Privilege Denying Dude (Edman)

I feel like you are trying to tell me something

This is a guest post by Elizabeth Gregory, a PhD student in Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University.

Have you ever been watching a movie/TV show or reading a book/magazine article and all of a sudden been confronted with a reminder that you (a lady) are not the target audience?

I had no television for a few years so, although I watched The Big Bang Theory when it first aired, I haven’t watched it in a long time. A few weeks ago I caught an episode and I was struck by this scene. HA HA! Women never go to comic book stores! Because they are girls! Hilarious! I always enjoyed the show because it reveled in geek culture, but this is what I hear from this scene:

Me: I like your show.

Them: That’s cool and everything, but it isn’t for you.

Me: It’s on TV, isn’t it for everyone? It’s not even on Cable.

Them: Well yeah, but it is for geeks.

Me: I’m a geek.

Them: We mean guy geeks. You know, real geeks.

About a year ago, I was reading Diary by Chuck Palahniuk. The narrator of the story is a woman. In one part, she describes having a catheter as something plastic stuck in your vagina. Here is the thing. I don’t pee from my vagina and I haven’t ever heard of a women that does and I certainly don’t consider my urethra as part of my vagina. Here is my imaginary conversation with Chuck Palahniuk.

Me: Do you really think women pee from their vaginas?

Him: Eeew. I don’t know what happens down there.

Me: This is basic human anatomy.

Him: No, it is women’s anatomy, not regular anatomy. I’m close, right? The pee definitely comes from that general location, right?

Me: What I don’t understand is how you didn’t have one editor read this and point out that this is anatomically wrong. Especially since, throughout the book, you describe in great detail other parts of the human body and their function. This seems be a fact checking error.

Him: I feel like most people are confused by lady parts. As previously stated, Eeew┬Ł!

When I was a senior in Aerospace Engineering, we all took senior seminar. It was a 1 credit class (compared to a regular 3 credit class) in which the head of the department talked to us about interviews, jobs, life insurance, firing people, mortgages, and ethics. I remember he brought in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) code of ethics. Here is item 2.3 (emphasis mine):

The member will inform his employer or client if he is financially interested in any vendor or contractor, or in any invention, machines, or apparatus, which is involved in a project or work of his employer or client. The member will not allow such interest to affect his decision regarding services which he may be called upon to perform.

This document was approved in 1978, so it is old; but it hasn’t been changed. Here is an imaginary conversation with people who do not see that this is exclusionary.

Them: But HE is the generic pronoun, it includes women.

Me: Yeah, I know, that is why when the line for the ladies room is long, I use the men’s room. You know, because the word men really means both men and women.

The message is that I am not in the club. You know “the club” Silly me for thinking that liking geeky things makes me a geek, or being a women who enjoys Chuck Palahniuk novels means that he would consider that women actually read them, or that earning 2 degrees in Engineering and paying my membership dues to AIAA means that I am a member and the code of ethics should apply to me too. I am just a girl and I see now that the sloppily painted sign on the tree house does in fact say “No Girls Allowed”


This post was submitted via the Guest posts submission page, if you are interested in guest posting on Geek Feminism please contact us through that page.

20 thoughts on “I feel like you are trying to tell me something

  1. Palaverer

    I have noticed this problem often in atheist circles. I’ll be enjoying a blog or a book that offers a humorous take-down of some religious idea, then run smack into a joke about the horrors of having sex with a fat woman, or a post full of cheesecake photos of women scientists for the readers to jack off to. Too many cis, white, hetero, male atheists are convinced that since atheism is marginalized, they can’t possibly be privileged and they don’t care about losing a reader that isn’t exactly like them. Geek culture has a very similar problem (not surprising since there’s a lot of overlap).

  2. Kat

    I always thought I could really get into BBT but that attitude pops up and just turns me completely off. That clip reminds me, I still get stares sometimes when I enter a video game shop alone, clearly not there with a boyfriend and ‘against my will’. Or you get asked if you’re there to buy The Sims. No actually, I’m getting Skyrim – for MYSELF.

  3. ptrst

    Thank you for posting this.

    Also, just so you know, your formatting got a little messed up; part of the paragraph about the AIAA code got put into the second to last line of the quote just above it.

  4. Jayn

    You forgot playing video games. And yeah, it happens pretty frequently. BBT is one example, a much more frustrating one is Saints Row (The game is pretty misogynist, but it’s too much fun!).

    The most recent and bothersome one comes from SWTOR, though, and I can’t really say it’s their fault. I’ve been playing the two military classes, and in both stories ‘sir’ gets used as a generic pronoun. I know it comes from actual military speak, so I can’t get too mad at BioWare (and there are other moments that speak to your gender that help balance that out), but the first time I heard that it pulled me out for a moment. It is a rather unpleasant reminder that as a female I’m considered ‘other’.

  5. Sasha_feather

    This is a great post! Thank you for writing it.

    There is a formatting error; you have the bit about the AIAA in twice (truncated the first time).

  6. Megpie71

    The most egregious example I have of this in my collection at the moment is the game “Star Ocean IV: The Last Hope”. The game starts out okay, but quickly deteriorates into a morass of misogynistic fanboi fanservice. Yeah, okay, I recognise that you used ball-jointed dolls to act as your character models (that would account for the entirely-too-flawless skin and the Uncanny Valley High character looks) and you want to show off the full range of how realistic the character models can get, but does it have to be demonstrated by up-skirt and down-cleavage shots of all the adult female characters? Is there any plot-related necessity for the main female character to have multiple nude scenes, aside from providing eye-candy for the fanbois?

    I still haven’t managed to finish this one, and I suspect I never will, because it becomes very difficult to do when I’m being effectively told “you aren’t our game’s target audience; GO AWAY and take your cooties with you!” all the way through. At least something like “Bayonetta” is straightforward about being aimed wholly and solely at heterosexual men.

  7. Ingrid Jakobsen

    Oh yes, oh yes. I was so proud of getting a PhD, I could be the gender-neutral “Dr Jakobsen”, rather than the “why is my marital status only other people’s business because I’m a woman?” Miss/Mrs/Ms conundrum (I know “Ms” is supposed to be neutral, but an amazing number of people assume it means you’re divorced!).

    So I choose “Dr” whenever I’m allowed, and then every so often, I get mail addressed to “Mr Ingrid Jakobsen”. Because whomever wrote that piece of software hasn’t noticed that more than half of all PhD students are women these days. (I assume it’s a software problem; I suppose there could be a significant number of humans who think “Dr Ingrid Jakobsen” must mean “Mr”.)

    [Oh, and I have, in actual fact, used the room labelled "men" when there was a queue for the room labelled "women" and there was no queue for the room labelled "men". Each time, both were single-user rooms that could as easily have been unisex.]

  8. Mrs Dragon

    As another female engineer I completely agree with you. Even my boss (whom I adore) drives me crazy with his unthinking reference to any random, unknown engineer as “he”. Pulls me out of our conversation Every. Time.

  9. PharaohKatt

    I’m a woman who reads comic books (I even have a comics podcast!) so that scene in BBT was like a punch in the gut. And the thing is, most of the men I’ve met at comic stores aren’t like that.

    Sure, there are one or two who are arseholes who challenge my geekiness or simply leer/stare (none who work at the store thankfully). Most, though, are friendly people who ALSO like comics! GASP!!

    It’s these sorts of things that fuel the notion that comics aren’t “for women”. Clips like these reinforce the idea that comics are (and should be) for a certain type of men, only.

    Then if you don’t like comics, who cares? You’re obviously just “not the demographic”.

    NB: “Comics” in this comment can be replaced with any geeky subculture

  10. feministgamer

    Yep, the BBT does that to me, too. “It’s a show about geeks!” that didn’t have a single female geek until recently, and even then the main characters hates the fact that he’s nerdy, because shiny blonde boobs.

  11. Skye

    “Women never go to comic book stores! Because they are girls!”

    Why didn’t anyone tell me sooner?! That’s hundreds of dollars a month I could have been spending on barrettes and… other girl stuff!? Shoes I guess?

  12. jd

    A non-geek co-worker told me I’d love BBT. When I finally saw it, some dude had just slept with a gal who’d fixed his Fourier transform equation, but was chasing after a mean blonde the next day.

    The only thing differentiating this from every other thing on TV was that the dudes are allowed to be even less attractive than usual. Thus: geeky!

    Yawn.

    Also, I’d love to see your dialog with a booth babe, who is totally for men only. You know, men? The only flavor of geek?

  13. Hekateras

    *sigh* I know *exactly* what you mean. Funnily enough, I had an unpleasant moment in my first hours of playing Skyrim (with a female character). I killed a bandit with fur armour – awesome, authentic, warm-looking fur armour. But lo and behold, as soon as my character put it on, it magically transformed into a fur skirt and bikini.

    …I seriously wanted to punch Bethesda at that moment. Honestly, I thought we were past crap like that. I mean, the modders are going to be making heaploads of skimpy-looking armour and anatomically correct curvaceous meshes *anyway*. Why would Bethesda waste time on it?

  14. Mary

    Could people in this thread watch out for implications that being a geek is incompatible with being a blonde woman or having boobs?

    Penny in BBT isn’t a geek, but people seem to be crossing from there into saying that they would never read anyone with her appearance as a geek ever.

  15. Jordan

    it’s not just that scenes like the BBT comic book store scene that throw us out of perfectly good tv shows, they reinforce misogyny in nerd culture. A male nerd seeing that, who hasn’t seen any female nerds and thinks that they don’t exist, is just going to have his view further confirmed.

    My entire life my mom gave me grief about being a girl and nerdy and since BBT came out, she’s taken it as further evidence that I’m some kind of freak. It’s an extreme example considering that my mom is kind of a jerk, but it’s a example of the kind of prejudice-confirming stuff like this can do.

  16. Suziebanshhe

    Loved this! Yes, you have a formatting flaw. The whole boy’s club thing usually just encourages me to go do my own thing by my own rules, which usually turns out way better than any “man’s man” that I know could do, but when it comes to things that can be sooo much fun, like comic stores, gaming stores, and electrical engineering labs, it’s such a fucking buzz kill.

  17. Libbie

    Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon about Cracked? I love Cracked, read their articles all the time, but consistently they will be directed at men. Sometimes there’ll be a cutaway “this is for you, ladies”, like #4 of a 6-item article, but we are, as always, the exception. It makes me feel bitter and excluded and very upset, because I think Cracked is hilarious.

    But they also make jokes *constantly* about “all we write about are boner jokes”, which is partially true, but obviously no vagina jokes because vagina jokes don’t exist.

    More importantly though, as I said above, is the perspective of the articles. Consistently they will just assume the reader is a male, and the writer is a male, and that somehow no women read Cracked or the women that do use the men’s bathroom because, of course, “he” is universal.

    BAH HUMBUG.

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