Nerdom and fandom can be a beautiful place. I know that for many of us our first thought is to think of the toxicity that we have encountered but it has also brought me so many lifelong friends and hobbies that I can’t turn my back on it, nor should I. I’ve been a lifelong dork and I want to share some of my tips for dealing with people that demand you prove your nerd cred.
Specifically, I want to talk about strategies to that question. You think you’ve spotted a fellow member of your fandom and immediately after engaging them they ask you to “prove it.” “It” can be your worth, your knowledge, or your level of devotion. They are trying to make you prove your place in their circle. They are trying to establish dominant nerd cred (ridiculous), insisting that you have enough holes on the punch card and frequent flyer miles to be worth their time (ha!). It is waste of your time and energy and demanding that people prove their credentials creates weak fandoms. In conjunction with the #ComiCoven I’ve curated a few time and energy-saving methods for dealing with the bullshittery.
WARNING: I use the F-word a lot in this article.
Six steps for dismissing trolls
One- Find BETTER people. This is the best one though I can admit that the upfront cost can be a little high. It’s hard to leave your group, it can be hard to find and engage new people, but I *promise* you better people are out there. You know why I love the #DYECB group? Because they invited me in despite the fact that I rarely read traditional superhero comics and because they never said I was less for having read less. It’s important to find a group of people that challenge you in positive ways- challenge you to have more fun, to try new things, etc., but not a group of people that will challenge your entry and your credentials. It is one of the reasons I play Warmachine as opposed to Warhammer- the people I started playing Warmachine with were excited to teach new people the game and they didn’t bat their eye at a girl in the LGS. So, if you have a group that is acting out of turn, take your time to find a new group. Ask around, ask online, chances are someone in your area is also looking for something more friendly.
I *promise* you better people are out there.
Two- Refuse to play their shitty game. This sounds obvious but it can be hard. You may genuinely know more than them but the fact is they are being manipulative and dickish. If you best them, they will rules-lawyer you, they will quibble, they will redefine what they were asking. They will keep doing it until you fail. It’s an obvious, super sad power play. So don’t engage. Turn your back, walk away. You have nothing to prove, not to them, and not to anyone. If you even have an INTEREST in something in fandom, you belong there, don’t let them tell you differently, don’t let them encourage you to quit or to lose interest. They don’t own a damn thing – not the source material, not the fandom, and not your damn time.
Three-Be the fandom that you want to see. If you want a more welcoming fandom, be more welcoming. Engage other people and let them know that you aren’t going to demand to see their nerdy punch card. Answer questions from noobs, normies, and beginners and build your own group. You may have to claw for space, and that can be exhausting, but if it’s worth having, it’s worth fighting for.
They don’t own a damn thing – not the source material, not the fandom, and not your damn time.
Four- Scream FUCK OFF in their face until their skin melts off their skull like they just looked straight at the Arc of the Covenant. Personally, I reserve this one for only the greatest of creeps, whether they be online or in person. Make them pay for breathing next to you. Summon all of your Carrie Fisher sass, the dark power of Cthulhu, the fire of Danaerys Stormborn and scorch the fucking earth, my lovelies. It’s important that you don’t contribute to creating a toxic environment, but if you can’t shake the person and they are harassing you, then defend yourself not your nerd cred. They are bullies and most bullies have spines made of jellyfish. “Get bent, fuckos” is great and disdainful at that same time, my personal favorite type of dismissal.
Five- “Google me, bitch.” This one might be my favorite though we are not all so lucky as @BabyGrotesque. When men challenge her knowledge of mechanics she tells them to Google her, and they’ll find photos of her racing cars in high school. There is such beauty in being prominent enough in a field that people can search your name and find you. It’s extra, but its god damn amazing.
Six- Support creators, companies, and other fans that support you as a fan. You would think it would be good business sense to appreciate the fans you have, but it’s not always the case. I’ve stopped supporting creators that were toxic to their fans and their own industries and I go out of my way to support creators that want me as a fan. It is a mutually supportive relationship, an intrinsically healthier fandom. Voting with your word of mouth, your dollar, and time has a lot of impact.
These are tried and true methods. I have done 1-4 & 6 all with great success, and #5 is a new goal of mine. Do what’s comfortable for you and what you have the energy for. Defending your space can be exhausting, so take a break if you need to, or tag a friend in. But you are worthy of your space, you deserve it, and it is worth fighting for. You never have to prove your nerd cred with us.
Becky is a dog-obsessed, rainbow-haired, book-loving, history-studying, rock-climbing, flavor-fiend & nerd-generalist. She specializes in vintage scifi, grimdark fantasy, and playing and painting miniatures.