As things that we see as being traditionally nerdy become popularized, how do we distinguish those that jump on the bandwagon from those who originally sought refuge in fandom? This is a question that I have been hypocritical about in the past, however the only acceptable answer is: you don’t. Ever.
I also think it is worth mentioning that I am not completely innocent here either. To my shame I have posted videos or reposted comments to social media sites that joke about this, and I have tried to delete them later out of my own guilt. To those that saw me do this, I am sorry and I was wrong.
Growing up I was picked on, beat up, made fun of, ostracized, and worse. The terms geek, nerd, dork, etc. was an insult. These were words that were meant to hurt, and we turned them into a badge of courage. I remember how welcoming people used to be when I would go into comic book shops, and how loving and excited people would be when I would show interest in something they cared about. It was a fantastic community of misfits. We need to bring back that welcoming nature that brought me into this world when I had nowhere else to go.
People shouldn’t have to prove they are a nerd, and usually those that are asked to are the self-identifying geeks who don’t fit the “white male” mold. I have seen people chastise the gamer girl, insult the cosplayers, and scoff at the comic book chick. This isn’t an exclusive club. At best this is misogynistic behavior, which only gets worse for those who are homosexual or transgender.
There are also several different tiers, or guilds if you prefer. Someone could be literacy geek, a science nerd, gamer geek, or a comic book dork? What makes your particular brand of fandom more important than theirs?
If you are jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, and then attacking a person because you feel that they don’t conform to your preconceived notions of what is appropriate in your particular venue, then you are a bully. You are ostracizing a person for being different. It is because of this I don’t like admitting to people that I am a nerd anymore, because I don’t want people assuming this is the type of behavior they’ll find in me.
The question we have to ask ourselves about other people is: why do they want to label themselves as a nerd, geek, dork, etc.? If someone feels disenfranchised enough to say this about themselves, then just let them do it.