Dr. Helen

Salon's Uncle Tim: The 'Mind Reader' of 'Nerds'

Apparently, some brainwashed Uncle Tim by the name of Arthur Chu over at Salon.com can read nerdy men’s minds and knows just how they feel. Chu is responding to MIT professor Scott Aaronson’s post about how feminism makes him (Aaronson) feel like a monster. Here is Uncle Tim’s interpretation:

I feel your pain, bitter, lonely, nerdy guys. I really do.

It sounds corny to say it like that, but I don’t know how to say it and be believed. I know that because, having experienced this emotion from the inside for most of my life, I sure as hell resisted believing it when I heard people saying it.

There’s no one more resistant to being empathized with or more prone to call attempts to do so “patronizing” than the bitter lonely guy, especially when women try to do it but even when other nerdy guys try to reach out. People like Captain Awkward and Dr. Nerdlove and the founders of the Good Men Project spend huge chunks of their lives trying to help nerdy guys, but still get regularly blasted with extreme vitriol as “feminist SJWs” by said nerdy guys. …

None of the pain Scott talks about came from things that happened to him. They came from things that happened inside his head. He speaks in generalities about “sexual assault prevention workshops,” or of feeling targeted by feminist literature — himself saying that he was perversely drawn to the most radical and aggressive rhetoric he could find, eschewing more moderate writers for the firebreathing of Dworkin and MacKinnon.

He doesn’t talk about anyone targeting or harassing him personally — indeed, how could he be targeted by books written by second-wave feminists when he was a toddler? — but of feeling targeted, of having an accusatory voice inside his mind tormenting him with a pervasive sense of inadequacy, uncleanness, wrongness. It doesn’t seem like anyone in his life was particularly giving him a hard time, but that he was giving himself a hard time and picking up on any critical or negative messages directed at men in general as a way to amplify his negative thoughts.

That’s striking to me is that this comes up because Scott very passionately wants to debate that nerds don’t have “male privilege” and that nerdy guys are the victims, not perpetrators, of sexism. He is arguing this to a commenter posting under the name “Amy,” who argues that shy, nerdy guys are in fact plenty dangerous on the grounds that she has been raped by a shy, nerdy boyfriend, and that in her life experience around shy, nerdy guys she’s seen plenty of shy, nerdy guys commit harassment and assault and use their shy nerdiness as a shield against culpability for it.

To be blunt, Scott’s story is about Scott himself spending a lot of time by himself hating himself. When he eventually stops hating himself and, as an older, more mature nerd, asks women out, no women mace him, slap him or ritually humiliate him — instead he ends up with a girlfriend who ends up becoming a wife. So far, so typical.

Amy’s story is about being harassed and groped by men in the tech world and, eventually, being raped by a shy, nerdy guy she thought she trusted. So far, so also typical.

What’s the biggest difference between Scott’s and Amy’s stories? Scott’s story is about things that happened inside his brain. Amy’s story is about actual things that were done to her by other people against her will, without her control.

So, when male Scott has problems, it is due to depression or some internal mechanism; when female Amy has problems, it is always external. Way to blame the victim, Chu.

In his post,  Chu gives examples of how women are harassed and how, for men, it is not that bad. They are not raped or stalked. Really? This commenter to the piece begs to differ:

Mr. Chu

You assume you know what is going on in these guys heads. You assume you know their experience. You assume their entire life story is being told. I was one of those bitter nerds before the word “nerd” was invented. I never told anyone about being molested as a kid, or raped as a young adult. People from the outside could assume that my sensitivity to rejection was all in my head. That didn’t make it so. The situation of male survivors has changed not at all since then.

One reason I have a problem with feminism is that there is a WHOLE LOT more going on than fits into the “war against women” ideology. That is certainly part of the story, but only part. And women in general, and self-identified feminists in particular, show little interest in hearing about it, in my experience. They justifiably want to be heard, but don’t want to listen. Solidarity doesn’t work that way.

You claim you and other men have the power to stop male rapists. Really? I admit we can have some influence, and we have the responsibility to USE that influence possitively, but the kind of control of other people’s behavior you claim to hold simply does not exist. I gotta wonder what kind of fantasy of male omnipotence you’re working under.

Some men, just like women, have gone through hell, and been abused not just by men, but by women. And much of the time, this abuse goes unreported, and unnoticed, like the commenter’s abuse above. Of rates of crimes etc. that are reported, murder victims are mostly male and around 35% of cyber stalking victims are men. But much of the time, society turns a blind eye to male pain just like Chu does and blames solely men for their problems but blames men and society for any problems that women have.

This behavior may ingratiate Chu to the likes of Salon and other sites that toe the feminist line, but it does not help to address the problems that men like Scott Aaronson have so aptly brought to public awareness. The problems that men are having are not as black and white as Chu makes them appear. Abuse and discrimination is abuse and discrimination whether happening to male or female. Calling men’s feelings and experiences internal and women’s external is a way of belittling men’s experiences in order for Chu to deal with his own internal demons. Why he needs to do this is only a question that he can answer, but to accuse men like Aaronson who have real concerns of having brought it on themselves sounds much like the way women were blamed in the past for wearing “those provocative clothes.” It’s an excuse that doesn’t make the one doing the excusing look very credible.

(Thumbnail image on PJM’s homepage created using a modified Shutterstock.com image.)