the state or condition of being a fan of someone or something.“my 17 years of sports fandom”
the fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc., regarded collectively as a community or subculture.“the Breaking Bad fandom”
I am a geek. A nerd. I enjoy many things that are typically ascribed to geeks and nerds, including super heroes; Sci-Fi/fantasy stories such as Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire books; baseball (Go, Royals!); the very popular cartoon, Rick and Morty; among others. I thoroughly enjoy these things. I’ve got clothing items, Funko Pop figurines, etcetera. I watch and read fan theories, breakdowns of each episode, YouTubers expressing their opinions and predictions. When it comes to my fandoms, I am erudite and well-informed. But even if I weren’t, that’d be okay, too. The whole point of a fandom is to enjoy something, right? So, why is it so hard for women to be fans of anything, particularly the especially “geeky” or male-centric areas?
In recent years, being a “nerd” or a “geek” has become popular. Superhero movies are crushing the box office, multiple TV shows based on comic books and graphic novels are grabbing the attention of millions, via cable TV channels and Netflix. Geekdom has become popular, and cool. instead of being amongst the bullied, which is how things were in my youth (yes, this dates me a bit), nerds are the rock stars now, which is awesome. There are even people who fake geekdom, exaggerating clothing styles, wearing huge eyeglass frames with no lenses, posing for selfies with a video game console. I’m not at all bothered by these people; if it makes them happy, so be it. But it does speak to the current faddish, fashionable nature of nerdiness.
However, there is a very dark side of the geek world. Misogyny runs rampant. Abusive interaction between some male nerds/geeks and the women who have begun to publicly participate has become commonplace, and in some cases, has even been given a name and trending hashtag: #Gamergate. Any quick Google or Twitter search will reveal vile, cruel, and threatening commentary, directed at women. Anything related to nerds/geeks and women is fair game. Things like:
The Ghostbusters remake with an all female leading cast:
And of course, Gamergate:
These aren’t “just words,” either. Leslie Jones, comedienne, SNL cast member, and one of the stars of the Ghostbusters remake, was relentlessly harassed in the worst possible ways on Twitter and Instagram, to the point that she was reporting people left and right, and ended up closing down her social media accounts, while in tears, because it just got to be too much.
Whether caused by insecurity, or a sense of entitlement and ownership, or perhaps just some men being inherently abusive to women, fandoms can be dangerous spaces for women to exist within. This mindset, for some male geeks/nerds, could also be as simple as lack of knowledge with regards to what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t, although, in the Information Age, these excuses are becoming less and less acceptable; people can definitely learn more about literally anything and everything, if they’re so inclined. Willful ignorance isn’t an excuse.
While I don’t believe that everything has to have a “safe space, ” I do believe that people should have the right to enjoy something without being mocked, bullied, abused, threatened, etcetera. Of course, anyone runs the risk of being confronted with any and/or all of these things, just by being on the internet and participating in any social media platform, however, we also have to unlearn the mindset that people should just stop looking at the cruel remarks. Sure, that works, but in doing that, we’re victim blaming. Placing the onus of protecting oneself against a verbal assault, and sometimes, even having personal information spammed throughout social media, also known as “doxxing“, doesn’t help fix the problem.
Luckily, there are many things we can take to resolve a bullying or harassment situation online, which is a great step, but we need to find ways to address the causes. For example, misogynistic circle jerks on sites like 4chan and Reddit. If you exist in an echo chamber, where everything you believe is repeated back to you, violent behaviors are encouraged, hate speech is the norm…chances are, you need a new hobby, and some pretty intensive therapy.
In the midst of all the ugliness online, particularly aimed at women and people of color, it can be very helpful to know that there are steps you can take if you become the target of online harassment, including reporting the instances to the social media site itself, and documenting everything, for legal action. Here is an article that lists each step you can take to protect yourself if such harassment does happen to you.
Be good to each other. Enjoy fandoms together. If we can stop judging everyone else who enjoys our fandom, you never know, you could find some pretty amazing people. If you’re the target of harassment, have faith. In the wise words of Eric Cartman, “If you wanna find some quality friends, you gotta wade through all the dicks first!”