I Can’t Decide If I’m A Nerd Or A Geek; Maybe It’s The Gender Bias

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I don’t suppose it matters, really, if I am a “nerd” or a “geek.” But this “Geeks vs Nerds” infographic got me thinking…

First it was just the statements in the infographic itself. Like, does the “geeky” fact that I collect cancel-out my extreme “nerdy” interest in academics — does the volume of what I all collect tip the scales enough to outweigh the fact that I have a PC, not a Mac?

And what about the way they made each type look? I guess you could say the “nerd” dresses less fashionably. Heaven knows I’ve not only had my own style, but rather eschewed trends, and that’s only increased as I enter crone-dom. I suppose that nerd look could be seen as the look of a less social person… But when they go so far as to depict a “nerd” as having the need for orthodontic treatment — I mean a true need, because that guy looks like he can only roll round food against those teeth to get anything into his mouth — the whole effect is one of slovenly unattractiveness.  An ugliness that affects health even.

But all that self-identification stuff seems to take a backseat to the fact that this infographic (and the sites where they sought the information) talk about Geeks & Nerds in terms of their maleness. Not just depicting them as males, but using traditionally male characteristics as defining points or categories.

[This sort of gender bias is rampant in diagnosing autism too; such as topical obsessions which limit (or dominate) conversations — something far more pronounced in boys than in girls, leading to less girls diagnosed and identified as needing services. (This could also be due to the fact that dads are more involved in the parenting and lives of their sons than their daughters; and that too could partly explain higher divorce rates of parents of children with autism.) But I digress.]

For example, how this geek vs. nerd infographic uses science fiction film as a tell.  Sci-fi is more beloved and iconic for men — to the point where so many men fear the extinction of the true genre due to “liberalism” and feminism. Yes, a lot of women like sci-fi, fantasy genres, gaming, etc. — but it’s rampant with male privilege and sexism. Honestly, do the “strong women” really need to be limited to Fighting Fuck Toys (NWS)? And what’s up with marketing pandering to a male audience all the frickin’ time.


Where are the other options for more traditionally female genres of films? Just look at the (white) male-centered film section on the infographich and note the absence of female stars/characters.

Of course, you can argue that the movie industry is still struggling from the film code which damaged films. Especially those movies for and about strong or even interesting women. But that only makes this girl geek or girl nerd’s point. Include classic film, especially pre-code film (NWS), along with the sci-fi, because that’s a perfectly “specific niche interest” and/or “academic” thing to offer here.

Other examples would be to include cooking gadgets with computers and tech gadgets; knitting and ASCII art with screen printing; researchers, librarians, curators, museum and library sciences with the other careers — in fact, where did all the bookish things, once so nerdish and geeky, go? Nerds and geeks read, dammit. (The truth is, stressing gadgets, technology, omitting books, etc. not only precludes women, who earn less money then men, from making the grade — but is racist in application as well.)

We don’t want a “geekette” or “pink nerd” option; we want y’all to recognize that females are geeks and nerds too.

When I mentioned to hubby how this whole “gender biased infographic for geeks and nerds thing was sticking in my craw”, his response was to mock me and say, “I doubt that was their intention, Dee.”

I love you, hubby, but that was spoken like a true person of privilege, i.e. a man.

Because that’s my whole point about gender bias, sexism, racism, etc.: Privileged people so “naturally” dismiss other people.

In other words, geekdom and nerdiness are the white man’s world; women (and non-whites) need not apply to this boy’s club.

This seems to be exactly the problematic thinking behind the “brogrammers” problem, and why we shouldn’t be asking, “Why aren’t there more women in tech?” or science, but rather “How do we change the culture to be friendly to women?”

Obviously is starts with including women in the Geek Vs. Nerd debate, however silly, geeky, and nerdy that may seem.


  1. My husband got his father to paint a Seussian nerd on the high chair he built for our child, so in our house there was never any question. It’s practically our family crest. But although I became quite proficient on the Apple Lisa at a film company I worked at back in the day, it was only after I was given a domain name for mothers day that i myself embraced my inner nerd.

    I guess my problem with the infographic is that it appears to have been created by marketing hipsters, not actual nerds *or* geeks, because to my mind a lot of their points are incorrect. Then of course, at this point I may well be a nerd. Personally, I totally agree with your comment on the teeth thing, which seems to imply that parents who can’t afford orthodonture are condemning their kids to looking like this. As far as the Mac versus IBM argument goes… if using a Mac makes you a geek, then that implies the smartest tech folk are not geeks, because they are unwilling to give up the freedom to tinker.

    Then, too, I am put off by labelling. I find it rather liberating to see women excluded from this stereotypical labelling. I myself don’t call anyone “nerds” or “geeks” (although I have had characters consider the question). Once upon a time some Hollywood people too lazy to do any actual research labelled computer criminals as hackers. Most of the smartest tech folk I know self identify as “hackers” in the non-criminal sense. There is a huge difference between the labels people choose for themselves and those decided by outsiders.

    Recently I saw a picture of Snoop Dogg cooking with Martha Steward captioned “Stereotyoes Matter ~ and only one of them is a convicted felon.” And since I saw it on Facebook, I couldn’t possibly be a nerd, a geek or even a hacker.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Laurel :) I see you’ve also posted at your blog so I’m not sure where to reply in full…

    I agree with you about the creators of the infographic being marketing hipsters, but the info for the graphic was pulled from somewhere. And while labels are not important to me, the whole thing makes me uncomfortable with the lack of recognizing women as part of these (however entwined) communities. And that’s rather my point.

    Ultimately, many of the problems with this infographic actually mirror what’s wrong the culture itself.

    How can we encourage women to profit from so-called geek and nerd professions (such as math, science, technology), to be proud of their brainy activities when the female-dominated professions of librarians, for example, are so dismissed? Why would women even to pursue such fields when they are so dismissed — and even are treated as sexist toys or gifts — in the culture?

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