Why is this flourishing sub-culture tearing itself apart?by Serena Kutchinsky / October 19, 2015 / Leave a comment
What is geek culture and why is it increasingly the subject of cultural scrutiny and fierce hashtag wars? This weekend I took part in a debate around these issues at the Battle of Ideas festival at London’s Barbican Centre, where I strove to stand up for female geeks everywhere. And yes, we did talk about Gamergate.
I was fortunate, or unfortunate depending on your view, to share a platform with the scene’s provocateur-in-chief, Milo Yiannopoulos the technology editor of the right-wing politics and culture website Breitbart, who proved a good sparring partner despite the odd queeny remark. Joining us were Milo’s somewhat geekier sidekick—Allum Bokhari a columnist at Breitbart, Dr Maren Thom—a researcher in film who likes to spend her evenings “shooting people’s heads off” (virtually, that is), and Jason Walsh—a nattily attired foreign correspondent with interesting ideas on cultural identity. You can read my opening remarks below.
When I was growing up, being a geek or a nerd was the opposite of cool. Geeks were bespectacled people with pimples who hung out in science labs and wore bad glasses held together with plasters. They were everything you aspired not to be. You might have respect, or even affection, for the likes of Albert Einstein and Adrian Mole but you didn’t want to grow up to be them.
But these days, I’ve had to readjust my cultural settings and realise that the geeks have indeed inherited the earth. Which is fine—I can cope with the idea of the uncool kids getting their Heathers style moment of glory. I can even handle the images of them spending their billions of tech dollars buying street cred at festivals like Cocahella and Burning Man. But there’s one thing amiss with this picture—the geeks are now the kings of the world, but they are exactly that, the kings. Where are the queens? Why is geek culture still a fortress of sexism?
Are girls really genetically bad at gaming? Is the Candy Crush Hall of Fame the only dizzy heights we can ever hope to ascend to? Is comic book humour distinctly male? Or is there something more sinister lurking beneath the surface of this world full of awkward men, many of whom lack basic social skills, enjoying their moment in the cultural spotlight?…