Chloe Dykstra, cast-member of Heroes of Cosplay and co-host of the web series Just Cos, grew up apart of the entertainment and nerd communities. This is because her father, John Dykstra, is a special effects artist, best known for his work on Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Spider-Man, and Spider-Man 2.

Dykstra clearly developed a taste for nerdiness herself, fostering a love of cosplay, conventions, and sci-fi fantasy characters. She remains wholly involved in the nerd community, sharing her cosplays and providing commentary on geekdom as her full-time job.

However, Dykstra has recently taken to Medium to detail the haunting three-year abuse committed by an unnamed ex-boyfriend when she was in her young 20’s.

She said it all began when  “One day, I met someone at a convention and ended up falling for a man almost 20 years my senior.” Though it started rocky, the relationship persisted. To do this, her abusive ex created a severe list of relationship rules for her. Dykstra agreed to follow them because, “ he’d just left his long-term girlfriend and I assumed that he was going through some serious emotional discomfort.”

Their relationship rules were as follows:

  1. Dykstra could not go out at night. Her night-time was reserved for him
  2. Dykstra was not to have close male friends, only exceptions being co-workers
  3. Dykstra was forbidden from drinking alcohol
  4. Dykstra could not speak in public while with him to protect his celebrity reputation from eavesdroppers
  5. Dykstra wasn’t allowed to take photos of them together

From day one, Dykstra began to lose control over her own life. Her abuser slowly alienated her from friends, her job, and many things she once loved. For three years, she lived trapped in a relationship that was created to fit her abuser’s needs, not hers. Dykstra laments, “I lost myself, both physically and mentally,” describing that she “lost 15 pounds within one week”, “pull[ed] out [her] hair”, and “generally stopped speaking unless spoken to while with him.”

She describes her life with him as, “drifting through life like a ghost… I was an ex-person.”

A lover of nerd culture and conventions, her whole life warped when she met this man. And not for the better.

Currently, Chris Hardwick, host of Talking with Chris Hardwick and Talking Dead,  is suspected to be the boyfriend that Dykstra is referencing. No statement has been made on his part, and no formal accusations have been filed. However, Nerdist has fired him and erased all reference of him from their website in reaction. 

Dykstra now joins the ranks of hundreds women harassed, assaulted, excluded, controlled, and abused by members of the entertainment and geekdom communities.

The nerd community in particular has always had a definitive issue of inclusion, being known to gate-keep and belittle women. As women have become more prominent in the culture, though, the problem has not decreased. In the past year, there have been several serious, emerging accounts of women being assaulted by  the community, including Chloe Dykstra.

A recent example is Kelly Marie Tran, the actress who played Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Tran has taken serious harassment and verbal abuse from the fandom. After a continuous an onslaught of racist and sexist comments from fans saying her character was terrible and helped ruin Star Wars, Tran has deleted her Instagram. While many on the cast have been harassed since The Last Jedi, Tran, a Vietnamese-American woman, has taken the brunt of the hate as of late. Similarly, though, in 2016 her co-star Daisy Ridley had to delete her Instagram because of harassment (BBC).

Even conceptually, the increase of women as main characters is games has caused several uproars throughout the year.

Particularly, there was major pushback when Battlefield 5 announced you could choose to be a male or female when playing. Male gamers excused that their outrage was because of historical inaccuracy. However, a quick google search and you learn that “350,000 women served in the U.S. Armed Forces, at home and abroad.” Similar women’s military involvement in WW2 also happened in England, Australia, Canada, India, Poland, and more.

Chloe Dysktra and many women like her are abused by the same culture and community they love. Her abuser tried to control her like other parts of the nerd community are trying to control women through gate-keeping, harassment, and more.

Nerd culture needs to do better. There’s no other way to say it. As a booming part of the entertainment industry, it needs to set a precedent of inclusion rather than become a new branch of the Harvey Weinstein-inspired fold.

Women in gaming, comics, cosplay, movies, and shows deserve to have their place in the community they belong to. Not as pretty, token girlfriends, not as hot pieces of ass, not as phony invaders. As equals.




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