OPINION: It’s 2021. Stop picking on nerds.

As long as we are stuck at home, we are stuck online, and for many of us, online fandoms have come to play a large role in how we meet friends and the topics we engage with. Depending on what interests us, harassment can become unavoidable — so make sure you are part of the solution, and not part of the problem.

Most people are fans of something, and not all fandoms are stigmatized. While I am not aware of any systemic discrimination against fandoms, bullying people for their friends or interests contributes to existing prejudices against marginalized communities. This harassment tends to slip by things like discrimination policy, so most places allow it. It is no coincidence that fandoms that are mostly women, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ or neurodiverse tend to receive the most unwarranted backlash.

Perhaps the most widely-known example of this are furries, a fandom based around media with characters that have both human and animal characteristics. Often, when someone admits to being in a clique like this, people will assume sexual deviance and try to distance themselves. In reality, furries simply have a sex-positive culture which welcomes differences others might reject, just like the LGBTQ+ community. Unsurprisingly, studies have indicated furries are about twice as likely to report sexual minority status compared to others.

I’ve heard a lot of people excuse their behavior, after being called out, by saying their comments only target people who make fandoms into their entire personalities. This is not true, and if it were, it would be a bad excuse anyway. Nobody makes anything their entire personality. No matter how much a person loves writing fanfictions about minor characters from the 2012 remake of “The Lorax,” they have other aspects that you would see if you got to know them. By claiming people make it their whole personality, you simply admit you’re not willing to see beyond one thing that makes them different from you. I’ve also heard a lot of people say things like “I just don’t think they should interact with children,” an argument clearly echoing those made against homosexual and transgender people.

We need to take this seriously and prevent these sweeping generalizations from being made. We need to point out when people are being unkind, especially when it might affect somebody in the room. Because it is obviously not nice to pick on people, most people will not think less of you for standing up to someone who does. If you stop worrying about how weird other people’s hobbies are, you’ll enjoy the stuff you like to a greater degree too, and it’ll make you a better ally to women and minorities. Besides, someone like me is just going to call you out and make you look bad if you decide to keep harassing innocent people regardless. Cringe culture is dead now. Deal with it.

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