It’s an interesting piece, but for me it still comes off a little “so you had problems - lets talk about mine” that only leads to a scramble to see who had the most “cards” dealt; the nerd card, the female card, the homosexual card, etc. Not to say those aren’t valid, but I don’t think a conversation about privilege is best served by a game of trumps. It’s best served by listening to each other and understanding the struggles we have gone through so that others can learn how not to perpetuate them. And I think the central argument that the “polarity has been reversed” and that nerds rule the earth is a little silicon-valley myopic. There are plenty of “nerds” who don’t rule anything, who still suffer every day from all kinds of hierarchies. Perhaps if we just listened to folks and honestly cared for a second, we might find more similarities and common ground than feeling like we have to get in to a game of one-downsmanship.
Funny, I didn’t read it that way at all. I heard her making a distinction between the power games that people play, and structural discrimination. They’re not the same at all. Speaking as a moderately nerdy white male, I can say she has a good point. It took me a long time to learn to stop taking stuff personally, and until then I really didn’t have a clue what racism and sexism are. I may not be a PhD in womens’ studies, but I’ve learned a little since I was a teen.
To me, the Laurie Penny article only seems to confirm the gist of the Steven Brust piece linked to - that thinking about privilege in a way which excludes socioeconomics leads to a complete blindness to the significance of socioeconomic class in maintaining social injustice and inequality. “On Nerd Entitlement” seems to be entirely about and for a comfortable middle-class audience - about their (no doubt earth-shattering) adolescent traumas, their aspirations, and characteristic interests. There is no acknowledgement whatever of impoverished people for whom “nerd culture” and careers in STEM might as well be other planets. I dunno, maybe sipping sweet tea and contemplating the brilliance and adolescent sufferings of nerds (like ourselves) constitutes the path to social justice; I find Brust far more convincing, and less self-congratulatory.
Sexism. Women being treated as objects. Again. America! Please stop producing so much political correctness! (I think we might refer to it as an american export product). We will all die in an Orwellian dystopia where big brother is watching your every thought because you are not allowed to make ANYONE feel worse - women, people that like to be referred to as “african american” (why can’t I refer to them with their skin color - i would not be ashamed if somebody called me “white” or “green -eyed” and it also makes me part on some group), people that like to be reffered to as “native americans”, Asians “asian -americans”(?), “europaean-americans”(?), homosexuals, muslims e.t.c. Let them all be and live in peace but WHY, WHY is this certain-groups-lobbying happening in peoples’ heads, it’s like brainwashing - you can’t say this, you can’t say that you must this, you needn’t do that and the list grows every day! We’re building a terrible prison for ourselves if we continue down that path. Acually it’s mainly… media to blame. Why? People are known to accept what comes from media (some say that’s what tv was created for ). Media are also a good tool to make pressure on government. The problem is – when a group feeling that it being treated unfair lobby for their cause using media, happenings e.t.c. in some cases they go over the top and not only win what they fought for (tolerance for them) but lobby more and more for money for their organisations, bills telling people what is ok to say and what is punished and guess what? Do they stop then? No. They’re like the economy, there’s no ending point, they just fight even more. All right, you’d say, but no one is loosing anything, we’re building a better world, let them have more public applaud. YOU are loosing dear reader. You are just watching (some even appraising!) a prison being built around you. It saddens me that europe mimics US in it’s political correctness. It’s slower but it happens. Every single time.
Laurie Penny is an English journalist, author, and contributing editor at the New Statesman. She also writes for The Guardian. Penny was born in London and grew up in Brighton.
Cory Efram Doctorow is a Canadian-British blogger.
Leave America out of it. (at least this once). Did you assume that these people are american because you read it from America? LOL!
Laurie sounds as if she has had such a hard life. My heart truly bleeds for her.
Spot on. Only to add: We accept and sustain a society organised like a twisted Lottery. Some of us start of with a single ticket and win the jackpot others are start life with many 1000s of tickets and surprise surprise sometimes a few of their number is drawn. Will leave it to the Nerdy Silicon Valley types to figure out the algorithm for the odds but safe to say that your chances of winning are directly correlated with the number of tickets you were handed with.
The outrageously infuriating bit is our silent collusion: Never to mention the unequal distribution of the lottery tickets. We silently ignore how many tickets the winners started out with…
Hah, ok, ok This once I leave America out of it (well-suiting nick btw). Though it’s hard to leave america out of my comment entirely - as Rammstein sung “We’re all living in america” - even if journalists aren’t american by citizenship most of mass media is american-owned or american-produced, and they are (Cory Doctorow and Laurie Penny) consumers of it as well.
Nope, I can’t get there with any of this. On one hand we are going down this path about nerd suffrage, and then we sling shot around to her unfulfilled sexual needs as a teenager, and then we try and tie it all together… Maybe I can’t get there because I can’t relate to much of this, in fact I doubt most of my nerdy friends can either. Sure high school had it’s troubled spots, but my life wasn’t defined by it. I remember perhaps one girl out of a senior class of about 230 that might have sort of fit the nerdy, loner, starved for affection role. One. And you know what, she talked to people, I talked to her, I knew her. In fact most of my class knew each other because we had already spent three years together. By senior year most everyone feel in with some crowd, hell I was near the top of the list for “loner” guys - but I’m just introverted and don’t seek out the “comfort” or whatever the need other people have to be around others all the time. At the same time I had plenty of friends…(which apparently where all sex crazed - more on this coming).
I do love when a woman gives me perspective on what it’s like being a man, especially when it comes to my sexuality. She is correct that men are shamed about not having sex, but we are talking into your 20’s here. She’s only half right in the fact men are punished for their desires…while we do desire sex, that’s probably pretty low key for the sexual thoughts of most teenage boys (even virgins). Not to say there aren’t deviant women, but from my personal experience a large majority of women have little idea of the depth of male depravity.
So the problem is like she states it? Not the part about resentment and men hating women. Because those concepts are bore out of a shitty framework from a much younger age. I felt no shame about my sexual thoughts or desires, at the same time I understood girls/women are human beings and sex is an extremely complicated thing (that can have serious repercussions, like for 18 years). There was no impasse in my mind between being a horny teenager, demanding sex, and respecting others - I found an outlet for the sexual tension (like the vast majority of teenage boys do) because respecting someone else was a much larger part of my framework than my sexual needs. She can point to society and everything else that a woman’s validation comes from sexual desire, she certainly implies a certain amount of her self worth was tied to sex, but that again comes back to your framework. Building a better base of self worth, respect for yourself and others, and compassion would go a long way toward solving a lot of the problems she is putting forth.
The point the author was making is that both men and women suffer from social stratification, but in addition women suffer particular kinds of harassment and exploitation that men do NOT experience. It’s what Charlie Stross refers to when being born a Straight White Male is playing the game of life on Easy Mode.
“But that’s not my fault!”
Nobody said it was. But you need to recognize that despite having your face ground into gym lockers throughout high school, you’re still a member of the richest and most affluent group in the world. You will relate more easily to your superiors. Television shows cater primarily to you. You’ll be able to open a bank account, secure a loan, buy a car, all more easily and cheaply than any other group in the world.
I am a Cis White Male. I enjoy privileges I’m still unaware of, and yes I still have the scars from those gym lockers. I still have an easier path than this author, and that is absolutely due to my gender. (Edit: A word)
I didn’t read it this way either. This is a helpful piece. It identifies a generic form of ‘Games People Play’. It does not offer a solution. Perhaps there is no generic solution. But right now, we could all do with a better description of the problem, and this is what Penny does.
Is there anyone complaining that what Penny says is wrong, in any provable sense? I think it rings true. I have worked all my life using my nerd-fu, and have seen people who I thought were similar to myself turn into ‘I can’t show people this, write it again’ managers, who use public shaming as a way of gaming situations to their advantage.
They may not net even need a reward. Internet trolls seem to thrive without direct profit to themselves. Even within the milder Boing Boing fauna we can find people who would shame us for our collective White Male Cultural Imperialism because Bill Gates’ top six books were written by white, male authors; or that a flame thrower that uses cornstarch as fuel shows our collective contempt for those starving in the Third World; or that video of the child with it’s head apparently stuck in a gate was a symptom of our callous indifference to the sufferings of children in general.
I hope there is a solution for this. If we could accurately measure and describe what ‘this’ is, we might show that A is a troll, B has an argument but is blinkered by their own experiences, C is a team player that repeats the arguments of ‘their side’ without analysis; and all of them are just generating anger that impedes other’s rational thought, and blinds us to the possibility that D might have a valid point.
To end on an upbeat note, I remember someone who posted something in poor taste. When challenged, he said when he had written it he was recovering from an operation, was on painkillers, and hadn’t slept in 24 hours when he wrote it, and - yes - it was out of order. And the general outpouring of sympathy from the other readers gave me heart that this may be something we could fix in some cases. Maybe, as in ‘Erewhon’, we could say we had been feeling a ‘bit mad’ at the time, and people would say “oh, poor you, I hope you get better soon”.
That still leaves the others who do this sort of thing because they want to. Any, preferably non-lethal, solutions welcome.
Gender dynamics in tech are less about class directly than the race dynamics are. Upper-class and middle-class boys had access to the world of tech and the world of education in a way that girls from the same economic strata did not.
Laurie Penny is making the case that just because you were persecuted growing up doesn’t mean you’re not “privileged.” That being pushed around on the playground doesn’t erase the fact that as a dude, you have advantages in society that women do not have by virtue of your gender. A person can be harassed. A gender can be privileged.
There’s a conversation to be had about race and economics as well, but that’s not really the same conversation (though privilege is a dimension of that, too). The more relevant details here are less about economics and more about gender expectations.
Which, you know, through my own political lens, I do see as something of an economic problem at the root. After all, rich people don’t get nearly as hung up on the possibility of women in STEM as working-class people get, because wealth brings with it the luxury of not having to worry about protecting your territory as much.
Really? This is happening? What planet are you on? What country? What media do you watch?
And would it kill you – or even just hurt you and make you stronger – to make anyone FEEL BETTER ?
I thought all of the PC-stuff came out of the Frankfurt school. Which is in… wait, lemme think, I went to a US school, and Frankfurt is in… uh, frankfurters come from there, so it must be… CHICAGO! BINGO! Home of Elvis and the Bauhaus School.
Try thinking about it less in terms of a card game and more in terms of lottery tickets. How many lottery tickets you have in your pocket is directly correlated to your chances winning very same game. The infuriating bit about the “American Dream” so widely exported across the globe is the pretence that the likelyhood of an Obama or even a Clinton hitting the jackpot (if we equate the highest office in the land with the ultimate win) is the same as a Bush sitting in the Oval office.
It’s not. W.B. started with a cart load of lottery tickets so being an Alcoholic or bad at College had little impact on his odds.
And that’s the problem with the “playing trump” approach - one can’t be an example of oppression, or actually even talk about it, without being absolutely the most oppressed person in the history of the world because everyone else will point to some “privilege” in one’s life that makes that person’s experience less valid than someone else’s.
The thing you said above was crap, but I agree with this.
This topic needs the services of a cricket bat.
Look, if you’re a dude, and you can’t relate to what women say about sexism, why not listen to them when they talk about it, and not immediately dismiss it when it comes up?
So, because YOU didn’t see it, it doesn’t happen? I can fully identify with Penny’s experiences. It happens. Trust me. Or don’t. You seem to think if it doesn’t directly happen to you or you don’t directly see it, that it just doesn’t exist.
Not everyone did.
So, she’s only correct she when confirms your own experiences, not when she’s letting you know what she feels or experienced? Then it’s crap?
That’s good. Are you denying that others don’t think this way and didn’t?
It isn’t just about the individual, especially when you’re a teenager. She points that out, how society rewards young men, but shames young women. She also discusses how she overcame this, but the truth is not everyone does. She has done those things, as have many others, but talking about these realities also help to build that better society you seem to want as much as we do. Sweeping them under the rug and utterly dismissing them, as you do seem to be doing, does nothing to help the problem.
This is assuming all other factors are equal of course, but when are all other factors equal? The truth of the matter is that plenty of people, both men and women from all walks of like have it worse than poor Laurie. Her remarks seem self-pitying and whiny but that is what some have come to expect from her.