#ACPA15 Alfred Day: The Insidiousness of Misogyny & Bullying in Nerd Communities


PechaKucha is the Japanese word for chit chat and is the name of a presentation format created in Japan in 2003 by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham two architects looking for a way people could share their work quickly and simply in public. Since then the idea spread to over 700 cities around the world Every PechaKucha night, creative thinkers come together and share their ideas with only 20 images shown for 20 seconds each. PechaKucha a fast fun format. Find a location. Join the conversation. Our next speaker is originally from Merced, California, has worked in a variety of Student Affairs capacities over the past 20 years and I have bestowed a new title for him today Czar of Geek Education at the University of California Berkeley. When not working, when not supporting students, he inhabits and exists in a world of Nerd culture full of comic books, movies, and Disneyana. And once he traveled completely around the world. Here to confront some of the issues in current Nerd communities, please welcome to the stage Al Day! I am a Nerd. If you don’t believe me at this moment I am wearing a Superman tie tack, a pocket watch, and an argyle sweater vest. OK? There was a lot of people in my house and they were all black. I was too, but I was the only nerd and this thing that they used to say in the old sci-fi days that, “It is a proud and lonely thing to be a fan.” is one of those things that absolutely central to Nerd culture and the communities that were created originally were created by people who were looking for connection. I’m an alumni of Fresno State University and my good friend Tyler Miller every year does a survey of incoming students and asks them if they identify as a Geek. Would it surprise you to know that 30 percent of women and forty percent of men from 2011 to 2014 did identify as a Geek. Now what are we talking about? I prefer the term Nerd and there’s an argument amongst those of us who pay attention to this that being a Nerd doesn’t come along with a certain amount of social cost or social ineptitude and I would argue that it doesn’t necessarily any longer but it definitely use to. And that the idea that we all hold about what a nerd is is is kind of a negative idea. And that when these communities formed it was to counter some of these negative ideas. It was to counter the idea that all we would do was sit around and talk about whether Superman could beat The Hulk, which is a silly question on its face because let’s be honest Superman could totally beat the Hulk! I mean first of all Superman can fly, You take The Hulk, you throw him into outer space, he’s in orbit. I don’t care how mad he gets. Superman beats The Hulk. We can talk about it later outside. This is the cover of a comic from 1948 called “Phantom Lady” drawn by a wonderful artist Matt Baker one of the original, one the first queer African-American artists in comics but it shows you how long comics have had a problem with sexualized imagery. One of the things that people don’t remember about comics fandom and how it started was there were many women there at the beginning. On the screen you see Maggie Thompson, former editor of Comics Buyer’s Guide who was one of the key people who were there at the beginning of comics fandom – actually helped to start Comic Con. Now it’s too bad there’s no sexuality or over-sexualization of women in video games. (laughter) A lot of what’s happening in video game culture is pretty awful right now and a lot of women who are engaged in gaming are experiencing quite a bit of negative attention when they are particularly in the communities. Anita Sarkisian is a journalist who dared to speak about some of the negativity that existed in gaming culture and was responded with… by death threats, rape threats, her home address was made public. I really wanted to write a joke about this but it’s not funny. Let’s talk about Comic Con. Comic Con before you ask the question, no I don’t go in costume. I came to ACPA in costume two years ago, but I had the wrong Gilligan. Wait for it. You’ll get it. ComicCon has a problem in that they don’t have a sexual harassment policy. When asked to establish a sexual harassment policy, what their response was was that they thought that by creating a sexual harassment policy it would point out to people the sexual harassment occurred at ComicCon – and it doesn’t occur at ComicCon. This is the cover to show you that sexualization still continues. by Milo Manara famous erotica artist from Europe. Why we would choose a famous erotic artist to draw a cover for an American superhero comic I couldn’t tell you. But this sexualization is virulent in comics and we need to counter it. And operations like the Hawkeye Initiative counter some of these images and point out how ridiculous the sexualization of women are in these fields. This is Hawkeye. I really want to ask Jeremy Renner if he can pose for something like that. (laughter) The counter to this is to change it up. The recent relaunch of the title Bat Girl was designed specifically to desexualize the visual representation of the character and bring the character more in line with an action ethos that is endemic to all superheroes. They were surprised that this would become a bestseller. We look at Dr. Who who in the original version had the doctor and a bunch of little companions and in the new version has switched things to the point where the companion is really the lead of the series. The primary protagonist is a woman. This is completely new. These are how we counter things. We have titles like strong female protagonists that are actually – surprise surprise – created by female artists and writers. The counter to this insidiousness and to this misogyny that’s inherent is for women not to step away from this, but to be become even more involved. For women to really own their place in what is Nerd communities, to really step into the place and say, “I don’t really give a damn if you don’t want me here.” That women can also engage in the debate of whether Superman could actually beat The Hulk, because let’s be honest, Superman could totally beat The Hulk! But if we look at the whole concept of the superhero, the idea of someone having powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary mortal men or women – let’s be equal – is basically a story about privilege. In essence, those of us who have privilege thrust upon us that we don’t deserve have a responsibility to use that privilege on behalf of folks who don’t have it. In essence, what we call upon you to do? Look down at the logo on your shirt and act accordingly. Thank you. (music plays) (applause)