Tag Archives: geeks

By their fruits you will know them — when people show you who they are, believe them

“Just a reminder. There's not two of you — Internet you and real you. There is just one real you. Which means if you're not kind on the internet, you're not kind.” —Glenn Melton Doyle
“Just a reminder. There’s not two of you — Internet you and real you. There is just one real you. Which means if you’re not kind on the internet, you’re not kind.” —Glenn Melton Doyle
Those of us who are fans of Geek Girl Con had a little scare this week, as a message that seemed to indicate a huge portion of the staff was quitting together came into our mailboxes. The post (also put up on the con’s Facebook page and elsewhere) was carefully crafted to push the outrage buttons of the types of person most likely to be attracted to the con’s spirit of inclusivity. And yes, the outrage machine seemed to be gearing up. But there were enough skeptical people to keep it from snowballing too quickly. And the manner in which the post was made was a big clue for many people: the folks who were resigned hijacked the official Geek Girl Con mailing list to post their vaguely described grievances, and hijacked the official web page to post it, and none of them were willing to sign their names to it. Even before I read it, once I knew that, I knew that it really didn’t matter what their grievances are. Anyone who would hijack the official mailing list and the web page were the kinds of people who needed to be removed from convention staff.

But you don’t have to take my word for it Rob Salkowitz breaks it down nicely: GEEKGIRLCON DEALS WITH THE PAINS OF PROFESSIONALIZATION.

“As anyone who has ever worked for or with a nonprofit can tell you, the transition from volunteer to professional organization is not always smooth. People who contributed to the growth of the organization may feel resentment toward an outsider brought in above them, whose job is to make tough decisions and impose management discipline on previously informal systems. As fair-minded and inclusive as you might want to be in that role, eventually you will piss some people off just because you are the boss and they aren’t.

“It’s not unusual for longtime staffers to quit in these circumstances, sometimes in a huff. Sometimes, to really make a statement, they’ll resign in a group. If there’s something actionable, they can call a lawyer. And if they really want to leave a mark, they’ll take their dispute public via social media.

“But taking over the organization’s official email to blast out their manifesto after they’ve already quit? Nope. NOPE. In no conceivable universe is that ok.”

We now know that all of those who quit were white guys who posted their grievances anonymously (vague claims of being discriminated against by the new executive director who happens to be a woman of color) because they didn’t think they would be taken seriously. And that might have been true no matter what, but the way they did it really shows all we need to know. I’ve been either on staff or closely involved with enough people on staff for a lot of cons to recognize both the dynamic Salkowitz explains above and the circumstances that likely led to the mass resignation. By the way, it was only five guys, out of a staff of a bit over 50, so while it seems like a lot, it certainly isn’t most of the staff, as their post clearly tried to imply.

I could go into more detail about why hijacking the con membership’s list was wrong, how it is triangulation and so forth. But the real reason is this: when I have been in situations where I felt I was the aggrieved party and have been tempted to do such things, I knew that the suggestion was coming from the little devil on one shoulder, and not the little angel on the other. (Although in my imagination it’s the evil fairy tale queen on one shoulder, and a happy glitter-covered fairy on the other).

We come up with rationales for vindictive, angry, destructive behavior all the time. It’s not fair, we say. Or they started it! Or it’s just the internet! Or I was joking! Or you took it wrong! Et cetera and ad nauseum.

Maybe you are right. Maybe you have suffered a great injustice. But here’s the thing: if you win by fighting dirty, that isn’t justice. The ends don’t justify the means. There is a big difference between righteous indignation and vengeful lashing out. Just as there is a difference between cruelty and kindness. How we take a victory or defeat matters just as much as the actual outcome.

Situations are messy and there’s always more than two sides to every story. But every side isn’t equally true, or equally valid, or equally relevant. And sometimes you can tell which side has the fewest facts in their favor by their tactics. And I, at least, can spot a sore loser from miles away. Even when they’re hiding behind anonymity, misleading verbiage, and the furtive fallacy.

There are not two of you. There isn’t literally a devil/evil queen on one shoulder and an angel/good fairy on the other. There’s just you. A noble and just person doesn’t have to resort to dirty tactics. If you’re fighting dirty, even if for a just cause, then you’re not the hero.

Bikini armor madness

I’d had a half-baked idea for a follow-up to yesterday’s blog post, but then a friend posted a link to a tumblr that covers several of the ideas I was going to talk about in a much more funny way:

Bikini Armor Battle Damage The whole tumblr is awesome, but I want especially to draw your attention to three posts:

Not understanding the difference between fictional women and real women

Female Armor Bingo – includes downloadable PDF, rules, and links to t-shirts, mugs, and so forth with the bingo card image.

Bikini Armor Battle Damage: Female Armor Rhetoric Bingo – the perfect companion!

Thank you, Sheryl, for the link yesterday! You’d think, since I already follow The Hawkeye Initiative, Fake Geek Guys!, and Fake Nerd Guys that I would have already known about this, but no, I had missed it!

Old fan, new fan, faux fan, true fan

I first became (remotely) involved in science fiction fandom around 1972. Back then, before the internet, cheap phone calls, personal computers, and so on, most fannish activity was carried out via actual paper transported from one place to another through the U.S. Postal Service. For a shy, gay 12-year-old living in a teeny town in sparsely populated corner of a Rocky Mountain state, being involved in fandom meant subscribing to someone’s ‘zine (short for “fanzine,” itself a portmanteau of “fan” and “magazine”), and writing letters back to people.

Not only was this before personal computers, but this was before affordable photocopiers. Most of those ‘zines were produced on either ditto machines or mimeographs. Which were expensive and required a lot of room for both themselves and supplies. So publishers of ‘zines were generally people who either worked for a school or a church, or were good friends with someone who worked for such an institution and would allow them to use it for person projects.

The ‘zine I subscribed to was produced on a ditto machine, so I would receive three or four sheets of paper covered in pale, fuzzy bluish-purple letters. At the time, there was a controversy about what sort of person was a true fan. The particular dividing line in the debate raging in the pages of the ‘zine was whether people who did not subscribe to one or more of the professional sci fi magazines, but only read short stories when they were collected into anthologies could be considered real fans (trufan), or merely dabblers.

Seriously! Not just whether you read sci fi, but how you read it was a bright dividing line between acceptance into the community or rejection. And being a faithful magazine subscriber wasn’t enough. There were more battle lines drawn. Some readers of Analog looked down on people whose favorite was The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, while readers of World of If didn’t think much of readers of Galaxy (especially after If was bought and merged with Galaxy due to financial problems). And there were always a few older fans who angrily asserted that nothing good had been published since Astounding had changed its name to Analog.

A few years later, it was the Trekkies who were reviled as the interlopers/pretenders trying to ruin fandom. Then as the Star Wars movies became blockbusters and inspired many more movies and television series than any of us had ever hoped to see, the Star Wars fans were consider the fakes in fandom. And so on.

Lately it’s been “geek girls” (a term I use only because so many of them embrace it; shouldn’t it be geek women? or at least geek gals?)—which are fake, which are real, and why should it matter. I do think the chauvinism of a lot of geek boys is more than a little responsible for this particular phenomenon, but I also recognize the pattern going all the way back to the magazines vs anthology books when I first joined up.

Part of it is basic human nature. As social animals who evolved in small groups often competing for resources, we’re hardwired to ascertain which people are members of our tribe or clan, and to identify outsiders. Particularly for those of us who grew up in environments where being a geek meant being viewed with derision at best by our classmates, figuring out which people share our passions feels vitally important.

But no one’s life (or livelihood for that matter) is at stake.

Then there’s the arguments about the difference between geeks and nerds. I once had a guy sneeringly tell me I shouldn’t call myself a geek unless I was a programmer or worked in IT. So told I told him the first program I created that executed correctly had to be loaded into the computer using punch cards. He didn’t seem to understand my joke about what a luxury it was for him to program on a screen, where cut and paste didn’t involve actual scissors. I then casually mentioned my years as a LAN administrator and desktop support tech and hardware qualification tech even though my official job title had been about publications.

Much more recently a guy told me I couldn’t be a geek because I was an Apple fan. So I made a UNIX joke, which he didn’t get. Then I asked him to explain the difference between ∂x (delta-x) and dx, which he couldn’t. Turned out he only knew how to mechanically find the derivative of a function. He had no idea what a derivative actually was.

As funny as I may find these bits of “turn-about is fair play,” I think there is a more serious issue underlying this. I may be a bit prejudiced, since it reminds me of the time decades ago when a small (but very vocal) group became outraged when a gay couple was seen dancing together at a dance at a local sci fi convention. Or the time I bought an old collection of the best sf stories from one of the years in the 60s, only to find the editorial written by a grandmaster author of the genre that was about how “f*ggots” (his exact word) were ruining science fiction, replacing good solid science with social, psychological, and biological commentary.

The question about the so-called soft sciences vs hard is beyond the scope of a single blog entry. But the fake geek girl issue is a natural outgrowth of the false notion that there is a direct and causal link between masculinity and technical skills. And it saddens me to see some geeks buy into the notion by calling others fake simple because of their gender.