Anna Cameron, a sociology PhD candidate at the University of Virginia, recently had a paper of hers published in Gnovis Journal. This paper is entitled “No More Games: An Intersectional Approach To Geek Masculinity And Marginalization In Video Gaming Culture.”
Of course this comes from the usual cesspool of Grievance Studies in the academy, and as such has little genuine scholarship. Instead, it is about citing previous lies made by a field of liars, all enthralled by an ideology of lies. However, at times it is useful to study what these lies are, and what these liars believe.
This paper refers to “Geek Masculinity.” In this article I will provide an explanation and, hopefully, refutation of the validity of this concept. Of course the article itself has many other flaws; it’s understanding of Gamergate is absolutely fraudulent, for example. However, I choose specifically to focus on “Geek Masculinity” because this is the concept with which Grievance Studies approaches “nerd” culture. In order for us to refute them, we must first know the allegations we must refute.
The Concept Of “Geek Masculinity”
The concept of “Geek Masculinity” is rooted in Raewyn Connell’s theory of masculinities and notion of hegemonic masculinity. According to this theory, any culture or subculture’s idea of what men ‘should’ be like is that culture or subculture’s ideal of masculinity. One masculinity – the one accepted by the overall societal mainstream and the one which is taken to ensure the domination of women by men – constitutes the “hegemonic” masculinity.
“Geek Masculinity” (or “Nerd Masculinity”) is defined as “the mastery of technology, science and gaming. In geek culture, boys and men gain status, social connections and pleasure by performing skills and expertise in specialized areas.”
In the early days of Gamergate, it was common for defenders of Gamergate to be smeared as hegemonically masculine, hyper-macho dudebro fratboy types. But as Angela Nagle, author of Kill All Normies, pointed out, nerd culture is highly gender-transgressive and hardly the embodiment of normative masculinity. Cameron (2019) concurs with Nagle and says that “geek masculinity has two potentially contradictory connections to hegemonic masculinity. The first is the geek as a subordinated identity within the hegemonic project… The most common subordinated masculinity is the homosexual man, subordinated due to the perceived close associations with femininity. However, some heterosexual men can be oppressed through the labels of “nerd,” “dweeb” and “geek.” These other identities are linked to femininity, which relegates men to positions at the bottom of the gender hierarchy. As a result, geek masculinity can dovetail with potentially subversive constructions of sexuality and identity… While heterosexual geeks may be just as homophobic as non-geeks, geek masculinity has the potential to be accessible to queer identities and practices that are repudiated by hegemonic masculinity.”
Cameron continues that “geek masculinity can also be complicit in hegemonic masculinity. It is difficult to fully place geek masculinity in either category exclusively, as ‘the nerd stereotype includes aspects of both hypermasculinity (intellect, rejection of sartorial display, lack of ‘feminine’ social and relational skills) and perceived feminization (lack of sports ability, small body size, lack of sexual relationships with women'” (internal references omitted). In hegemonic masculinity theory, a “complicit” masculinity is a non-hegemonic masculinity that receives some amount of benefit from being perceived as “more masculine/less feminine” relative to women and other further-subordinated social groups.
But this patriarchal incentive structure can actually make geek spaces more hostile to women, non-white and non-heterosexual persons; if geeks (a subordinated masculinity) gain more status within the hegemonic project through distancing themselves from marginalized groups, then this explains why a “non-alpha” masculinity would be motivated to be hostile toward those more marginalized than they are and thus to become/remain complicit.
This, Cameron contends, is what Gamergate really is a manifestation of; “within complicit masculinity, we can understand geek masculinity as generating power and status for men through the rejection of other groups of people… For otherwise subordinated men whose dominance over women in gaming remains their closest tie to hegemonic masculinity, ongoing hostility towards women in gaming is a key factor in maintaining their status.”
The Necessity Of An Intersectional Approach?
Cameron argues that an intersectional approach is necessary for understanding geek masculinity. Yet, she only addresses a relationship between intersectionality and geek masculinity in the very last paragraph of her discussion of geek masculinity. In this paragraph, Cameron states the following:
“Geek masculinity is about race and sexuality as much as it is about gender. As a result, it is not only women who are marginalized by these mechanisms, but anyone who does not fit the image of a stereotypical white, cisgender, heterosexual ‘geek.'”
This is not merely an extremely tenuous assertion, but it frankly represents a contradiction of components of her own analysis of what “Geek Masculinity” entails. For one, the definition of “Geek Masculinity” she employs is absolutely neutral to race and sexual orientation in the first place. Indeed, she even concedes that “geek masculinity has the potential to be accessible to queer identities.” In her discussion of geek masculinity, she references a study of “nerds/geeks” within the BlueSky community which said that within this community “homosexual and bisexual men were accepted.”
At no point does she cite any evidence that geek masculinity is exclusive to whites or understood as ethnically particular. Indeed, not only is “the black nerd” a common cultural trope (https://allthetropes.org/wiki/Black_and_Nerdy) but nerd culture has a very large contingent of Asian persons within it as well as a strong general appreciation for Asian (and Japanese in particular) culture. Indeed, the strong presence of both Asian persons and fans of Asian culture within nerd culture is an exceptionally obvious fact, and one that is completely inconsistent with Cameron’s implication that the “nerd” identity is implicitly white and denigrates/marginalizes non-whites. If western “nerd” culture is predominantly composed of whites, it makes more sense that this is due to the population demographics within western societies, rather than any kind of racial oppressiveness within nerd culture itself.
So in other words, Cameron fails to substantiate the necessity of an intersectional approach to Geek Masculinity. Indeed, she devotes but one paragraph to vaguely insinuate (on the basis of only one reference) that Geek Masculinity is about sexuality (in a way that contradicts several points made in other literature she reviews) and race (in the face of substantial contradictory evidence) just as much as gender… when almost all of the article focused entirely on alleged sexism.
Some suggest that Intersectionality is often about white feminists trying to use the political energy of racial activists and gender/sexual minority activists to ultimately benefit their own interests. Cameron’s article seems to substantiate this (although I have no idea what Cameron’s own ethnicity is), as it tries to turn something that by her own argument is almost entirely about women into something about racism and something about homophobia. One paragraph and one reference simply isn’t enough to substantiate the argument that an intersectional approach is necessary to understand “Geek Masculinity.”
You Didn’t Have Bad Relationships, You’re Just Sexist!
The previously mentioned study of the BlueSky community that Cameron references was also described as yielding the following piece of information:
“Many of the participants viewed themselves as being the victims of previous mockery, manipulation and rejection by women and as a result no longer attempted heterosexual relationships – despite continuing to identify as heterosexual.”
This is a common experience of the straight male nerd (and the bisexual male nerd, who may end up exclusively dating men in response to certain experiences with women). Being a romantic loser, being repulsive to women, being laughed at and mocked by certain women, and perhaps being exploited by certain women (who pretend to be attracted to the man in order to get his attention/effort/supplication, only to cruelly reject him later) is a well-known part of the nerd experience. Of course these cruelties are not engaged in by all women, but many nerdy men have experienced them.
But what is disturbing is that this fact is cited not as a response to cruel treatment from particular women, but rather as evidence of misogyny being built into “Geek Masculinity.”
By this, Cameron is implicitly equating men’s refusal to invest the necessary time and effort required to achieve and maintain a romantic relationship with a woman with hatred of women on the basis of sex. Cameron’s phrasing itself also contains a subtle dismissal of the experiences of these men; they only “viewed themselves” as being mocked, rejected, humiliated and manipulated. Apparently, the lived experiences of these men are not worth giving the benefit of the doubt, or being taken as valid. By equating these men’s reports of their own experiences as misogyny, Cameron implicitly dismisses at least the relevance of and perhaps the possibility that these men are accurately reporting genuine cruelty and humiliation endured at the hands of women.
If a woman goes through a string of abusive relationships and, after finally getting out of them, decides she no longer wants to have relationships with men, no one would call her a misandrist. Any man who did would be loudly told that he isn’t entitled to a relationship with her, and that her freedom to have relationships whenever she wishes is an absolute.
Yet Cameron seems to think any man who decides to exercise his freedom to abstain from relationships is a he-man woman-hater. There is something deeply entitled in this logic; even if men fail repeatedly and endure humiliation and mistreatment at women’s hands, it doesn’t matter, they must still constantly try to prove themselves worthy of a woman’s attention and if they dare decide to slack off, they’re misogynists.
“Geek Masculinity” As A Concept
But the very foundation of her article, the very concept of “Geek Masculinity,” is itself deeply flawed along with the Connell Masculinities Theory within which it is based.
The first problem with the theory is that the concept of a “complicit” masculinity is premised on the idea of some sort of “patriarchal dividend,” or in short, that there is some sort of benefit to being within a “complicit” category of masculinity. But the nature of this dividend is left unexplained. What status do male nerds enjoy above (for example) women or gay men within our society? How do they benefit, exactly?
It certainly can’t be said that nerds get bullied (by hegemonically masculine men) less than women. Nor can it be said that nerds get some sort of access to women as part of the patriarchal dividend (after all, as stated before, nerdy men are often very familiar with romantic failure). So where exactly are the benefits of complicity? The article simply assumes nerdy men are treated better than women, but most so-called “male privilege” is really “hegemonically masculine male privilege” and thus its far from obvious that nerdy men have it better than women.
The second problem with masculinities theory is that it is a perfect example of the femmecentric dialectical pseudo-monist attitude common in feminism; the argument is that the hierarchy of masculinities is defined where femininity is the absolute object of revulsion and thus the more “like femininity” any particular masculinity is perceived, the lower down the hierarchy it will be. In other words, masculinity is merely a negation of femininity (the unfeminine), and it is motivated by a desire to distance oneself from the feminine. This logically implies that masculinity itself is motivated by misogyny; any masculinity is really just one model of “un-femininity” (i.e. a means to distance oneself from the feminine/women). In other words, femininity is the central concept which all masculinities orbit; masculinities, in the Connell model, only exist in relation to femininity. But why is this analytical femmecentrism any better than the androcentrism of the past? Why is it wrong to suggest that masculinity may be on an equal conceptual footing to femininity?
However the more pernicious impact of this theory is that it fundamentally misunderstands the status of the socially emasculated male (i.e. a man outside of the hegemonic masculinity); the socially emasculated male is emasculated, not feminized. These are analytically distinct concepts, as shown by the fact that female privileges (such as access to chivalry/benevolent sexism) are not granted to a socially emasculated male. A socially emasculated male is not socially feminized but socially neutered and thus essentially worthless in society’s eyes.
Even the characterization of “Geek Masculinity” relied upon by Cameron is easily disputed.
Cameron quotes the following statement from another scholar: “‘the nerd stereotype includes aspects of both hypermasculinity (intellect, rejection of sartorial display, lack of ‘feminine’ social and relational skills) and perceived feminization (lack of sports ability, small body size, lack of sexual relationships with women'” (internal references ommitted).
Again, the equation of emasculation with feminization is troubling enough, but the cited aspects of hypermasculinity make little sense. If intellect is considered hypermasculine, why isn’t nerdiness the hegemonic masculinity? Society’s ideal of hypermasculinity is full of sports and athletics, not full of scientists and inventors. It is perfectly possible to be considered hypermasculine whilst being outright dumb.
In addition, why would social and relational skills be coded as feminine things? Traditional masculinity valorizes group-centric institutions like the military and team sports. One of the reasons nerdy males are treated poorly is precisely because they do not integrate well into ‘normal’ young male social group dynamics. So clearly, social and relational skills as such are not coded as feminine; rather, they’re presupposed by several aspects of hypermasculinity.
The “nerd stereotype” thus is essentially devoid of similarities to hypermasculinity.
The Connell Masculinities Theory is fatally flawed at the very root. The theory casts masculinity as inherently misogynist and driven by a desire to distance oneself from femininity. The theory posits femininity/women as the central reality, with masculinity emerging only in response to (and rejection of) that. When these are one’s foundational concepts, it comes as no surprise when one concludes that Geek Masculinity is misogynist.
But this theory makes it impossible to correctly understand the experience of the male nerd. The nerdy man is lacking in traditional masculinity and traditional femininity; he possesses neither masculine nor feminine ‘worth’ to society. He is not socially feminized; he receives none of the perks of being a woman. He is socially emasculated. Cutting his balls off doesn’t magically give him a vagina and uterus in the process. He is accused of being complicit in the same masculinity as those who bully him, yet no one can give any concrete example of the alleged dividend he receives for his complicity. The Connell Masculinities Theory, and “Geek Masculinity” as the concept is currently understood in Gender Studies, is simply an incorrect theory. It is social pseudoscience.
Cameron also tries to allege an intersectional approach is necessary, but she fails to do this. The evidence she cites shows that nerd culture is accepting of non-heterosexual nerds, and she completely ignores the strong presence of non-white persons and culture within nerd culture. This is a lie by omission; no honest person can look at “nerd” culture without noticing the large number of Asian nerds or the strong presence of Asian pop culture within nerd spaces. But Cameron is trying to snidely insinuate racism where none exists, not to be an honest scholar.
Cameron’s responses, and those of the scholars she cites, to nerdy men’s reports of romantic failure is dripping with a sense of entitlement. She fantasizes that any man who chooses not to devote more effort to relationships with women is just doing so out of hate; then again, she is from the University of Virginia, where the women are prone to fantasize about being pack-raped by fratboys (atop piles of broken glass at that). Frankly, given her convictions, I wonder how long it will take for her to join Jackie Coakley in the False Accusers Hall Of Fame.
All I am left to do is contemplate the sorry state of the university founded by Thomas Jefferson. In the wake of scholarship like Cameron’s, however, there is a silver lining; the University of Virginia could reduce its carbon footprint by attaching an electric generator to Jefferson’s rapidly spinning corpse.
Cameron (2019), “No More Games: An Intersectional Approach To Geek Masculinity And Marginalization In Video Gaming Culture,” Gnovis Journal, v19:2, p19-32, accessed 17 April 2019 from http://www.gnovisjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/gnovis-Journal-Spring-2019.pdf, see also http://www.gnovisjournal.org/2019/04/12/no-more-games-an-intersectional-approach-to-geek-masculinity-and-marginalization-in-video-gaming-culture/