This is, broadly, the narrative through which geeks justify their defensiveness about, and their aggression towards, fake geek girls, as I wrote in an essay last week. Cultural passions define geeks; geeks have suffered for those cultural passions. Fake geek girls pretend to take up the passion without having actually experienced the suffering. Thus they are poseurs, and must be condemned.
As I said in my earlier post, I think the fake geek girl meme is a poisonous myth. But it's tied to an even more prevalent myth: that sensitive geeks are oppressed because of their passionate sensitivity.
Which is not to say that geeky kids aren't targeted for violence. I certainly was. But I don't think that that violence was tied to my love of construction paper animals, or to the fact that a few years later I'd be obsessed with comics and Dungeons and Dragons.
So what was it tied to? Well, in my case, it was probably tied most directly to class. I grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania, and my family lived in a fairly low-income neighborhood in one of the towns attached to the deindustrializing, city of Wilkes-Barre. Most of the kids in my school came from families that had lived there for generations; many of their grandparents were coal miners. My dad, on the other hand, was a college professor and my mom was a social worker—they'd moved to the area for my dad's teaching job. I came, in short, from a much, much more intellectual background than my peers, and as a result I was a lot better at school than almost all of them.
Americans have trouble seeing class, and the intersection between class and intellectualism—or geekishness, if you prefer—can be especially invisible. Yet that intersection exists, and is, indeed, fairly obvious when you look for it. As I said, it wasn't an accident that I, as the son of a professor, got better grades than most of my classmates. Our family didn't necessarily have more money than our neighbors, but we certainly had more cultural capital—and the fact that I got good grades was in part a marker of that. And while in some settings, that class marker would be a huge advantage, in small town Pennsylvania, among lots of kids who didn't share my background, it made me different...and inevitably, it made me a target.
I wasn't being bullied because I was sensitive, in other words. I was being bullied because I was privileged. At the time, my dad tried to comfort me by telling me that all the kids who were giving me trouble would end up much more miserable than I was through the remorseless workings of class (though he didn't put it quite like that, of course), and he was, as far as I can tell, correct. As the most obvious example, the leader of the boys who jumped me eventually shot himself in the heart. He died a few years later—whether from complications or from a second, successful suicide attempt I never found out.