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Jeopardy champ talks sexism, gaming

| Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Arthur Chu, 12-day Jeopardy champion and writer for The Daily Beast spoke Tuesday evening on the unhealthy views of women found in “nerd culture,” in a lecture titled “Your Princess is in Another Castle,” the second in the Men in Masculinity series sponsored by the Gender Relations Center.

Chu said the increasing portrayal of “nerds” in films and television as awkward but benign characters belies the fact that there are implicit misogynistic attitudes promoted by groups within the nerd subculture.

“One of the threads is the concept of sexual market value,” Chu said. “It’s the idea that sex is a transaction between man and woman, much like when you’re interacting with a vendor.”

Chu said this transactional view is not only found within certain online communities of men who blame their frustrations on women but is also present in popular entertainment.

“It sounds crazy. But it’s not that weird. It’s what you see in the battle of the sexes in sitcoms, where the husband and the wife hate each other,” Chu said. “It’s a trope so obvious that even the simplest video games for children use it, that you have to save the princess.”

Chu said the frequent use of this trope in entertainment reflects a deeper societal tendency to view women as a prize.

“It’s an old narrative; it’s a very powerful narrative of how things should be between men and women,” he said. “It’s built into every story that has the beginning end with the promise of the daughter’s hand in marriage for accomplishing this quest.”

Chu said this view of relationships not only harms women but also dissolves the value of relationships.

“At the end of the day a transactional view of relationships is a bad relationship,” he said. “The very nature of saying you deserve to be with someone for accomplishing some task means that the person that you want to be with is interchangeable with anyone.”

In some cases, this “toxic” perception of relating with women leads to extreme violence, seen in the Virginia Tech and University of California Santa Barbara shootings, Chu said.

“It’s often the least successful men — the guys who we think of as nerdy, rejected and pitiful — who are most resentful in this context, and therefore the most dangerous,” Chu said.

Chu said the danger in dismissing “lone-wolf” spree killings as anomalies undermines the awareness that these acts are one part of a much larger problem by which women are negatively affected.

“The problematic behavior lies on a spectrum,” Chu said. “But the behavior that we’re talking about is built into the assumptions of our society. The spectrum of antagonistic behavior based on a transactional view of sex and marriage is the idea that women owe you something.

“No matter how much an individual woman might look for a man who doesn’t buy into this narrative, she’s going to be exposed to men who are on the toxic side of the spectrum.”

Chu said countering this transactional view of women and relationships first requires a willingness to address the issue head on.

“Just talking about it is a big deal,” Chu said. “When it’s the in the background, when it’s the assumed state of how things are, if you don’t put a name to it, it’s very hard to oppose it.

“It is a big deal to recognize when these tropes come up, and recognize that they are tropes, that they are a specific way of looking at things that doesn’t have to be true.”

About Jeremy Cappello Lee

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