August 20, 2014

"Anonymous apps like Secret have played host to sexist conversations about women who work in technology."

So asserts Kristy Tillman, one of the 7 participants in a NYT forum of the topic "The War Against Online Trolls/Does anonymity on the web give people too much license to heckle and torment others?" Tillman is identified as a design director at the Society of Grownups, which identifies itself as "a sort of masters program for adulthood" and "A place to learn how to deal with adult responsibility without losing your soul or sense of adventure along the way."

Trolls and pseudonyms on line have been big topics for me for a long time. Click the tags on this post if you want to see what I've had to say. It's not why I'm posting now. Neither is the Society of Grownups, which sounds funny, but might actually be a cool name for something worthy. I haven't checked it out. I'm posting because of the link Tillman has on "played host to sexist conversations." It goes to a piece in Business Insider written by Alyson Shontell called "9 Stomach-Churning Posts From Secret That Show Awful Sexist Behavior In The Tech Industry." Stomach-churning? Awful? I steeled myself. But it was stuff like this:



Which is just cute (and I don't even know if it's "In The Tech Industry").

And this:



Which is just a lameoid confession about affirmative action. That might make you queasy. Not because it's sexist. Because it's the built-in downside of affirmative action (unless you're careful only to use sex as a tie-breaker).

And:



Which I think is hyperbole intended as humorous criticism of women who want, inconsistently, to make a big display of themselves and then put men down for looking. That might be a bit sexist, but it's not awful or stomach-churning. And for all I know there really were 2 ladies with hula hoops who took offense when the men in the office seemed to enjoy their girlish fun in a way that wasn't the precise form of appreciation they sought. How terrible is it to want to secretly say to them: Lighten up?

48 comments:

Edmund said...

The problem of anonymity and trolling goes back to the infant days of the internet. (i.e. Usenet and BBS systems that predate the Web.) The formal expression of the problem was made by John Gabriel and famously made into a graphic at the Penny Arcade comic site. Here it is: (NSFW profanity at the link. Be aware.)
http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19

Rohan said...

The third item is a reference to the Github/Julie Ann Horvath controversy from earlier this year. See http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/15/julie-ann-horvath-describes-sexism-and-intimidation-behind-her-github-exit/

n.n said...

There is a question of cause and effect, but Tillman may be accurately described as a "concern troll", whose objective is to project or displace misbehavior of leveraged groups (e.g. feminists, minorities) on politically correct targets. Unfortunately, this type of behavior has become common and is very lucrative in our socially incorporated politi-conomy, where this strategy has become an effective means to marginalize or denigrate competing interests. I wonder if there is a mole waiting to be whacked.

Carol said...

I never minded the trolls, and I don't mind the anonymous commenters. Isn't it an ad hominem to attack an argument based on the source? Consider the argument on its merits.

But it is kinda chickenshit to always, always be anonymous because your career or reputation or whatever is so fucking important.

YoungHegelian said...

The genders really do work together in very different ways.

I think what women in predominantly male fields don't realize is that guys are pretty merciless to each other, too. But, needless to say, they're not merciless using the same methods they'd use on woman, because, well, with a woman, one has a different set of buttons to push to annoy.

To give an example from my own career of pushing the buttons of a co-worker, once, when I was consulting on a Fed. contract, one of the Fed. employees, an ex-Army sniper, told me & a co-worker "You know what I hate? Fags!"

So, what did we proceed to do? Every weekly staff meeting we opened the meeting by blowing kisses to him across the table. "You know I HATE that!" "Yes, X, that's why we do it."

As someone who's worked in male dominated IT for 30+ years, as much as the barracks atmosphere of a male environment can make one yearn for a little decorum, I'll take it any day over the high-school cliques that infest predominantly female environments. In those environments, cross the wrong woman, and without warning or explanation, ---boom!--- you're iced out of any future decision making. At least, the male managers yell at you so you end up learning from your fuck-ups.

chuck said...

The hula hoop thing was github. Google github and hula hoop. It was a story with lots of hidden stuff, office romance, etc., so don't take any one article as definitive. I don't trust my memory enough to tell the tale, but my take away was that hiring the lady in question was a mistake.

chuck said...

I'll add that the two women who did the hula hoops, did them at a company party and were not the ones who complained. The lady who complained cited it as a horrible example of the sexist atmosphere at the company when she quit.

Paco Wové said...

Women are such delicate flowers these days. It's like we're back in Victorian times, with the triggering and the fainting and the vapors and all. Except without any morals or decorum or culture or learning or education.

Paco Wové said...

"The third item is a reference to the Github/Julie Ann Horvath controversy"

The ironic thing there is that that was largely a spat between two women, the accusing employee and the boss's wife.

YoungHegelian said...

@PW,

The ironic thing there is that that was largely a spat between two women, the accusing employee and the boss's wife.

Isn't much of what's passed off as the oppression by the patriarchy of women really a question of what women do to other women?

fivewheels said...

"unless you're careful only to use sex as a tie-breaker"

Ahem. People who say they're using affirmative action only as a tiebreaker are lying 100 percent of the time, historically speaking, and even if you do accomplish that, then you *still* haven't hired her because she was the best.

rhhardin said...

Sexism favorites

Snow White

This cunt you've got here, although I've never seen her with my own eyes, is probably not worth worrying about.

Jupiter said...

Oh, for Xhrist's sake. The reason there are so few women in tech is the same reason there are so few women in Math and Physics; it takes more brains than they remembered to bring with them.

"I can program just as well as a man can." What she means is, "I could be just as good at football as a 230 pound running back who bench-presses 425, provided you change the rules of the game."

More women in Pro Football, says I. We don't need their useless, whiny, endlessly problematic asses in tech.

kcom said...

She's working in the chip industry. It's not a silicon chip, though, it's the one on her shoulder. That's her work product.

Skyler said...

The last I heard, we lived in a free country with freedom of speech. If people say things she doesn't like to hear, then she has a personal problem.

Jupiter said...


Blogger Skyler said...
"The last I heard, we lived in a free country with freedom of speech. If people say things she doesn't like to hear, then she has a personal problem."

That was then, this is now. We live in a Democracy, and there are more of them than there are of us. Which means that her personal problems are your political problems.

Sometimes I think our mistake was giving them the vote, which led inexorably to the income tax, and then the demand for "free tampons". But then I realize, no, that was merely an inevitable stage in a larger process of decline. Maybe it was when we stopped buying and selling them? No, earlier still. The mistake was when we let them teach us to talk. It didn't occur to us that they didn't really want us to talk, they wanted us to listen.

Hyphenated American said...

I wonder why feminists don't spend time examine the views of American Moslem societies...weird.

Eric said...

Lighten up?

Lighten up?!! What kind of feminist are you?

Carl Pham said...

The tech industry naturally attracts narcissists. A lot of the men are irritatingly immature and rigid assholes. I guess it was only natural that when the women came in, they would be the most annoying narcissistic whiny little shits.

Fortunately, their jobs are all being outsourced to India. Unfortunately, a fair number of extremely wealthy antisocial dickheads like Zuck and Brin were created first, and it will take a while for the natural forces of whoredom and huckstery to take their money away.

I dunno. Give me a generation of railroad robber barons any day. At least JP Morgan had style while he was stomping on the backs of the peasants. Plus he built some awesome houses and gave a lot of art to museums. The tech barons just give us insipid puerile vanity projects, like One Laptop Per Child and Zuck's inner city education slush fund for unions. Jesus, a 500 foot solid gold sculpture of Steve Jobs's cock in downtown Santa Clara would be preferable.

Eric said...

To be fair, the Gates Foundation has done a lot of good in Africa.

Revenant said...

Fortunately, their jobs are all being outsourced to India.

Actually, the trend is towards onshoring tech jobs. You can't find competent engineers in India; the good ones moved here to earn better pay.

Tarrou said...

Sooo, women are so delicate that any criticism, no matter how humorous, vague or even on their side, makes them unable to perform any useful work?

See, this is why we can't let women in the workplace!

damikesc said...

Women say they want to be treated just like men...until the moment they are treated just like men.

Then, it's not so good of a thing.

I dunno. Give me a generation of railroad robber barons any day. At least JP Morgan had style while he was stomping on the backs of the peasants. Plus he built some awesome houses and gave a lot of art to museums. The tech barons just give us insipid puerile vanity projects, like One Laptop Per Child and Zuck's inner city education slush fund for unions. Jesus, a 500 foot solid gold sculpture of Steve Jobs's cock in downtown Santa Clara would be preferable.

Hell, at least Ford hired hundreds of thousands of people.

Zuckerburg hasn't hired even a tiny fraction of that.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

...unless you're careful only to use sex as a tie-breaker

I suggested that once while hiring, but none of the female candidates took me up on the offer.

tim maguire said...

damikesc, I take as a result of the different companies they build. The robber barons started small and through years of hard work and shrewd moves built huge companies that achieved great things and employed vast numbers of people.

The tech giants of today had a nifty idea and pursued it for a little while before somebody handed them huge sums of money.

Celebrim said...

I'm in IT. There is some sexism in tech. Some of it is on display even in this thread. It generally falls into one of two classes:

a) The IT worker in question has never actually worked with a woman. He generally therefore has found himself in the equivalent of a nerdy all male high school clique. He's the equivalent of the D&D player who doesn't believe female D&D players exist.
b) The IT worker in question has never worked with a woman that is any good, usually because of the small sample size he has had.

Regardless of the general attitude of the male in question, this creates a strong bias in the person. An example case would be that every company I've ever worked for has had a shortage of good programmers. There are always spots open, and they are always looking for referrals. At a former company, I referred a Ukrainian woman I knew from college and whom I'd worked with on some group projects. My boss did the interview and then afterwards called me in. His confession was, "She was amazing. Honestly, I wouldn't have given her an interview if you hadn't referred her. My prior experiences with female programmers haven't been good."

The truth of the matter is that most women find programming to be too unsocial (or even actively anti-social) of a profession. Relatively few even try. Of those that do, many leave to get into more social (and more useless) industry slots like Quality Assurance, Business Analyst, or Account Executive. These does nothing to impression the core programmers, DBAs, and network people that actually do work unless you actually do the job better than a man (because face it, most male PMs, BAs, and AEs are incompetent as well).

On the other hand, nerds are pretty pragmatic people who are used to judging people by their intelligence and not any other quality. If a nerd has worked with a woman who can do the job, it generally cures the sexism. Nothing however can necessarily cure the general lack of social skills in nerddom, so don't be surprised if at least some of the dweebs behave very badly in mistaken attempts to flirt.

For those of you on this thread that are carrying around some sexism on the basis of no experience or bad experience with woman, I can only say don't judge people on the basis of their membership in a group. There are talented female IT people out there. Just because you haven't seen the black swan, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

SGT Ted said...

IF women want to be equal to and compete with men, they need to drop the incessant whining.

The whining shows that they expect to be treated "SPESHUL because: Vagina".

The deference to female sensibilities in the work place and other public spaces needs to end, if we're to achieve true equality.


SGT Ted said...

On the other hand, nerds are pretty pragmatic people who are used to judging people by their intelligence and not any other quality. If a nerd has worked with a woman who can do the job, it generally cures the sexism. Nothing however can necessarily cure the general lack of social skills in nerddom, so don't be surprised if at least some of the dweebs behave very badly in mistaken attempts to flirt.

Actually a lot of people admire true competence, while many females have used laws that favor their vagina, in lieu of competence, to advance in the work place, as well as control male behavior, while avoiding the same standard of behavior for thesleves.

Sexual harassment laws favor women by giving them a choice to characterize an unwanted sexual advance as "harassment" and a welcome sexual advance as "office romance". Based entirely on her "feelings", rather than actual harm.

The very real deference that a lot of women expect in the work place and life, simply because they are "girls" is the opposite of equality and is really a form of supremacy. It needs to end.

SGT Ted said...

Tillman is identified as a design director at the Society of Grownups, which identifies itself as "a sort of masters program for adulthood" and "A place to learn how to deal with adult responsibility without losing your soul or sense of adventure along the way."

Which just helps prove that they aren't any sort of grownups at all.

In fact, what it shows is that they are perpetual adolescents who still think being "grownup" is boring and soul killing, so they have formed this group based on their adolescent and quite childish notions of what being an adult means.

Nooyawka said...

Sexism in the IT industry? Nowhere near as thorough as the sexism in the nanny industry. When women go to work and hire a nanny to take care of the kids 100% of the time they hire other women. The thought of hiring a man to stay at home with the kids is a joke. This pattern is unassailable proof that women are sexist and are unable to change even after almost half a century of propaganda about male sexism.

Beth said...

I am a woman in a male dominated profession. I laughed at the 3D printer of people joke and have developed a pretty thick skin about a most office joking. I can give and take shit.

What Julie is describing is more than that. Its not a spat between two women. Its a guy trying to use a woman to talk to another woman to iron out a series of fuck ups and having it degrade from there. And yes, that is indeed inappropriate and intimidating.

If a girl told a guy that she loved him and got rejected and then she started deleting his work, you would correctly label her a crazy bitch. Julie's coworker is the same.

Kaiser Derden said...

at least old school feminists demanded that should they get married they would be allowed to keep the name of their male father ... you go girls ...

Peter said...

It's just hard to get too upset about trolls and such. Unless there's a direct, personal, credible threat against me or someone I care about, why should I care what some provocative fool says on some Internet site somewhere?

In any case, we're still waiting for that big Title IX proportionality hammer to smash into the hard sciences and engineering. That hammer's got the potential to do some serious economic damage to U.S. competitiveness.

Beth said...

I am a woman in a male dominated profession. I laughed at the 3D printer of people joke and have developed a pretty thick skin about a most office joking. I can give and take shit.

What Julie is describing is more than that. Its not a spat between two women. Its a guy trying to use a woman to talk to another woman to iron out a series of fuck ups and having it degrade from there. And yes, that is indeed inappropriate and intimidating.

If a girl told a guy that she loved him and got rejected and then she started deleting his work, you would correctly label her a crazy bitch. Julie's coworker is the same.

Peter said...

'freewheels' said, "Ahem. People who say they're using affirmative action only as a tiebreaker are lying 100 percent of the time, historically speaking, and even if you do accomplish that, then you *still* haven't hired her because she was the best."

In affirmative-action speak, there is no such thing as "the best." There isn't even "better" There's only a binary choice between "qualified" and "not qualified."

Since everyone who's above the "qualified" line is, well, qualified, and since distinctions within the space of "qualified" are declared meaningless, one may then use ethnicity, sex, or race as a tie-breaker.


Or something. At least, that's what the facilitator declared at the mandatory diversity meeting. And since no one objected, it must be so.


AKDeup said...

Geesh, I started in IT, just out of college in 1968. At the time, AT&T Long Lines was hiring nice girls with nice BAs and teaching them to program. I worked there, then at Idaho State University, then spent the rest of my career at Rockwell Collins, part of a Giant Corporation.

I can remember a few times, early on, when there was some pretty explicit sexism, but it was of a pretty silly and basically harmless type. At ISU, the guy who ran the pro football pool wouldn't let me in, because girls didn't know anything about football and he didn't want to take the poor little thing's money. And a guy at Collins said that he was surprised to see female programmers there when he was hired, because he didn't think women could be logical enough, but he guessed he was wrong after a while.
When I retired in 2002, our department was probably 30-40% women. I don't know exactly because years before that, the imbalance ceased to be significant and I wasn't paying attention.
Is it possible that in ordinary workplaces people just want to get the job done and don't care which bathroom any employee who can do the job uses?
Is it possible that to the extent that attitude exists it's only at the rarefied levels of Silicon Valley and its wannabes?

Roy in Nipomo said...

I can understand dropping non-work contact with someone who "spoke out about a [sexist] incident in the [tech] community", (depending on the incident) out of fear of being included in future litigation or job action. The less non-work contact, the less chance of inadvertently offending (particularly if she came across as a lawsuit waiting to happen).

SGT Ted said...

Good point, Roy in Nipomo. Women don't realize how much the law has poisoned the well in the workplace by favoring women over men.

I R A Darth Aggie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
I R A Darth Aggie said...

But it is kinda chickenshit to always, always be anonymous because your career or reputation or whatever is so fucking important.

Yeah, it is when some net cop decides they'll complain to your boss simply because they disagree with what you say and demand the employer terminate your employment.

Here's the search terms for one such example: steve boursy speed bump

He tried to get several people fired back in 90s. Allegedly, his attitude improved as he got older. He's beyond such pettiness, as he's been dead and buried the better part of 10 years.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Is it possible that in ordinary workplaces people just want to get the job done and don't care which bathroom any employee who can do the job uses?

Is it possible that to the extent that attitude exists it's only at the rarefied levels of Silicon Valley and its wannabes?


My experience is that you generally see this type of behavior at Internet startups and software companies where the m.o. is to hire recent grads, pay them little,drive them like slaves, then unceremoniously shitcan them after they burn out. Fresh victims will always be available every June!

Lamont Cranston said...

I do pretty much drop or minimize all contact with women who complain about sexism. The less the see of me, the less chance there is of me inadvertently doing something that's going to offend them.

Ralph Hyatt said...

"If a girl told a guy that she loved him and got rejected and then she started deleting his work, you would correctly label her a crazy bitch. Julie's coworker is the same."

Yes, I agree. In that situation I would say the guy is acting irrationally. Crazy in the vernacular.

But I think an interesting question is whether or not that behavior is sexist?

Obviously it is mean and rotten and sneaky and all kinds of additional adjectives. But is it sexist?

Would you consider it sexist if a woman was acting in such a manner with the victim a man?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Peter,

In affirmative-action speak, there is no such thing as "the best." There isn't even "better" There's only a binary choice between "qualified" and "not qualified."

Therefore, you go on to say, there's no problem in building the organization you like out of the "qualified" -- say, by matching the race/gender profile to that of your region, or your clientele, or whatever.

But it seems to me that this is the wrong way of looking at it. If you have a "qualified" pool, everyone in it is (so the theory goes) equally capable of doing the work to your standards. So why not a lottery? If a candidate loses, s/he's got only chance to blame. After all, she was certified "qualified."

Never suggest the lottery idea to a college admissions official, though. They are exceedingly protective of their "holistic review."

Anonymous said...

"Sexual harassment laws favor women by giving them a choice to characterize an unwanted sexual advance as 'harassment' and a welcome sexual advance as 'office romance'. Based entirely on her 'feelings', rather than actual harm."

Bingo, and God bless the women who call out male supervisors on their power-play BS when they try to use them as weapons, e.g. at the Silicon Valley Fortune 100 company I worked at when my boss went through mandatory "sensitivity training," then hauled a good friend of mine who happens to be a jaw-dropping French-Fillipina into his office to ask her point blank if I'd sexually harassed her. She was stunned into silence for a second, then asked "Are you out of your fucking mind?"

He found another excuse to fire me later, in one of those classic "best thing that ever happened to me that I didn't realize at the time" events.

Re: Julie-Ann Horvath, the tragedy of her account is that it blends at least one extremely serious issue—literal career-affecting harassment from a co-founder's wife—with a fair amount of the just eye roll-worthy, like the hula-hoop story. It's right and proper to both point out and actively combat abuses of managerial power. If you want not to be paid attention to by men because of your/their sexuality, your place is in a convent, not a corporation.

damikesc said...

What women are learning, slowly, is that men are not always polite.

These women who claim offense to these comments --- they are getting it EASY. Men rip into men FAR more harshly.

Either deal with it or stop claiming you wish to.

Demands for a blowjob/fuck for a promotion/keep your job is criminal. Offensive comments are not and should not be.

And if the woman LIKES the man, they never are.

Crimes shouldn't be based on a person's affection for the "perp"

Kirk Parker said...

Peter, MDT:

The organization that hires the actual best will eat Diversity Corp's lunch.

Jupiter said...

And in case you were wondering, the picture you are getting of the Tech World is substantially correct. What we mostly do in Tech is "found" things and blog about how hard it was to get them funded.