so when we talk about bullying
April 28, 2014
So I read this okay-ish piece encourage men in tech to grow up and it is fine, for what it is.
Except that in the section where he talks about geek boys and how many of them were bullied, and how many use this as a derailing tactic, it occurred to me that there is one part of this discussion re: bullying, that so often is left out (even if unintentionally b/c it is somewhat beside the point of the post)…
Namely, the experience of geeky girls and being bullied as children. As the piece notes:
It follows that the once-bullied would grow up to be “sensitive” adults, but I often find myself shocked by the lack of empathy displayed by folks who have been through such harrowing experiences. Why are “nerds” who once felt threatened and excluded now actively threatening and excluding others—especially those who dare to point out the systems which now give those “nerds” power and privilege they once ostensibly lacked?
This framing of the ‘I was a bullied kid’ derail fundamentally frames nerdy children as necessarily being boys. Not too surprising given how men are usually understood as the default person and their experiences universal and generalizable to everyone else.
The lack of empathy and sensitivity displayed by guy nerds who may have been bullied as young geeky boys, is all the more striking when you consider the fact that marginalized people (generally, but especially the likewise nerdy ones) don’t often display the same lack of empathy or willingness to understand.
Part of this relates to the later comments about how ‘geeks inherit the earth’ (again, making it clear that the ‘geek’ is always a boy/man), teaches young white geeky boys that they, despite current troubles, are still entitled to everything that all white, cis, hetero men are told belongs to them (essentially, the world and all its riches).
This also, in part, answers the question he asks about why bullied geeky boys grow up to be gleeful participants in a system that systematically privileges them at every turn. I mean… ‘why’ is not a good questions because the benefit to them is pretty well demonstrated by much of what is going on today. Rather, the real question is why wouldn’t they? Unfortunately, it appears that appeals to their better, empathetic natures does little good. Or appeals to the fact that this is, in fact, the right thing to do.
Can we actually start seeing some articles and posts talking about the experiences of young geeky girls getting bullied? About how, very likely to their dismay1, after hearing things like ‘the geeks shall inherit the earth’ and realizing that, now that they are grown up and able to be a geek, they are still getting bullied? About how some of these bullied boys were also, at the same time, bullies themselves?
What I want is to start seeing this narrative become more nuanced and complex. I want to, even in talking about these things, for boys to stop being the ‘geek default’. Because, I very much do know many girls who were bullied for being ‘brains’ and ‘nerds’. And while, yes, some of these same girls have grown up to be the ‘I got mine, so screw you’ type, far fewer of them appear to have grown up to be gleeful participants in a toxic, abusive, and oppressive tech culture?
Basically, what about the girls?