An Open Letter to the Geek Community

My Dearest Comrades in Geekery:

Our community is under attack. The very core of our foundation is threatened by an infiltration of mentally unstable culture whoarders posing as legitimate members of the geek world.

Imposters may be seen…

  • Mocking new and less-informed geeks.
  • Brutally quizzing a fellow geek to identify their knowledge status.
  • Displaying misogyny towards women with feminine qualities.
  • Complaining of the presence of “stupid n00bs.”

Why are these posers a threat?

1. The behavior of such individuals sends the wrong message to the rest of the world. What do people think of geeks as a whole because of those people?

A culture that values knowledge and access above all things is going to be a culture dedicated to hierarchy and to power—to defining who is in and who is out. Such defining involves, and is meant to involve, a good deal of antagonism, score-settling, back-biting, and cruelty. There’s not much point in defining yourself as the knower if you cannot define others as those who do not know. – Noah Berlatsky, The Atlantic

2. They create an environment where many individuals cannot feel safe, emotionally.

The feelings of being threatened, invalidated, and overlooked can happen to any one of us in this community–some psychologists argue that when the threats are ambiguous or subtle (like microaggressions), they can be more damaging because there is no certainty and the assault is denied or ignored. – Dr. Andrea Letamendi, The Mary Sue

3. They communicate to the world that it’s okay to sexually harass women.

“When one female cosplayer decried her experience with sexual harassment last week at New York Comic Con, she met with dead silence on the con floor.” – Aja Romano, The Daily Dot

“My boundaries were violated physically, verbally, and in terms of my right to feel personally secure. In addition, within minutes of meeting him, I was told to stop saying things, because it made him somehow unable to control his thoughts, which is bog-standard thought policing.” – Genevieve Valentine, GLValentine

How to respond to fake geeks:

  • For belittling the n00bishness of others, show the offender Ten Thousand.
  • For sexual harassment, hand out something like Creeper Cards.
  • For general rudeness, covertly put a sticky note on the offender’s back that says, “Please remind me to not be a dick.”
  • Amply praise those with awesome knowledge not for having it, but for sharing it with generosity of spirit.

I know I’m not alone in being saddened at the impact these individuals have on the geek community. I love geeks, and the reason I love them is because their fandom is infectious. Geeks have an  optimistic enthusiasm for the ideas that excite them, and they love to share the details that make them so pleased with a world or set of ideas.

We are the champions of knowledge and access, not because we feel the need to create a power differential between ourselves and the unknowing, but because we want everyone to have access to knowledge. If you’re a new geek in some area and someone claiming to be a geek makes you feel like you don’t deserve to be part of our club, please walk away knowing that someone is a sad, lonely pop-culture whoarder who is missing out on the loving, idea-generating powerhouse I like to call Team Geek and come hang out with us instead.

After all, Team Geek has tons of room, and you would not believe the Easter egg I just found on the latest Doctor Who DVD…


Melissa Walshe, Geek


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