The Misogyny & Entitlement of Nerd Culture

Friday, May 30, 2014

The 1980s classic, "Revenge of The Nerds." (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

All this week, people around the U.S. have been discussing sexism and sexist behavior, and the influence sexist stereotypes often have on what's frequently called "nerd culture."

On the big screen, we've all seen the old story of the geeky guy lusting after the girl—think Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles, or when the lovable geek Lewis get the popular sorority sister in Revenge of The Nerds.

In the movies and in video games, the "geek" usually gets her—his prize. But what if he doesn't get the princess? How does he handle rejection? Without the Hollywood script and laugh track, these stories play out much differently in real life.

When you always see yourself as the victim—the geek bullied by the jocks—can you ever see yourself as the bully?

Elliot Rodgers didn't. After he killed six people at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he left behind a shocking manifesto—a misogynistic tirade against women who had rejected his advances.

It was a dark and terrifying document, but nerd champion Arthur Chu says he's heard tamer versions of the same sentiment before: Angry nerds mad about rejection from the opposite sex.

Arthur says it all stems from the tired tale of geek meets girl, geek relentlessly goes after girl, girl finally gives in and geek lives happily ever after—the nice guy syndrome where it doesn't actually matter if the girl gets her happy ending.

A champion of nerd culture, Arthur won Jeopardy 11 nights in a row and wrote about the misogyny of nerd culture as a columnist for the Daily Beast. Today he weighs in on sexism and nerd culture, and why triumph by “getting the girl” isn't always the answer.

Guests:

Arthur Chu

Editors:

T.J. Raphael

Comments [30]

Tessie from Canada

@Roy from Queens

No, it doesn't mean nobody should approach anybody, it means if the woman (or man) they are approaching, politely or directly says no, then it's no. It means it's not cute to continue to pursue someone after they have made it clear they are not interested. It means nobody is entitled to be with someone because they persisted long enough. Too many people confuse being passive aggressive as being nice.

Jul. 22 2014 08:18 AM
Fidelbogen from USA

The author of this article refuses to identify as either feminist or non-feminist. By leaving the reader in the dark about that information, it renders the article very difficult to "read" - i.e. place in a political context.

Hence, the article has very little value except as an object lesson in how NOT to write about certain issues, in a time when the entire feminist narrative is subject to a growing cultural critique.

Does the author simply wish to avoid the fray altogether? We can't help wondering.

Jun. 10 2014 11:39 PM
Nightwing1029

"When you always see yourself as the victim—the geek bullied by the jocks—can you ever see yourself as the bully?"
No. Women can't see themselves as the bullies.
This article is full of lies.
First, let's look at Roger. He hated everyone! That's not misogyny. That is known as misanthropy.
Second, he killed and injured far more men, than he did women.
Third, the only reason he even got any press, is for the same reason this article got published. It panders to women, and their constant fear of anything they can not control.
You point to it not mattering if the girl get's her happy ending. In reality, it's the exact opposite. The guy strives, and often works himself to near death, to give a woman exactly what she (says) she wants.
Who is really the one that would be happy?

Jun. 10 2014 11:24 PM
Jens

Yes, us nerds and physically unattractive men dreaming of not being judged on our looks and being treated as persons certainly is wrong! The idea that a physically unattractive man can DO or SAY anything or ACT someway to become more attractive ito women is certainly dangerous. Such men shoukd of course realise that a man being physically unattractive makes him completely worthless. To teach them this should be the most important priority of feminism!

Jun. 05 2014 11:46 AM
Gary W from CT

The cure for misogyny resides in the hands of fathers. Teach your sons to live and behave respectfully and with compassion to all. Model for your sons. Set an personal example as an antidote to the culture of entitlement. Take the first step regardless of your own personal history and experience. Make the change.

May. 31 2014 10:05 AM
Tanya from Oregon

While it was interesting to hear Mr. Chu's perspective, I was frustrated with JH's comment about not talking about misogyny if weren't for guns, and acting as if Mr. Chu's theories were groundbreaking news. Women have been talking and writing and talking and writing about these issues for decades. Maybe misogyny is making headlines now, but it's not new. The fact that even a subset of men think they can own women makes ALL women, at the very least, subject to discrimination and unwanted advances.

May. 30 2014 09:41 PM
William Finke from Port Chester, New York

Elliot Roger was bound to get a reaction, and a trip down misogyny lane seems to fit right in. Still, he hated the men who attained what he imagined he needed almost as much as he hated the women he saw with them. No god in his life; no dog either. He lived in a fantasy for a long time; another child bastardized by a divorce and other disadvantages. Sometimes it almost seems one can get away from suffering, but god watches, and waits.

May. 30 2014 06:50 PM
William Finke

Elliot Roger was bound to get a reaction, and a trip down misogyny lane seems to fit right in. Still, he hated the men who attained what he imagined he needed almost as much as he hated the women he saw with them. No god in his life; no dog either. He lived in a fantasy for a long time; another child bastardized by a divorce and other disadvantages. Sometimes it almost seems one can get away from suffering, but god watches, and waits.

May. 30 2014 06:48 PM
Mark

Can you imagine if you had a segment about misogyny in the African-American community and you based it all on a bunch of clips of cliched "in da hood" Hollywood movies? This was more like a segment about stereotypes about nerds that people get from the mass media than an actual discussion of geek or nerd culture. Who do you suppose is doing all the raping on college campuses, huh? The geeks up all night in the engineering lab? Or the journalism major douchebag pretending to interview chicks at the local dive bar? Spare me, "bro". Why was it that when the Take Away first started the female hosts were replaced multiple times but the odious Hockenberry was never shown the door? Check your own misogyny.

May. 30 2014 06:05 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Get Joss Whedon to discuss the difference between nerds, and creeps. In Buffy, he wrote about "The Trio" : three nerds who decide to become supervillians.

Whedon was a "Feminist" Major in College and has written about strong women in Buffy and in "Firefly." I'd love to hear his opinion since he was clearly thinking about the relationship between nerds and misogyny and was writing for a very "nerdy" audience.

May. 30 2014 05:39 PM

I would *really* like to re-iterate that Elliott Rodgers was *not* a nerd. I was rolling my eyes at a lot of this program, but what you've really done is reinforce the societal stereotype that nerd = creep = sexless. Then you launched into a story about the CEO of snapchat and his frat boy-ish ways. Being a programmer is no longer qualification for being a nerd.

Playing video games does not make you a nerd. Being a nerd doesn't make you a creep. Being a creep doesn't mean you're a nerd. Heck, being a nerd doesn't mean you play video games.

I just hate to see public radio spreading these ideas as though they're the assumed truth. You're supposed to challenge the status quo, not reinforce it. You are reinforcing the idea that nerds are to be shunned, ignored, and the nerds better accept it or else. Great job bullying the people who are very sensitive to it.

These expectations are all wrapped up into a neat little package. Then take Elliott, who grew up (basically) in Hollywood. Everyone seems to ignore the deeply materialistic- and status-based worldview of Elliott. He had nothing to do with nerds or nerd culture. To conflate the two is a deeply troubling thing.

May. 30 2014 04:55 PM
Kathryn Scrivener from 97202

I don't want to take away from this excellent discussion about misogyny (gee whiz -- there are far too few of those) BUT Elliot Rodgers *only* shot two females. He stabbed three males and shot another random male during his rampage. Misogyny may be a leading indicator of a dangerous kind of hatred, but ER did not seem to discriminate when it came to his actual "retribution" (his term for it). Six innocents are dead, but only two of them were women. All of them were human, though.

May. 30 2014 03:50 PM
John A

Misogyny & Entitlement of Single males: no good.
Misandry & bashing in single females: equally bad.
Between both is a culture that values sex over love and can have people crowing over sex without attachment or love. It was supposedly a greater freedom. Instead in the premarried agegroup I see a lot of bullying, from both sides, to preserve the male-camp female-camp split (but the sex has to remain, apparently). Less sex and more love is the simple answer to it all. Can we talk without being judged physically, for starters?
Now to read all these comments.

May. 30 2014 03:31 PM
steven from Columbia, SC

I think the point JH was making about guns is that it is too bad it took such a rampage to bring the "misogyny" into the public airwaves.
Nearly 100 years ago, the psychiatrist Alfred Adler wrote about what he called, at first, the Masculine Protest; and later called this Inferiority Feelings. Specifically, he spoke of the cultural values that de-value the female in so many ways, so that there is an internal protest that "I am a man!" reflecting the person's feelings of inferiority. Nowdays, even the college girls will say it is important to "man up," and "don't be such a girl," indicating de-valuation. There have been many discussions of this, from job discrimination to female politicians and business leaders being judged on their hair or dress, and so on.

May. 30 2014 03:30 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

My girlfriend took one look at Eliot Rogers video and called him "an entitled good looking creep." Nerd was not part of her description.

There is a huge difference between a nerd and a creep; nerds are childlike and more innocent than creeps who decide that the only way to get things in life is by being mean spirited and act out on their dark thoughts.

I have had both nerds and creeps in my life. You just need to have the intelligence to recognize the subtle differences between the two groups. Nerds will crush me in a game of chess and gloat about it. Creeps destroy the board, and try to put my eye out with the Rook.

I am not saying that I haven't met nerds who might have misogynistic ideas,but they do not cross the line into creepdom of hurting anyone else but themselves. All nerds must have low self esteem. Long live the nerd!

May. 30 2014 01:51 PM
Jan from Seattle

This is why I listen to public radio. What a great discussion about the nuances of male/female behavior toward each other. I'm so tired of admiration for "Game of Thrones" and "Wolf of Wall Street" because they are so "well made", have such a "great story", in spite of their relentless perpetuation and even glorification of the subservient female role. We protest the way women are treated in other cultures but are reluctant to talk about the objectification of the "Western" woman in all of our media. But this discussion goes a lot way toward understanding the dynamics of the situation as do the comments above. I suggest a look at the movie, "Her", for a different take on nerd love, and perhaps its future, as well as Louie C.K's recent take on the treatment of the fat girl for more discussion.

May. 30 2014 01:30 PM
Stacy from Oregon

No Roy, it's about an angry reaction when a guy's advances are turned down. It's terrifying to me as a woman because I never know at what level that anger will be, regardless of how polite or nice I try to be about it. It comes out of nowhere sometimes (the anger, the sense of owning you because you tried). The level of vitriol you can receive from saying "no thanks" can be very intense, and I've had guys stalk me and try to exact revenge, all because they asked someone on a date and they said no thanks. Stop perusing us like we're possessions that you are entitled to just because you want us.

May. 30 2014 12:53 PM
Catherine from Eugene, OR

I would like to hear a discussion the origins of these entitled attitudes. No one seems to be talking about all the easily available pornography that young teens view and how that may be shaping their attitudes. Porn used to be available in specific shops or mailed to your house in a plain wrapper. Both of those ways of accessing it were not so readily available to young people. Access has changed and so have attitudes. Any relationship?

May. 30 2014 12:52 PM
CAROLINE from NJ/USA

Right on, Mr. Chu, and thank you for your insight and sensitivity. Would that all men and women could mature into less name calling and more reflecting on: How does this pertain to me?

It's less about credentials and more about a regular person writing a thoughtful opinion piece, and have it go viral ~ spurring this needed conversation.

Having lived for over 60 years and being a woman, I've experienced some of the behavior that's being discussed. I did not understand the, "entitled" mentality back then. It went over my head when I was in my teens and twenties, and I fear, maybe even into my 30s. However, it's more a pervasive cultural attitude than we'd like to admit.

Family culture also has a big part to play, I think. Once a person matures, and if they are well balanced, awkward situations can be handled with more finesse, saving feelings on all sides, but if someone is mentally ill, in a culture where guns are held in high esteem, and male dominance is overly acceptable - then all bets are off for a positive outcome.

May. 30 2014 12:49 PM

I am glad the topic of entitlement was brought up, but aiming at a subculture and using an expert basing his beliefs on entertainment-clips and his own skeletons was a poor choice. Yes, unrelieved sexual tension can lead to bad things happening (in intelligent non-muscled people, in priests, in soldiers away from home) and that should be addressed, but one psycho doesn't mean that men or women should feel shame for wanting things or feeling they deserve something in life. We dream of mansions and castles, princes and princesses, and that gives us energy and direction - it is ok and natural to want and fight for what we want, and it is ok to say 'no', and is ok to re-educate people about what is ok and not ok in their actions / how to not be creepers and still have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Oh, and the reason guns were brought into the conversation was because people were shot (with guns), props for not shying away from that, it is part of this event.

May. 30 2014 12:47 PM
Roy from Queens

"Stacy from Oregon

Thank you for saying what has been an underlying dynamic between boys and girls/men and women for a long time. I am a strong woman who has traveled alone to a number of countries, challenged myself, etc. but one of the things I fear most is when some random guy decides that he likes me and the mine field of how to get out it unscathed.

Call it the culture of possession, but in our society if a guy decides he likes a woman, regardless of whether he's been given a reason to "peruse" her, and she doesn't respond positively, then she is met with anger. It's worse if the guy makes an effort, in his mind you owe him, regardless of whether you encouraged it. Try to let him down easily, you're a tease, try to be direct and honest to avoid it dragging on, you're a bitch. The level of vitriol is terrifying and something every woman has had to deal with."

So, nobody should approach anyone? I'm at a loss here.

May. 30 2014 12:36 PM
Crystal from Portland, OR

I give The Takeaway huge credit for being the first news organization to use the word "misogyny" in its coverage of this issue. This is a huge step. The culture of misogyny and its subtle subtexts of men's entitlement to women's bodies and attentions.

I am disappointed that they chose a man to represent women's concerns. His article was fantastic, don't get me wrong. It made me sad to hear two guys talking it over, none of which have any pedigree in either women's studies, sociology, or psychology.

Maybe we're not ready to hear it from a woman's tongue, I don't know. Maybe it would be too harsh, too shrill. No matter, that time is rapidly passing.

May. 30 2014 12:31 PM
Stacy from Oregon

Thank you for saying what has been an underlying dynamic between boys and girls/men and women for a long time. I am a strong woman who has traveled alone to a number of countries, challenged myself, etc. but one of the things I fear most is when some random guy decides that he likes me and the mine field of how to get out it unscathed.

Call it the culture of possession, but in our society if a guy decides he likes a woman, regardless of whether he's been given a reason to "peruse" her, and she doesn't respond positively, then she is met with anger. It's worse if the guy makes an effort, in his mind you owe him, regardless of whether you encouraged it. Try to let him down easily, you're a tease, try to be direct and honest to avoid it dragging on, you're a bitch. The level of vitriol is terrifying and something every woman has had to deal with.

May. 30 2014 12:27 PM
Patricia Newkirk from Seattle

Thank you. Yes it happens every day. I would love to hear someone pull this through the issue if rape in the military.

May. 30 2014 12:22 PM
Roy from Queens

"@John H from USA

JH "if there were no guns, we wouldn't be having this conversation"
Maybe that's the problem, ever think of that John Hockenberry?
What do guns have to do with this?
Women are raped and gun or no gun it happens.
Women are murdered, and gun or no gun they die.
Women are harassed&threatened and gun or no gun it happens.
Stop trying to push your gun agenda to divert attention from the violence women have been suffering long before guns came along.
Women are stoned to death in parts of the world, I would love to hear your "Guns" theory creep into that human rights conversation. Ever stop to think you can speak about the violence directed towards women without bringing your bullSh*t Guns conversation into it."

In this context, John, an awkward male (teen or adult), who doesn't get along with people, doesn't necessarily use guns against his "enemies". They, like Michelangelo, often kill themselves.

My problem is Mr. Chu's belief/projection that every male nerd has brooding misogynistic feelings after being slighted and seeing a need of sexual friendship/companionship. The Santa Barbara shooter was just a bag of misanthropism who hated women he couldn't connected with and hated men who could. For Mr. Chu to ignore his mental illness and emphasize on the "women-hating nerd" complex does absolutely nothing in terms of both men and women, let alone human beings, connecting with each other. "Entitlement?" Since when does being with someone of the same or other sex, attractive or otherwise, is considered "entitlement"?

May. 30 2014 12:01 PM
Sidney from Florida

Could not believe that we are listening to this guy. He only has a BA in History. I have worked with many doctors, psychologists and neuro- psychologists whom have spent their entire adult lives studying these types of personalities. Why don't you interview them? This guy is making so many misstatements about personality profiles. No wonder American's are so misinformed - we listen to "marketing pieces" from "reputable" radio stations that barely have a shred of truth in the content, if that.

May. 30 2014 11:44 AM
John H from USA

JH "if there were no guns, we wouldn't be having this conversation"
Maybe that's the problem, ever think of that John Hockenberry?
What do guns have to do with this?
Women are raped and gun or no gun it happens.
Women are murdered, and gun or no gun they die.
Women are harassed&threatened and gun or no gun it happens.
Stop trying to push your gun agenda to divert attention from the violence women have been suffering long before guns came along.
Women are stoned to death in parts of the world, I would love to hear your "Guns" theory creep into that human rights conversation. Ever stop to think you can speak about the violence directed towards women without bringing your bullSh*t Guns conversation into it.

May. 30 2014 11:27 AM
Stephanie Golden from Brooklyn NY

Seems to me the comments about nerds are off the point. I doubt that in this case the issue was nerdiness. This poor young man had serious psychological problems--'socially awkward' doesn't begin to cover it. People pick up on that and it must have been downright scary to be approached by him. Any woman who's been asked out by a guy who gives off disturbing vibes knows what that feels like. It feels creepy, not to say unsafe, and you feel you must protect yourself. And of course that was something Elliot Rodgers couldn't have realized.

May. 30 2014 09:31 AM

Most conversations of this type which promise to discuss male-vs-female sexism with intelligence and perspective usually fall very short of it's supposed purpose and turns out to be nothing more than soft sexism which essentially encourages women to be stereotypes in a subtle way to the benefit of patriarchy. However this talk between Mr. Hockenberry and Mr. Chu defied what can usually be expected (and what you can usually expect is to learn nothing that you should learn) and it brought up the right questions and more than that, the appropriate replies if not the right answers.
This conversation was on target with it's context.

May. 30 2014 09:31 AM
Michelangelo from Miami FL

The athletes in college have been accused, right or wrong, of sexually assaulting women for the longest time. But it's the one awkward guy who goes violent that "ignites" some kind of "women are in danger" dialogue in the media? Typically, in real life, the awkward guy ends up killing himself. Where's the article about that?!

I've heard many of them talk about how they're supposed to be respectful to women - some to the point of being afraid of women. But they observe other guys being more aggressive towards women and it works. Every women I've dated wants a guy to be aggressive. They've come across guys more and less aggressive and have mentioned to pros and cons about both types.

Maybe folks should talk about teaching boys AND girls the socially acceptable balance of respectful and aggressiveness so that they don't grew up to be predators or prey in our society.

May. 30 2014 09:27 AM

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