Laurie Penny pretends to be a nerd to seem sympathetic to geeks

In full, cos I’m not giving her pageviews; Note: Sorry about the formatting. Not my problem.

A nerd wouldn’t use logical fallacies the way she does.
A nerd would know the difference between themselves and a geek.
A nerd isn’t a person who just got decent grades at school.

A few people have forwarded me MIT professor Scott Aaronson’s post about nerd trauma and male privilege (link here) It’s part of a larger discussion about sexism in STEM subjects, and its essence is simple. Aaronson’s position on feminism is supportive, but he can’t get entirely behind it because of his experiences growing up, which he details with painful honesty. He describes how mathematics was an escape, for him, from the misery of growing up in a culture of toxic masculinity and extreme isolation – a misery which drove him to depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. The key quote is this:

“Much as I try to understand other people’s perspectives, the first reference to my ‘male privilege’ — my privilege! — is approximately where I get off the train, because it’s so alien to my actual lived experience . . . I suspect the thought that being a nerdy male might not make me ‘privileged’ — that it might even have put me into one of society’s least privileged classes — is completely alien to your way of seeing things. I spent my formative years — basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s — feeling not ‘entitled’, not ‘privileged’, but terrified.”

His experience is relevant too.

I know them feels, Scott.

Oh here we go….

As a child and a teenager, I was shy, and nerdy, and had crippling anxiety. I was very clever [if you have to say you were…] and desperate for a boyfriend or, failing that, a fuck. [still desperate for attention] I would have done anything for one of the boys I fancied to see me not as a sad little boffin freak but as a desirable creature, just for a second. I hated myself and had suicidal thoughts. I was extremely lonely, and felt ugly and unloveable. Eventually I developed severe anorexia and nearly died.

Mental health issues have nothing to do with being a geek or a nerd. That doesn’t logically support your point.
This explains all the hair dye and long sleeves.

Like Aaronson, I was terrified of making my desires known- to anyone. I was not aware of any of my (substantial) privilege for one second – I was in hell, for goodness’ sake, and 14 to boot. Unlike Aaronson, I was also female, so when I tried to pull myself out of that hell into a life of the mind, I found sexism standing in my way. I am still punished every day by men who believe that I do not deserve my work as a writer and scholar. Some escape it’s turned out to be.

I’m not a man and I find it laughable you call yourself a scholar. Logical fallacies abound. No intellectual honesty. You’re more of a scribbler than a writer, making no coherent point but going on anyway.

I do not intend for a moment to minimise Aaronson’s suffering. [really] Having been a lonely, anxious, horny young person who hated herself and was bullied I can categorically say that it is an awful place to be.

Yeah, you’re not a writer. Writers have linguistic flexibility.

I have seen responses to nerd anti-feminism along the lines of “being bullied at school doesn’t make you oppressed”.

Those people are correct. And your oh-so logical rebuttal?

Maybe it’s not a vector of oppression in the same way, but it’s not nothing. It burns. It takes a long time to heal.

Not really. If you haven’t put school issues to bed within 6 months of leaving, you likely have some form of mental health problem, including holding onto it as an excuse for present failings. That isn’t a normal response.

Feminism, however, is not to blame for making life hell for “shy, nerdy men”. Patriarchy is to blame for that. [who make up most bullies? which sex?] It is a real shame that Aaronson picked up Andrea Dworkin rather than any of the many feminist theorists and writers who manage to combine raw rage with refusal to resort to sexual shame as an instructive tool. Weaponised shame – male, female or other – has no place in any feminism I subscribe to. Ironically, Aronson actually writes a lot like Dworkin – he writes from pain felt and relived and wrenched from the intimate core of himself, and because of that his writing is powerfully honest, but also flawed. The thing is that the after effects of trauma tend to hang around long after the stimulus is past.

Wait, was that a claim to PTSD?
Sounded like a claim to PTSD.

And this, for me, is the root and tragedy both of nerd entitlement and the disaster of heterosexuality.

laughing rdj crack up
It’s a fucking tragedy! It’s right up there with Black Death! Straight people are a natural disaster!

What fascinates me about Aaronson’s piece, in which there was such raw, honest suffering, was that there was not one mention of women in any respect [because he isn’t one?] other than how they might relieve him from his pain by taking pity, or educating him differently. And Aaronson is not a misogynist. Aaronson is obviously a compassionate, well-meaning and highly intelligent man – I don’t doubt that I’ll meet him someday, as he’s a mentor to several people I respect and lives in the city I live in, and when that happens, I’ll tell him I think so.

Then why a whole article slagging him off?

Nonetheless, he makes a sudden leap, and it’s a leap that comes right from the gut, from an honest place of trauma and post-rationalisation,

I don’t think she knows what that term means. Is this why The Guardian sacked her?

from that teenage misery to a universal story of why nerdy men are in fact among the least privileged men out there,

That bullying thing you feminists go on about? Happens to nerds worst of all at school. Real nerds.

and why holding those men to account for the lack of representation of women in STEM areas – in the most important fields both of human development and social mobility right now, the places where power is being created and cemented right now – is somehow unfair.

STEM isn’t a place of power. Its position is on the knees, begging for grants. And there isn’t a shortage, quite the opposite. “We find no evidence of a general shortage of STEM workers.” Great non-research there, Ms Writer.

Nerds are not like the ‘neanderthals’, the REAL abusers of women. They should get a break.

Beta males are keeping the whole feminism barge running.

I have a profound political belief that we all deserve a break. Take one now, for five seconds, because this is going to get heavier. Breathe. Are you done?

Ok, let’s do this.

These are curious times. Gender and privilege and power and technology are changing and changing each other. We’ve also had a major and specific reversal of social fortunes in the past 30 years. Two generations of boys who grew up at the lower end of the violent hierarchy of toxic masculinity – the losers, the nerds, the ones who were afraid of being creeps – have reached adulthood and found the polarity reversed. Suddenly they’re the ones with the power and the social status. Science is a way that shy, nerdy men pull themselves out of the horror of their teenage years. That is true. That is so.

Here here!

But shy, nerdy women have to try to pull themselves out of that same horror into a world that hates, fears and resents them because they are women,

Wait, you’re pulling the They Aren’t Annoyed By Me Like A Mosquito, They’re Intimidated Line?

and to a certain otherwise very intelligent sub-set of nerdy men, the category “woman” is defined primarily as “person who might or might not deny me sex, love and affection”.

If they’re straight, yes. What’s wrong with wanting to be loved? You seem desperate for it.

(And you ask me, where were those girls when you were growing up? And I answer: we were terrified, just like you, and ashamed, just like you, and waiting for someone to take pity on our lonely abject pubescence, hungry to be touched. But you did not see us there. We were told repeatedly, we ugly, shy nerdy girls, that we were not even worthy of the category “woman”.
Fuck you, interloper.

It wasn’t just that we were too shy to approach anyone, although we were; it was that we knew if we did we’d be called crazy. [what] And if we actually got the sex we craved? (because some boys who were too proud to be seen with us in public were happy to fuck us in private and brag about it later)

Nerds aren’t slutty, Laurie. That’s just you. And you aren’t a nerd or you wouldn’t be a feminist. How can someone who denies evolutionary biology claim to love science?

. . . then we would be sluts, even more pitiable and abject. Aaronson was taught to fear being a creep and an objectifier if he asked; I was taught to fear being a whore or a loser if I answered, never mind asked myself. Sex isn’t an achievement for a young girl. It’s something we’re supposed to embody so other people can consume us, and if we fail at that, what are we even for?)

Freudian oral fixation references are NOT scientific, Laurie…..

The notion that there are lots of horny teenage girls out there who are unable for all sorts of reasons to get laid [self-respect?] remains a genuine surprise to many of my most intelligent male friends, but trust me, we were out there. We’re still out there, and if one of you is reading this, honey, you are a worthwhile person, and it gets better. Or at least, you get stronger.

School is the easiest time of your life. It doesn’t get better, why do you think people reminisce about the Greatest Days of Our Lives? If you think school is hard, life is beat you down. Regular, comfortable life.
Glorifying in previous pain isn’t a strength, rumination is a weakness feminists enjoy bathing in. Look at what a victim I am, love me! We’re all looking, and we pity.

Hi there, shy, nerdy boys. Your suffering was and is real. [then STFU speaking for them?] I really fucking hope that it got better, or at least is getting better, [oooh, it’s about money] At the same time, I want you to understand that that very real suffering does not cancel out male privilege, or make it somehow alright. Privilege doesn’t mean you don’t suffer, which, I know, totally blows. [remove the double negative, you twit]

I weep for my generation, truly I do. Then I pour myself a nice drink and laugh

Women generally don’t get to think of men as less than human, [unless you’re a feminist – cheap shot] not because we’re inherently better people, not because our magical feminine energy [what] makes us more empathetic, but because patriarchy doesn’t let us.

We’re really not allowed to just not consider men’s feelings, or to suppose for an instant that a man’s main or only relevance to us might be his prospects as a sexual partner.

[*scans previous lines on sex, frowns, re-reads, shakes head*]

That’s just not the way this culture expects us to think about men. Men get to be whole people at all times.

Possibly the most sexist thing I have ever read. Women are whole people. Unless they have a conjoined twin or something, in which case they’re more than whole.

Women get to be objects, or symbols, or alluring aliens whose responses you have to game to “get” what you want.

Like you wanting to be gamed in earlier paragraphs?

This is why Silicon Valley Sexism. This is why Pick Up Artists. This is why Rape Culture.

incredible shit bridget jones

Scott, imagine what it’s like to have all the problems you had and then putting up with structural misogyny on top of that. Or how about a triple whammy: you have to go through your entire school years again but this time you’re a lonely nerd who also faces sexism and racism. This is why Silicon Valley is fucked up. Because it’s built and run by some of the most privileged people in the world who are convinced that they are among the least. [meritocracy =/= privilege] People whose received trauma makes them disinclined to listen to pleas from people whose trauma was compounded by structural oppression. [was it compounded times infinity?] People who don’t want to hear that there is anyone more oppressed than them [like upper-middle class bourgie white women], who definitely don’t want to hear that maybe women and people of colour had to go through the hell of nerd puberty as well, because they haven’t recovered from their own appalling nerdolescence. [call the dictionary people] People who definitely don’t want to hear that, smart as they are, there might be basic things about society that they haven’t understood, [MERIT > identity] because they have been prevented from understanding by the very forces that caused them such pain as children. [feminist teaching complex]

Heterosexuality is fucked up right now because whilst we’ve taken steps towards respecting women as autonomous agents, we can’t quite let the old rules go. We have an expectation for, a craving for of a sexual freedom that our rhetoric, our rituals and our sexual socialisation have not prepared us for. [you assume all women have your masculine libido] And unfortunately for men, they have largely been socialised – yes, even the feminist-identified ones – to see women as less than fully human. [how can you believe this, HOW] Men, particularly nerdy men, are socialised to blame women – usually their peers and/or the women they find sexually desirable for the trauma and shame they experienced growing up. [no pretty sure it was the guys who flushed their heads down toilets] If only women had given them a chance, if only women had taken pity, if only done the one thing they had spent their own formative years been shamed and harassed and tormented into not doing. If only they had said yes, or made an approach.

Men don’t want women to act like men.
What part of this is tough to understand.
If they wanted to fuck someone who acted like a man, they’d fuck a man. They’d be gay.

This, incidentally, is why we’re not living in a sexual utopia of freedom and enthusiastic consent yet despite having had the technological capacity to create such a utopia for at least 60 years. Men are shamed for not having sex; women are shamed for having it. [nope] Men are punished and made to feel bad for their desires, made to resent and fear women for having denied them the sex they crave and the intimacy they’re not allowed to get elsewhere. [err still no] Meanwhile, women are punished and made to feel bad for their perfectly normal desires [fucking around like a man isn’t a normal female desire, unless you believe in the Game version of hypergamy] and taught to resist all advances, even Eventually, a significant minority of men learn that they can ‘get’ what they want by means of violence and manipulation, [do you mean socializing] and a significant minority of women give in, because violence and manipulation can be rather effective [are you calling women naturally thick]. (Note: accepting the advances of an awful man does not make these people bad women who are conspiring to ‘make life hell for shy nerds’. I’ve heard that sort of thing come out of the mouths of my feminist-identified male nerd friends far too often.)

That’s how you sound to men.
Spoiled and wrong.

And so we arrive at an impasse: men must demand sex and women must refuse,

You agree with this?

except not too much because then we’re evil friendzoning bitches. The impasse continues until one or both parties grows up enough or plumps up the courage to state their desires honestly and openly, without pressure or resentment, respecting the consent and agency of one another.

I don’t think slutty men respect the ‘agency’ of slutty women very much, or they’d stick around as requested/begged.

This usually doesn’t happen. What usually happens instead is that people’s sexuality and self-esteem get twisted into resentment of the (usually opposite) gender; they start to see that gender as less than human,

does that go for both sexes?

particularly if they are men [dammit] and learn at every stage of their informal and formal education that women are just worth less, have always been less, are not as smart, not as good, not as humanly human as men. Aaronson goes on to comment that this “death-spiral” is a product of the times. I agree. “In a different social context — for example, that of my great-grandparents in the shtetl—I would have gotten married at an early age and been completely fine,” he writes. Scott, my great-grandparents also lived in a shtetl. I understand that you sometimes feel you might have been better adapted to that sort of life – when dating and marriage were organised to make things easy for clever young men. On the same Shtetl, however, I would have been married at a young age to a man who would have been the legal owner of my body, my property and the children I would have been expected to have;

That’s the entire point of marriage, it’s a legal contract where a woman signs over her fertility for male resources.
You could choose to abstain, but then you’d starve. Some choice.

I would never have been allowed to be a scholar. [I think it’s a generic lack of brainpower holding you back on that one] I would have worked in the fields as well as the home to support my husband in his more cerebral pursuits, [outright false] and with my small weedy nerdy frame, I would likely have died young from exhaustion or in childbirth. [because manual work doesn’t build muscle or anything]

There are a lot of young men out there – I suspect even now – who sometimes wish they’d been born when things were a bit easier, when the balance of male versus female sexual shame was tilted more sharply by the formal rituals of patriarchy, when men could just take or be assigned what they wanted, as long as they were also white and straight.

Class differences. Your 3rd wave lens is blinding you. Youngest sons? Pretty screwed.

There are a lot of older men out there who long for that real or imagined world more openly, and without any of Aaronson’s nuance and compassion. I would challenge men to analyse that longing, to see it for what it is. And then to resist it. You are smarter and better than that.


What can I say? This is a strange and difficult age, one of fast-paced change and misunderstandings. Nerd culture is changing, technology is changing, and our frameworks for gender and power are changing – for the better. [then why are you worried about Women Against Feminism?] And the backlash to that change is painful as good, smart people try to rationalise their own failure to be better, to be cleverer, to see the other side for the human beings they are. Finding out that you’re not the Rebel Alliance, you’re actually part of the Empire and have been all along, is painful.Believe me, I know.(Although I always saw myself as an Ewok).

They're so stupid it's a laughriot

We bring our broken hearts and blue balls to the table when we talk gender politics, especially if we are straight folks. Consent and the boundaries of consent – desire and what we’re allowed to speak of desire – we’re going to have to get better, braver and more honest, [public sex demos aren’t enough?] we’re going to have to undo decades of toxic socialisation and learn to speak to each other as human beings in double quick time.

You first.

And most of all, we’re going to have to make like Princess Elsa and let it go – all that resentment. All that rage and entitlement and hurt. Socialisation makes that process harder still for men. The road ahead will be long. I believe in you. I believe in all of us. Nerds are brilliant. We are great at learning stuff. We can do anything we put our minds to, although I suspect this thing, this refusing to let the trauma of nerdolescence create more violence, this will be hardest of all.

And on that note I shall return to what I was doing before I read this post, which was drinking sweet tea and weeping about how boys don’t seem to want to kiss short-haired lady nerds, and trying not to blame the whole world for my broken heart, which is becoming more complex and interesting in the healing but still stings like a boiling ball of papercuts. I’ll let you know how that goes.

You can change your appearance. I hear there’s an entire industry dedicated to that end.

Laurie Penny: In defence of white knights

She’s started using our terms. Heehee.

Trigger warning: Laurie Penny picture, ‘writing’

Back in the real world, something fascinating is happening. As men and boys everywhere begin to realise that a society less riddled with rape, sexual violence and lazy gender stereotypes might be better for everyone, less evolved men and boys have started to round on them as traitors.

Wait, isn’t the official feminist line that evolution doesn’t go above the neck ever and stopped dead at least 10,000 years ago?

One common charge is that men who support feminism are trying to be “white knights”, sweeping in to protect women, not knowing that we capricious females prefer the attentions of the bull-necked misogynists who holler at us in the street.

Depends. Which type do women sleep with more?

“White knight” and “beta male” are the most common slurs flung at such men – usually by retro sexists who still think that feminism is all about poor confused chaps getting shouted at whenever they hold open a door for an enormous straw woman. In reality, most women and girls would simply rather that men stopped slamming doors in our faces.

I’ve seen a feminist shout at a man for pulling a chair out and the poor bastard went on to make it up to her …by getting her chair.

What we want – what would delight me, for one – is for us to get to a stage where we hold doors open for other people just because doors can be heavy and we all have our burdens to carry.

The whole thing is like this.
She is too dumb to realize her attempt at satire only communicates her stupidity.

So I’d like to put in a word for the white knights. Making fun of them is how self-satisfied sexists explain away this change in social attitudes. As casual sexism and recreational misogyny become less and less acceptable in mainstream culture [DS: journalism isn’t real life], some people might find it reassuring to think that all of those non-misogynist men out there are merely weak-willed, sex-starved betas, desperate for a bit of sweet feminist loving. [and maybe after she can period-knit him a wool jumper from her vagina] Far more challenging is the idea that men might be supporting feminism because it is the right thing to do – and because they like the idea of not having to pretend to be rigid, emotionally castrated thugs all the damn time.

If you mean real men, they aren’t self-satisfied. Quite the opposite.
How about this: instead of saying what non-beta men are like, make it clear beta feminist males will never get laid for it, because hey, if they’re really there to respect women, it wouldn’t be their goal would it? They’d respect women too much. Set a timer how fast they disappear.

There are certainly times when that is true – often the best thing you can do as an ally is to understand when it’s your turn to shut up and let someone else speak, especially when you don’t have direct experience of the subject being discussed.

The bitch levels are off the charts. Seriously these guys must be desperate.

Real courage is about doing things that are challenging and uncomfortable because you know that’s the way to make a better world. Things such as accepting a higher proportion of women in roles of power and expertise. Or listening to women talking about our experiences of violence and discrimination without interrupting or trying to make it all about you.

I’m a bird (woman) and I think you’re full of it. Does deference come down to who is more of a woman, cos I’d win. I can cook, clean and sew.

The most heroic thing you can do as a man today is to risk your own social status to do what you know is right. In recent weeks and months, I have been watching more and more men and boys take that risk, without expecting any sort of reward, sexual or otherwise, and I think that every one of them is a big, swashbuckling hero, like the feminist women I know. In a just world, we would all have our own theme tunes.

She doesn’t live on this planet, does she? Uranus, Laurie? Do you live up Uranus?

So, to the white knights out there – you can add my sword to your struggle. If anybody does shout at you for treating women as human beings, if anybody gives you grief for defending women online or in person, then I for one have got your back. I will defend you with all the discursive weapons at my disposal and, afterwards, you can get up on my horse and together we’ll ride off to a slightly better tomorrow.

She’s like that kid we all knew at school who tried everything to be cool and it made them the lamest, lowest of the low.

Feminist Laurie Penny showing herself up as a moron for Occupy Wall Street

Blame everyone! Ask for everything! Explain nothing!

Notable excerpts;

Laurie Penny: “we don’t have debt because of the public sector, we don’t have debt because we spent too much on public services”

Someone can’t read a spreadsheet.

“Governments were forced to take those debts from the banks”

This is so wrong I’m not going to bother making fun.