealth.
    “I know it sounds harsh, but . . .” You don’t sound harsh. You sound like a bully. The brush you’re painting doesn’t paint the instances of nerds turning around and bullying in turn that are being discussed, it smears everyone who’s been bullied because they like something not mainstream.
    Your post is vicious, it’s mean-spirited, and it’s wrong.

  • SmilingAhab

    I am not saying that nerds are beaten up BECAUSE they’re bad people. I am saying that it is wrong to cast nerds as virtuous – people who have to live vicariously through consumer goods to feel adequate are not healthy, good people. Bullying is still wrong, and never called for, but it was your black-on-white morality that set me to the statement.

    Bullies will pick on anyone that cannot fight back, no matter the “stream”; and my statement was not about blaming nerds for being beaten up – my statement was that the same fear and pain that turns people passive turns them aggressive. Neither are good people.

    There’s a difference between “likes to read” and “needs to read to escape the feelings of inadequacy and self-hatred”. While geeks or nerds of all stripes have plenty among their numbers of the former, there’s far more of the latter in nerddom than you are willing to admit.

    “The brush you’re painting doesn’t paint the instances of nerds turning
    around and bullying in turn that are being discussed, it smears everyone
    who’s been bullied because they like something not mainstream.”

    I’d like to know how you arrive at this conclusion when I expressly stated that these nerds that are in turn bullying other nerds in their own passive-aggressive way because there is nothing inherently virtuous in living vicariously and drawing meaning through the consumption of a specific subset of consumer goods, and are in turn responding to perceived threats to the meaning they receive from their products in the only way they know how – the only way a not-so-healthy-in-the-head person would handle perceived threats.

    Your post is so full of defensiveness, I figure I must’ve hit a button on how bad a lot of us are. Because trust me, my massive stacks of Nippon Ichi and Square games and my mint condition Dreamcast with VMUs and Dream Blaster sure as hell don’t make me some Jay-Z loving insecure guido bastard. Just a Nile-loving Sega/Sony fanboy insecure emo bastard. I’ve been tossed around a few times in my day – I’m just not going to lie and say that we are better because we’re less physically violent.

  • FmF!

    So me having a blue lvl 50 light side twi’lek sith healer (I’m unique damn it)with half black hole gear on swtor mean nothing to you?Here I was so proud of her awesomeness.I don’t know really,I believe you should enjoy what you enjoy and fuck every one who say other wise but then again my personalty is kind of a buffer for any of this high school BS.May I recommend a bad attitude, a more excepting disposition to violence,and a shirt saying “I’m not your fucking eye candy”?

    This really all about who allowed in who’s club house and if any thing frats have shown me is that nothing good come from a club house full of guys.

  • purplelibraryguy

    You were responding to my “black-on-white morality”? Answering you was my first post. And, of course, anyone who has a problem with you is “defensive”–the all-purpose “people who disagree with me are wrong” excuse. Pffft.

    Meanwhile, you’re busy claiming lots of nuance now, but your original post showed no signs of what you’re now saying it contained. You said “It [nerddom] attracts mentally unhealthy people. The people feed off each others’
    pain and dysfunction, which becomes amplified in the isolation of the
    obsession at the core of nerddom”. That isn’t a statement about a few bullies, it’s a claim that being a nerd is by definition bad.

    It is in any case rather silly to claim that being a nerd represents an obsession with consumer goods. Lest we forget, Star Trek is a group of TV shows, and many people manage to be rabid fans without buying an ounce of memorabilia. Manga and anime fans often don’t buy a damn thing, they read or watch fansubs on the web. And the cosplayers mostly make their own costumes, or get friends to do it in informal networks. Oh, sure, there are often consumer goods involved in nerd-dom; they’re still in this society and it’s dominated by consumer goods. But the degree is if anything lesser compared to the average citizen. Being a nerd represents an obsession not with goods but with escapism in the form of story and/or imagery. Is that a good thing? Arguable. I recall Tolkien’s aphorism about the subject, to the effect of “And who is it who disapproves deeply of escape? Jailers!” But whether it’s a bad thing or not, it’s a different bad thing from what you’ve come up with; your analysis is flat wrong.

  • bbullock

    I think what it comes down to is that since “nerds” have always been “outcasts,” there is a belief that now the “cool kids” are coming to take over everything important to the nerds.
    Which is idiotic, really; you would think that fans would be happy to meet MORE fans, but in reality, they often just take the opportunity to exclude those who they see (falsely or accurately) as having excluded them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aenya.silverleaf Aenya Hiri Silverleaf

    Hah, my Sith on SWTOR was a lightsider too, it took me forever to try and explain the concept of a different source of power to some of the more elitist nerds, it was a nightmare on philosophy arguments wheels. Shame the game just disappointed me after being hyped for it for years…
    And I’m not saying it means nothing to me, I never did, it means a lot actually. I love it when someone around me genuinely is into something and enjoys the living hell out of it. I won’t judge someone based on what they enjoy, even if it’s really REALLY weird to me. It’s their choice to like it, who am I to tell them any different? That’s why I got this upset over sort of being kicked out of that club house because I’m a girl and apparently “girls aren’t allowed to be “nerdy””. Oh and I’m very not eyecandy to begin with XD If anything, I’d fit the nerd stereotype if I was of the opposite gender :P

  • FmF

    I didn’t have to explain any thing my self.It was like you want healz?Then shut the fuck up and Run the damn Op.My story was my story and you people are back ground noise.Then again I was the most nerdy, considering I was consistently yelling at the screen “why Is my twi’lek the only one in the galaxy that can speak basic?”. No seriously i only ran in to one other that did on the empire side.

    I wasn’t implying that you did.I was jokenly saying your achievement was greater then mine.Then again i wouldn’t even try to compete with you cause I’m a connoisseur of geek culture.I like every thing in it but I’m not to heavily invest in one area over the other.Well you said the only expectation they have of you was to dress up as slave girl Leia ,I can’t think of any other reason they would do that if they weren’t viewing you as some sort of eye candy but I might be taking you too literally.I don’t know,I believe there plenty of room under the same roof and I don’t want to see people push out for just being different.All well,here’s to what ever you enjoy now and hopefully you will not have to go through the same shit again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aenya.silverleaf Aenya Hiri Silverleaf

    Aww, thank you. This calls for a hug :3 !

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  • Anon

    Omg, so agreed!! Nerdom is about being way into something and not being afraid to show it even if it is not mainstream or normal. Cosplay is pretty much that by definition no matter how many or few shits you give about whoever you are cosplaying as.