Penny: “You know, for a group of guys who claim they spent most of their lives being bullied, you can be real jerks. Shame on all of you.” (Closes door)
Raj: “What the hell did I do?”
Penny (Opens door again): “You laughed.”
Big Bang Theory. Season 4, Episode 11: The Justice League Recombination
I’ve recently seen quite a few articles about the harassment women suffer at nerdfests like Comic-Con, and it made me think of the episode of Big Bang Theory where the guys poke fun at Zack for being an “indictment of the American education system” (Howard). While this is guys vs. guys, I think this is pretty damn applicable to male nerds (henceforth referred to as “creepers,” since this is not all-inclusive i.e. #notallmen) vs. female nerds.
Conventions are held for the purpose of like-minded people to gather and socialize, to learn about new things in their interests that are coming out, to showcase your love of those interests, and of course, the swag! But it almost seems like at Comic-Con, the creepers become the popular kids and the girls get to be the nerds who get shoved in lockers, given wedgies and swirlies.
One of my initial thoughts had been that these creepers feel that they can own the comics, they can own the movies, and somehow this gives them some sort of “ownership” over the women and their bodies who dress as characters from those comics or movies. But I’ve read of experiences women have had with creepers even when they weren’t in costume:
“Being that I was fully clothed from neck to toe without tight clothing, and STILL getting that kind of treatment, I couldn’t possibly feel safe dressing in anything that would draw attention to me, and maybe even not then, because I got rude comments while NOT cosplaying as well” (Bever 2014).
Now, I’m going to emphasize again that I’m not saying all male nerds are like this. In my experience as a gamer, all the guys I’ve known have been great and accepting, and I’ve never had any problems. So to read about the problems women face at Comic-Con kind of took me by surprise.
Many male nerds are as eager as us female nerds are to find a solution and stop the problem. For example, Bever (2014) writes that John Scalzi, a science-fiction writer, actually held his book reading and signing at a location separate from the Comic-Con venue because he doesn’t feel the Con’s policies are sufficient.
When Raj asked what he did, Penny responded, “You laughed.” Maybe you (i.e. anyone, not just the guys) didn’t laugh, but did you do anything? Inaction only signals to the creepers that what they do is ok. You might not be a part of the problem, but are you a part of the solution? Only by instilling in the creepers that this behavior toward female gamers is not ok, will they stop.
Bever, Lindsey. (2014). ‘Creeping at a con’: Sexual harassment at Comic-Con not so comic. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/28/creeping-at-a-con-sexual-harassment-at-comic-con-not-so-comic/