Being wrong, feminist tech crowd edition
[This post is for English speaking readers. It generally doesn’t apply to Romania, where feminists are wrong for different reasons.]
Yesterday I had a short discussion over Twitter with freebsdgirl. I don’t know what she does for living (and it’s not important), but currently she’s one of the people riding the “people in tech hate women” wave. And I dislike that, as a person working in IT, for a company that never had any issues hiring women or paying them the same wages as men for the same level of expertise. And it’s not the first company that I work for which did exactly that.
It seems that the past few days, Linus Torvalds has been under attack for not being politically correct enough when asked what he thinks about the lack of minority keynote speakers at the Auckland event. His answer was that work is what matters, an answer that pissed off a lot of people who really want to hear the wrong poem about how everything will be fine and dandy only as long as we promote people who are less skilled, but have a vagina or a different skin color. He also had to issue further explanations on this subject. It’s not far from the episode where a guy was attacked for wearing the wrong kind of shirt that his girlfriend bought him.
So my dialogue with freebsdgirl was quite brief. She started by saying:
Want to know why there is no famous, successful, accepted female equivalent of Linus Torvalds? Because the industry would never accept her.
— [NPC] Randi Harper (@freebsdgirl) January 17, 2015
This is wrong on many levels. I really doubt that the industry would never accept a valuable product just because it’s made by women, or it’s led by a woman. In fact, it will probably have the opposite effect: being made by a woman will get it more attention, especially because there’s a huge gender disparity in the tech companies today. So I told her that, and she sent me to the geek feminism wiki, which I won’t link to because I think it’s an abomination. My eyes bled with the kind of sexist ideas promoted by the feminist community. I will never work for a company that blatantly treats women as “minorities” in need of special handling. Therefore, my response:
I was urgently shut down, and required to cease. Of course, I have done exactly that, especially in the context of her being harassed by a ton of narrow-minded people. But the question still remains. Of course, I’ve been accused of missing the point of feminism, but really, if they read the geek feminism wiki as if it were written by patriarchal males who want to make women subservient, all these feminists would be as outraged as I am.
Unfortunately, that was also approximately the moment when freebsdgirl started misrepresenting my statements, while explaining why she will stop “educating me”. Thank you, missy, my mother educated me enough, you don’t need to.
I revisited her twitter account this morning, and she had already started a war with other kernel people, and was taking on RedHat. Of course, she will probably end up making RedHat apologize, and she will completely miss the whole point of why so many people want to respond to her. It’s not because she is uncovering a horrible truth about women and IT, it’s because she’s just making stuff up where they don’t exist. She pretty much became a radical, an extremist, and it’s sad to see people radicalizing themselves, becoming proofs of why they are disliked in the first place.
To be honest, I would always recommend a woman for hiring granted she has the skills, but I would never recommend someone who yells that she’s disregarded because she’s a woman, because, you know, she would be more trouble than she’s worth.
There’s a thing about people who are dead set on the idea that they are disregarded because of a perceived handicap they consider they have. They tend to be ultra-sensitive about it, and they think that everything wrong happens because of that handicap. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The world can be a more tolerant place than they think. But the thing they perceive as “flaw” will come back to haunt them, so the moment someone is unhappy with them they will start thinking that their flaw is what really brings them the criticism.
So, the thing is, if I think that people will disconsider me because I’m fat, if I do something wrong I will always be able to say that it’s not because I messed something up, but it’s because they hate me ’cause I’m fat.
To her praise, Randi (freebsdgirl) did not over-react when she was caught alongside other colleagues in a “reorganization” at her employers’. As I’ve said, she’s not radical enough just yet. But unfortunately, she’s on this wrong path that will lead her nowhere. She started by misrepresenting my statements and the statements of others, including Linus’. She started by using things like geek feminism wiki for reference. Being radical will get you marginalized quickly, that’s my message to her. Maybe she should indeed stop tweeting 24/7 and she should try to understand what she’s doing to herself.
A few more things: First, about the geek feminism wiki being abhorrently sexist. Please search for it, visit it, and see the sexism oozing from every page. You should keep a special eye out for their solutions to the problems they see. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is ugliness. They see those things because they want to see them, even where they don’t exist. Not to mention that on the first page throned a big note about Anita Sarkeesian, the woman decrying the symbols used in games to identify women as being sexist, while she herself is wearing them (make up, eye liner, specific colors, earrings, etc).
The second thing regards a longer discussion about the way “males game the system unconsciously”. This is a load of bull. It’s even worse than bigots who talk about “sinning with your mind”, because it seems that these people consider males tuned towards hating women. Unfortunately for them, it’s not the case, and if the males game the system, it’s towards getting more women in. I could give you hints about why, but I think that those that get it, get it, and those who don’t probably hate me by now anyway, so there’s no point in continuing the dialogue.
The third and last thing is a larger detour. I want to talk about hiring techniques that are employed by companies, and how it’s stupid to hire with regards to sex and not to skill.
I hear from people on the internet (but always it’s talk about “others”) that there are tech firms which hire based on gender. I think this is the silliest idea, and I really doubt that there is a decent firm that hires based on gender. If there are such firms, I really doubt they are big enough, and if they are big enough it’s even more doubtful that they can enforce such a hiring strategy that women would be overlooked.
Please understand: I’m referring to the strategies of companies, and not to individuals. Certainly, there are sexists everywhere. I know women who would never hire women in their company. I know men who would rather not hire men in their company, but women, and I’m talking about tech companies here. I know men that wouldn’t hire anything but men;particularly boys just out of school, because these young boys will usually not comment when overworked and will not complain much when fired.
There is the point about people wanting to build a company based on their view of what a company should be. Someone might want to hire a lot of women, be it for sympathizing with women, because males are unpredictable and inconsistent, or for other (probably wicked) reasons. Someone might want to hire a lot of males, because they hate women and their inconsistencies. Some might want to hire the wrong people for the wrong reasons. But these are not strategies that make companies big, and great.
And I hear about big companies who have special notes for “minority hires”. I hear that if you catch such a “minority” note, your CV will pass on quicker to the hiring people, and your interviews will be definitely a lot faster. Usually, such “minority” hires are women, because these companies are preponderantly made up of male employees, and these companies want to balance the scales. However, for that they lower the bar and accept women who are less skilled, and they end up reinforcing their own sexist views inside the company.
Which leads me to believe that actually, lowering the bar for women is a wrong thing; as a matter of fact, making special provisions for women is wrong, reinforcing sexism. That’s why in the long run these strategies (like those suggested by the geek feminism wiki) fail.
What can be done? I think the questions aren’t asked of the right people, in the right place. I think that we can go and have a chat with the mothers, and ask them why they keep growing girls into princesses, and they don’t let them go into tech. We can talk down feminists who only manage to scare off women that otherwise would be more than interested in tech. I doubt that any sane woman choosing her profession in 2014 would ever choose tech, when they read all the fuss made around feminism in tech.
Or we can denounce real misogyny when it happens, and not when someone like Linus Torvalds comes out to say that the work is what counts. Misogyny is a tough thing, especially as it’s practiced by most women, and especially by feminists. And that, my dear readers, is the sad truth about feminists.