Thursday, August 13, 2009

Enough is ENOUGH, already!!!

That's it, people. I've had it. This post has been building in me for I don't know how long, and I have to let it out. I'm rather tense about it, so I apologize for any disconnected thoughts. This isn't Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism. This is me, fed up.

The time is way, way past for stopping the use of the terms "geek" or nerd". I'm going to focus on the stereotypes of birders and nature lovers, but this could easily spill over into the technical fields, fans of Sci-Fi, etc.
Let's start with the definitions of "geek" and "nerd", according to Wikipedia:
"a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more things including those of intellectuality, electronics, etc."
"a term often bearing a derogatory connotation or stereotype, that refers to a person who passionately pursues intellectual activities, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests rather than engaging in more social or popular activities. Therefore, a nerd is often excluded from physical activity and considered a loner by peers or will tend to associate with like-minded people."

Group at the Bobolink Field
(My favorite picture from the Flock's trip to WV...I just wish the whole Flock could have been in it)

As of today, I will be taking offense at anyone daring to call me, or any other nature lover, a geek, nerd, dweeb, snod (that's a new one I just learned), etc, etc, ad nauseum.

I'm not one to psychologically dissect any of this behavior, but my opinion is that it is a knee-jerk reaction to "label" a person based on their actions, especially when we don't understand the obsession.
*Star Trek conventions, with people dressed as their favorite character. Same with Star Wars, and any number of other shows or movies: Ever been to one of those? They are fantastic fun, booths selling things you are interested in, like-minded people who totally get you and your love of whatever subject you are all celebrating. Stars from the shows or movies come to these events, and you get autographs and a minute of their time to ask questions.
(Anyone else think this sounds like a birding festival? Except that we don't wear costumes, we wear bird shirts. And instead of Leonard Nimoy, we swoon over David Sibley, Bill Thompson and Julie Zickefoose, Scott Weidensaul, etc. )

As of today, I won't be tolerating any nature or bird lover calling themselves "Bird Nerds" or "Nature Geeks". I'm not having it.
Even if you are saying it in jest, or think it's a badge of honor.

I took a Cultural Sensitivity class years ago, a required study at the direct care facility I was employed by. There was a mix of all ages, races, financial "status", occupations, etc. The one thing that I have carried with me ever since is this:
Stereotypes, whether they are negative or positive, have the potential to be hurtful or damaging.
Any stereotype you can come up with, whether it is "complimentary" or "derogatory", puts not only the stereotyped person at a disadvantage, but it greatly depresses your ability to truly know the person. If all you see is the stereotype, then you don't see the other human being.

I can't address all of the parts of the "Birder" stereotype, but I have witnessed first-hand just how short-sighted and frankly inaccurate it is...

(I have yet to meet anyone who fits the "Birder" or "Birdwatcher" stereotype).
I guess that stereotype dictates that we are to be strangely-dressed, stodgy, socially-inept pantywaists who just sit on park benches and feed pigeons?
I beg your ****ing pardon?

If you read any of the blogs in our Flock network, you KNOW that we are supremely skilled at social graces, so there goes that part of the stereotype:

Out of the nine or so Flock members at the New River Birding and Nature Festival, only a few of us had ever met in real life. By the end of that first day, we were BFF's.

Stodgy? Sure, whatever. Bite me.

(Tim, playing KILLER COWBELL with the Swinging Orangutangs)
(Oh, wait! We aren't supposed to have fun or like rock 'n' roll! Stop it, Tim!!)
For every stereotype you throw at me, I can and will throw back an exception.
So what makes a stereotype worth a damn??? Even the "good" ones?
Stop being weak and lazy by using stereotypes. You can be better than that.

And while I am all fired up, I will say this, too...and the people who I am speaking to?
You know who you are.

When I was a phlebotomist, I would talk about my patients, or funny things that happened at the lab. And you enjoyed those stories. And you thought my job had value.

When I was a direct care specialist for adults with mentally retardation, I would talk about my residents, or funny things that happened at the home. And you enjoyed those stories. And you thought my job had value.

When I was the manager and technician for a medical office, I would talk about my patients or funny things that happened at the office. And you enjoyed those stories. And you thought my job had value.

NOW that I am an educator for a raptor rescue, I talk about my birds, or funny things that happen at the center. And you mock me. And you derisively call me "Bird Lady". And you think my job has no value.

I have a few words to say to that:

helen me and girls

I am a Human Perch for some of the world's most beautiful creatures.


I have learned to excel at opening the sky of knowledge and passion for thousands of people.

I have found work that completes me,
Two owls two ears
...that lights me up inside, like a light bulb behind my eyes,

Priscilla close
...I look forward to getting up ever day and doing my job,

Isis BLue Eye
...a job that I am very good at, a job that makes my heart overflow every single time I do it.

And you are jealous of that.

So I'm sorry you can't handle that you hate your job and dread getting up every morning.
But don't take it out on me. I'm one of the lucky ones.

And you can kiss my ass.


KGMom said...

I can't imagine someone -- make that ANYONE -- thinking that what you do with raptors has no value.
I love raptors. I repeat--I LOVE RAPTORS. I am just not lucky enough to work with them daily, as you do.
I admire you for the work you do.

In fact, today, as I was leaving the house to go to a church committee meeting (now, there's excitement for you), I saw a peregrine fly overhead. Pretty sure it was a peregrine, as we have a nesting pair in our state capitol--5 miles from our house. And I just stopped, watch her, and said--oh you beautiful thing.

Venting spleen--as you did--is very very healthy. Hope the people who "inspired" you heard you.

Susan Ellis said...

well written! I don't think that being a "bird nerd" is derogatory especially if you announce it first with a smile (and an eagle on your arm). But the bigger issue is one of educating a vast public that is content with being ignorant. That's the hard part...but this little army has wings! keep up the great work!!

Stacy said...


Gallicissa said...

Well said Susan!

Does 'fanatic' sound as bad? I hope not as I just did a post about that. About me.

Kathiesbirds said...

Wow Susan, you sure got wound up! What set you off? So glad you love your job though. Not many people can say that. I don't mind it if anyone calls me the bird lady. I rather like it. Those are some awesome birds! Do they call you the bird lady?

RuthieJ said...

Oh Susan, some people just don't know any better because they're not enlightened like we are!
The stereotypes will always be there.....whether you're a birder or a biker. I'm sure there are plenty of people who wouldn't give me the time of day if they saw me dressed up in the biker leathers.
We, as birders, have to rise above the narrow-mindedness and carry on despite the prejudices.
Live Long and Prosper, you Super Birding Woman!

Nicole said...

I'm completely jealous of your access to raptors, and I'm baffled by anyone who would be derisive towards you. What were they thinking?

NCmountainwoman said...

I loved the rant. But I'm REALLY dying to know what set you off! Was it a special event or comment, or an accumulation of suppressed feelings?

Jim McCormac said...

Not a bad post... for a geek! Or was that nerd? No, wait - I meant dweeb! :-)


corey said...


Good thing that the crazies disrupting town hall meetings don't have you on their side!

Mel said...

My dear Susan,
I know what you mean and I agree!
I do not have my dream job and I so wish I had one like yours, that make me jump out of bed with a smile on my face! I admire you and I'm working hard to finish my thesis so I could start a new life following my dreams :)
Sometime ago, a few coworkers not so close to me found out that I enjoyed birds and their comments were "but you don't seem boring at all", "don't you have anything interesting to do?", "why don't you spend more time with your husband instead of staring to birds?"... WHAT???? I couldn't reply, as I couldn't believe the words I heard!! My head was filled with answers: "My husband enjoys birds too", "we love to travel and find nature and not buildings", "it IS interesting", "How dare you???"
I believe naturalists, birders, all people who love, care, respect and enjoy nature and its wonders are great people, with giant hearts, phisically fit, with massive respect for all living creatures and are stunning educators, even if they don't mean to be.
I've learned more about nature lovers I've met here and all over, than in any of the gray offices I've had to work at for the past 13 years!
Susan, don't let ANYONE put you down for doing what you love! I'll soon follow your footsteps, (maybe not to raptors rehab, hehe), but to focus my energy in the things that make me happy!
I'm letting go of the people who's comments and attitudes are full of hate or envy or plain hurtfull, and trying to surround myself with happy shinny people! I am happier and the people around me too :)
Let go of those who put you down, they are not worth it, they don't know the value of actually doing what you are passionate about!

Susan Gets Native said...

Everyone but Jim,
I knew that I was pretty much "preaching to the choir" about this subject, but I had to get it off my chest. No one event triggered this...just a build-up of tension and aggravation.
The people to whom the last part was directed... .....they don't mean to be hurtful when they make fun. Honest. These are people who love me, but they have failed to see (up until now) that I was being hurt. But they know now, don't they????

And to Jim:
Thou art a SMART ASS.

dguzman said...

Who the hell would think that ANY kind of work has no value? I've ALWAYS believed that, no matter what you do, if it's legal, it has worth. From the "lowliest" of occupations like sanitation workers to the CEOs of the world, all jobs have worth. Where would be without, say, cab drivers to take us to the airport or wherever? Or raptor educators to open our eyes to the wonders of the natural world? Or sanitation workers to clean up our mess?

You'll never hear me call you a geek because you love birds.

I'd call you a geek for other reasons, but not for the bird love!


Susan Gets Native said...

Thanks. Love you too.

Erik said...

I hate when I get behind on reading blogs. This post cracked me up. I guess I've never really cared what others thought about me or my hobby. That's the clearest indicator of a geek/nerd/dweeb/whatever.

The only person who ever openly mocked my birdwatching was a golfer who was wearing such a hideous ensemble that even the most color blind of individuals would have winced. He thought birding was for "losers". This coming from a man who spends his free time hitting a ball away from himself only to go chase it again only to hit it away from himself again only to ........ Some of us are smart enough not to play fetch with ourselves. That's why we have dogs and children.

Wear the geek badge with pride. I do. Even the bumper sticker on my car identifies me as a "Bona Fide Bird Nerd".

denapple said...

Golly, Susan, tell us how you REALLY feel. It's not good to hold this stuff in! We recently went canoeing with a group from Metro Parks. One of the Parks people talked about the bird club that wanted a park cleaned up, and complained that they didn't want to do the work. He likened them all to Jane Hathaway. I told him that we belong to the club and we don't look like Jane Hathaway!

forestal said...

catching up on blogs, and I really enjoyed your post if its ok to say that - your job has much value and those who mock are not worth the aggravation.


Kyle said...

Susan, I'm not sure if you even see this comment on an older post, but I'm catching up on a couple of weeks without reading any blogs and just came across this wonderful rant. Just wanted to shoot you a (virtual) hug and agree with all the others who've already said it better: I agree wholeheartedly with the first half, although I myself have been guilty of using the terms as either a self-derogatory "joke" or a badge of honor, depending on how you look at it. And as to the second... how can anyone help but be jealous when you so obviously love your job so much? I'll admit that I am, although I certainly would never think to mock or deride you for it. I'd much rather share in the joy by swinging by here as often as possible to bask in the light that really does shine forth from your eyes when you are with or talking about your birds. Keep up the wonderful work!


dAwN said...

hee hee..
Just catching up on blogs ..have been traveling without internet..
and then i see this marvelous rant!
Love it..
Love what Jim said too...
and everyone else.
Your way cool in my book..and by the way I love being a geek!

littleorangeguy said...


dugfresh said...

well put. you are indeed one of the lucky ones. what a dream job. i often run across pictures of people holding birds in their hands and i think, "i have to crawl through bushes and sit for hours just to get a glimpse of something like that, and there it is in your hand." lucky, fortunate, blessed people. you're right. the pencil-pushing, number-crunching, phone-tagging, desk jockeys with their lexuses and bmws and large houses and designer clothes are miserable inside...and would never admit it.

i hope you struck a chord with them through this post.