This post was originally published at Restructure!
Most male geeks believe that they are subverting traditional masculinity by reclaiming and self-identifying with the term “geek”. For most male geeks, geek identity is defined partly as a rejection of the “jock” identity. According to the traditional high school male social hierarchy, jocks are high-status males and male geeks are low-status males; jocks are alpha males and male geeks are beta males; jocks are masculine and male geeks are “effeminate”. Thus, when a man proudly self-identifies as a “geek” in response, what he is doing is redefining what it is to be a man, redefining geek identity as masculine.
Typical male geeks argue that to be a geek is to be masculine by interpreting the scientific, mathematical, and technological achievements of overwhelmingly male persons as definitive proof that science, math, and technology are inherently male and define maleness. Such male geeks typically argue that there are innate differences between male and female brains that make success in science, math, and technology exclusive to men. Thus, arguments and studies that suggest otherwise are perceived as a direct attack on the masculinity and male identity of male geeks. According this male geek worldview, if women are equally capable in science, math, and technology, then male geeks lose their claim on masculinity and become low-status, beta, and “effeminate” males once again, because there would be nothing left to separate male geeks from women. Thus, male geeks—much more than non-geek men—tend to be emotionally and socially invested in maintaining the idea women’s brains are hardwired against understanding science, math, and technology to the same extent as men.
The mere possibility that women and men may be equally capable in science, math, and technology threatens the typical male geek’s self-identity. This explains why male geeks in Internet comment threads generally vote up speculations about women’s hard-wired brain limitations and speculations about our evolutionary past, while ignoring or dismissing empirical studies showing gender bias. When male geeks discuss the topic of women in science, math, and technology, the skeptical and critical attitudes towards anecdotes normally valued in geek communities are eschewed in favour of narratives that appeal to male-geek self esteem and superiority.
In other words, male geek bias prevents an objective discussion about women in science, math, and technology from occurring. We need to recognize the existence of and motivations behind this male geek bias to truly address the hostility in geek communities against the idea of female geeks.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are those of Restructure!, and do not represent the views of other Geek Feminism bloggers unless they indicate otherwise.