#oneaday Day 988: Love and Tolerate

The world is full of social issues that really, thinking about it, we should probably have gotten over by now. As a general rule, hating anyone for arbitrary reasons such as their gender, race, sexuality or haircut is something that the human race of the 21st century should have moved past now, but it’s sad to see that this sort of thing still goes on. And yes, people probably should speak out against sexism, misogyny, racism and all manner of other issues when they crop up. If they don’t, then these issues just continue to fester and get worse. If you don’t get any sort of feedback on the things you say, you never learn that they aren’t acceptable, after all.

At the same time, I can’t help feeling discomfort at the tone in which some of these criticisms are presented. I read an article over on Boing Boing today about “why the fedora grosses out geekdom”. Perhaps I’m not clever enough to “get” Leigh Alexander’s writing, but I came out of that article having absolutely no idea of what she was getting at. Supposedly she was exploring why the fedora had such negative associations, even among members of geek culture — this is the first I’ve heard of it, I have to say — but it actually came across to me as yet another rant against the phenomenon of “Nice Guys”. I’ve written about this topic in the past and it really does bother me — even more so since learning that a very good friend of mine (and a genuine nice guy (no caps) to boot) abandoned his previous (excellent) blog due to its name — “Nice Guy Gamer” — having negative connotations. While I don’t argue that there are guys out there who do fulfil the “Nice Guy” (with caps) stereotype, as someone who believes himself to be nice (no caps) it irks me enormously any time this discussion comes up.

In short, Alexander’s piece just came across as rather judgemental, even if that wasn’t the intention. In providing links to the various “shaming” Tumblrs that focus on men wearing fedoras and these supposed negative connotations, she has fuelled the fire and made people aware of another avenue of bullying people based on their fashion choices. Not only that, she has also drawn attention to a supposed connection between the people who choose to dress this way and undesirable character traits. Statistically speaking, there probably are some men who wear fedoras and who are manipulative jerkwads, but equally, there are probably also plenty of men who choose to wear them purely as a means to express themselves. We geeks aren’t particularly known for dressing well at the best of times, so perhaps we should cut those who make an effort to give themselves a distinctive appearance a bit of slack. (NB: I do not own a fedora. I do have a straw trilby that was purchased entirely to stop me giving myself sunstroke when sitting outside, and not as a fashion statement.)

I guess my point is that while there are plenty of issues that really do need resolving — the way that many women are treated on a daily basis is unacceptable; racial epithets just need to go away; medieval attitudes towards sexuality need to be thrown through the window — there are clearly better ways of going about it than attacking (or at least drawing unnecessary attention to) subcultures or trends that may or may not have anything to do with undesirable character traits. Attack sexism, misogyny, racism, homophobia and all that other bullshit the world can do without when it comes up, yes. Speak out against injustices. Make a difference.

But seriously. Dudes in hats? Let them enjoy their quirks. Love and tolerate. Not everything is bad. At this rate there will be very little left in the world for people to enjoy without feeling guilty or self-conscious. And that sounds like a pretty miserable existence to me — especially as a geek who feels perpetually uneasy and self-conscious.

Published by

Pete Davison

Southampton-based music teacher, writer and enthusiast of Japanese popular culture.

8 thoughts on “#oneaday Day 988: Love and Tolerate”

  1. I have mixed feelings on the whole fedora thing. On one hand, I don’t really give a shit what hat someone chooses to wear. On the other, the fedora is one of those things people put on to “be different the same way” to quote a Momus lyric I’ve always liked. That kind of thing irks me, because I feel like people derive an unearned sense of individuality from it. That’s a problem for me, not them, so I do try not to be a bully in how I express it. Criticism is healthy, pointing and laughing isn’t.

    I don’t have mixed feelings about this new trend in game/geek journalists setting themselves up as being above gaming/geek culture. It’s fine if someone wants to write about games but not consider herself part of the culture around it–that’s pretty much the point I’m at with playing them. But if you’re writing for an audience for which you can’t contain your contempt, maybe it’s time to find a new line of work.

    1. I am inclined to agree. I have seen it quite a bit recently — not just with Alexander and not just with regard to sexism and misogyny issues, but with a lot of journos who seem to have no pride in their work, seemingly no real interest in engaging with the subject and what almost appears to be a sense of shame in their chosen profession. That’s a bit of a sad state to be in.

  2. I found Alexander’s entire article to lack any sort of real point, other than selecting the thinnest of straws to connect gender equity to…uh…some type of phantom hat-wearing group. This particular sentence got me…

    “It’s a quieter fight against “nice guys”—gentlemen who are trying really hard, but who feel entitled to appreciation and attention because they’ve met a basic standard of human decency.”

    What does that even mean? Outside of tenuous links to minute sub-sub-sub-groups on the internet, I cannot for the life of me figure out the argument. Perhaps I’m out of the loop.

    1. No, you sum up pretty much exactly how I feel about it. It left a seriously bad taste in my mouth. And the stupid thing is I now feel guilty about even bringing it up or criticising it, having seen some of the comments on the original piece. If you don’t agree with this sort of thing, it seems, you are “part of the problem” and symptomatic of white male privilege, etc. etc.

      White male privilege is a thing, sure, and there are ways it can and should be tackled if we want a truly egalitarian society. Making tenuous links between fashion choices and undesirable character traits is not one of them. All that does is make already-alienated people feel even worse about themselves.

      1. I’ve got a feeling this is especially a case of the over-emphasis and over-analysis of the individual and cultural movements that is endemic to American pop culture, which leads to articles like Alexander’s. There’s a distinct lack of rumination, of big-picture analysis.

        And those carefully crafted escape clauses, like “If you’re against it, you’re part of the problem” is highly repugnant, and – at the risk of sounding hypocritical – curiously American, at least in contemporary democratic discourse.

        I just can’t see an argument at all, outside of someone parroting their own displeasure of fashion trends under a pretence of completely fabricated importance, tying it in with zeitgeist hot-button topics like gender. Bugger it. Let blokes wear fucking hats. If you’re complaining about “nice guys”, then it might be time to find some real problems to investigate.

        1. Thank you sir. It is gratifying to know that I am not alone in my thoughts on this, as it seems to have been receiving nothing but praise recently. Perhaps we’re both just out of touch. If that is the case, though, I have to say, I’m actually sort of fine with that. The apparent feeling that everything must be criticised and is somehow serving every sort of negative agenda there is in the world is, frankly, getting rather tiresome.

          It’s just a bit frustrating at times that genuine attempts at rational discussion just get derailed by those “get out clauses” you mentioned. It happened again today. I won’t go into it as I’d like to leave it behind, but suffice to say an attempt to have a good, intelligent discussion on a sensitive issue just ended up being people effectively shouting “I’M RIGHT YOU’RE WRONG” and “if you think [x] you need to get a grip”. It just makes me not want to contribute to such discussions. While those who shout loudest don’t necessarily have the wrong opinions, to completely shut down any attempts at discussion doesn’t help matters at all — it just makes everyone more defensive and resentful.

          Sigh. Never mind. I am glad to have a kindred spirit in you, good sir. Would that the geographical differences didn’t preclude the possibility of hanging out and putting the world to rights properly.🙂

          1. If ever a chance arises, you can wear your Trilby and I’ll wear my old Vietnam-era journo vest that I love very much, and we can stroll about totally devoid of irony and smugness. And if people want to tie us to an undercurrent of devious “nice guy” glass ceiling architects, they are free to. We just won’t buy them a pint at the end of the day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s