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Neither Nerd nor Bro

Sat Jul 21 16:30:00 2012

Neither Nerd nor Bro

This is completely not technical and a little bit of a rant. If you were hoping for perl content, try Madness with Methods or something.

But this needs to be said.

Who am I?

I am Matthew Stephen Trout. Most people who know me in meatspace call me Matt. Most people who know me in cyberspace call me mst. The odd old friend still calls me Trout, and I'll answer to "oi, $expletive" occasionally but generally only to ex girlfriends.

I'm a drinker; if I'm not in front of a computer then there's a fairly good chance I'll be in front of a pint of good ale (or snakebite and black, a long standing quirk of mine).

I am polyamorous and a happy slut; I currently have multiple partners, all delightfully female, some geeky, some not, some local, some long distance, and I love all of them.

I've always hated the whole "nerd in the basement reading comics and eating monster munch" stereotype since it completely fails to match a lot of the other programmers I interact with.

Now we appear to have an even stupider meme called the "brogrammer", who appears to love drinking, sports and meaningless sex ... and I don't get it. I don't get why anybody would want to be a fratnerd.

So I thought I'd try and tell you a little about me, and a little about just how idiotic and potentially damaging these stereotypes are, and hopefully by the time I'm done you won't get it either.

Role enforcement considered harmful

The nerd stereotype is, fundamentally, a form of role enforcement. It's a backwards and stupid one, but it is one nonetheless.

Start off from the traditional male gender role bullshit - you should be sporty! Muscled! Crave red meat! Love beer! Want money and power! Feel the need to stick your dick in as many women as possible to validate your ownership of testosterone producing organs!

What a load of codswallop.

Of course, if you don't conform to said load of codswallop you are Not A Real Man. So let's take somebody who's too smart to be bothered with this rubbish and take it as far as we can the other way. Sedentary! Unhealthy! Eats mostly carbohydrates! Doesn't socialise! Omega male! Virgin!


So to try and not be socially ostracised, we go and invent the bloody Brogrammer bullshit? Yeah, that's a great approach. Now we can be smart and conform to the stupid constricting stereotype! Because that can't possibly go wrong!

Jeez, people. The whole reason we got here is that we're smart. That means we should be smart enough to know what a bloody edge case is, and to be comfortable with the idea that loving sitting in front of a glowing screen solving mental puzzles with the aid of a compiler means we already are edge cases - and that that's totally ok.

Anyway, both these stereotypes are untrue, and suck, and frankly the brogrammer one is actually going to be worse for you.

Being a nerd is ok, actually

Let's look at this another way for a moment.

It's ok to not like sport. Bores the stuffing out of me, frankly - I get my exercise by walking everywhere. You might bicycle. You might not exercise at all, and if you don't want to well GODS DAMNIT YOU'RE AN ADULT YOU CAN MAKE THAT CHOICE.

It's ok to not have lots of muscles. You probably didn't need them anyway. I've never lifted weights in my life - but I can still lift a six foot well built woman off the floor in a bear hug, so I can't really see why I should care.

It's ok to not consume only protein. If I'm thinking hard, I need lots of carbohydrate. If I'm doing a lot of exercise, I tend to want meat. We exercise our minds more than our bodies, craving carbohydrate is not a bad thing. You could even eat some vegetables once in a while - I hear that's good for you.

It's ok to not enjoy getting wasted. I honestly don't, I'd rather be nicely buzzed and still drinking when the sun comes up. Maybe you'd rather be stone cold sober and still playing mariokart, it's your downtime so whatever you enjoy is cool.

Money and power? Meh. Gaining those to make a meaningful change in your or somebody else's live? Great. But don't bother for their own sake. You are not your bank balance, or your job title, and you probably didn't want friends or romantic partners who believe that anyway because THOSE PEOPLE ARE BORING.

As for promiscuity, wow that's a big stinking pile of fail there. Some people want lots of sex. Some people don't want any at all. Women get punished by society for wanting lots of sex. Men get punished by society for not wanting lots of sex. Surprise: Different people are different. I love sex but you know what, I'd rather give up sex than give up hugs. Do whatever makes you happy.

Dear Brogrammers, please stay the hell away from me

I ... gods I hate this idea. I'm hoping most of the stuff on the internet is a joke, but it's made it as far as job adverts so I fear mightily that it's going to become "a thing".

I hate the word "bro" in the first place, it seems to turn up around everything that's wrong about traditional-male-role dominated socialisation. Shallow, emotionally repressed, sexist and valuing testosterone poisoning induced displays of bravado over trying to do things that are actually cool.

Most programmers spent their entire lives hating frat boy culture, and I cannot for the life of me understand why they'd want to suddenly be a part of it.

Worse still, this rubbish doesn't actually make you a socialised person. It probably doesn't make you somebody who's going to get laid more often.

It makes you a douchebag.

Well done! Now the smart people who aren't also douchebags won't want to talk to you, the stupid people won't understand you, and if you do attract more members of whatever sex you prefer sleeping with they're going to be the ones who find shallow douchebags attractive - always a recipe for mental stability and deep and rewarding relationships!


Just don't.

Socialisation by conscious choice

Me, I'm ... well, me. Because I've never really liked stereotypes, and because being the best me I can be involves incorporating every idea that looks like it might be useful and seeing how it works out. That's always an ongoing process but ... we're always learning to be better programmers, so why not try and always be learning to be better people too?

When I was 15, I started sixth form college (last two years of pre-university schooling in .uk) and realised that I wanted to be socialised, wanted to be somebody who knew and talked to a lot of people - not because I craved popularity but because I'd decided that being smart was best coupled with the ability to successfully share your insights with those less smart than you, which required communication skills. A modest child was I ...

So ... I talked to people. I started watching how they acted and reacted when they talked to each other. To this day, people often make no sense at all to me because they're just so flipping irrational ... but that's ok, because I can model their likely reactions well enough that if I put my mind to it I can usually get my point across.

I don't always put my mind to it; tact and circumspection and white lies and a lot of other things that are part of the standard social contract are still something that require energy expenditure, and unless I consider it to be worthwhile I won't bother; I much prefer direct and honest communication when I can get it, in any case.

It turns out that after a bunch of false starts I found quite a lot of people who I actively enjoyed talking to; when I went out on a friday night it'd often take me 45 minutes to circle the pub saying hello to and catching up with people before I returned to the group I'd come out with.

Chasing pretty (wo)men

Being able to talk sexually/romantically to girls (and sometimes boys) was harder - I was nervous, I had skin in the game, and I was terrible at it to start with. Still am, in some respects. Eventually, I realised that the way the value system was set up was wrong.

This is because of the STUPID idea that the value that you derive out of this is in bumping genitalia together somewhere at the end of the night. That can be fun, sure, but it's only a fraction of the point.

Firstly, I don't find anybody attractive that I don't find interesting to talk to (which is why the brogrammers can keep their douchebag-loving fucktoys ... and preferably well away from me).

Turn that on its head: Being able to have an interesting conversation with somebody is a pre-requisite to finding them attractive.

So I started trying to start interesting conversations instead. Sometimes the person wasn't interesting to me; sometimes I wasn't interesting to them. Don't care anymore, move on. Sometimes I had a fascinating and educational evening, waved goodbye, and never saw the person again. Sometimes I made a new friend. A fraction of those times, genitals intersected at the end of the night - but by that point, it was really just the icing on the cake of an already excellent, intellectually stimulating and entertaining evening.

Eventually, I made peace with my libido as well - and realised that it's quite substantial, I'm totally comfortable with that, and that giving it a reasonably long leash works out great for a lot of people because they can see the leash so they're comfortable too. I do choose to leave it behind when I attend conferences, but that's as much because it won't fit in my carry on luggage as anything else.

Nerding out, nonetheless

It's Saturday afternoon. The girlfriend currently staying with me is out at the house of friends of ours. I'm sat here eating pasta out of a drainer box by the handful while I write this article and fix bugs in Moo for people.

I'm probably going to write a bunch of code this weekend, and watch some episodes of House, and smoke too much while I'm thinking, and keep doing my hip exercises while I do because I'm bored of the crutches already.

I'm probably not going to leave the house, or in fact move from my chair and my laptop except to use the bathroom or get more coffee (or cordial - can't get dehydrated while hacking or your concentration will slip). If I wasn't currently poking around at my sleeping pattern to see if I can have it stabilised in a configuration I like by the time my hip heals, I'd be seriously considering staying up all night tonight writing code.

Last night I was sat in a beer garden cracking stupid and often off colour jokes at a mile a minute to liven up the conversation, pint of snakebite and black in one hand, cigarette in the other, doing my best to ignore the fact that immediately behind me my girlfriend and a good friend of mine (who I occasionally end up in bed with) were conspiring to tie me down and straighten my hair at some point.

Last night was fun. The last week of Shadowcat work was fun. This weekend is going to be fun.

I am not a nerd. I am not a bro. I am mst, as well and as hard as I can be.

Here's to finding a genuine non-stereotyped path that leads to a life you love as much as I do mine.

Happy perl hacking; happy life hacking.

Mostly ... just happy whatever you choose to do, it's your choice and your life and don't let role enforcement bullshit ever make you think otherwise.

And that's why this needed to be said. Thanks for making it the whole way through.

-- mst, out.

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