I was excited to read Geek Masculinity and the Myth of the Fake Geek Girl. I saw the image macro at the top, and thought, “neat, another image macro like successful black man that turns stereotypes on their head.” Sadly, this is not the origin of what I came to find is called “Idiot Nerd Girl.”
Reviewing the Idiot Nerd Girl images is a little bit painful. Just another reminder of how far we all have to go. As I’ve suggested before, I think everybody gets to chose if they are a misogynist or a feminist and clearly these are produced by misogynists.
Setting that aside, I saw this one and just felt compelled to dig into one particular genre of these images. The one’s that define what gamers are and are not.
For reference The Sims is the most successful video game. Ever. Of all time. Do you know why it is successful? There are several reasons. First, it’s amazing. The Sims is, by almost all accounts, an innovative and engaging game. Will Wright has described it as his greatest achievement. The Sims also succeed where so many games have failed. There are a lot of women who like to play The Sims. Now, there are women who like any and all games. However, in the case of The Sims, there were a lot of women who liked to play it. Importantly, it’s not that men don’t like playing The Sims. There are a lot of men playing The Sims. So it isn’t a game for girls or a game for women it is more accurately a game that is largely gender neutral in terms of audience.
So a girl likes to play The Sims. This apparently means it’s no longer a game, and she isn’t a gamer. Why? I bet there are a million reasons, (it’s not hard enough, or it’s not competitive, etc.) and I know all of them are trash. The Sims doesn’t count as a game (the logic that makes this image work) because a lot of women like it. That’s it. When girls take to technology in many men’s eyes that technology simply ceases to be technology. That’s the case now at least. It wasn’t always that way.
Science is for Girls and Classics is for Boys
Wait, I got that backwards. Right? We need to get more women involved in science! Yes, we do. But there was a time when this was all reversed. The same arguments folks use to support the idea that girls can’t do science were previously used to argue that they couldn’t cut it in classics.
In The Science Education of American Girls: A Historical Perspective historian of education, Kim Tooley, documents “the structural and cultural obstacles that emerged to transform what, in the early nineteenth century, was regarded as a “girl’s subject” into something that became defined as innately masculine. It is a great book. I highly recommend it. The essential point here is that all the reasons for why something is for girls and something else is for boys are basically meaningless. Science was for girls until girls until it had social capitol. At that point, science had always inherently been something that boys were good at. (I’m being a little hyperbolic, but I think the point generally stands).
Idiot Nerd Girl is an Ideology
She is just the most current in a history. Hegemonic masculinity defines computing, defines science, defines whatever, as the things that women aren’t interested in doing. When women become interested in something, that thing either no longer counts (in a situation like The Sims) or the girls are just “pretending” and don’t actually get it. Blergh…
This kind of thing is often just below the surface. It is just so striking that each Idiot Nerd Girl image is such a clear textbook case of the contradictions on display. The meme makers are so unaware that they wear their contradictions on their sleeves.
Thankfully, at this point, it looks like Idiot Nerd Girl is being widely reclaimed.