Very weird how some male nerds victimized by the patriarchy in high-school turn all of their anger towards women. Maybe not so weird though. Apartheid only manages to sustain itself by giving one class of oppressed people the psychic wage of feeling superior to an even more oppressed group.
In this article Connor Friedersdorf, describes an unusually productive blog comment conversation where MIT professor Scott Aaronson (who had earlier expressed some pretty rebarbative views) comes clear about his own trauma as a high school nerd and Laurie Penny gives a response that a lot of people took to be canonical. Unfortunately, while the discussion revealed important things and the disputants treated each other with far more respect than is the norm, as more people entered, things reverted back to type. Friedersdorf's penultimate point:
What if everyone involved in this conversation is ill-served by the present state of public discourse? Together, Aaronson, Penny, Alexander, their many sharp commenters, and myriad other bloggers who weighed in on these subjects possess much of the knowledge needed to help nerds of both genders and women in STEM fields to understand the roots of needless crossed signals and mistrust and to transcend them. It's striking to observe how many significant goals were shared by most everyone participating in the conversation:to prevent any young person from being suicidally anxious or guilt-ridden about normal sexual desire; to understand bygone traumas that shape present attitudes; to identify and eliminate sexist barriers to entry in the sciences, tech, and elsewhere.
Everyone seemed eager for solutions.
Yet even as they labored to better understand one another, to be charitable and compassionate while reliving past trauma, and to articulate disagreements in an intellectually honest fashion, their focus kept returning to relative virtue and blame.
Who has what degree of privilege? Whose bygone trauma is most exonerating? To what degree are white male nerds guilty of oppressing women in STEM? To what degree are feminist activists and commentators guilty of oppressing nerds? They talked to one another as if whoever was found to possess the most traumatic background or smallest degree of group privilege would win the day, not because any of them chose such metrics, but because all sense that they're inescapable. They seem to confer rhetorical and political power in our time, so even writers who regard them as creating perverse incentives wind up returning to them.
Friedersdorf suggests that we need to overcome what he calls "the privilege framework" to make further progress on this. I don't know how plausible that is, but it's worth thinking about.