It saddens me to write this, but it needs to be said. There has been a lot of talk lately about gender, perception and who is worthy of the title of Nerd or Geek. And while the subject of has been hashed and rehashed I don’t know that I’ve heard anyone break the problem down to its core. And if we don’t examine the why how can we ever hope to fix The Nerd Bully.
When I was a child the Nerd Bully was someone who bullied a nerd. These days it’s the nerd who has become the bully. That is a tragedy. To quote Penny, “For a group of guys who claim they spent most of their lives being bullied you can be real jerks”.
I managed to escape my childhood while only being bullied on a few casual occasions. Was I really that big a nerd? You judge: Top of my class, Academic Team, National Merit Scholar.
There was another girl at my high school, a more cliché nerd who lacked many of the basic social skills needed to navigate high school. On a regular basis classmates would approach me to say “ I hope you are Valedictorian so that (______) doesn’t get it”. For most of high school I was in the top spot but it was something I’d never really considered, never really cared about. But (______)? She’d dreamed about it since she was a little girl. I could never get over how cruel classmates wished her failure just because they didn’t particularly like or understand her. People I didn’t know wanted her to fail so badly that they’d go out of their way to tell me.
My senior year I took an internship instead of classes that would maintain my super high GPA. This decision allowed (______) to achieve her dream…. and there was a moment when I thought the graduating class was going to rush the stage and jump her during her speech.
This is the kind of hatred that nerds and geeks have suffered for no reason other than we are smart and maybe a little awkward or goofy. And so we isolate ourselves. We congregate together. We adamantly demand this isolation is just for fun (and there is lots of fun to be had), but it is also because together we are safe, safe from judgment, safe from ridicule.
Things are shifting and it’s finally affecting the bubble we created for ourselves. Shows like the “Big Bang Theory” make it more acceptable to be a nerd or a geek. The success of comic book movies have made the universes and mythologies that so many of us love accessible to a new group of people. Not lesser people, just new. And more are joining us every day. I’ve watched first hand as conventions like DragonCon have grown and swelled to the breaking point with the influx of these new fans and new nerds that are just learning it even exists.
With this change has come the trend of the new Nerd Bully; the nerd who is a bully.
Why do I call them a bully? What makes someone a bully? A bully is someone who exerts power, control, and humiliation over another for their enjoyment or gain. But if you look deeper, look to what is really happening… the bully is someone who steals another’s power for his own. He (or she) needs that power because, in his heart, the bully fears he has neither power nor control.
Enter the Nerd Bully. For years he felt powerless, and now he thinks he has power. Now people want what he has. Down deep he’s really just afraid he will lose what little control he has in his nerdy little world, that it will be ripped away. He tries to deny he is a bully by using justifications such as:
- You only like it now that it’s popular ( Translation: You haven’t liked it for long enough, so you can’t possibly really like it… or me)
- You are just looking for attention (Translation: You are too pretty to really like it….. or me).
- You haven’t spent enough time engrossed in the fandom (Translation: You’ve been out doing other things…. like having fun with people…. not me)
- You haven’t suffered like me (Translation: You are too “cool” or “mainstream” and must have belonged to the group that…. teased me. )
That last one is an especially dangerous assumption to make, as so wonderfully summed up by Buffy.
“Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they’re too busy with their own. The beautiful ones. The popular ones. The guys that pick on you. Everyone.”
In an effort to gain power or seek revenge for the wrongs perpetrated against him the Nerd has become the tormentor that plagued him for so long. And that is truly shameful; he of all people should know better.
The root of the problem comes from a place of Fear and Power…. But mostly fear. For years conventions and other “nerdy” events were safe havens. Places were nerds could meet en masse, where they could share their nerdiness without fear of ridicule, where they could feel in control, feel they had power.
But that is changing, and humans fear change. Much as the frightened dog may lash out and bite the hand attempting to pet him nerd boys and girls find themselves lashing out, bullying the newcomer. Not giving the new guy (or girl) a chance to show interest or even become interested in the nerds world or the nerd himself. By doing so, he loses out on the chance to make new friends and new memories. Instead he revisits the pains of his past onto others. And that is sad.