Saturday, January 10, 2015

Nerd Shaming and Social Justice Warriors

I live in a world where feminists throwing weaponized shame at nerds is an obvious and inescapable part of daily life. Whether we’re “mouth-breathers”, “pimpled”, “scrawny”, “blubbery”, “sperglord”, “neckbeard”, “virgins”, “living in our parents’ basements”, “man-children” or whatever the insult du jour is, it’s always, always, ALWAYS a self-identified feminist saying it. Sometimes they say it obliquely, referring to a subgroup like “bronies” or “atheists” or “fedoras” while making sure everyone else in nerddom knows it’s about them too. 
There continue to be a constant stream of feminist cartoons going around Tumblr featuring blubberous neckbearded fedora-wearing monsters threatening the virtue of innocent ladies.
Every age has its own irrational biases and blind spots, its own witch hunts and lynch mobs mis-characterized as social justice. Has Scott Alexander identified a blind spot, a witch hunt for today's culture? 

Regardless, Alexander's broader point that privilege is not a simple monotonic quality seems correct. In other words, it's at least logically possible for some women, who are oppressed as a group by male privilege, to also oppress other groups, in this case nerds. Nerds may benefit from male privilege even as they are simultaneously oppressed by the privilege of non-nerds. Whether or not this is true, a lot of people seem to want to deny the possibility of axes of privilege which tilt in different directions. 
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