Male “nerd culture” is toxic at its heart because it encourages adult men to view themselves as boys.
What’s wrong with being a boy, staying in your room, playing with spaceships and robots?
What’s wrong is that a boy in his room is being taken care of by his mother but if an adult man tries to live the life of a young boy he needs to get a woman to provide the role of his mother and take care of his needs.
“Nerd culture” hides the importance a giving female plays in male fantasy life, and doesn’t teach men that they have a responsibility to care for women and provide space for women to feel safe and playful on their own terms.
The hidden cost to women of male nerd culture provides an interesting test case of how fantasy can lead to injustice unconsciously. The male nerd doesn’t think about the consequences for women. He just thinks he enjoyed it in his room as a boy playing with robot toys. When he was a child he wasn’t thinking about his mother’s needs — and shouldn’t have been. But as an adult living in that fantasy he is blinding himself willfully to the harm it causes adult women. Similarly the nostalgic southerner who longs for a life sipping porch juleps on the plantation doesn’t think about the harm that system did to African Americans — he or she just takes pleasure in the fantasy.
As a test case I think it’s best to view this story — the story of the hidden woman and the downtrodden girlfriend in the life of the male nerd — as a spur to the adventure of self-knowledge. The adult nerd collecting Star Wars toys doesn’t realize he is actually playing a part in a much more interesting story than Star Wars. All he has to do is pull the camera back to include the women in his life and look at the world as it seems to them, and he is now in the busy heart of a novel for grown-ups and not a juvenile escapist movie. And he was all along, he just didn’t know it.