Monday 25 August 2014

Geeks Being Bullied

By Lee A Farruga

Bullying is universal, but is being a geek the main reason one gets bullied. Are geeks bullied more today or is it the older geeks who had it the worse. Is being a geek the real reason why one gets bullied?

I started my research by simply Googling “bullying geeks in school”. While I got a lot of hits on being a geek who bullies and how not to bully at comic-cons, there were still a few articles I found whose titles seemed to be generally what I was looking for, but as I found, well, not so much.

“Geeks Guide To Not Getting Bullied” (, April 24, 2012) Their suggestions were aimed mainly at not antagonizing those lower on the IQ scale. For example, don't say a test was easy, or mention you got a high score, or correct someone's grammar. Their absolute worse advice was “Pretend to be Dumb” - yes they actually said that. There was no mention of gamers or cosplay, or don't read your comics in public. Most comments to the article said that their popular kids in school were the smart kids, so these didn't appy at all.

“Six Lessons Learned From Being Bullied as a Geek Kid” (, Dec 7, 2012) Again, the post was more about generally nasty people bullying someone they perceive as different, but no specific mention of anyone doing anything “geeky” that led to getting bullied. The article did, however, have some very good tips and discussion in the comments.

“Geeks Don't Get Bullied Simply For Being Geeks” (, Feb 1, 2013) This article was much more realistic and made a lot of sense. It said that being passionate about something (the definition of “geek”) and being honest about it is what makes you vulnerable, whether it's comics, science, dancing or anything really – geeky or not. They also mention gender and homophobia. Geeky things like games, comics, etc. operate outside of gender roles – girls playing shooter games, boys reading instead of playing football.

In the Kotaku post they also mention another article “Why Geeks Get Bullied (Not Necessarily for Being Geeks)” in The Atlantic, Jan 31, 2013. It said that there are other factors that contribute to being bullied and one of those is “Cultural Capital”. They define it as having things beyond finances that can influence social mobility. One of the class markers is being intellectual/nerdy/geeky. This becomes a sign of privilege to some. The bullies take offense to the idea of being left behind. One example of this comes from Diana Vick – steampunk artist and founder of Steamcon in Seattle. She remembers a boy who said he needed to bring along a dictionary on their dates just to understand her. That relationship obviously didn't last.

What I found from the sum total of the information I looked at was that they all said the same thing – people will always attack those they perceive as different. It doesn't matter whether you're a geek, your skin colour is different from the majority, or you like to sing, there are those who need a scapegoat and will grasp at anything they can.

With being a geek becoming mainstream today, there is a lot less bullying for that reason specifically. My girls talked to friends about this subject and they all said their schools have anime and gaming groups now. My girls have never experienced being bullied simply for being a geek.

While there still is and, sadly, probably always will be bullying, we've come a long way in helping to educate about and prevent it. In Ottawa, every school now has a policy to combat bullying. As well, we are lucky to have groups like Jer's Vision, a wonderful anti-bullying and awareness organization. One of their wonderful people provided me with the following stats on bullying.

(Data current as of 2014 from Prevnet- Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network)
  • 89% of teachers say violence and bullying is a serious problem in schools, and list it as their top concern out of six offered options
  • 75% of high school-aged kids say they have been affected by bullying
  • 71% of teachers say they have intervened in bullying incidents, but only 25% of students say that teachers have intervened
  • The victim's peers are present in 90% of bullying cases. Studies show that when peers or bystanders step in, the bullying stops within 10 seconds.
  • 1 in 5 teenagers have been cyberbullied
  • Girls are victimized by sexual harassment and emotional aggression more frequently than boys
  • Girls tend to begin using social forms of bullying at earlier ages than boys (9-10 years old on average)
  • Physical bullying declines with age, and verbal, social, and cyber bullying tend to increase between the ages of 11 and 15
These stats may be a little depressing, but the lady who provided them also told me this lovely story and I think it's a great counterpoint. “A few years ago, I interviewed a lot of young people to write a show called "The Bullying Monologues". One young lady told me she experienced horrible bullying because her family was poor-- kids would spit on her, throw snowballs with rocks in them, etc. She was close to ending her life, when her family acquired a computer for the first time. Since she loved comics books and fantasy, she was finally able to connect with fellow geeks, and realized she was not alone. It gave her hope and helped her through the tough time. She credited geek culture with helping her mental health.”

Here's how I want to finish this post – a little girl at the 2013 Denver Comic-con asked Wil Wheaton how he used to deal with being called a nerd when he was a kid – his response is perfect.

Lee A. Farruga is known as everyone's Geeky Godmother. She has many talents, lots of energy, and loves to help people achieve their goals, whatever that might be. She can also be found reviewing books, games, movies and more at Also known internationally as the Canadian Queen of Steampunk, Lee created and manages Steampunk Canada. When she finds spare time, Lee does background acting for television and movies, and enjoys geeky activities with family and friends.

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