How should we judge other people?
In the past it was generally accepted in Western society that anyone not in your own group was a fair target for generalized criticism. Thus, jokes about blacks, Jews, Poles, Asians, Mexicans, etc. became commonplace – as did jokes about blondes, redheads, Catholics, Italians, and so forth.
Eventually we wised up to the fact that the butts of these jokes were actually people, and it was hurtful, cruel, or just downright counterproductive to continually bludgeon our neighbors with negative stereotypes. This may or may not have been assisted by a healthy dose of political mobilization on their parts, which brings me to the term “political correctness.” It is possible to avoid evoking damaging stereotypes for two different reasons. The first is purely pragmatic – not insulting minorities because the NAACP or the Anti-Defamation League will be after you – while the second is because you genuinely believe it’s not a good thing to judge people on what social identity group they belong to.
What’s the difference, really? Well, if we were to view peoples’ conduct towards some groups that did not have the protection of a large organization, we might be able to see whether or not we’ve truly internalized the idea that stereotyping can be harmful, or if we merely pay it lip service to avoid trouble.
This brings me to the “otaku” identity. It’s self-constructed, it’s voluntary, and it’s not a protected group the way racial or religious social constructs currently are. (Anyone who doesn’t understand “race” as a social construct is encouraged to look up historical examples. Try the miscegenation rules of the American South, which held that “one drop of blood” would make a person black rather than white, or the Nazi philosophy of “Aryan” race. Race has always been about social identity far more than biology.) Otaku identity is also the subject of dismissal, shaming, and mockery in the professional press, including – controversially – passing mentions in articles at Anime News Network.
Try as I might, I can’t really see picking on otaku, but trumpeting your sensitivity towards gays and lesbians, as any different from having learned what you can and can’t get away with. It doesn’t seem to indicate that you’ve actually internalized the idea that stereotypes can be damaging.
If you believe, honestly, that all that is so much rubbish, then that’s one thing. You are at least consistent in your denial that stereotypes have serious effects. But if you genuinely believe in the cruelty and harm caused by applying to stereotypes to other social groups – identified by gender, race, sexuality, or religion – and you then turn around and enjoy making people squirm based on their group identity as otaku (however spurious it might seem), then we have a problem. You can’t reconcile the idea that it’s NOT OK to make fun of people for who they are, and the idea that it’s fine to make fun of people for who they are.