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.