MeToo

Chris Hardwick is the co-founder of the Nerdist company, which over the years has grown from a podcast to one of the foundational sites for nerd culture. It would not be too far off to claim, that Hardwick along with people like Felicia Day, Whil Wheton, and many others founded the new wave of nerdism that populates our current pop culture mindset. That is why it is so disturbing to read the article written by Chloe Dykstra on Medium, that details his emotional and sexual abuse of her throughout their three year relationship. She does not mention Chris Hardwick by name, but the time periods match up and it has been confirmed by other sources who knew Hardwick away from the cameras. We need to remember that as nerds, we are not immune to the lessons of the MeToo movement.

Its a Hardwick Life for Nerd Girls
Chris Hardwick’s actions are indefensible, but in the name of journalistic integrity we must mention that he does deny the allegations. However, that has not stopped Nerdist from scrubbing all mention of him from their sites. Because of this truth coming out his star is already falling and the nerd community will move on without him, doing the same awesome, fun, and childishly entertaining things we have always done. Yet, there is also a deeper lesson to be talked about here. We cannot escape the fact that nerd culture -especially convention culture and video game culture– is pervasively anti-woman. Now do not get us wrong. The past few years have seen nerd culture come a long way, with many positive depictions of women, and even more so than with mainstream culture. As an entertainment industry we have always had our fair share of Ridleys, Dana Scullies, and Wonder Women, but as an inclusive and accepting movement, we still have a ways to go.

Nerd culture has a shameful history of machismo -or whatever is the geekier version of it- which has existed since its inception. Women are valued as characters, but undervalued as members of the culture. Nerd girls are seen as something less, or as imposters or invaders. Part of this -undoubtedly- comes from the insecurity of many geek men, but the larger and meaner part stems from a pervasive feeling of superiority and exclusion. There is a very tangible belief that something cannot be special unless people are excluded from it, and women are the easiest targets. After all, we are taught by society that women are supposed to be pretty and interested in hair and nails, while nerds are supposed to be ugly and weird. That is a hurtful stereotype, but also one we internalize.

That means nerd culture embraces the weirdness but treats women as outsiders, or just cosplayers looking for attention. This has led to GamerGate, harassment, intimidation, and threats made against women in the nerd community. When women are allowed into the club they are often reduced to their scantily clad body bits, and treated as objects for the men in the room. This is the part of the culture that Hardwick embodied, a place where offers of inclusion are merely meant as lip service made in front of a camera or microphone. Behind closed doors he was a controlling boyfriend who treated his girlfriend as nothing but a possession, an action figure he could bend and break at will. After all, Dykstra was a professional cosplayer, so to many in our culture she really was nothing more than eye candy with a cape.

R2-MeToo
We can do better as a community and as individuals. Now is the time where Hollywood, Washington, and all the rest are really beginning to wake up to the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct among the powerful, but we cannot forget about the misconduct of the not-so-powerful too. Nerd culture has been ruled by men since its inception and it is rife with the sort of problems that the MeToo movement is bringing to light. Chris Hardwick may just be the tip of a larger iceberg, and we have to remember to support those that come forward, no matter who it is on the other side of the accusation.

Last Year, Joss Whedon, was accused by his ex-wife of emotional abuse and cheating. It was a news story for about a week and then it blew away. This truth of Whedon seems to run counter to everything he has publicly preached for years, and yet not many people pounced on the story. Maybe 2017 was a different time. Maybe the MeToo movement had not yet fully taken hold. Maybe Whedon’s actions didn’t cross the imaginary line of outrage. Maybe we had other things to worry about at the moment, but for whatever the reason, there were no real professional repercussions for Joss. At least the same cannot be said for Hardwick. At least someone is being held responsible, but we need more of that. We need to show the women of our community and the mainstream culture at large that we are serious about inclusion and treating every member, regardless of gender/race/sexuality with the same value and respect that we show the fictional people of our culture. We should not treat Spock and Chewbacca, better than we treat Tina who works at the Ubisoft booth.

Closing Disclosure
Full disclosure: the person writing this article is a white cis male, as is the majority of the people here at The NYRD, so maybe we cannot exactly talk to this issue with the nuance and investment that many women can. We apologize if we have over simplified any of the issues, but we also feel that it is our duty to point this out. Nerd men need to hold other men just as accountable as the nerd women do. Despite all he has done -and also because of it- Chris Hardwick is not above any woman or man or Hobbit. MeToo should be an issue for all people who claim to love a culture that includes heroes like Captain America, Superman, and Optimus Prime. Our fictional heroes would advocate respect and accountability, so how can we do anything less?

Protests

Saturday was an historic day in the United States. 2.9 million people across the country got out and made their voices heard in protests from New York City to Los Angeles to Washington DC. The NYRD was present for it all. We took a trip down to the nation’s capital to make our voices heard in the largest single protest ever in American history. However, it has also left us wondering, what was accomplished? After all, Donal Trump is still President. His cabinet nominees are well on their way to being confirmed, things like Climate Change and Immigration Reform are still missing from the White House website. So why do we march? Why do we even bother?

“Get Over It…”
There has become this prevailing myth in America that protests, such as the Women’s March that took place over the weekend are simply about rejecting Donald Trump as President or lamenting the failure of Hillary Clinton. The conservative right enjoys likening protests to temper tantrums by children who refuse to eat their vegetables, but making that kind of a generalization is a disservice to the people and the process of our democracy. We cannot disagree that there are plenty of people out there who are still frustrated over the outcome of the election -As Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote by 2.9 million more people- but that is not the whole story. These protests are not so much about rejecting the election results as they are about rejecting the policies and questionable actions of Donald Trump himself.

Time and time again, you have an educated electorate watching a man denigrate women, spew hatred toward immigrants and Muslims, disregard constitutional law because he finds it inconvenient, and set forth a wholly pessimistic and isolationist viewpoint toward what America is and what it should become. No, the protests are not about the past. They are very much about the future, and there are a lot of people anxious about that future. Humans fear what they can’t control, and protesting feels like a way to take that power back. For the critics out there, yes, sometimes that has meant isolated violent incidents, but on the whole those seem to be the exception and not the example.

“You’re Not Going to Change Anything…”
Protesting alone will not change anything. Trump and his team will ignore, deflect, and lie as they have throughout the election process. The Donald seems impervious to truth, reason, and logic, like some sort of delusional Superman. However, the protests are not really about getting Trump to change. They are about showing unity and putting anyone who is paying attention on notice. Senators, congressmen, local legislators, and more now know that people are willing to fight and they are willing to fight in large numbers. Democracy is not just about voting, but about showing up and making your voice heard. That is why the the right of peaceable assemble is enshrined in the First Amendment.

Protests such as the Women’s March have another purpose too. The world’s eyes are on America. Such giant displays of spectacle and protest go a long way to assuring the international community that the American people will not go quietly. It tells our friends, our allies, and even our enemies that the people of this country still have a voice and we are still fighting. That message is more important than any we can send. We are a country of the people, for the people, and by the people.

There are many nations out there who have become saddened and afraid by the election of Donald Trump. Make no mistake, the international community is now a less stable place than it was on January 19. Trump’s call for isolationism, and “America First” is a return to a diplomatic policy we haven’t espoused since the end of World War I. Yet, the world needs America, and -despite what our new Dear Leader believes- America needs the world too. Shutting our doors and shutting our eyes is only going to make everyone less safe and less prosperous. However, letting the American people’s voice be one of unified dissension gives hope, and proves the real reason why are still one of the greatest countries out there.

“There is More Work to Do…”
The NYRD has felt very privileged and honored to be a part of these historic protests, even in our small way. Yet, we have to recognize that our job is not done. We can take hope from our small victory, but we cannot let it be the end. Protests are only the first step toward standing up against what is alarmingly wrong. Now that we have put people on notice we need to follow through. Write letters to your Congress-people. Support the causes you believe in: Women’s Rights, Climate Change, Fair Immigration, Refugees, Minority Rights, and more. There are plenty to choose form. Research organizations that are doing the most good, and if you cannot support them financially then get out there and volunteer. Make sure you support the free press. Make sure you are well-informed. Make sure you build bridges to people with different views. AND make sure you can identify the real information from the propaganda -or the “alternative-facts” as they are now being called.

The bottom line is that we can no longer sit on the sideline. We can no longer trust the government to do what needs to be done. It is now up to us to change the world and not simply rely on the people we voted for. Yes, in a way that is sad, but it is also an opportunity. We are entering into a time of great change and we now get to define what that change is, not Washington, not Congress, and certainly not Donald Trump. So great job to all 2.9 million protestors, but now the real work begins.