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> Why is this such a terrible thing to express that so many people need to come down on me for feeling this way? If you were, say, a black guy concerned about some black guy getting enormous bad press and how that impacts blacks, would that merit this kind of dismissive pile on and massive downvoting?

I'm not sure exactly how to respond to that. I'm slightly confused I guess as to why you feel people are coming down on you or dismissing you. To me, HN is a place where we all discuss our ideas about things and try to achieve a sort of collective consensus about the world. We certainly don't (and shouldn't!) all agree about everything, but we expose our ideas to one another in an attempt to improve our collective comprehension of the world around us.

When I respond to a comment like yours, i'm not (usually) intending to attack it or tear it down - at least not in an aggressive way. I thought your point of view was interesting and worth responding to with my own. By this mechanism of back and forth, ideally we'd come to a shared understanding of what's happening in this situation. I find that process to be enjoyable and enlightening, which is why I responded to your comment.

> And if it did, would you think it only proved your point that racism and bad press is a real concern?

I think sexism is absolutely real and is absolutely a real concern. It's just that I have not perceived sexism in the response to this particular situation. However, part of my reason for replying to your comment was to try to better understand why it is that you do perceive it that way. There may be some article or set of comments you've seen that I have not that might change my view. Or maybe we simply saw the same things and interpreted them differently. Either way, i'm curious to understand that divergence, and ultimately to change my own opinion if it needs changing.




And you are one of about two people here even trying to understand my point of view. Most of the other responses are simply aimed at shooting me down in one manner or another. This is the essence of the problem: I am not even supposed to voice my opinion or feeling.

The vast majority of sexism (racism, etc) is not due to blunt and obvious exclusion or targeting. It is due to this sort of pattern of behavior.

Jessica Livingston is apparently one of the two people that dreamed up YC. But she really gets not that much attention or credit. This is perhaps her being wise in service of her own goals and being pragmatic -- that she wants to accomplish a thing, whether she gets public credit or not. But the degree to which women, people of color and other groups get predominantly negative attention or get attention in a weird way related to this one trait is fundamentally part of the problem.

I do think her gender contributed to the Theranos debacle. I have commented on that before and I have blogged about it. But that aspect of how that plays out is Verboten. We cannot discuss it. This, too, is a form of sexism and is part of the problem.

I appreciate your participation here in this thread. It is a breath of fresh air amidst what is an otherwise mostly negative experience for me.


> And you are one of about two people here even trying to understand my point of view. Most of the other responses are simply aimed at shooting me down in one manner or another. This is the essence of the problem: I am not even supposed to voice my opinion or feeling.

I'm curious about why you feel this way. In reading the other responses to your original comment, it is clear that most respondents disagree with you. However, just based on my own experience with HN, they don't seem particularly aggressive or dismissive in tone (relative to any other contentious HN thread).

The reason I bring this up isn't to invalidate your perception. It's because I think that, sometimes the (legitimate) feeling of persecution can lead to seeing it even where it's not, and that can be toxic, especially in an anonymous or pseudonymous environment like this. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking people here are rejecting your opinion because of your gender (in part because sometimes they are!). But it really doesn't seem to me like that's what's happening here. To the extent that people are disagreeing, they are (again, to my reading) asking you to substantiate your position - not telling you to shutup or dismissing you. They just want to know why you believe what you do.

> I do think her gender contributed to the Theranos debacle. I have commented on that before and I have blogged about it. But that aspect of how that plays out is Verboten. We cannot discuss it. This, too, is a form of sexism and is part of the problem.

But that's what we're doing here. I'm asking you to comment on it. I think that's what everyone is doing. We want to hear your opinion in its full detail. And yes, that means people will respond to it and attack it. But, speaking for myself at least, that isn't done with malice or dismissiveness, its part of the process of coming to shared understanding. I hold lots of controversial opinions, and I love to fight it out with people on HN and other places about them, because that's how I learn and develop my own ideas. I wouldn't be half as intelligent or thoughtful as I am without that dialectic. It's something I value immensely, and it's why I participate in discussions like these. But in order to glean that benefit, you have to be willing to put your opinion out there and have it torn down, sometimes even viciously so.

> I appreciate your participation here in this thread. It is a breath of fresh air amidst what is an otherwise mostly negative experience for me.

As do I yours. My hope is that you will participate in these discussions and provide your alternative viewpoint. It can be difficult if you're not emotionally oriented towards this kind of conflict[1], but I think it is essential to have differing views here. But those differing views will never truly get heard if people like you don't follow through on their expression. That is to say, if you pack up your opinion and go home, we'll just be here echoing the same view of this situation we already had. So I would encourage you to engage with everyone that's responded to you, be dismissive right back to them if you feel like it. But substantiate your position - cite articles, quote interviews, and so on. Make your case, and I think you'll find that people will be receptive to it. Or maybe you'll decide that we're right about this one, and there is no sexism here. But IMO the only losing move is not to play.

[1] This sounds like a female stereotype, so I should clarify. Certain people (like me) love argument. I am energized by it. If people are dismissive of me or think my opinion is stupid, i'm only more encouraged to make them look stupid with my airtight counterargument. This is, as far as I can tell, just an emotional orientation people have or don't have. Some people don't like this sort of conflict at all and it causes them to shut down completely. It is of course a stereotype that this is more predominant in women than men, but I certainly know women that love to argue as much as any man that I know.


I used to not hesitate to defend my views on HN. The result: I ended up rate limited, probably because as a woman, I often have a minority viewpoint. This makes me look extremely fighty merely for being willing to engage the discussion.

No, I do not believe most comments here are inviting me to substantiate anything. A few are, but most actually are dismissive. That is the entire point: I am a woman with an opinion and that can't be allowed. It is a threat to the status quo.

It is one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't things. There is no winning move. You either don't express your opinion at all, or you tread incredibly lightly and worry vastly more about the overwhelming majority male POV lest you draw this kind of pile on, or you speak your mind and draw this kind of pile on and get downvoted to hell and then have to worry if you will be rate limited or banned or something for what amounts to merely being female.

I am fine with debating people. I rather enjoy that. That mostly isn't what happens though when a woman expresses herself.

I have blogged about how I think Holmes' gender helped create the Theranos debacle (http://micheleincalifornia.blogspot.com/2016/05/theranos-cul...). But, I do not know how nor understand why I need to "back up" my concern that the enormous negative press here has a potential serious downside for women generally. I also do not know how on earth to get past or around the very obvious "People are being disrespectful and dismissive of me in a way that looks like sexism at work and it looks to me like proof of the very thing that worries me and... Why am I being asked to give evidence amidst this that this exact sort of thing is a problem for women?

I sincerely do not know how on earth to deal with that.


> I used to not hesitate to defend my views on HN. The result: I ended up rate limited, probably because as a woman, I often have a minority viewpoint. This makes me look extremely fighty merely for being willing to engage the discussion.

You may be totally right about why that is, but just as a counterpoint, I get rate limited all the time too :). Maybe we're both fighty.

> No, I do not believe most comments here are inviting me to substantiate anything. A few are, but most actually are dismissive. That is the entire point: I am a woman with an opinion and that can't be allowed. It is a threat to the status quo.

I respectfully disagree with that view. This is a difficult question to resolve in either direction, but I think its worth pursuing. Would you mind citing one or two particular comments you find to be dismissive?

> I have blogged about how I think her gender helped create this debacle (http://micheleincalifornia.blogspot.com/2016/05/theranos-cul...). But, I do not know how nor understand why I need to "back up" my concern that the enormous negative press here has a potential serious downside for women generally

Firstly, thanks for the link. Secondly, I don't think you have to backup the claim that it could have negative impacts for women. I think the possibility of that happening is obvious. What does require some backup is the positive assertion that people out in the world are blaming Theranos' failure on Elizabeth Holmes' gender. Personally, I have not seen evidence of that happening, but i'd be happy to be corrected on that front.

> I also do not know how on earth to get past or around the very obvious "People are being disrespectful and dismissive of me in a way that looks like sexism at work and it looks to me like proof of the very thing that worries me and... Why am I being asked to give evidence amidst this that this exact sort of thing is a problem for women?

I don't think most people here doubt that this sort of sexism happens. And that sexism exists and is harmful to women. Obviously I can't comment on your particular work situation either except to say that i'm sorry you feel that way. But I think everyone here would be interested to see if that is indeed happening in the case of Theranos. If it is happening, that's a good thing to know and to combat. But if it's not, then it's just another failed SV startup and we can all go about our day.


Generally speaking, such blame occurs as subtext, not overt assertion. This is how most exclusionary, biased social stuff works. When you can't produce affirmative evidence, then you are also dismissed. And so it goes.

It is a little like arguments I have heard that black Americans who sound obviously black can't qualify for a job because they aren't articulate enough and it isn't racism. My response to that is "George W. Bush."

Maybe not hiring "inarticulate" blacks isn't racism. But why can an inarticulate white guy get a high ranking job if being articulate is so freaking critical?

There is always some excuse or justification for an overall pattern of behavior. Yet, the pattern persists and trying to point out the pattern gets dismissed for various reasons. It is a real life version of the trope Status Quo is God.


Hah, I just got rate limited :p. Couldn't respond for a bit.

I don't disagree with you there. Some of these things are perniciously difficult to substantiate. However, in the case you just mentioned, I think you did a decent job of substantiating it. George Bush is indeed contrary evidence to the assertion that people don't hire blacks due to inarticulateness.

Some things for sure are really difficult to substantiate though. But what is the alternative? Ultimately, to enact change, you need to convince some portion of the culture that it's the right thing to do, or that there's a problem in the first place. I think there's a lot of evidence that efforts like that have been successful over the long term in a number of different areas.


Alternately, you figure out how to do it differently yourself and try to minimize the inevitable blowback that actually is about resistance to change while people swear it is not. With luck, you attract allies along the way. You quietly grow it until it is the new norm.

Odds are good, you won't get credit. If you try to take credit, people will claim you are crazy, that isn't how it happened.

Sometimes, you need to decide what you want more: To make a thing happen or to get credit for making a thing happen.

Then you sit around wondering: if a tree falls in the forest surrounded by a crowd of onlookers who all vehemently deny its very existence, did it really fall? When you look again, will it be the same as it always was?




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