Laurie Penny in The New Republic:
A few people have forwarded me MIT professor Scott Aaronson’s post about nerd trauma and male privilege (link here). It's part of a larger discussion about sexism in STEM subjects, and its essence is simple. Aaronson's position on feminism is supportive, but he can’t get entirely behind it because of his experiences growing up, which he details with painful honesty. He describes how mathematics was an escape, for him, from the misery of growing up in a culture of toxic masculinity and extreme isolation—a misery which drove him to depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. The key quote is this:
Much as I try to understand other people’s perspectives, the first reference to my 'male privilege'—my privilege!—is approximately where I get off the train, because it’s so alien to my actual lived experience … I suspect the thought that being a nerdy male might not make me 'privileged'—that it might even have put me into one of society’s least privileged classes—is completely alien to your way of seeing things. I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not 'entitled', not 'privileged', but terrified.
I know them feels, Scott.
As a child and a teenager, I was shy, and nerdy, and had crippling anxiety. I was very clever and desperate for a boyfriend or, failing that, a fuck. I would have done anything for one of the boys I fancied to see me not as a sad little boffin freak but as a desirable creature, just for a second. I hated myself and had suicidal thoughts. I was extremely lonely, and felt ugly and unloveable. Eventually I developed severe anorexia and nearly died.
Like Aaronson, I was terrified of making my desires known—to anyone. I was not aware of any of my (substantial) privilege for one second—I was in hell, for goodness' sake, and 14 to boot. Unlike Aaronson, I was also female, so when I tried to pull myself out of that hell into a life of the mind, I found sexism standing in my way. I am still punished every day by men who believe that I do not deserve my work as a writer and scholar. Some escape it's turned out to be.