Keynote Lecture 2

When is a nerd not a nerd?…When he’s a geek.

This lecture was about gender constructs, specifically about the shift in the representation of masculine identities?

The topics that were explored in the lecture were:

  • What makes a man?
  • Definitions of nerd and geek and why it matters.
  • Examples of the shift.
  • Why one might care.
  • Masculine Hierarchy.


What makes a man?

‘There is no sense of masculinity’ Connell, 2000

‘Masculinities are not equivalent to men.’ Connell, no date

I always think that this is an interesting question because ‘gender’ is a man made idea so I’ve always thought of it as odd that we have these expectations of what a man should be and what a woman should be for that matter. I think that it might have something to do with survival for example a muscular man might have been much more likely to survive than a skinny one back in the days when people were primitive and I wonder if it’s carried through into contemporary society and that’s why strong men are considered more ‘manly’ than a male who is skinny and spends all day indoors.

Whatever the case may be it’s very interesting to have observed a shift in fictional media in what men usually look at and it’s most likely related to the fact that  there’s been a shift in power in reality. The people with the power these days are people who are adept at computer sciences, people who know how to code artificial intelligence because these are the places the world is heading.

There were two terms that were introduced in the lecture:

  • Hegemonic power – when one group of people exert power over others with their unconscious cooperation.
  • Hegemonic masculinity – a set of social practices that promote male dominance. For example Wall Street bankers are males who make money for themselves and promote assertiveness and ecumenic affluence.

Masculinity has often been thought of as a kind of a spectrum. At one end you have the males who are considered very masculine, these are the hegemonic males; the wall street bankers and in fiction this might be Bruce Wayne whereas on the other end of the spectrum which is considered less masculine which of course is where the geeks and nerds are said to reside on the scale. The geeks and nerds might include people like Sheldon Cooper and Sherlock Holmes from Big Bang Theory and Sherlock respectively.

However this scale or spectrum described above has somewhat been turned on it’s head recently. The masculinity where it was obviously embodied by big muscles or expensive suits is starting to become an idea of the past.

Geeks are now considered to be more skilled and are used on television as experts for example Brian Cox is often consulted on things regarding space. They don’t need to dress to impress, Steve Jobs always wore a black polo neck jumper and jeans and was still held in very high regard despite not dressing typically for a CEO of one of the world’s biggest, most innovative companies.

Geeks are now the main characters in films and TV shows when they used to be sidelined. For example in James Bond, Q is a geek and his role would often be simply to provide Bond with gadgets to get his job done and very little else would be said about him for the rest of the job. Whereas now we have programs like Big Bang Theory where most of the main cast are geeks and even in the newer James Bond films, Q plays a larger part than before.

Why might one care about this?

This was the final question. Now that this is all said and done, why should I care? Well the thing is gender is massive thing that impacts our daily lives from the way we dress to the way we talk, gender has massive implication.

Gender is also important to consider in my creative practice. People of different gender identities are going to have a slightly different reaction to things and it is, of course, a massive factor in design. If I chose to make some kind of clothing, which because I’m interested in sewing, I may do, gender will have a big influence on the way I design that piece of clothing.

Overall I think this lecture got me think about how I can think about gender representation in my practice and how I can think about gender in my design work, for example I might design something for a male or a female or something for both but it’s important to think about that without being too constrained by existing gender constructs and stereotypes. By this I mean if I was designing something I thought might be for women, I wouldn’t make it pink because it’s for women but I would think about the experiences a woman might have that could relate to the thing I’m making.




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