Geek Feminism Wiki

This page describes some archetypes of abusive people in geek communities, together with characteristics that make it difficult to identify their abuse and/or kick them out of the community.

Important caveat: these archetypes of of abusers when they occur with abuse. There are, eg, many charismatic funny geeks with many sexual partners who don't abuse people. These archetypes are not necessarily lists of red flags, but when combined with abuse explain why some abusers can be difficult to kick out of a community.

Socially skilled abuser

A popular geek who has some of the following traits:

  • charismatic in person, lots of friends
  • one or more sexual partners and/or a reputation for being sexy and/or people who are described as or even identify as their "fanboys"/"fangirls" (fanpeeps?)
  • aspirational to geeks in their community who want to be like them, or have their community attract more of this type of person
  • social justice activism ranging from familiarity to the terminology through to self-identifying as a feminist or defending victims from other abusers

Why it is difficult to reveal them as an abuser or kick them out of a community:

Jerk abuser

Someone in a community who is a well-known jerk who has some of the following traits:

  • abrasive, rude or outright abusive interpersonal style
  • indifference to criticism of their interpersonal style, or philosophical commitment to it (eg "projects are only effective when people communicate like I do")
  • appearance, style or grooming habits well outside mainstream norms or even local geek norms
  • strong opinions and ideological commitments
  • strong identification as a geek
  • dislike for political correctness, social justice terminology, etc

You would think this is easier to remove them from communities, but it may not be. Why it is difficult to reveal them as an abuser or kick them out of a community:

  • they may have status and power associated with their willingness to express/live in accordance with their ideology
  • people who are allied with them on geek/ideology issues may assume that any abuse call-outs are actually a proxy for the geek issues ("you're just saying he's an abuser because you actually don't want us to use his programming language/you want the NSA to be able to spy on everyone")
  • they may have skills or knowledge that is very valuble to the community (this is often why their interpersonal style is tolerated)
  • their tolerance for conflict is much higher than the rest of the community's and they may be perfectly willing to destroy the entire community while fighting to stay in it
  • their tolerance for conflict may mean that expelling them from leadership roles requires that their opponents make significant career or personal sacrifices (eg, their opponent may need to leave an employer or industry afterwards)
  • many geeks will identify with them in their social awkwardness and unpopularity/mixed popularity and then defend them in self-preservation
  • their unpopularity/mixed popularity and abrasiveness may actually be quite a skilled manipulation of their community: being a missing stair is its own social skill


This abuser isn't necessarily socially adept or maladept; their main characteristic is their high profile.

  • famous (either globally, or within a community)
  • frequent keynote speaker or well known for public appearances
  • hosts, or is a featured guest, at parties or events
  • gets lots of media attention (globally or within a community)
  • travels widely, has appeared at events in many locations
  • perceived as a leader — more often a "thought leader" than a technical one — and as bringing a lot of value to a community through their work

Problems with addressing abuse by someone of this type may include:

  • Lots of travel and attending a wide variety of events means a constant new supply of people who don't yet know they're a creep
  • Harder to report harassment and have it acted on (eg. events may be unwilling to kick out their keynoter, for instance)
  • Reporters of harassment may be accused of Harming the community, as this high profile person is seen as inextricably connected with the community's reputation as a whole
  • If harassment is reported, this abuser's platform and audience let them shape the conversation and overwhelmingly gain support

Emotional vampire

This abuser is socially maladept and needy and relies on people's pity to avoid being kicked out. Characteristics include:

  • singles out individuals (especially women) to intensely console them about their difficulties, essentially seeking free counselling
  • seeks positions in a community that bring them into contact with newcomers, such as meeting organizers or newbie-contact or similar
  • seeks opportunities to work one-on-one with sympathetic listeners
  • displays dual personality sides to different people or at different times; very kind, upbeat to some people, super negative, despairing to others
  • tends to socialise with women members of the community, or other disempowered members such as children and teens
  • drawn to women's events and organizations where they share intimate details of their lives and seek support rather than contributing to women's activities or activism
  • is experienced in using social justice rhetoric to justify their abusive behaviour
  • if male, very unpopular with male members of their geek community

Problems with addressing these geeks as abusers might include:

  • Person closest to the abuser has likely been exposed to extreme vulnerability and intimate details of abuser, which are used to elicit sympathy and act as a shield for abuser when confronted
  • The abuser relying on women's reluctance to confront a man
  • The abuser relying on women's prescribed role as caretakers and emotional educators to insist they remain until they have learned better
  • The abuser relying on women's prescribed role as caretakers to insist they be "forgiven" or "allowed a chance at redemption"
  • The abuser relying on women's fellow-feeling as an outsider to geekdom
  • Appeal to geekdom as a "community of last resort" that should never throw people out (this is often a powerful tactic to appeal to men as well as women)
  • Suddenly reveals angry side when confronted, or conversely may threaten self-harm
  • Attacks anyone trying to kick them out using social justice rhetoric
  • If male, male members of the community have often already partly excluded them and may not have further influence to wield (or interest in using it)