The Misogyny of the ‘Old Geek’s Club’

Having been a nerd and into fandom for a while, I’ve noticed a lot of trends come and go over the years. The ebb and flow of different media and how fandom has changed from a subculture to part of mainstream culture.

I could talk about the effects of that, but everybody’s read an article on that by some ancient geek who’s been there and done that and seen things change.

What I want to talk about is competition. The strive to be better than the other person. This competitive spirit is everywhere in society, not just in fandom. Who has the best toys? Who knows the most about a topic? Top 10 best people, etc.

The thing is, old geek culture used to be similar. Everybody was niche because there wasn’t really a way to talk about a given topic that you’d be interested in except to find these people and convene together into a space. Ultimately, it led to people seeing who knows the most. Even fan clubs with mailing lists. The only ones seeking out others to bond with were those who had such a passion for the medium that they knew everything about it, including spinoffs and random factoids.

This was fine, but then geek culture broke into mainstream. Suddenly tech icons were gods and scientists were superstars and fandom blew up into the spotlight.

Suddenly to like a thing, was to become a fan of that thing. To become a fan of a thing, you were now in that thing’s fandom. Even if you weren’t a content creator, you were exposed to the fandom, either online or through engaging with the thing online.

All of these new concepts of what fandom is tipped the pot on fandom. You didn’t have to be a rabid fan of the medium and knew every intimate detail, including side content. It was fine to just watch the medium or even just like it enough to know enough.

But that’s where the divide is. There are people who still think in the old mode of fandom: you must know every intimate facet of a medium you’re into. While a comfortable few fit into this category, a lot are the latter, they know only enough about a medium in that they like it and want to actively engage in it without knowing minutia.

This is where the arguments happen, the splits, and name calling. Those more passionate consider those who just love it as fake. And those who are passionate are considered unhealthily obsessed.

A lot of this flak has happened more publicly in the world of gaming. While girls have been always around gaming, their numbers were drastically less than males who play games. When gaming became popular, suddenly there was a threat. Women and girls who loved playing games simply because they were fun were seen as not ‘real gamers’ and real gamers were conceptualized as playing COD for hours to win.

This sudden hyper-competitiveness about fandom has to be the reason the stores have been dominated by cheap plastic crap, either blind boxed or just boxed in a special case. How can you be a real fan of this media if you haven’t gotten all of the small toys in a series?

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What ADHD is… And isn’t!

Dennis the Menace. A tow-headed boy who causes wanton destruction to his neighbor, Mr. Wilson. A daredevil child who climbs trees and jumps out of them for fun. A boy so rambunctious he knocks over his chair, his desk, his papers.

What about that girl in the corner, dreamy, slow to engage with people, reads more books per capita than anyone else in the class. What about that spritely girl who talks too much and is the first to jump when her friends do?

ADHD is usually seen as a boy’s problem, but it’s not.

ADHD is being surrounded by a constant swirl of thoughts, emotions and impulses and not knowing how to put out the fire. It’s not being able to do THE THING you wanna do, even though you wanna do it. It’s a mental fog you can’t get out of. And then people expect you to be able to do things like remember to take out the trash or do the dishes.

Russel Berkley sums up ADHD not as an attention deficit, but as attention deregulation. We have no control over what our attention is going to be, and the reason we can hyperfocus on activities that aren’t productive. The other part of it he talks about relabeling ADHD as a disorder of Executive Function.

Executive function is kind of like how it sounds. The prefrontal cortex (you know the stuff behind your forehead) is the CEO of your brain if your brain is a corporation. The CEO’s are great at: Organization, planning, being able to self-regulate and adjust for future goals, being able to stop one task and move to the next in order for the whole company to keep going in a goal-oriented direction.

So it is with ADHD, our prefrontal cortex is on the fritz. It misfires. It’s like a light switch that keeps getting turned on and off. And so we’re not able to organize, self-regulate, be goal-oriented, and not able to switch tasks when needed to.

ADHD medication works in different ways. The first is to suddenly dump a whole bunch of feel-good chemicals and brain chemicals for the flight-or-fight response in our brain so we can access it easier. Now the prefrontal cortex can misfire, and someone can turn the light switch on and off, but there’s much more of these chemicals going around that can be absorbed back into the neurons.

That’s where abuse comes in. A normal brain doesn’t need this enhancement of fight-or-flight chemicals and feel good chemicals to function correctly–instead it makes the brain think it’s in danger. And the brain when confronted with danger is to suddenly throw a bunch of adrenaline into the system. That means, they’re shaky, they can’t sleep, they start to think rapidly about problems, they can’t sit still, they have to clean the whole house. The worst, the brain is tricked into thinking this is a good thing because suddenly it’s given a whole dose of happiness from the dopamine.

Over time, stimulant medication stops making you feel happy. The brain sees so much dopamine floating around it stops producing as much. So begins a whole cycle of taking more meds to push more dopamine into an already flooded system. Eventually burnout will happen, or overdose.

ADHD isn’t just ‘kids behaving badly’ it’s not parenting done wrong. It’s not some parent who’s not strict with their children. It’s brain chemistry and some environmental factors. ADHD children are more likely to be raised by ADHD adults–it’s hereditary (it’s on the x chromosome, so that’s why boys are more predisposed to ADHD, but girls also have an x chromosome so they get it too though less likely). Some of those parents grew up before ADHD was considered a diagnosis and most get diagnosed as adults when they take their children in to get diagnosed.

You’re Free Now! Your Hobbies Don’t Have to Become Your Side Hussle!

It’s almost a modern epidemic. That almost anything can turn a buck. Whether it’s using your own car to deliver packages, food, and people, to offering a service online. Even our passions can be turned into a profit with the advent of sites like YouTube, Etsy, E-bay and more.

Like this guy, Mike, loves playing guitar. It’s just a hobby for him. Yet he is inundated with people telling him he should set up gigs, or set up a YouTube channel and make some money off of his skill at playing guitar. Or Mary who loves knitting who’s constantly bombarded to set up an Etsy site.

What the well-wishers don’t realize is that sometimes monetizing a hobby is the surest way to kill it. Suddenly, a passing interest becomes work and stops becoming fun. Hobbies were an outlet for creativity, or letting off steam, and now they can turn a buck, too.

But lets step back from that. Why can’t a hobby be a hobby again? Why can’t we learn something for the sake of learning it? We need to remember to lose ourselves in the sheer joy of doing something simply for the sake of our own happiness.

Aesthetic Minimalism Vs. ‘Real Minimalism’

Close your eyes. Imagine a minimalist space. You probably imagined a bare hardwood floor, some generic IKEA furniture, maybe one or two houseplants and everything is gray and white. There’s nothing on the walls, nothing on the tables. About as personable as a hotel.

Aesthetic sites, such as Pinterest and Instagram sell us on the idea of sparsely decorated all-white spaces as the de facto minimalist space. Aesthetically, they’re goregous, and make you feel serene and like you wanna take a vacation there. They have capsule wardrobes that look like a cartoon characters, and bare kitchen counters.

‘Real Minimalism’ is lived-in. They’re clean, because they are not cluttered with items that aren’t wanted. It’s easy to clean when you have less things to put away or clean. You can tell someone’s obvious interests in something, because they are prominently displayed. Maybe they like books. That’s great, they might have overflowing bookshelves of treasured books.

That being said, the bookshelf is full of time-loved books by the curator. There’s no stack of books waiting to be read. No books purchased to make them look like they are self-important. They are on the shelf because they are loved and read over and over again.

They may have a wardrobe full of colorful favorite clothes they wear over and over again. They might have seasonal wear because they live in a climate where it’s sixty degrees one day and twenty the next.

Maybe there are items strewn about. Nobody said minimalism was being tidy but that you have less stuff to tidy up.

 

The Burden of Death

I’ll never forget the three days after my grandfather on my mom’s side’s funeral. I was enlisted to come over with the rest of the family and unstuff 85 years of life from a tiny two bedroom house.

I’ll never forget the huge trash bin that came, a truck had to back in and set it down in the driveway. It was over a story high. I saw family taking armfuls of stuff and loading it into the trash bin, even throwing stuff out the window of the attic. Even the garage was used for storage, things that nobody wanted. Three days of labor-intensive work only to sell the house and keep only the barest of memories.

Then my uncle on my dad’s side died. When my aunt finally came around to cleaning out the back bedroom and the attic, it was just brimming with stuff. The eaves in the attic had mountains of stuff in it.

I call this the burden of death. Something that has become routine for most people after death is dealing with houses crammed with stuff to the brim.

I read a book recently about Swedish Death Cleaning. The art Swedes do in their late 80’s or 90’s where they just let go of a bunch of stuff to unburden their offspring and anyone else who has to deal with their stuff after death. But why stop there? What do we need all this stuff for in the first place?

I think a lot of people think of their stuff as valuable (re: sunken cost) and that some later generations will want it in memory of them. But why? Our lives are insignificant and many. Do we remember a slave that worked in Egypt? Or anyone from the Greek era? Not unless they were immortalized somewhere. The average joe is never the one remembered ever. And it’s humbling.

There’s hardly a reason to keep anything for the next generation. They don’t want your stuff, they want their own stuff.

Marie Kondo is NOT a Minimalist and Other thoughts on Netflix’s ‘Tidying Up’

Being ADHD and to be honest, a hot mess when it comes to cleaning and organization, I am addicted to learning systems to organize and tidy up. I grew up in the S.P.A.C.E. style of Julie Morganstern, and gave up on the Flylady when I saw what her morning routine ended up looking like at the end with endless tasks for someone who was obviously either self-employed or a stay-at-home person. So here comes this tiny breath of Japanese cherry blossom onto the scene I jumped on it.

Marie Kondo if you didn’t know already, is an organizer from Japan. A small spritely lady who wears skirts and button up shirts and looks kind of like an anime character come to life. Her book “The Magic of Tying Up” came onto the organization scene in 2015. Her concept essentially is to keep only the things that ‘spark joy’, whatever that is. It could be a cat-shaped paperclip you’ve had since you were a kid and she’d say keep it.

That’s where she differs from minimalism. Minimalism, strictly speaking, is only keeping things that are needed. As one shining example from the show, a lovely lesbian couple had a shared office which had a built-in bookshelf. It was filled with shoes. Does the girl need a wall of shoes? Well, no, not really, I mean, you can only wear one at a time, but to her they ‘sparked joy’.

So what exactly is ‘spark joy’ that she talks about, and even wrote a subsequent sequel with that as the title? Sparking joy in her world is a feeling, a kind of lightness. I explain it this way: I have a sweater. When I was 9, I went to the Extravaganza with my mom and my brother. I was dressed in a short sleeve shirt but it was April so it was cold. My mom gave me her sweater to wear. It was so large and comfy I ended up ‘kidnapping’ it forever. It’s loose and a little frayed and I think the sleeves may be stained from years of dirt and washing, but it still fits just as loosely as it did when I was 9. Magic. Every time I see it, and every time I wear it I remember those memories and it makes me feel happy.

Now, I’ve gotten rid of my share of sweaters and clothes that don’t fit in my bid to minimize my wardrobe, but that sweater still stays. And a lot of things I’ve gotten rid of had ‘sparked joy’ but were no longer part of who I was and who I wanted to be. Minimalism is a compromise between having a stress-free life unfettered by dusting and cleaning and putting things back where they belong (subsequently not being stressed out by the overwhelming amount of work) and keeping things that may have given me joy.

Case in point. I have a ‘laundry cart’, or as I like to call them, the old lady shopping cart. I bought one to carry groceries into my house when I bought a month’s worth of groceries at a time. Especially when I was forced to take the bus. Now, I’ve kept it on hand just in case I have a day that I need to carry a ton of groceries into the house, but tonight when cleaning out my car I realized I just don’t. It’s been sitting in the back of my car since I received the car from my grandmother. I love this cart, and it might serve a purpose for like, carrying books or something, but I just have no need for it. It sparks joy, but it’s not doing anything and can be let go of.

A lot of people think that the Marikondo system *is* minimalism simply because they notice that when they go through their things looking for what sparks joy in their life that they kept things simply because of the effort of getting rid of that item, or because they figured that there was going to be some kind of “Just in case” scenario. When it comes down to it, keeping things that make you happy, you realize that you can get rid of a lot.

The problem is one that has been going on since the mid-90’s. Over-consumption. We have replaced healthy habits with shopping for cheap things at Target. It’s their business model. They want us to come in and do ‘retail therapy’ when we’re sad, anxious, and generally distressed.

Marie Kondo then, sounds like a breath of fresh air. She’s telling us the opposite. To let go of things so we can be the people we want to be.

With the wave of people that are watching the show, I’ve noticed a string of posts on social media of people that tidy up their clothes in the Kondo way by shoving it all on the bed, then sorting and folding it into a small rectangle and putting it away. You never hear about them moving on to Books, or paper, or Komono and sentimental items. She never addresses the key problem of over-consumption, of retail therapy.

And so, I read about people who do ‘cycles’ of Marie Kondo-ing their stuff, a cycle they’ll perpetually be stuck in until they address the core root of why they shop in the first place.

We’re being sold fandom back to ourselves.

I used to be in fandom. I was big into MLP, Portal, Homestuck, Superwholock. I was all of these things because I loved the media. I read the fanfiction, I ogled the fanart on Tumblr, got into lengthy discussions and lead panels at conventions, cosplayed.

But then I stopped participating in fandom.

Fandom was a way for people to express themselves. An outlet for the sheer excitement and joy we got out of consuming that medium. Conventions–and the internet equivalent–forums, were a way to connect to other fans so we could talk, argue and troll each other into oblivion about this thing that we really liked.

Oh, I collected. I have weighted companion cube fuzzy dice older than some of the kids on the internet now. It got real bad with My Little Pony. I collected everything in the first wave of blind bags. It was easy, the number codes were stamped on the bottom of the plastic package. I even had a dedicated bookshelf I called my “fandom bookshelf”. I started collecting Pinkie Pie figures. I began to notice it was harder to collect these things and stay on top of the collection.

It wasn’t until the Funko Pop scene dropped, and people started spending tons and tons of money on vinyl figures did I eventually start finding something inherently *wrong*. I walked into Hot Topic and stared down an entire wall of nothing but Funko Pops. It wasn’t the concept, I mean, I collected blind bags for goodness sakes! It was that they all looked the same. Outside of individual variation, they all looked the same amd there were so many of them.

As I began to step back, I realized that what had originally been an outlet for people to enjoy the company of people who were into the same thing had been warped by the popularity of the concept of fandom itself. Hot Topic was originally a haven for the misfits,  the new wave of Goths and general teenagers who wanted to freak out their parents. It was now a fountain of just fandom tchotchkes. To like something was to buy into it. To own things part of that fandom.

We were being sold fandom back to ourselves.

Sure, we had people who made sculpty figures, and we had plushie designers, but they were feeding back into the fandom economy, we were supporting people. And they weren’t mass-produced to pump out as many as possible.

I’m not saying that fandom didn’t have capitalists banking on people wanting to participate and to be seen participating in a fandom. I remember distinctly a Buffy the Vampire Slayer ‘Mr. Pointy’ incense burner at Spencer’s back in the day. The items weren’t prevalent, mass-produced quick buck cheap vinyl that’s on the market now.