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The long and short of Aaronson’s comment is fairly simple: Nerds are Nice Guys (as opposed to guys who are nice) they’re unfairly maligned by society because the world is cruel and mean and unfair.
Aaronson, for example, explains that Here’s the thing: I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not “entitled,” not “privileged,” but terrified.
Aaronson found information without context – in this case, the writings of Andrea Dworkin and other radical feminists – and took it as further confirmation that he was a horrible person.
The problem is that he – like many other nerds and Nice Guys – took all the wrong lessons from what he read.
Of course, this too becomes its own invitation to comment as Scott Alexander rode to Professor Aaronson’s defense ((And believe me, Alexander’s got enough bullshit for me to handle in a future column. Critically, they’re held forth as reasons why Nice Guys deserve a break instead of the opprobrium they receive and why it’s unfair for women to treat them with disdain, with a dash of nerd victim culture and privilege for flavor.
It becomes about making their hurt feelings the center of the debate instead of hey, maybe people shouldn’t act this way.
Whether we’re “mouth-breathers”, “pimpled”, “scrawny”, “blubbery”, “sperglord”, “neckbeard”, “virgins”, “living in our parents’ basements”, “man-children” or whatever the insult du jour is, it’s always, always, ALWAYS a self-identified feminist saying it.
Sometimes they say it obliquely, referring to a subgroup like “bronies” or “atheists” or “fedoras” while making sure everyone else in nerddom knows it’s about them too.?
[…] At one point, I actually begged a psychiatrist to prescribe drugs that would chemically castrate me (I had researched which ones), because a life of mathematical asceticism was the only future that I could imagine for myself.
While I can sympathize with the emotion – I’ve had all the same worst-case scenario nightmares when I’ve approached women I like – the cold truth is that this anxiety is self-inflicted.