I got into a conversation with one of my students recently when I noted that all the nerd and otakus hang out in the back of our snack bar area. He said something along the lines of: Otaku is like an insult. I replied with something along the lines of: It’s exactly the same type of insult as “nerd” and I think we should take both words and use them proudly.
It’s interesting how many people I meet in my non-geek world (I’ll refer to them as “Muggles” from now on for ease of writing) who say things to me or about me along the lines of: she’s a nerd, but she’s okay with that. An even better one I’ve encountered is: “well, you’re not really a nerd.”
I tend to correct that right away. No, really, I’m definitely a nerd. I can’t go more than five minutes without making a nerdy reference. Even in my lectures I tend to drop nerd things. Today, I mentioned QWOP during my lecture about the skeleton and how it attaches to muscles. I also tend to nerd out over things I like; I’m super easy to sidetrack with an appropriate topic. If I am presented with a scientific thing of any kind, I will question and tear it apart. Even if it was a joke or a fictional world. I mean, I’m essentially a real-life version of Sheldon only with an interest in communicating with the rest of society so I’ve learned to copy their basic conversational style (even if I totally screw it up half the time).
I am completely okay with this. I enjoy knowing nerdy scientific facts and telling them to people. I relish my insane knowledge of Supernatural and Star Trek. I enjoy making silly video game references when I talk to people. I like being a nerd. And you know what? People like me. this is what’s important. Labels only work so long as the people using them never meet and make friends with the people they are labeling. When the nerds and otakus of the world no longer hide in fear, but make friends with people and then proudly accept their titles, that’s when you make changes.
Maybe we only change one person at a time, but every little bit is worthwhile.
I’m a nerd, and I’m proud of it.