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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Communication and Audiences

Communication matters – and if you take text out of context all you have left is a pretext.  Who is speaking to whom and why matters – and there are many words and phrases that mean things other than their literal meaning.  Words have also changed their meaning over the course of history, and a lot of confusion can be created when different cultures meet and use the same words for different contexts.  A good example here of what happens when you take away context would be the apparent anti semitism in the Gospel of John; the author was writing as a Jew mostly to fellow Jews saying “Look what we did.”  Take away that  context and reading it encourages people to write vile documents like Martin Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies.

As an aside, this is one reason I write the way I do – I know that I will never meet the whole audience for this blog and likely not visit all the countries I’ve already had readers from – so I attempt to build a narrative that as many people as possible can read.  It may make my writing discursive and prone to rambling so I hope you’ll all bear with me.
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