That Oatmeal cartoon - Tactical Ninja
May. 16th, 2012
09:05 am - That Oatmeal cartoon
My conscious sleeping didn't work so well last night. ;-/ Mostly I think because Tuesday is a gym day and also acro day and since it's blood week too, things conspired for me to just be too tired to wake myself up. Meh.
Yesterday there was a thing that bugged me. Specifically, the latest Oatmeal strip, about Nikola Tesla. Normally I quite like The Oatmeal and to be completely honest, this one is not really an exception. It was interesting and informative and if you're bothered about the wireless electricity bit you should probably talk to Professor Toddles because I haven't read up on it.
The offending bit.
"What's so bad about that then? Dude chose to be celibate, it's a legitimate choice."
Yep, it certainly is. And I have no beef with Tesla's choice, or his reasons for it, as an individual. But The Oatmeal decided to make a Thing about it - that thing being that Telsa was even more impressive because he shunned Teh Laydeez for the sake of his work - he felt his work to be more important than sex or relationships with women, and this made him, and I quote, "A Real Geek." Particularly annoying is the little mini-cartoon in which we see a stick-woman offering sex and the Real Geek declining it in favour of more important things, while the Not Geek doesn't have anything more important to do.
There are touches of geek glorification throughout the strip, but that's another topic. What's bothering me here is this business of The Geek only being Real if he* prioritises work over women. It's a trope that's everywhere in so-called geek culture - the man is the Geek Doing Important Things and the woman is an irrelevant distraction. You've heard of 'computer widows' right? Funny how it's the female noun that gets used for that, eh? Can't think why.. Oh yeah, that's right, it's because it's assumed that the one Doing will be the man, and the role of the woman is to try to distract him from his focus in order to have a relationship. Relationships with women being trivial compared with whatever The Geek is doing.
"So what? It's one cartoon strip. Why are you acting like this is a big problem?"
Well, it's not just one cartoon strip. It's not unique to geek culture either. Check this out:
That's the latest Tui ad. According to this article, it's actually Tui's attempt to be less sexist than usual. Notice a familiar trope in that ad? Over to you, Hand Mirror:
"Women are treated as distractions from the real thing: a men-only, testosterone-laden, beer-drinking sport session."
Gosh, they noticed it too. And there's nothing less associated with the geek culture I'm familiar with than beer-drinking sport sessions with Everyman, right? And yet, apparently women are Distraction From The Important Stuff in that culture too. What say you, Tui?
"DB says camaraderie and irreverence are crucial aspects of the Tui brand."
Hmm. So in order to portray camaraderie, they have to set up men sticking together for their goal despite women's attempts to distract them. I wonder why it's never women sticking together despite men's attempts to distract them? But that's a ridiculous idea right? Why on earth would women need camaraderie and why would men try to distract them? After all, only men have Important Things to do.
Yes, I am being a little OTT there. But the trope is real, and it's everywhere. Still not convinced? Let me tell you about Aaron.
Aaron is the YoT's cousin. He was about 3 or 4 in 1994, when the family decided to have an outdoor barbeque. Everyone was standing around being social as you do, and I needed to talk to the YoT's Dad about something. I asked Aaron if he'd seen him. He replied "Don't bother the men, they are talking about important business stuff." (or words to that effect, it was a long time ago but that seared into my brain)
From the mouths of babes.
Because he meant it, seriously. At 3 years old he had already picked up that men talked about important stuff and women 'bothered them' while they were doing it, were distractions and that was bad. That kid will be 21 this year, he's an adult - and probably one that watches the Tui ads unless something major has changed. Yes, I know, it was Dargaville, but Dargaville isn't the only place this belief is held.
You see, even if Aaron grew up to be a geek who was into learning facts about Tesla, he'd still be getting fed the same trope, through things like that bit in the Oatmeal. And when he gets into a relationship (be it with a man or a woman), he'll have this background, unquestioned 'knowledge' that women distract men from Doing Important Things. And he'll treat them accordingly.
I am not a distraction, I am a person. My Things are also Important. And while I respect that everyone sometimes Does Important Stuff and shouldn't be distracted, I seriously resent the implication that by my gender I am always the distraction and my Things are always the trivial ones. I'm sorry if my speaking out about this makes you uncomfortable. I know that many of my friends do not think in these tropes - but we're all exposed to it, a lot of the time. Maybe for me, making sure that people around me see these things and understand why they bother me is some of my Important Stuff. I dunno, I reckon trying to make sure the world has less Aarons in it is probably pretty Important.
* It's always a he. Except in xkcd. Which is one of the reasons I like xkcd.
Last night we did lots of bluebird stuff. Bluebird looks like this:
Neither Tom nor I were really on last night but we muddled through. I only have one giant bruise on my shin (there's probably a matching one on his knee), and we definitely made improvements in all areas. Also, it's taking a bit of getting used to being flung around. I have always felt big, ungainly and gangly next to my friends, and it's a strange kind of cognitive dissonance to have someone pick me up and manipulate me as if I weigh nothing.
But I like it.