Feminism and tech: an overdue and welcome manifesto


#1

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#2

I work in the tech industry, and I fully support anyone who wants to participate in this industry. However, this post really just sounds like pointless whining. I'm not suggesting sexist behavior might not be a problem -- but this post does a terrible job of demonstrating it.

To look at their list of bad things that have happened this week:

1) A throughout and fair investigation found that no sexual harassment occurred. The link goes to great lengths to describe how fair the investigation was (and it sounds like legitimately was fair) and that no evidence was found supporting the sexism claims. So, is this post suggesting that there is no way the woman could be wrong and we must assume a thorough, independent investigation is part of a conspiracy to mistreat women? Blind support of all accusations of misdeeds is a terrible way to gather more support.

2) A CEO being fired for acting violently. This is a good thing, not a bad thing, right? In any case, the violence was towards his girlfriend/prostitute (not my judgement, just paraphrasing), which is certainly bad, but doesn't really speak about women in the tech industry.

3) People wanting to see a video like this isn't sexist -- I can promise you the reaction would have been the same if the victim had been male. This is not a sexist or feminist issue, at all. This is people wanting to see a video... of course they don't care about consent, viewers never do. This is NOT about exploiting a woman.

4) Yeah, codebabes.com is sexist and tacky. But I can assure you, anyone who "learns" coding through a site like that will be woefully unprepared for a real tech industry job. This site doesn't really represent professional techies at all. Furthermore, anyone can put any site they want on the internet, and if this site leads people to believe the internet is sexist... well, they must be very new to the internet.

5) "Some men made statements that made us feel unwelcome in the tech industry." Yeah, me too. Many people in the tech industry are very poor at social interaction. With all people. They make awkward, inappropriate comments to women. They also make awkward, inappropriate commands to men. Yes, this applies to women in the tech industry as much as men (which is to say, some of them, not all). I could write a blog post about the mean, weird, awkward and offensive things co-workers (both sexes) have said to me (male) over the years, but why would I?


#4

Honestly I think codedicks.com is the payoff here.

At risk of being flamed (again) I still wish for a world where people help each other be strong, instead of a world where Mighty Avengers Protect The Weak By Punishing Evildoers.


#5

Wow, that was fast. It took only one post for the apologists to come in and start de-legitimizing their gripes and twisting the narrative so that now we're talking about how badly they're presenting the issue rather than about the issue itself.

Demonstrating ably, I think, one of the symptoms of the issue at hand: "Let me explain (mansplain?) how to critique the patriarchy!" is not a solution, it's part of the problem.


#6

::slowclap::

Adding at the end that you're male is...superfluous.


#7

Sorry Ray, you broke the golden rule - anything said by an -ist around here is sacrosanct. No criticism (valid, constructive, or 'other'), no fact-checking, and certainly no disrespecting of "feeeeeeelings!" (no matter how wacky).


#8

That is precisely what you're doing.

If you do think sexist behavior is a problem and you think these authors used weak points to illustrate the problem, I'd challenge you to show some better examples. What would you write in their shoes? How would you demonstrate it in a not-terrible way?


#9

I never said anything about the author's experiences -- but then again, none of the points I refuted were about her experiences. I'm not claiming I have experienced worse. I'm not claiming there isn't sexism in this industry. I'm just claiming the examples provided by this article are poor examples of sexism in the tech industry.


#10

I started in IT in the early 1980's, coding COBOL and Assembler. It saddens me to hear the same stuff happening to the women who wrote this essay 35 years later.

When asked why there were no women in upper management at the first company I worked for, our class manager - a woman! - said, "We've found that women like to leave and have babies after five years."

This company also had a regulation that women wear "proper undergarments," when there was no such regulation for men.

After a pattern of harassment, a client invited me into his office and played a porn video on his PC I complained to my boss. My boss - a man - said, "You don't want us to lose our biggest client, do you?"

I was often mistaken for a receptionist or an administrative assistant, as well.

I am sorry that you just don't get it, coderay.


#11

I would start by showing examples of actual sexism in the tech industry. Maybe a sexual harassment lawsuit that wasn't dismissed as baseless. Perhaps some anecdotes about how a female programmer was marginalized. Maybe some examples of how interview and hiring processes are discriminatory against women.

My workplace is not filled with sexist jerks, so please excuse me for not having better examples ready to deliver.

All I was trying to say was that the examples provided are not examples of sexism in the tech industry. I never said that no such examples existed.


#12

You can see the examples in @Malarkey's post directly above yours. The #YesAllWomen tag on Twitter has some eye opening stories as well.


#13

Look, I'm not an apologist and I'm not denying that sexism is a problem all over the place. But I'm also not going to accept bullshit arguments, even if they are arguments for something I believe in and support. I'm not arguing against feminism... I'm arguing against poorly written and thought out articles (note, I'm referring to linked-to article).

Anyone who supports an argument just because of its conclusion, without thinking about what is actually being said, doesn't really know what they're talking about.

The examples provided are not examples of rampant, on-going sexism in the tech industry as they claim to be. That's all I'm trying to say.

PS - Providing me with more examples, as if to convince me there is a problem, just tells me you're not actually getting the point of what I'm saying.


#14

Who are you to tell women experiencing sexism that what they perceive as sexism is not sexism? What experience do you have of being a woman in tech?

If you already know that rampant sexism is a problem, then there's no reason to quibble with the precise list of five examples. You can think of others. You know their point is legit. You don't need this particular evidence, you've got plenty of others. Trying to tell them that these specific instances aren't what they claim they are isn't helpful. It's not improving their argument, it's just patronizing.  If you agree that sexism is a problem, then you don't need these five instances to be persuaded.

You, however, aren't an authority on the issue. These women believe these examples are instances of sexism in the industry, and you cannot possibly be a greater expert on the topic than they are, so you don't have any real standing to dispute their experience, here. As a man, you have to let the experts with years of experience in the topic speak to their own knowledge, and accept what they have to say as better-researched than you could hope to be. You don't want to be like that guy who doesn't believe in climate change because it got cold yesterday, right? So stop being the weatherman that doubted the scientist.

Take that attention to detail you displayed and put it to use in support of the cause you agree with rather than trying to break it down. These five examples don't do it for you? Okay, find some that do, and post them as supporting evidence. If you don't work with sexists (hard to believe, but whatever), then find an apologist, someone who writes off these concerns, and give them a list of links that proves they're full of bullshit.

Because coming in and saying "That's a poor supporting argument!" isn't helping make a better one, it's just helping the people who want to write it off. Maybe it is a poor supporting argument (I don't think that it is, myself), then make a better one. One that's harder to write off.


#15

Ah the age old "If you can't do/be/create X, you can't criticize X!"

I don't have to be a musician to criticize a song.
I don't have to be a woman to criticize sexism.
I don't have to be women working in tech to criticize bad arguments/examples (like coderay did).


#16

Neither were they an "expert". If someone like Camille Paglia or any reasonable notable Feminist was making a point I'd paid more attention. To paraphrase Paglia, I'd find these women part of the bunches of clingy sob sisters with moldy neuroses type of feminist. Also to be clear, I don't agree with everything Paglia says, but she's someone I'd start a conversation with on this matter.

For those that don't study Feminism, here's a quick link for Paglia:


#17

That's not what I'm saying. You don't have to be a woman working in tech to criticize bad examples of sexism. You just can't pretend that you know better than a woman working in tech what constitutes sexism in that industry. You are not there. You cannot know what that is like. You are not an expert. They know more about this than you do.

So when a physicist talks about physics, I listen. When a climate scientist talks about climate change, I listen. When a developer talks about web design, I listen. When an urban farmer talks to me about the noise roosters make, I listen. Generally when smart people are talking to me about things that I don't know about, I listen. That includes sexism, because I'm a dude, so I can't possibly know about it to the extent that they do.


#18

Lewis' Law in action. And on the first comment too. Nicely done.


#19

Whoa, I never knew this phenomenon had a name.

The most hilarious (or tragic, from a certain perspective) part of all of this is that nothing ever changes. It's the same tired arguments, the same lack of self-awareness, returning to haunt every discussion like some unholy army of the living dead.


#20

Wow. Was there an Inspector of Proper Undergarment Code Adherence? Fucking hell. The kind of loons who come up with this shit ought to be on a 'people who could usefully be on fire' list.


#21

I'd like to make a suggestion.

This Manifesto is well thought out and discusses important points. The insufficiency of just 'doing no evil'. A list of important efforts underway. Personal experiences of the authors. It's an extremely laudable action by these women. It deserves discussion and praise.

Which is why I find it very unfortunate that the discussion here just got stuck on Coderay being wrong. And in fact, nobody has even laid out why Coderay is wrong. The Github and Gurbaksh Chahal cases could be interesting discussions. What other actions should Github have taken? Mr. Chahal was eventually fired: how have things improved? Where do we need to get to? How do any of these examples make you personally feel?

When we get off topic into criticizing an individual, we lose the opportunity for productive discussion. So I'm going to suggest to everybody this: When you want to point out that a commenter is wrong, pair it was something constructive. Share your own experience. Praise a point in the article. Try to start a discussion on an interesting, positive tangent

It's of course just a suggestion you're free to ignore. But I do think it helps move discussions towards productive threads.