Geeks Don’t Get Bullied Simply For Being Geeks

Geeks Don’t Get Bullied Simply For Being Geeks
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You know the stereotype: the sensitive geek, intense in his/her passion, becomes a magnet for bullying, ridicule and harassment. And all because they’re a geek! Well, no, actually. That’s not it, not exactly.

Yes: being earnestly passionate about something will mark you. The problem with being honest about what you like is that it makes you vulnerable. That’s why we like things “ironically” now, that’s why the idea behind “guilty pleasure” exist: because we can’t just goddamn say we’re into something, really into something, without fearing what people might think about us.

That’s partially what geek bullying responds to, sure. The Atlantic wrote a piece recently about the hidden, less talked about things that contribute to geek bullying.

Here is one that you might not expect: class. The Atlantic writes:

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 neighbours, 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.

How many times have you heard/seen the cliche about geeks being bullied only to go on to rule the world? That’s a class thing; it’s taking solace in the idea that a geek will not remain with the plebs.

Though in this case, the writer found that they came from a background and maintained interests that gave them advantages down the road because it gave them cultural capital. Cultural capital is the idea that there are things beyond finances that can influence social mobility (the ability to change class.) We’re talking education, intellect, the way you dress, the way you speak, the way you look, amongst other things.

To put it simply, when it comes to class, a stereotypical geek might have good chances of moving up in the world.

In certain sects of geekdom, the tie between class is particularly clear. Some hobbies require a good deal of money to keep up with, and games are a good example.

Beyond class, there’s also the issue of gender and homophobia. If you’re into games, comics, D&D or any other geeky thing, those hobbies operate outside gender roles. You’re not, say, learning domesticity if you’re a girl playing shooters. You’re not being manly if you’re constantly lost between the pages of a book instead of playing football.

Class and gender roles are difficult, sensitive subjects. Perhaps that’s why we don’t talk about these things — I fear that the narrative of being bullied simply because you’re a geek and you really like things is simple and attractive when trying to explain the bullying.

But, it might be good to think about what else might be a factor. You might be surprised at what you walk away with.

Why Geeks Get Bullied (It’s Not Necessarily for Being Geeks) [The Atlantic]

Picture: Shutterstock


  • people often miss that ‘geeks’ can be quite annoying and rude in their percieved superiority over the masses, not to say the bullying is deserved, just somethin i reckon is missed sometimes

  • I was a big geek (still am) so were my school mates. From a family of 5 kids and a single mother on welfare. Bullying wasn’t much of a problem for us as i hit a major growth spurt and was about a foot taller than most the others at school. Sorta became an anti-bully, ie, used to have to bully bullies to stop their shennigans. We were left alone to enjoy our geekness after a few incidents. Dunno at our school it was the more wealthy children who more likely bullied

  • No, people are bullied because bullies are assholes. It’s not the victim’s fault and not because of something they’re doing or not doing or their circumstances.

    • I here what you’re saying, but I disagree in part. Victims are picked because of something that they’re doing. Something about their behaviour says to the bullies “I’m a target”. Usually an unwillingness to speak up or fight back.

      If you change the behaviour, you can change the outcome. I believe that with proper coaching, noone has to be bullied.

  • Bullying happens when one party wants to hold power over another. They will find something, anything, about the other party that they can, to demean them and use it to have some, any sort of control. IF being a geek has any sort of shame to the other person in a public manner, the bully will use that. If not? They won’t be able to. If it’s their hair for god sake, they’ll use that. Having researched bullying intensively for essays and assignments last year this whole article just reeks of Today Tonight standards of research.

    Americans do not have trouble seeing class at all, if anything they’re one of the most class oriented cultures in the world. The recent protests of the 99% vs the 1% showed this. There is a very *very* clear division between the three standards, low socio economic culture, suburban middle class and rich upper class. Things in America are divided into White Collar vs Blue Collar for instance. We have Geeks vs Jocks. Class rankings ABOUND in this society, as it does world wide.

    I’m sorry Patricia, but this article is a load of self serving crap.

    • did you really expect anything well researched from her, it’s common knowledge now that she’s not the most informed writer for kotaku, if anything this was just click-bait

      • Indeed, you’re right. After her ‘he let me die’ article, I’ve completely gone off her. When I reached the ‘Oh yeah I cheated on him btw’ (paraphrased but its the same throwaway effect it had), I realised she’s pretty damn average.

    • The Original Article or the Patricias or was it both?

      Note, I don’t like what i got from the quote so I’m not reading the Original.

        • Yeah I click out of curiosity, but continue to be disappointed by her articles. Wish we could customize our kotaku to filter certain writers (or have a truly au site with no US fillers)

          • I don’t want to filter out all US content, as occasionally some US stuff comes through thats gold. But, Im aware I don’t have to click everything, Given this was on bullying it was of a personal interest. Just a pity it was about as informed as a FOX special on videogames…

    • I agree with weresmurf; bullies just want power over their victims, and it doesn’t matter what it is, if the victim is different in any way they will use that against them. For some people that might be because they’re geeks, for others it might be because of body type, and for others again it could be something completely different.

  • Man, that guy sounded no different then all the rich, spoiled, dumb kids who throw parties for everyone because they can afford it. He was born into a successful life and being taught that he was already automatically better then everybody else.

  • Class is a factor- people are getting the wrong end of the stick about wealth. The author says they didn’t really have any more money than their neighbours.
    The point is “cultural capital” separated him from his classmates- he knew a lot more about the world, art, culture etc because of his family and what they were into, not because they were wealthy.
    It reminds me of some lines from the Geoffrey Household book “Rogue Male” where he says the “new” class system isn’t about wealth or breeding but about culture, education, bearing…

  • People will get bullied for anything that makes them different. Being a geek makes you different, beings geek can get you bullied.

  • Do “geeks” actually get bullied that often? I think the classic jock beating up a nerd type scenario is something that only happens in movies. Guys beat up on and insult their friends. The geeks are just ignored, probably wishing they at least got bullied.

    • Perhaps you grew up in a world in which you’re no different from anyone else. From the point you’re trying to make (ie. bullying doesn’t exist), it sounds as though you have nothing to add to the conversation.
      Also, you look foolish saying that anyone would wish they were bullied. Maybe think before you put something like that down in writing.

    • Consider yourself lucky/sheltered. Or quite possibly you were on the “bullying” side and yet never noticed you were beating up on someone.

      Been through enough crap through HS to know that unless your in the popular clique your always going to be a target

  • I always thought that Kotaku’s stance was that straight, white males, no matter their class, creeds, religion, beliefs, socio-economic rating, adherence to gender roles and social circles were above bullying and in no way mistreated or tormented…

    Sarcasm aside, as people have stated, the article is wrong in many ways. If geeks are bullied because they have the most potential to go on and be successful, leaving the bullies behind being miserable, why aren’t all businesses run by geeks? Why are the smart people always the ones delegated to the actual research and grunt work while the less geeky, and often ex-bully (and sometimes less competent) run the businesses and have the highest pay grades? Why is there the American stereotype of the sports hero being the draw card for a university while the academic and cultural departments are neglected?

    Bullying happens because you are seen as different. Bullying happens because their father has taught them that violence is the way to get what you want and be popular. Bullying happens because people are glad that it’s not them and cheer it on. Bullying happens because it gives a sense of self worth. Bullying happens because you react in an amusing manner. Bullying happens because they see you as less than dirt. Bullying does not happen because you have “cultural capital”, that’s just a common correlation.

  • Too me it sounded more like the guy being interviewed was justifying being bullied by saying “but I was better than all of them all along”.

    Which could be true, i guess… but i reckon it had more to do with how he was responding to the bullying.

  • Obviously you won’t find this type of shit in Australia anymore, but I remember instances where I was made fun of quite a bit by the first group I associated with in high school (mainly because I didn’t really belong in there). Of course I moved to a different social circle aligned with my interests and it sort of stopped because most of the initial group weren’t in the same classes that I was in when it came to Year 11 and 12.

  • I think the original author’s article in which he professes his own perceived wealth of class actually demonstrates a distinct lack of class. Perhaps his ‘cultural capital’ was invested poorly?

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