Why safe spaces for social awkwardness are worrying

On Facebook, a friend just shared a link about the idea that Geekdom being a place where socially shunned males are free to be themselves is a radical rewriting of history. that erases women. The link is true as far as it goes; there are many many influential female Geeks that Tauriq Moosa missed out including Verity Lambert, Grace Hopper, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. But there are two other extremely important points I want to make.

Geekdom is thought of by some as the only place where socially shunned males can be safe and be themselves. I am a socially awkward male geek who sometimes has all the tact of a rhino in a china shop (a bull in a china shop turning out not to be that bad). But I don’t want a pure safe space simply because I’m awkward and mess up. When I mess up I want to know about it so I can try to do better next time. I do want somewhere I can share interests and a sense of fun, and that it has its own rules is a good thing. But that’s a different issue.

It’s hugely different because the single easiest way for someone to hide being deliberately harmful is behind a veneer of awkwardness.

Don’t think it could happen in geek circles? We’re going to talk about two alpha-geeks from the 60s. A married couple, in fact. Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley. (OK, who spotted the hook in the first paragraph?) In geek circles, Marion Zimmer Bradley was a famous and prolific SF and fantasy author, ran several fanzines, gave numerous authors their start in her various anthology collections, and much much more. Together they were founders of the Eastern chapter of the SCA – and Walter went on post-divorce to become an extremely influential coin collector. They were both highly influential members of various deep subcultures and put a lot of work in.

Walter Breen died in prison for child abuse. Marion admitted helping him commit and cover up his crimes in court.

***TRIGGER WARNING – child abuse, child rape – the links in the following paragraph are detailed about some aspects of the abuse. I’m going to talk about how and why.***

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