I seem to be doing a lot more Real Talks recently, and while that’s definitely a format I enjoy writing in, I wanted to shy away from it a bit more in the next few months. After all, this blog is a place to focus on the glitter in the world, and my Real Talk posts have a tendency to be a bit more on the depressing side. Having said that, I saw something in the last few days that it is so, SO important for me to talk about and raise awareness of that I just had to write this.
As many of you will already know, we have a movie adaptation of the book Ready Player One coming out later this year. I have never read Ready Player One, but I was certainly excited about the movie. Who wouldn’t be with all those awesome nerdy references in the trailer alone!?
But then I saw a post in a Facebook group pointing me toward a poem written by the book’s author Ernest Cline. The poster wanted to make sure the broader community knew about it before seeing the film. I checked it out, and it made me vomit a little in my mouth. It was something written in “praise” of nerd girls, but its misogynistic overtones are obvious to anyone who reads or listens to it. I don’t want to republish the poem without Cline’s permission, and to be honest, I wouldn’t want to put it on my blog anyway, but for those curious to read the whole thing it can be found here (and it should be accompanied by a huge trigger warning for objectifying women, graphic sexuality and misogyny).
The poem is entitled “Epic Nerd Girl Porn”.
It contains the line “They’re objects.” in reference to women who don’t fit Cline’s description of “a real woman”, specifically in porn. The whole poem is pretty much in that vein. It’s absolutely disgusting.
There is a dark side of nerd culture which seems to speak about women that way and to be quite frank, it terrifies me. It doesn’t just terrify me for the women that Cline describes as objects though, it terrifies me for all women (and men who have been in similarly vulnerable situations). You see, in a former relationship, I was the “nerd girl” dating a guy who believed the same type of things that Cline is writing about.
To be fair to myself, I didn’t realise that my ex held those opinions when I started dating him. It took a while for them to come out, just as it took a while for him to start getting angry at me for not being what I apparently seemed to be on the packet. In my limited experience, what Cline and my ex actually mean when they talk about “nerd girls” is a fictional perfect woman who, not only looks perfect but agrees with every nerdy opinion they have, and knows everything about every nerdy thing. I, as someone who isn’t particularly academically intelligent, was simply not good enough so my ex would lose his temper with me, talk over me and call me stupid. He seemed to think of all women in this way, almost like a virgin/whore complex, except it was a nerd-girl/slut complex.
That relationship was so bad I seriously considered cutting myself off from all things nerdy (which I had loved long before the relationship) just to get away from him and some of the people associated with him when it ended. It didn’t help that three of his gaming friends came into my workplace on separate occasions to threaten me and make me feel unsafe. I was SO lucky to have a supportive workplace and incredibly workmates at the time so it never went further than that, but I still have nightmares almost two years later. I worried that all nerd culture was tarnished by men like that who thought it was their right to treat women badly, after all, hadn’t women treated them badly in high school?
At the same time, I happened to start reading and watching a bunch of games journalism and I discovered something wonderful. Those awful, awful people weren’t in charge of nerd culture anymore, in fact, they’re becoming a smaller and smaller part of it, thanks to others standing up to them and calling them out on their bullshit. Slowly but surely, nerds are becoming the accepting community that they were always meant to be. But there’s still a ways to go. Giving a man like Ernest Cline the chance to represent us as nerds of all genders is a step backwards. As much as he claims to, he clearly doesn’t have any respect for women, nerdy or otherwise. There are better writers and there are better nerds.
I’m not going to end this post with a call to boycott Ready Player One, but instead, I will say: keep yourself informed and let yourself make your own decision. Don’t let him get away with this if you feel it’s wrong just because he’s written a nerdy movie. Gamers are better than this. Nerds are better than this. We are better than this.