Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

November 20, 2012

Is it testosterone dementia or lack of inclusion?

Jackson Adams
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — In the not-so-long-gone days of my youth, I attended a small high school outside of Springfield and was part of the never-ending war that happens at every high school: the nerds versus the jocks.

    It’s the stereotypical set-up. The better looking, more athletic guys talk sports, hang out with girls and occasionally shout homophobic things at the kid who couldn’t do a pull-up. The nerds mostly tried to figure out who was doing the janitorial work on the Death Star and effective ways to skip P.E. classes.

    I don’t think it should be too difficult to figure out which camp I fell into but that’s not really the point. The point is, both groups were homogeneous, made up of guys doing their best impression of being a man, all desperate to be recognized by those around them.

    It’s only now that I can see how terrible we all were.

    Last week, Tony Harris, a well renowned comic artist posted a long rant online, berating women who, as he wrote, “are more pathetic than the real nerds,” for attending conventions dressed in character. Sadly, that’s about the most printable and least misogynistic statement in his rant. Much of his unearned ire was focused on women who attend such events and also happen to be attractive. I know, how dare beautiful people sully themselves by walking amongst such lowly individuals, occasionally turning heads and receiving compliments?

    It certainly wasn’t the only comment to draw fire. A California man was arrested in October after harassing women writers and editors throughout the comic book world, often resorting to threats of sexual violence and misogynistic message board posts.

    The comic book industry has long been a boys club, one that has generally served male audiences by publishing violent, occasionally leeringly sexual products. It works from a financial standpoint but it’s a morally bankrupt one.

    There’s a psychological term called hyper masculinity that describes the exaggeration of traditionally male features with the phenomenon usually occurring when a group of men are in close proximity for a long period of time, often with little contact with women. Common examples of hyper masculine breeding grounds occur in sports bars, fraternity houses, men’s clubs and in my parent’s basement on “Dungeons and Dragons” night.

    The big target for hyper masculinity was long considered by the academic community to be sports teams, but recent trends disturbingly point to other sources as well. If comic fans who are so proud of considering themselves as artistic and first adopters are committing behavior like this, is it also a hyper masculine sub-culture? Were the nerds and the jocks (gasp!) the same all along?

    The sad thing about these hyper masculine environments is the sense of inclusiveness. Sports fans react with anger to female fans, often viewing them at best as an accessory of their significant other and at worst as a constant distraction. Out of some misguided sense of ownership, many pop culture fans view anyone trying to watch “Firefly” on Netflix, pick up an issue of “Teen Titans” or declare their love of “Star Wars,” as a poser, an interloper into their lonely shrine of exclusivity.

    We’re at a point culturally where there isn’t a real line between sub-cultures any more. The Internet, e-readers and cable have made it easy for people to watch, read or experience anything they want to look into. That’s a great thing.

    It’s not a threat when someone loves Batman after seeing”The Dark Knight Rises,” it’s not an intrusion when people pick up a baseball hat and decide to cheer on a winning team, it doesn’t cheapen your experience when new people discover a forgotten classic. If new fans, particularly new female fans aren’t embraced or welcomed, there’s not going to be much left to be a fan of.

    And seriously, who does clean up the Death Star? Was it those little robots? I seriously need help with this.

    Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or jackson.adams@effinghamdailynews.com.