You Are Not an Oppressed Minority
So there's a rain a comin'. Like many things on the internet, it is fucking stupid.
So first of all, there's this group the societyforgeekadvancement.com who have apparently decided to coopt the word "geek" to mean something like "user of social media technology."
The people involved apparently weren't aware that the whole "take back the night" campaign about the words "geek" and "geekdom" had been ongoing since the late nineties.
So naturally, the real geeks got annoyed at these johnny come lately's popping up out of nowhere trying to co-opt their identity. Such as it is.
Which prompted a response on twitter and, naturally, tor.com defending "real" geeks who play D&D and watch Star Trek from "fake" geeks who just spend a lot of time Twittering from their iPhones.
The whole thing is a tempest in a teapot, and frankly everyone involved is an asshole.
First off, the attempt to reclaim the word geek is moronic and insensitive. It puts this kind of social pressure to be cool on the same level as campaigns by gays, blacks, and other groups to "take back" the slurs against them and remove their power to do harm.' This is ridiculous in that it places a word like "geek" on the same platform with a word like "nigger" or "faggot" or "dyke" when it belongs nowhere near them.
Let's take a brief history at what the word ACTUALLY means, and then we'll come back to the issue of why everyone involved in this controversy is a fucking asshole.
According to the OED, the word geek originally is descended from middle german "geck" meaning one who is insane. The term enters into general American parlance via circus folk, as documented by linguist David Maurer. A traditional sideshow geek was a part of a freakshow. Except geeks aren't real freaks, as noted sideshow performer Jim Rose has noted about his sometime colleague The Enigma, they are just people stupid enough to put all kinds of dumb stuff into their mouths, chew it up, and swallow it. The attraction of the geek is the grossout. It's a very visceral and base thrill which mostly padded out the 10-in-1 style sideshow freak performances of traditional traveling circuses. It's not that interesting an attraction, generally, as is evidenced by the fact that geeks could rarely be performing in a Single-O Grindshow of the sort advocated by Magician, Artist, and Author Doug Higley, who is perhaps the foremost expert on the practicalities of such entertainment in America today.
So then where does the word go from there? Well, it becomes an insult. Geeks were generally known for a tall, long knecked, gangly appearance, and generally had a certain air of stupidity about them. As such, anybody who's seen a few geeks and wants to get under somebodies skin, well, he calls that guy a geek. It's very childish behavior, which is probably why it most often occurs among adolescents and the use of the word thereby was largely formed among children only to be abandoned and ignored by adults as they "outgrew" the strict stratification of adolescent american subcultures.
Over time, this morphed into the general understanding that a geek was really just a kid who didn't fit in for some reason and was picked on by other kids. This then was differentiated from "nerd" or "dork" through the usual construction process of the overly elaborate taxonomies found among most adolescents who are rapidly trying to figure out exactly who they are and how they fit. It's even a healthy sort of a thing for a kid to do, to ask himself what is this thing that I am and what is it about me that makes me that thing, and do I want to be that thing?
What is less healthy is the sort of arrested development to be found in the "take back geek" movement wherein a bunch of adults who really ought to have their shit more together at this point are sitting around arguing about what a geek is or is not. What a geek is, by definition and common usage, is a kid who is socially awkward, doesn't fit in, and may or may not be interested in things that his peers consider "weird" or "geeky."
It is not a person who, as an adult, is interested in a range of hobbies that generally either display a lack of intellectual curiosity (e.g. people who spend a lot of time reading but are really only interested in fantastical literature and who rarely take the interest in literature beyond a sort of passive consumption of whatever heavily promoted mass market paperback trash gets shoved down their throats) or a sort of single minded obsession with activities that requires a lot of anti-social behavior and rigidly formalist thinking to acquire mastery (e.g. Eric S. Raymond or that guy who developed the Bourne Again Shell). Those people are not geeks. There's a whole other word for people like that. There are several in fact. Myself, I prefer "loser." Pick yr own if you like. Asshole, Jackass, twit, dweeb, or whatever you like. But let's leave the kids out of it, shall we? And let's stop pretending that just because there are some girls with big tits who have their own websites and write publicly about matters concerning technofetishism for an audience mostly composed of a drooling mass of awkward white guys who are barely able to dress themselves that there is something "cool" about being one of these people. There just isn't. And there never will be.
That having been said, that all of these people either want to wear the word as a fashion accessory or claim it as a sort of marginal identity bespeaks a vapidness and an insensitivity to actual identity politick issues that is, frankly, stunning. That a group that is mostly over-privileged, wealthy, white, and that has access to all the power that being highly educated in the sciences provides such people is able, with a straight face, to claim marginalized status is at BEST a sort of clueless irony. More realistically, it becomes a pretty repugnant parody of genuine struggles for equality currently being waged by the actually marginalized in our society. And more to the point, it is precisely these latter day geeks as they call themselves who are the beneficiaries of institutional coercion against those marginalized persons. And that, my friends, is what makes them not geeks, not nerds, not even losers. That is what makes the grade a, bone fide, dyed in the wool assholes.
And I'll stand by that definition.