News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
Mail Starting 5/1/98
By strict definition, at least in my experience, a geek is someone who loves technology to the exclusion of all other things--and actively avoids interactions with people--which makes him or her very unsuited for a relationship with any human being. And I say "or her" because geek is not a gender-specific term and for you to assume such a deep level of meaning and that the word itself implies some kind of man-hating shows a great deal of prejudice coming from your end. Chris Nolan used "geeks make the best boyfriends" in her story, I'm sure, because it tied in with the fact that Martha Stewart's boyfriend is a "geek. If Kim Polese started to hang out with Eddie Van Halen I'm sure the reverse question could be asked. I also have to disagree that popular female culture says that men are trivial inferior beasts. It says that most men are trivial inferior beasts, which based on the guys I've had hit on me throughout my life I'd agree is not that far off (not to say that I think all that highly of a lot of women either, since most of them get bogged down in petty BS that is totally unrelated to anything the guy said or did) and I would have to say that geeks would be the first group excepted from that definition in any case just based on their presumed level of intelligence, ie that they think with the heads that males and females alike claim to prefer guide the passage of day-to-day life.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Caryn Shalita);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 13:36:58 -0700;
So based on the level of dysfunction I've seen among the geeks I have have known, and known well, which are many, I would have to say that what Chris says is very much the reality in the realm of true geekdom. Hard-core geeks are not able to enter relationships without a significant amount of training by the person who is on the other end, and even then, those efforts are often doomed to failure,as there are often deep-rooted reasons why that person was attracted to machines instead of people in the first place. Now we all use the word geek to describe people who are really just tech-heads, techies, whatever you want to call them and although there is some overlap between geek culture and tech culture, the tech people are the "geeks" who have lives. And having married one of those, and as a woman who always was able to pretty much date any guy I wanted, I can say without question that in my opinion, those guys can be the cream of the crop--highly intelligent, with a sensitive streak that can make your heart melt. But they aren't the true geeks. Even if we like to tease them that they are--they know we're only kidding when the sex they have at the end of the day doesn't come from a chat room.... : )
You point to something that I've wondered at for a while -- my point of contact with this bizzarro world attitude of women about men comes from looking at the covers of women's magazine's like Cosmo, Glamour, etc. When you look at the blurbs for the articles within, you inevitably see the stories that boil down to: "How to get HIM to do X, Y and Z". There's a whole sub-culture of manipulation out there that I often have wondered about.
From: email@example.com (Joe Raimondo);
Sent at Fri, 01 May 1998 11:32:55 -0700;
The point you make is the same thing I've often thought to myself -- it's ridiculous to even ponder what would happen if a men's magazine published an article called: "How to get HER to do X, Y and Z." It simply wouldn't be printed. My only question is: Would it not be printed because it would step over the boundaries of political correctness, or would it not be printed because men don't think that way -- they are not focused on that kind of reflection on the nature of generalized behavior that leads to a bunch of facile conclusions and which is then buttressed with anecdotal color? I think it's more the latter -- I don't know too many men foolish enough to make any kind of conclusions about women based on a few generalizations. Doing so would be a recipe for disaster -- I think most men intuitively sense how complicated women are. And, in the grand scheme of things, perhaps men are more easily categorized and their responses more predictable within general parameters -- then it would seem a logical next step that you could conclude that men could generally be predicted to react in a certain way given a certain input. Perhaps it's foolish pride, but I do pride myself on my unpredictability. So I would certainly be the exception to this, not the rule. In the end, though, I'll admit that I have been silent about this -- that I am repulsed by the idea that women might go 'round thinking I was so easily manipulable. It hasn't been my experience though, so I maintain my overall faith.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Andrea Higgens-Evenson);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 11:02:01 -0700;
I disapprove of any categorization based solely on gender. How demeaning is right. And how small-minded of women who, just coming out of the "oppressed" category, swing right on over to the "oppressor" side of the ledger. I find that many of the "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" concepts are similar: "All women need X, all men want Y." It's conveniently reductionist, but not true.
I find statements like the columnist you quoted to be akin to racist or homophobic comments. I'm frankly surprised her editor let her get away with it. Bet her e-mail box overfloweth with anger today. Thanks for bringing this up and letting us gals weigh in on the side of fairness and respect.
Dave, I'm sending your piece to my husband with this reply.
From: amy@ComCAT.COM (Amy Wohl);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 10:22:29 -0700;
I'm married to a programmer. I never think of him as a geek, but rather as a wizard. What he can do never ceases to dazzle me -- when I can understand it.
He works deep in the innards of the computer (he can program in some amazing number of languages including mainframe assembler and machine), troubleshooting problems and fixing them. I could never do that -- psychologically or intellectually -- but I admire his skills.
I think he admires my very different skills.
Every so often we lend each other our skills. I helped write the letter that got him his first job with IBM 30 years ago. He rescues my computer when I completely screw it up, even though "he doesn't know anything about PC's." And we both love books and travel and movies and good food and each other.
We don't know too many other couples who have been married nearly 38 years, but I suspect that's because they don't admire each other enough -- or r emember to occasionally say something about it. I wish I were better at that.
Rest assured, programmers are very lovable people.
From: email@example.com (jgerdes);
Sent at Fri, 01 May 1998 12:30:16 -0600;
here we go again ;=>
I suddenly have a number of disagreements with you. In your column on geek boyfriends, you say to women, what if the tables were turned. A copy appears below, for reference, at the sake of bandwidth. ;=>
Let me speak to this. I am known in political circles as a leading male feminist (not the wimpy alan alda type, either). A co-founder of Ms. magazine actuall referred to me in some speeches in the mid seventies, which is a pretty damned good feminist credential, you know?
Here is the difference, Dave. Power and perception. When a man makes certain remarks about a woman, it is, however innocent, tainted by the possibility of a patina of implication, an implication that we CAN do this as we have power.
It is not unlike, though not biunique nor isomorphic to, an African American using a friendly intended impercation which I, as a white man, would not use. This is not in my view unfair.
I call it context.
If I say to you 'gosh dave, you get me so riled up i could bop your nose," and i put an emoticon like ;=) after it, I really doubt you'd take it the same as if some jerk said it while scowling and holding your shirt, you know?
LIke it or not, society's inequities have given white males a fistful of shirt by implication, even if we don't want one. So I think it not at all unfair to have what you see as a double standard, but what i see as relativity. Different rules for different situations and such.
AND, it might be very healthy for girlzzz to get some of that out of their system after all the years of men being so public in their remarks, including some very sexist ones without the cute and what I read as rather affectionate teasing in this woman's remarks.
Even things up, karma-wise. As Lyndon Johnson, an other wise not much admired by me fellow, said, "you cant' hold someone's belt for the first part of a race and then let go and say it's all equal now."
Dare I suggest you might want to lighten up a tad and take it as some affectionate teasing, with a cool woman saying, "hey boyz, just for fun, this is how it can sound." I have a feeling she is very nice to her bf, and that you really ought to get a bit of a grain of salt there.
Well, nice to disagree two days in a row. We could do an act, ennit?
I like having geek boyfriends because they're usually so involved in their work, and so immersed in the disembodied universe of code, that they don't notice or care if they're lanky, babyfaced, and quietly sexy - as many geeks, in fact, are. Their self-regard is derived from highly focused intelligence, rather than looks. In addition, many geeks are creative in other realms - playing music, for instance. Also, most geeks are too busy cutting code to be social butterflies. Young solitary visionaries make devoted and passionate lovers, I've found. God bless 'em!
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Steve Silberman);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 10:12:39 -0700;
Kudos for your comments today. I'm about to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary later this year -- the last 5 we've been more in love than ever. I'm not a programmer but I can attest to the fact that the more respectful we've become with one another and the more we've learned to really listen and understand, the more our marriage has become as you say, a "pretty amazing place to be."
From: email@example.com (Griff Wigley);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 10:11:57 -0700;
It feels to me like you're doing a similar thing here by labeling programmers as "seekers of truth and beauty". Whether you're paying a compliment or a put-down, you're labeling a group of people as holding a particular quality, when it might or might not be true for all, depending on one's view of the universe.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jeff Stuit);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 10:11:38 -0700;
I've found it best to observe others as souls on their own journey, and wish them well. When I find myself labeling things as good or bad, it usually tells me more about myself than it does about who I'm labelling.
Much thanks for your constant flow of stuff! Take care...
To be clear, it's a compliment. Your point is well-taken. I wanted to say something positive about programmers. Of course not all programmers are seekers of beauty and truth. Some seek fame and fortune. And other things. DW
Hooray for you! Who authorized Chris to speak for all women with geek boyfriends? (I don't remember voting) who defined geek, btw? Cheap stuff. Glad you called her on it. m
From: email@example.com (Marney Morris);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 10:11:23 -0700;
The woman comes on strong, tries to take control, and the man clams up.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Raines Cohen);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 10:10:51 -0700;
And why does the man clam up? What is he afraid of? That by standing up for his point of view he'll offend, scare away, or otherwise "lose his woman"? That asserting his independent-mindedness will intrude on the woman's turf? That a relationship in which he can't speak is better than no relationship at all? I've seen these patterns, where a woman's "need to know" is stymied by a man's "need to not say" has been a symptom, not a cause, of the end of a relationship.
This makes it sound like "the woman" coming on strong is the source of the problem, something somehow wrong.
I'm interested in following this discussion, because I've seen it echoed elsewhere, in Ann Landers or similar forums, claiming that successful long-term relationships are ones where the man is good at saying "yes, dear" on cue. Is this the case? Is it because otherwise men don't pick up the cues to really understand their partner's needs? Because they otherwise take control automatically, or assume that's their role?
Are we seeing in part a necessary counter-reaction to cultural and historic tendencies, embedded in our patterns of language, for male dominance/control/power? A division of the world into different spheres of influence by gender?
It bears examining: why is the popular female culture (some might say subculture that's getting mainstreamed, ie coming out via a tiny joke in Chris Nolan's "gossip" column, one which to me seemed more to be playing off of the stereotype of Martha Stewart as the ultimate control freak vs. Microsoft's boys'-toys-control-the-world empire) the way it is? Counter-revolutions don't just happen independently - surely it tells us something about predominant male attitudes toward women or relationships, or at least how many women perceive them.
To generalize about "geeks" is pretty absurd, and then to talk about training them as if they were dogs is also silly. Writing about it in a newspaper is pretty dumb and "cosmo" like, but it's not unheard of.... doesn't she have better things to think/write about? in any event, I wouldn't lose sleep over it.
From: email@example.com (Katie Hafner);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 10:10:39 -0700;
I think Chris Nolan wrote her article part tongue-in-cheek, but it does perpetuate two unfortunate myths: that geeks are social misfits, and that women can and do manipulate men.
From: Whoisylvia@aol.com (Whoisylvia);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 10:10:25 -0700;
I have had several geek boyfriends....you could say I have one now....a long- term geek boyfriend. Train him? To do what? He does the cooking, he chooses our paintings, he grows flowers, he's the one I turn to when I need advice on everything from throwing a party to raising my son.
I think the idea of someone being unable to manage their own life just because they have a high level of competence in computing or a related field is misleading if not just plain wrong. People are just more complex than that -- whether they are male geeks or female geeks. I've known geeks who are great athletes, musicians, artists, and poets. In fact, for years I've been planning to put together a book of Geek Fiction, and have been collecting short stories and poems written by my programmer friends.
As for women being able to manipulate men -- without the males even being aware of it -- well, this is the stuff of literature and theater and psychology. I suppose it springs from the existence of controlling mothers. I don't know, go ask Freud's ghost. I wouldn't want anyone manipulating me, male or female, but this is a matter of choice.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Michelle Terman);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 10:09:57 -0700;
(personally, of course, I never say anything of the sort)
geek boyfriends rule. (not that I actually have one....sigh). But I take care of a bunch of programmers here, and I am very protective of them.
Good for you for standing up for what bugs you. I enjoy your columns.
I think he mispelled his last name. Should be "whiner."
From: BGILLESPIE@novell.athensacademy.org> (Bonnie Athene Gillespie);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 10:09:35 -0700;
It's always been fashionable for women to say things like this about men, privately, but now it's coming out in public.
From: email@example.com (Steve Rothman);
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 10:09:13 -0700;
Well, yes, that's true, and yes, men are understandably offended. But that's not the end of the story.
An important point is that some men, a lot of men, make the same kind of remarks about women. Not only that, but they have been doing it both privately and *publicly* for zillions of years.
A few years ago, when we were kids, in wouldn't be unusual to see the same sort of demeaning comment (but about women) in the daily paper. You won't see it in a "respectable" newspaper now, because of PC, but you certainly still would in a "men's" (read porno) magazine, or radio, or movies. Let alone the constant barrage of blond jokes, etc.
I don't know whether men or women make more nasty remarks in private about the opposite sex, and I don't know how that trend has changed over the years. But what has changed is over the last few years that women have fought for more public power, more parity with men's power. Part of having power is being a jerk in public, not just in private.
With the PC stuff, maybe we can all try to be considerate in public, but I think you have to empathize how new this ability is for women, and why it's important for them to flex their "jerk" muscles in public after having been kept down for so long.
Maybe I'm brainwashed, but I think that (in general) over the centuries women have gotten a raw deal from men, and I think we just have to look the other way a little bit as things change in that respect.
I think we have to look at history when we judge life's little irritations (and really, obnoxious newspaper columns should rate pretty small I think).
I still love you and your writing, keep on going!
A question for women: Would you stand by silently as a man made an equivalent statement about women?
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Matthew Moss);
Sent at Fri, 01 May 1998 10:33:51 -0500;
Respectfully, Dave, women have been standing by silently in the presence of such men for centuries. At risk (and desire) to be called old-fashioned, I say "take it like a man!" Get a grip.
Geek boyfriends? I'm looking for one! (because I'm a geek too!)
From: email@example.com (Anita Rowland (S&T Onsite));
Sent at Fri, 1 May 1998 09:45:06 -0700 ;
"There are some who believe ..." that doesn't imply that Chris Nolan believes that, does it?
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