Tag: bullying

Nerd Misogyny and Intolerance

In an age where comic books are all over movies and television and geeky scientists are celebrated in the number one comedy in America, you can make a compelling argument that we are now in the Age of the Nerd. Back in the old days when I was in high school the nerds were semi-integrated into the various social circles but mostly they hung out together in the computer club or AV group. Now they get a starring show at the popular kids table and I have recently been pondering the result of that paradigm shift. The sad part is how little has really changed…

big bang theory2In some ways this nerd-revolution has been a great thing allowing more people to feel accepted and included and different tastes to flourish instead of just traditionally cool stuff like sports and rock music. However, in some ways, at least in my observation, things aren’t really that different. We’ve just expanded the pool of people participating in the bad behavior. Yes my friends, misogyny, marginalization, bigotry, bullying and even hate are now not just the realm of the jock and popular kids. No, we see it in all people, even the nerds.

First, what traditionally made up a nerd? Well, it was the smartest kids in class who were often socially awkward or uncomfortable around their peers. Some of these people suffered from Aspergers or other autism spectrum challenges. We saw them portrayed in movies and on TV. Popular figures were Screech on Saved by the Bell, Urkel on Family Matters and Anthony Michael Hall in Breakfast Club.

We even had Revenge of the Nerds in 1984.

revenge of the nerdsIn Revenge of the Nerds the characters give a rousing speech to the student body about sticking up for nerds!

Lewis: Hi, Gilbert. I’m a nerd too. I just found that out tonight. We have news for the beautiful people. There’s a lot more of us than there are of you. I know there’s alumni here tonight. When you went to Adams you might’ve been called a spazz, or a dork, or a geek. Any of you that have ever felt stepped on, left out, picked on, put down, whether you think you’re a nerd or not, why don’t you just come down here and join us. Okay? Come on.

Gibert: Just join us cos uh, no-one’s gonna really be free until nerd persecution ends.

Unfortunately some of the nerds have let me down. It’s so surprising to see some of the behavior on the part of supposed nerds once they finally have a little bit of social power.

broniesFor example, there’s an entire group of men who like the latest incarnation of My Little Ponies (a delightful show TBH).  These are called Bronies. Now I’m not going to say the fascination with a child’s television show isn’t unusual.  It is but so is a fixation on Batman, Spider-man and Thor, the Norse God, if you ask me.

As an observer, I’ve been amazed at the vitriol showed against bronies by nerds who I would think would be more accepting.  Is it because it is a female oriented show that causes the revulsion?  You don’t see the same outcry against men who like more traditionally masculine oriented franchises like Star Wars or Marvel? Shouldn’t they be standing up for people liking whatever weird stuff they want to like?

You can find the same example of the treatment of the furries. I guess it is ok to like dressing up as comic book heroes but animals? Now that’s madness.

Such hostile nerd culture can also be seen in the scores of discussion boards and comment threads.  I’m constantly amazed at the inability of some nerds/fans to accept a wide variety of opinions. Again, you would think given the ‘nerd persecution’ of the past they would be accepting of different opinions. Not so much…Just look at the recent Batman v Superman drama. Certain people are unable to deal with someone liking or disliking the film and they go nuts.

Movie critic Chris Stuckman made the mistake of putting out a fan fiction rewrite of Batman v Superman and fans freaked out to the point of harassing his parents in Ohio and telling him to kill himself.  It’s just unbelievable to me.

What’s alarming amongst nerd culture is how resistant they have been towards women. Again, you’d expect them to be more accepting of minorities but repeatedly I have seen resistance to any inclusion of women in their favorite properties.

Even someone like Furiosa in Mad Max Fury Road was seen as ‘women infiltrating their feminist agendas into our movies’. Feminism is usually blamed and if the character existed to promote girl power or feminist theory I’d see their point. However, Furiosa does nothing in the film that a man wouldn’t do. You could cast a man to play Furiosa and it would be exactly the same. So, what’s the problem?

The fact is that maybe the nerds weren’t that different from the jocks all along? We have seen this played out in full colors with the recent reboot of Ghostbusters. Now my feelings on the marketing and film itself are beside the point. The amount of vitriol director Paul Feig received after his casting all women was so extreme he finally came out and said this:

“The ‘a–holes’ of which I speak are the ones who live online, who write those hateful tweets and posts and comments. I’m not talking about the people who have true concerns and worries about the rebooting of a franchise they love, nor am I talking about people who have watched the trailer for our movie and didn’t like it. Those are all valid opinions and I respect them all. I am talking about those that write misogyny and hate and threats. Those are the ‘a–holes’ of which I spoke…Every community has bullies who make up a very small minority of the community as a whole. Bullies scream the loudest and seem to get the most attention. But they are simply bullies who in no way represent the vast majority of wonderful, thoughtful people who make up our geek community”

I think he is right and sometimes it is more subtle ignorance and misogyny than death threats. Like take a look at this quote I saw on a comment thread about the new Ghostbusters Movie (again the movie could suck. It’s beside the point).

ghostbusters quoteIf this was 20 years ago I would have expected such a quote from a misogynistic jock but evidently nerds can behave the same way and have the same ridiculous ideas of gender roles. Heaven forbid girls participate in such ‘inauthentic behavior’ as driving a hearse and living in a used fire house. But I think this quote is more telling because it’s not just the movie he disagrees with but that ‘guys are more prone to nerd behavior’. Isn’t that nice ladies? You must fit this thin cutlet of appropriate behaviors or we are outraged and it is ‘beyond ludicrous’.

So I propose a change to Lewis’ speech from above:

“Hi, Gilbert. I’m a person too. I just found that out tonight. We have news for the beautiful people and the nerds. There’s a lot more of us than there are of you…When you went online you might’ve been called horrible names or told your taste and ideas are stupid. Any of you that have ever felt stepped on, left out, picked on, put down, whether you think you’re a valuable person or not, why don’t you join us.”

Paul Feig echoed this sentiment “The geek world has been a haven for so many of us and we should all refuse to let these bullies hijack the conversations and debates we all love to engage in, nor should we let them represent our community and culture to the rest of the world. The bullies are not the norm and I would dare say they are not even true geeks. They are the micro minority. God bless the true geeks of the world and here’s to taking our community back from the bullies”

There are enough bullies in the world without the nerds joining in! Let’s do better!


32 vs 17

So tomorrow I go back to my home in Utah, get back to work and training for my swims in my free time.  Aside from a little stomach ache today, I’ve had a great time and it was a nice break from my everyday life.

I don’t know how detailed I can get without shaming people but I learned a lesson this week I felt was worth sharing with all of you.

When I was about 17 I had an experience that stuck with me.  I had always felt bad about my weight and felt like it was something I couldn’t fix that I wanted to fix.  I was at a family reunion that summer when someone said something cruel about my eating ice cream and I threw the ice cream away and stormed out in tears.

My brother, who I was not normally close with, got very angry, stood up for me and stormed out of the restaurant, walking the rest of the way home.  My parents, uncle and cousins were also very supportive and the incident blew over with probably nobody remembering it but maybe my brother and me (although he claims to remember nothing from his childhood).

Well, that’s always stayed with me and on Friday night I was with the same person eating ice cream again and he/she made another comment about my weight and at first I s laughed it off but then I got mad.  This time instead of storming out I stood up for myself and said

‘You know what…..I know you would be happier if I was skinny but you will just have to deal with it’ and then I left the table and cried outside. I’d say an improvement in 15 years wouldn’t you?  I was pretty upset and frustrated that nothing seemed to have changed over such a long period of time, that nothing I had done in the intervening years had made a dent or changed that person’s attitude towards me.  I was still the same girl eating ice cream, feeling bad about myself.

For a second I felt 17 again…How could a situation mirror itself so closely after all that time?

Or was it?  This time it was not my brother, Dad or cousins standing up for me.  It was me, and yes I felt the tears of 15 years of frustration and pain, but I had said something that made an impact.  In fact, the next day I had flowers and a letter of apology from the person.  Forgiveness was granted and yet none of that would have happened if I had kept my mouth shut and smiled through the ridicule or if I had made an unsightly scene.  I certainly had not received an apology at 17.

Maybe all of us had learned something in the last 15 years after all? Hurray for humanity and a victory for underdogs out there.

Redemption and a high five to the 17 year old me!


War on Kids

I think everyone should watch this movie and discuss it.  I’m not saying it is right about everything but I do think it brings up some important points.  And yes, I realize this will ruffle some feathers but I think it is worth it to start a discussion.  (It is a long feature film but very compelling)

In my high school they closed down all the bathrooms during lunch hours, which with 3 lunch hours was most the day, and had 2 teachers in front of the 2 open bathrooms checking you in.  If that isn’t prisonlike I don’t know what is.

That’s not to say there weren’t great teachers.  It’s the system that is the problem.  Too quick to medicate, too afraid to listen to children’s needs, too quick to thwart individual opinions and thought.  Many of the good teachers are frustrated like this teacher in Rhode Island

Last year I sat down with my sister and helped her with her math homework and was amazed at how much of it she had to do.  Surely the concepts could be taught with a few problems thoughtfully done, not page after page of mindless reading and then sheets of figures. I was bored and I’m an adult.

My friend Megan is a wonderful teacher and I was blown away at how she integrated plays, science projects and other creative activities into her curriculum.  Sadly I fear she is the exception not the rule and many teachers want to be like Megan but are repeatedly discouraged.  I had one teacher in middle school who taught science with his guitar through songs and other creative measures and he was a constant annoyance to the administration, eventually being fired after a few years.

I was bullied as a kid and the teacher’s refused to do anything.  This was not just mental bullying but physical abuse such as being shoved into water fountains and my underwear exposed to all the students.  This was done with teachers supervising. Finally my parents had to take me to a private school to save me from the ‘little angels’ the teachers defended.  Its ridiculous.

And yes, I’m single and can have a strong opinion on this topic. So there.

It Gets Better/Bully Full Video

So, thanks to some tips I was able to combine my 3 previous videos and add music.  I am more proud of it than I can say. Really, it ranks as one of the top 10 things I’ve ever done.  Please share with all the chubby little girls you might know and let’s encourage each other to be better.  I learned on a plane this last weekend that adults can be bullies too.  Just because someone looks different doesn’t mean they don’t have value.

Thanks to all my friends and family who love me no matter what size I am.

On a side note, I recommend everyone read this book.It changed my life.   It gives scientific evidence that health can be gained at any size and that the war on obesity misses the mark in a lot of ways.




Bully / It Gets Better

This may be the post I am the most proud of. I hope it comes across the way I intend.  I hope it inspires someone.

Today for Family Home Evening I decided to see the controversial documentary Bully.   This has been something I’ve been a bit anxious for but knew I needed to do because of my own experience being bullied.  The odd part about the movie is I wasn’t that emotional while watching but then as soon as I got in my car I started to bawl. I felt all emotions of anger, frustration, despair and a little bit of hope.

Some have criticized the movie because it doesn’t go into the mindset of the bullies themselves.  My response is that every story cannot tell every story.  This is a movie about the victims and how futile the school system is in helping deal with these problems.  Granted their task is daunting but the attitude of ‘kids will be kids’ is far too present.

There is one scene in the movie where a principal actually forces a little boy to shake hands with his tormentor (a valid concept until you find out this has happened again and again with the bully feigning an apology each time).

The victim has the courage to not shake hands and the teacher says

“You’re just like him”.

The boy says “Except I don’t hurt people”.

Can you imagine if we expected such things of adults? Do we expect rape victims to shake hands with their accusers and if they don’t are they ‘just like him.”?  It made me so mad I wanted to throw something at the screen.  I actually said ‘unbelievable’ out loud and then 2 girls in the theater looked at me.

One of my favorite moments was the Mom of a boy named Alex meeting with a principal that despite proof of abuse on a bus claimed ‘I’ve ridden that bus and they are good as gold’.  The Mother says ‘When I was a child that bus would have been pulled over until the bad behavior stopped’.  That’s what we have lost.  Now I’m not advocating physical discipline for children but to pretend like adults have to sway over the behavior of children is just wrong.

Children should be safe and protected at home and school- in fact sometimes they need to be safer at school than in some homes.  I know in my case little was done to stop bullying that lasted for nearly 2 years despite repeated requests from my parents.

It is a complicated problem but a couple things I suggest:

1.  CHANGE SCHOOLS– My parents changing schools literally changed my life.  I was fortunate enough to be able to go to private school and then my family moved but there are always other options.  There are charter schools, online schools, homeschool, tutors, whatever.  Anything is better than someone being a in situation where they are tormented.  Its like sending an abused women into a closed building with their abuser 8 hours a day.  Be open-minded, pray for direction and you will find something else that works.

2. Teach your children about differences and expose them to a variety of people.  Talk to them about bullying and what they can do if they see someone who is being treated unkindly or most importantly being ignored.  Teach them to look for people that seem a little different and try to befriend them.  When they don’t like someone try to discuss what it is and how if possible they can learn to love that person.  I’m not saying they have to be friends with everyone, that isn’t realistic but each kid that tries is one less bully.

One of the Mom’s who lost her son to a bullying related suicide said ‘He cried and then it got to the point where he didn’t cry and then it became difficult to know what’s going on’.  Watch for those early tears…

3. Find something your child is good at and nourish that skill.  Everyone is good at something (or at least enjoys something) and usually you can find someone else who shares that interest.

4. Make sure your children have one person in their life who is an uncompromising cheerleader.  Parents have to discipline their children and say things they may not like but I was immeasurably benefited by several people who loved me unfailingly including my Grandpa Richards and my young women’s leader Sister Potter.  They never gave me ‘constructive criticism’.  I was always beautiful and perfect.  Everyone needs that kind of cheerleader.  Whether its a boys or girls club or a mentor look for that for your children.

5.  Speak out about your history being bullied.  Each of us that speaks adds another voice to the world, one more voice that says ‘It gets better’.  ‘It will be OK’.  ‘Don’t give up’. ‘God loves you’.

6. This is just my opinion but I think rough housing and mean joking should be avoided.  A lot of the bullying in the movie starts out as rough housing and honestly may be viewed by the bullies as just fun but it turns so fast.  One of the kids in the movie has a sister that teases him a little bit. At one point she says ‘LOSER spells Alex’.  Things like this are not helpful and should be disciplined when possible.  Again, I’m not a Mom so its just my opinion as an observer.


Here’s my voice:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


(Just to be clear when I talk about my accomplishments its not to brag but just to say ‘you can do whatever you want in your life’)