Back in January, Salon ran an editorial by famous writer and game show winner Arthur Chu called “The plight of the bitter nerd.” Apparently this piece proved quite popular, since it has recently reemerged as one of the site’s biggest hits, and there is good reason for this. Instead of taking a simplistic approach to the concerns and feelings of bitter nerds like himself, Chu acknowledges that “it seems in every group of nerdy guys I’ve known there’s one guy who’s trapped in a feedback loop of anxiety and self-loathing when it comes to women that goes around and around in circles.” Indeed, he admits that he’s very lucky to get away from being at a similar emotional place only a few years earlier.
That said, there is an important reason why Chu identifies with feminism, which deserved to be quoted in full:
“For most of us, sex is a big part of our lives, and our relationship to gender therefore a weighted and fraught thing. We all have hang-ups and neuroses, and they’re much more likely to manifest in the way we see sexual attraction and relationships than in the way we do our taxes. No one actually said men have it easy.
But men are the ones who by and large get to deal with this as an internal matter. Women are the ones who have to deal with internal hang-ups and, as Laurie Penny points out in her piece, external threats from other people. Guys deal with Women in the abstract, as a category; women deal with specific men who physically threaten them.”
Again, Chu is obviously speaking in generalities – of course there are men who have been physically threatened by women who are exploiting gender roles, just as there are women lucky enough to go through their entire lives without ever having their gender used against them. That said, the general trend is precisely what Chu described, which is why he concludes that “I don’t know how ‘women,’ as a group, can help men with the problems he [an MRA sympathizer] describes… But meanwhile, women are getting stalked and raped and killed. That’s something that men are doing and that men can stop other men from doing. And, with apologies to my fellow emotionally tortured guys, that really ought to be our priority.”
While I share Chu’s sentiment on how feminist priorities significantly (and I do mean significantly) outweigh the concerns of lonely bitter nerds, he’s wrong that there isn’t advice which can help nerdy men effectively address their problems. Like Chu, I’m also a nerdy man whose early childhood experiences with girls have given me a residual awkwardness which has lasted for many years (having Asperger’s Syndrome definitely didn’t help matters).
While I was fortunate enough to see that change once I went to college (my school was unusually open-minded, allowing me to develop several successful relationships there that gave me the confidence and skills necessary to maintain a normal dating life as an adult), I still feel a connection to that isolated teenager who hadn’t yet learned that high school experiences can be very different from ordinary life. As such, I have three quick tips for other men who are in that predicament.
1. Don’t put women on a pedestal.
I know quoting Gloria Steinem is a great way to lose sympathy from MRAs and PUAs, but she nevertheless had a saying that is really useful here:
“A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space.”
Read the whole article here.