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For an Inclusive Culture, Try Working Less (hackernoon.com)
330 points by itsdrewmiller on June 12, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 264 comments



Yes, yes, yes.

This was brought up in a thread last week about "As a female, how do I identify a good employer?"

The best answers basically said "work somewhere that has as boring a corporate culture as possible". Basically, work for a place where you are rated on your production and nothing else. Work elsewhere and things like "how late did you work?" -- a metric that is far easier for people without children to meet -- cease to matter.

Working late isn't the only thing (though it is a big one), but it tends to correlate with "immature HR practices" in general. Inclusivity is about recognizing that people have life configurations that differ from your own, and creating the space for those differences to exist.


This doesn't make sense to me, some of the most toxic work cultures I've experienced were highly corporate with extremely "mature" HR practices. Besides, a place where you're solely valued on your contribution? I hate to say it, but it doesn't exist.

There's no silver bullet to this, and finding a company that actually treats it's employees well is hard because 1) they're rare 2) they don't often have job openings (generally because they're smaller, also because they don't have people leaving very often) 3) the jobs are highly desirable, and 4) they're not writing virtue signaling blogs posts about it because they're too busy living a well balanced life.

Trying to list out "signals" of a "healthy corporate culture" is like how PUAs try to read "mating signs" in women (although not trying to equate the two in any other aspect), it shows a lack of understanding of how the relationship works. At the end of the day taking a job is a risk on both parties, but only one of those parties has to feed and clothe themselves. It's going to take trial and error and experience to figure out what to look for and how to bail and move on if things are bad... but the crucial part there is "bail and move on", which most people don't have the luxury of doing.

Of course the logical conclusion from that is: the real problem with "workplace culture" is workers have next to no power compared to the employer. This could also explain why "work less" cultures might be more friendly, since it implies a more equal power balance. If we really want to make workplaces more diverse and inclusive we need to increase workers rights across the board, embrace collective bargaining at some level, and most importantly, improve people's economic standing so they don't have to choose between a terrible workplace and a roof over their heads. Once those baseline needs are met we can start to tackle the thornier issues of culture and toxicity, but as long as the fundamental power dynamic remains we won't be able to make headway.


Fog Creek Software might be one of the most blog post prolific company of their size. (Though that just be the amount of writing from Joel Spolsky.) The only other that comes to mind is Basecamp/37 Signals.


Damn, all this corporate bashing during the last years... It sounded so right. Having worked at several startups in these years, and also co-founded one, I realized the culture is often borderline insane. Working now at a more or less corporate startup, I'm so much happier.


It is not insane... if you are 24 with no family. Everyone thinks that startups are populated by young, single 20-somethings because those are the people who take risks and disrupt the status quo, when actually, it is because they are the only people who can put up with that lifestyle.


Even if you're 24 with no family... there are better things to be doing with your life than working 10-14 hour days. Some unsolicited advice: don't wait until your 30's to figure that out.


my background was working fast food, being a day labourer and long periods of unemployment. I knew this from day 1 going into tech. I find people who come from wealthier backgrounds than me tend to over work.


Or that the lifestyle is designed to attract and then wring every last bit of labor from gifted but low-paid and fungible workers.


It's insane if you're 24 too. You're just too dumb to know that you're being had because you've never worked in an adult environment.


I'm 23 and I'd never work more than eight hours a day. I have hobbies, friends, and interests beyond work. I stay at my current job because we respect people's lives.


Couldn't it be both? That is, those are the people who can take risks because they are the only people who can put up with that lifestyle? (Not sure if it's true or more precisely to what extent it's true, in fact I'm pretty sure some startups did well without "that lifestyle", for instance a guy from LinkedIn wrote somewhere how they worked a standard work week; I'm just not seeing the contradiction implied by your "when actually...")


It's completely insane. There's no reason to be a workaholic at any age, and there's no excuse for exploiting your employees.


Yeah, for as much as people hate on being corporate, it really does keep a lid on a lot of the bad behavior you see at startups that gets swept under the table because of the informal nature of record keeping and decision making.


Not only that, I personally found out I was fooling myself. Sure I was working until 8PM-9PM many days but found that I wasn't getting much at all done in the mornings. I'd hit my productivity stride around 1-2 PM after lunch.

Getting in and starting early, finishing up early/mid afternoon and then enjoying the evenings either working on my own thing or just spending time with the SO has significantly increased quality of life.


sometimes I work on a problem way too late. Get stuck and try all kinds of things. Then I go home, eat, spend time with my family. The next day I open up my computer and immediately find and solve he issue.

It's very hard for me to put a problem down and simply not think about it for a period of time, but as I've matured I've realized how important that skill is.


I used to work the same way. Then, I discovered that if I drastically cut (and, in most cases, eliminated entirely) the amount of time I spent toiling after-hours on a given issue, I was able to achieve the same level of next-day success. You touched on the key here: sleeping on a problem, letting your brain solve it in the background, is really quite effective.


I agree completely. It happens so consistently for me that you'd think letting a problem go would have gotten easier. It hasn't. The part of me that needs closure must be very strong and seems to function largely in the subconscious/below the rational level.

It's a constant struggle to leave things behind and properly unwind at the end of the day.


Any tricks that helped you achieve this?

For me, the appeal of non-standard hours is that it's dramatically easier to focus when my coworkers aren't around (and to some extent, this is true even when remote). Truth be told, the optimum for me would probably be to just write mornings off completely and have them as the "family time" slot.


I wouldn't call it corporate, I'd call it professional.


Wait until someone says you work at a "lifestyle company" as if this is a bad thing.


I recently finished grad school and just started my first job at a large, older corporation a few months ago, and it's been great! It blows my mind that people "voluntarily" work until 8 PM at a startup.

In fact, I recently asked my boss if I could shift my schedule earlier—instead of 8-5, I wanted to do 6-3 (with an hour lunch). I figured this would help me avoid traffic and give me more daylight hours in the afternoon. He said, "That's fine; we're flexible. Just make sure you're getting in 40 hours each week". So far, it's been amazing! And this is coming from the most morning-hating person ever. But finishing at 3:00 in the afternoon is a fantastic feeling (despite having to go to bed a bit earlier). Also, being the only person in the office from 6:00 - 7:30 means I get a ton of "deep work" time, and my productivity has shot up as well. I would give a hard "no" to any startup that wanted me to work 10-8. That's just absurd.


> It blows my mind that people "voluntarily" work until 8 PM at a startup.

Some people love their job. I work in a public research lab and it's common to see people working on weekends or late at night simply because they like what they do. That being said, they also enjoy great flexibility to take days off.


I should have clarified better. I don't see anything wrong with staying until 8 PM at a startup if you love the work (I could see myself doing that if it was something I was really passionate about). What I have an issue with is the expectation. It was implied in the article that staying late at work was technically "voluntary" (hence the quotes), but in practice, you were expected to fit in with the culture regardless of whether you could or even wanted to.


I've never been at a company that's actually cared about when I work. Is needing to ask your boss about coming in at a different time actually common?


I have never worked at an in office job where I did NOT need to run my schedule by someone.


If you're doing the kind of work that requires close collaboration with others, face-to-face or is customer-facing, absolutely.


No idea. But it's my first real job and better safe to ask than sorry to assume things.


It's the right thing to do at most companies. People know when you're available and when you're not.


Or any company with a low % of Americans. Many big tech companies and unicorns have a high immigrant %.

There is very high cultural and background diversity in these companies despite low racial and gender diversity, (gender and race aren't useful metrics/proxies for cultural diversity in companies with high immigrant populations).

Everyone on these culturally diverse teams all grew up in different countries and have different primary languages. As a result, they have very little in common and are less likely to have casual conversations with each other. People come into work and leave.


For all the noise tech startups make about meritocracy, they sure do a poor job of separating the work from personal issues which spells doom for minorities in a lot of instances.

I lost count of how many times, something innocent like not going to lunch with the team regularly (I'm a picky eater), or participating in whatever game the team was nuts about (foosball, or various exotic board games) turned into personnel issues where all of a sudden I was "unavailable to the team", or "distant and aloof" etc, even though my professional contributions were just fine or even stellar.

You can imagine how stressful it is to show up to work everyday wondering what bullshit non-work related nonsense is going to come up that day and require another stupid chat with your manager. And in the midst of that you're expected to keep up a cheerful demeanor and work well with the same assholes that keep bringing up this irrelevant crap because the fault in these interactions couldn't possibly be with them.

The day it becomes about the work, and not personal discomfort with new and differing points of view about communication and interaction, diversity at tech companies will become an after thought ... in a good way.


Ps... did you do anything to become less unavailable to the team? Like standup meetings or scrum. Or any other interesting strategy.


I was never unavailable in the first place, thats kinda the point of the story.


> That’s because the culture was mostly about the business of software, how you build it, how you sell it, how you support it. If you were excited about that, you automatically belonged. You didn’t need to stay late, or drink alcohol, or play Rock Band, or play board games, or not have kids to pick up, or go to church, or not go to church, or do anything except show up 9-to-5 and care a lot about good software.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

I don't drink, and its kind of sad that I get to miss out sometimes because I don't go to the bar. Because I like to bike instead, why can't I not feel pressure to go to the bar and do my own thing after work?

Handling work stuff at Work I feel is the way to go.


> I don't drink, and its kind of sad that I get to miss out sometimes because I don't go to the bar. Because I like to bike instead, why can't I not feel pressure to go to the bar and do my own thing after work?

Because having a liminal zone where people feel allowed to step outside the hierarchy and say things that might otherwise be unacceptable (e.g. "this framework we're using is totally fucked") is really important and valuable? It's not about the alcohol per se, but alcohol is a particularly effective way of creating that atmosphere.


If your organization can't encourage frank discussion about workplace issues without a venue for employees to drug themselves, you probably have more important problems to dive into.

More importantly, if you lean on off-site drinking as your method to get real feedback and communication, you probably have less incentive to fix your workplace culture in the first place.


Congratulations on missing OPs point. Completely.

A bar is a pretty standard watering hole where you go to complain about things you'd like to complain about off the record. Maybe the problem is annoying and not fixable, e.g. "this framework sucks", or the problem is with with the industry, e.g. "diversity shouldn't be priority over merit".

Both of these problems don't really belong in a "realtime feedback and communication" system because they can't be fixed through the proper channels. The second one especially, where voicing that opinion in SV will get you hung on a cross outside Google HQ.

The bar provides a cathartic release so you don't explode at work on problems you can't fix. Why do you think people stop at the bar before going home? Most of them aren't alcoholics, they just don't want to bring unfixable problems home, and face it, complaining _feels_ good.


If you're in danger of 'exploding at work' or have problems that can't be fixed through the proper channels, maybe you should focus on dealing with those issues and opening lines of communication instead of getting people to meet up at the bar after work to instill a sense of team that excludes pregnant women, older individuals, people with kids, people who don't drink, etc. I don't have drinks with my work buddies so that I don't explode. I have drinks with my work buddies because I like catching up with them and sometimes we're too busy at work to shoot the shit.

I don't think anyone has an issue with a few co-workers occasionally grabbing a brew after work. The problem is when people feel pressured to do so because the post-work ritual is replacing actual candid work discussion. Why? Well, its pretty simple. Not everyone drinks. Not everyone has the time to grab a drink after work. Not everyone feels comfortable in a bar around intoxicated co-workers.

There's a marked difference between a few co-workers grabbing a beer occasionally and friday night pints being the only place you can discuss problems you're facing at work.


> Implying you have to drink at a bar

> If you're in danger of 'exploding at work' or have problems that can't be fixed through the proper channels, maybe you should focus on dealing with those issues and opening lines of communication instead of getting people to meet up at the bar after work to instill a sense of team that excludes pregnant women, older individuals, people with kids, people who don't drink, etc. I don't have drinks with my work buddies so that I don't explode

Second to the above - thanks for getting semantic with me. I don't see how a bar excludes any of these people. Maybe where you live they check green cards and do ultrasounds at the door, but where I live anyone can walk into a bar and not feel compelled to drink. You seem to be really up on the inclusion game though. Why shouldn't people be excluded from certain conversations? Should I invite everyone to my complain fest about a framework they love because I hate it? I can't just leave my job, so I go to a "place" (since you seem to have this internal fixation with bars and alcohol) with "receptive people" (since you seem to think exclusion implies leaving out minorities) that can assure me I'm not alone in this world. Additionally I drink at that bar because an ice cold pint at the end of the day is great and it's a thing we all have a common. I don't drink so I don't "explode". I'm really regretting using that word because people like you fixate on minutiae so you don't have to argue an actual point.

I don't think you're nearly as level-headed as you think are you are. Everyone "winds down" some way. I prefer the bar, some people prefer a picnic at the park. There's a bar down the street from work where I can complain with people friendly to my cause about things that bother us. I don't see why this is such a problem. It's almost like you're discouraging human interaction in the name of this ambiguous spectre that haunts SV - "inclusion at all costs".


Oddly personal response. "Thanks for getting semantic with me", "People like you", "You seem to have this internal fixation with bars and alcohol", "I don't think you're nearly as level-headed as you think you are"

Again, I don't care if people grab a brew after work. I care if an organization's culture excludes those who don't.

Since the topic seems a bit close to home, imagine this: you work at a start-up and the founder only seeks frank input about how things are going during weekend sailing regattas. The two teams that are led by sailors keep having their roadblocks removed, while the rest aren't. Comparisons between the sailor led teams and the others are driving negative performance reviews for the teams you're a part of. Do you think this is healthy for the company?


It is objectively healthier for the company to have two teams with roadblocks removed rather than no teams having their roadblocks removed.


Beyond the bar argument (and I've gone plenty of times with co-workers and not drank despite liking a beer or two because I had a long commute), I would say being able to have places to go for lunch / coffee outside of the building are important. There's a communal lunch table (seats 8-10) at my job and I've only eaten there once or twice. I either have a semi-private lunch 2-3 people or, if feeling like personal time, go read a book at a cafe or restaurant nearby.

I will say that the bar, and alcohol of course, are great for really bringing down the barriers for how people feel about things, as long as it doesn't get too messy. Everyone needs a room and place to vent though.


There is no "off the record" in meat space. Its scarier out there than online, and online is scary enough.

In smaller parts of the country the pool is smaller and everyone knows everyone eventually so trash talking will get reported.

There are ways to fix political (or religious) oppression problems, but none of the solutions involve or enhanced by intoxication.

"Most of them aren't alcoholics" Can't get thru life without a bottle? The bottle feels better than real life? Might want to talk it over with someone.


I can see both sides of this.

I've had managers who wanted to go to every. single. fucking. meeting. And not just direct managers. We told them no, you're not invited. Why? Because candor is an important part of the development process (some things have to be off the record first).

Strictly speaking, I shouldn't have to say that to anybody. Practically speaking, there are a hundred things that have to go right for a project or team to work and nobody knows all of them. But some people are willfully ignorant because what they really want is a fiefdom and not a team.


> without a venue for employees to drug themselve

Order a non-alcoholic beverage? When I go to the bar with coworkers to talk and vent about the workplace it's not to be drunk and make a fool of myself in front of everyone.

Drink a beer or a cocktail if you enjoy them but otherwise order a soda / a delicious non-alcoholic cocktail or simply order food and eat your meal.

It's not as if people were hitting divebars with their coworkers, getting totally drunk and high on drugs. While those things can happen it's generally way past the 5-7 you are expected to be at.


Your position feels a lot like "why wouldn't they adapt to fit my preferred way to socialize and blow off steam?"

When the default fits you, it sure is attractive to advance that idea! But what happens when you aren't? Is the default of going out after work conducive to someone who needs to pick up their kid after work? Is it conducive to someone who can't or won't drink? etc.

What if those workers just want to solve some cool work problems? What happens when the default is so socially required that they're hindered from doing cool work stuff unless they participate?

If that happens, you have a cultural problem.


Any culture will exclude some people, because not all cultures are alike and not everyone tolerates a culture unlike their own. You can go for the blandest possible culture to minimise the exclusions, but that's a lot like having no culture and results in a virtually asocial workplace, which is neither the kind of place I want to work, nor what my experience suggests is productive. Not every workplace can be the right place for absolutely everyone; it's worth putting some effort into accommodating people and meeting them halfway, but socialising is too valuable to be worth giving up entirely.


> If that happens, you have a cultural problem.

Yes. If happy hours are made and scheduled in a way that missing them would lead to missing "work" then the employer isn't being honest. Pushing happy hours to have your employees work for free is unethical.


What other social setting are you proposing?


They're not, that's the problem. They're saying "well some people are alcoholics, and some people have kids, so if you want to go to a bar or restaurant after work you're excluding people and that's literally the worst thing in the world."

If you have kids, you will be busier and you will miss events like a work happy hour. That's pretty much a fact of life and I don't know many parents who would have it any other way. Likewise, work isn't a computer program where you can just do "cool work problems" and get promoted. It's social. If you're anti-social, you can expect to reach the top of your career progression sooner than folks who are capable of being friendly, having a beer, and calling it a night.


Forget about the fact that the place under discussion is a bar for a second. The important bit is getting off-campus together outside of work hours.

Sure, you can talk about these things in team-wide meetings. You can also have formal meetings specifically to periodically re-evaluate various bits and pieces of your workplace, not to mention regular townhall meetings, "working" meetings (which are either a symbol of overwork/overplanning or of lack of trust), standup meetings, backlog grooming meetings, retrospectives of all kinds. Back in the military we had a joke about having a retrospective meeting to discuss how the last retrospective meeting went. Each one of these meetings can be thought of as being "productive" in some way, but soon enough, you see that you're spending 80%+ of your time in meetings and nothing is getting done.

Off-campus get-togethers intentionally dismiss any aims of productivity, instead trying to help the team gel. Which is incredibly important.

If your team can't adapt to the preferences of the team members not to go to a bar, then that's not a problem with bars, that's a problem with your team (and more specifically, the person leading it). If you join a team which cannot agree on a common-interest, enjoyable, occasional evening venue, then that team has either grown too large and needs to be split up, or management screwed up by putting people together who are deeply incompatible with each other and need to be on different teams which are supportive in their own ways so that each can reach their full potential separately.


And, you have to be really careful when you say a framework or X code sucks. Make sure you understand all parties involved. If you offend the wrong Engineers/co-workers, you'll end up getting fired for it.


Using the bar as a place for team meetings is not a good idea. Alcoholism and alcohol induced lawsuit issues aside, it is a public space, and that means anyone can listen in on the discussion legally. I'm not saying that almost ever is a big deal, but it can be one very easily. Remember that guy who got the iPhone stolen at the bar? Besides, as other commenters point out, if you can't say those things inside the meetings they are designed for, you should probably be shopping for a new job; if your boss sucks, get a new one


If that kind of statement is unacceptable (even if you were to clean it up a bit), then your company has bigger problems. Masking them with alcohol, like masking any other problem with alcohol, is a bad idea.


This is so weird. You don't drink alcohol, so you can't set foot in a bar? They serve non alcoholic drinks (and food too as often as not) you know. If anyone but yourself makes you feel weird about not drinking alcohol, the problem is with them, not with bars.

It's literally the most inclusive off site activity. Just about anything else excludes somebody (biking for example)

But a bar or restaurant requires nothing of you but sitting around, and possibly drinking or eating, which all humans do.

Maybe you've had bad experiences at specific venues but don't judge them all by it.

(Also I can tell part of your point has to do with an expectation of doing things outside of work hours, and I don't disagree with your view there. But you could go to the pub with coworkers for lunch too or something, within work hours. I just hate how alcohol has gradually become so demonized lately. Like cars, alcohol is an amoral tool that can be used for good, evil, or trivial purposes)


Hoooooly Cow

Dude, have you never talked to an alcoholic? Many of them really truly cannot even step foot in a bar, it really is that bad for them.


I would guess that most people he's referring to are not alcoholics. That's my experience, at least.


You'd be surprised. ~10% of the US population has "drinking problems" in any given 12 month long period. Finding stats for alcoholism is surprisingly tough, I think because defining it is so difficult, but about 30 million Americans seem to have 'issues' with the booze. Meaning that you can expect to discover ~1/10 of your team members has an 'issue' with using the bar as a meeting place, whether they admit it or not.

https://www.livescience.com/51066-alcohol-use-disorders-prev...


Nudist camps are good that way too. All humans have bodies, right? So it doesn't exclude anybody. Sure, some people might have body-image or religious issues, but they should just keep those out of the (extended) workplace, right? All you have to do is sit around.

(In case anyone missed it, that was meant as satire)


This is all fine, but there are side-effects.

If you only work a minimum number of hours within your field, you are unlikely to emerge as one of the peak achievers or thought leaders in your field. That's just because you learn more from experience, and working more hours gives you more experience.

You can extrapolate from there what this means for companies and individuals.

I am not at all saying that companies should ask people to work long hours. (I run a software company, and we are super-lax about hours, people showing up at the office, etc). But I am saying that if an individual wants to be an expert in a particular field, that person should probably work a lot (and probably wants to work a lot anyway, due to interest in the subject). This doesn't necessarily have to be at the company; it could be at home, on personal projects, whatever. But the deeper and more challenging the project is, the better you learn, and it's easier to have one project that is deep and challenging than somehow to have two in parallel. And if only one is deep and challenging, then you are sort of idling with half your time. So there are basically two paths to this kind of deep work: work for a company, make sure you get a project that's really good, and then work hard on it; or go do your own thing, make sure you have enough money somehow, and work hard on what interests you.

This also means that "work-life balance" is not a thing for experts the way it is for normal people. But that's fine, because for these kinds of experts their work is a serious part of their life and the two things are inseparable.

Of course if you don't feel this way about what you're working on, that it is a serious part of your life, then this strategy doesn't make sense; and I would not encourage people who don't feel this way (who are the majority of the population) to work that hard. I am just pointing out that there are some of us for whom a different life strategy is best.


"This also means that "work-life balance" is not a thing for experts the way it is for normal people. "

I have seen quite a few experts in their field and they didn't work long hours but everything they did counted. The problem is that most of us are being overloaded with repetitive, trivial stuff and never get the opportunity do deep thinking and solving difficult challenges. This can't be solved by working more.

You pretty much wrote this but I just want to emphasize that long working hours won't get you ahead but challenging work.


I have observed that most of the people I know who fit your description: experts who work fewer hours but everything they do counts, almost always went through a period of ridiculous and obsessive long hours early in their career.

Once you've built that skill set, it makes sense to dial things back because you now know how to be effective and you also probably do tons of mental work semi consciously away from your "desk."

But it drives me crazy how people seem to think they can start out that way. In my experience that is a sure path to modest abilities, which is fine, but that's the trade off.


"almost always went through a period of ridiculous and obsessive long hours early in their career."

Maybe. But for sure they worked on something challenging and not on checking off endless lists of JIRA tickets. It's not long hours but quality of work that makes you grow. Both together is probably the winner.


> I have seen quite a few experts in their field and they didn't work long hours but everything they did counted.

Yeah, that is a much better position to be in than someone who is drowning in useless make-work all day.

But, after having reached this level of good set-up, one is now sort-of in competition with everyone else who has reached a similar good set-up. Well, even just ignoring the competition part, which is maybe a red herring, obviously you are self-gating how good you want to be by working more or fewer hours. So maybe these people decided a certain amount is "good enough" and didn't want to push past that, which is totally fine. But I am just raising the point that you can always push further if you want to.


" But I am just raising the point that you can always push further if you want to."

I have had the opportunity to work on difficult stuff for a few years and after around 35 hours per week I was pretty much shot. I still thought about it in my free time but there definitely was no point sitting in front of the screen because I wouldn't get anything done.

I'll admit there are some high performance workers (you could call them athletes) who can spend 80hrs/week working and producing but these are rare from my experience. Most people I have seen that work 80 hr weeks have a lot of downtime in between. The only difference is they spend that time in the office.


I've never met someone who could do 80 hours of focused work. Everyone I've seen who puts in a lot of hours doesn't achieve more results than if they had put in 40 hours of focused work. They feel like they're making progress, but they make many mistakes along the way and then later have to spend crazy hours making up for those mistakes, making more mistakes, etc... ad nauseum.


You can put all your energy into paddling a canoe, but if it's still tied to the dock you're going nowhere.


The whole reason I am bringing this up is because I have done 70+ hours of focused work on many occasions.

It's a more-than-linear improvement over 40 hours, because when pro-rated you have a lower density of context switches, getting-back-up-to-speed, etc, as happen in the morning or when you eat or such.

Maybe too many people have done long-term damage to their attention spans via the internet? I dunno.

At the risk of being mildly provocative ... are any of the people you know, who can't do more than 40 hours of work in a week, world-class in their field? If not, maybe there is a causal link between these two things?


I've done weeks like that myself, for a few weeks at a time. My comment was addressed at people who do 80 hours routinely. I've never met someone world class who was doing that. I have met some world class people, but they kept to a reasonable schedule.

I'm sure these 80 hour continuous productivity guru's exist. I'm just saying they are so exceedingly rare to effectively be unicorns.


Supposedly Bill Gates was like this when he was young. But I would compare these people to elite athletes. Most people can train as much as they want but will never reach that level. they may risk injury on the way though.


I have done 80 hours week productively from time to time but never for long. In startup I worked at we worked nights and weekends but a lot of it ended up being playing foosball and pool.


Oh, thanks for clearing that up, I kind of misread the parent comment then :) I'll leave my answer anyway for the sake of argument.


I disagree. In my own experience, working long hours is rarely a reliable way to produce excellent work or develop expertise. If anything, constraining hours is a better approach.

Yes, there are side-effects to any strategy, and often the side-effects from long hours (e.g., burnout, damaged relationships) are far more serious than the side effects of working too little. If there is a lack of progress due to not working enough, my first inclination is to think of ways to work smarter. When I worked long hours, and there was a lack of progress, my first inclination was try working even longer hours.


YMMV but in my experience the most challenging projects were personal ones. Why not in the job? Because all the stake holders are interested in making the projects not too difficult or experiment, so they get realized. For my own projects I can make them as unrealistic as I wish. So of course the failure rate is also much higher than for my professional work. That way I got unusually proficient in certain technologies.


> If you only work a minimum number of hours within your field, you are unlikely to emerge as one of the peak achievers or thought leaders in your field. That's just because you learn more from experience, and working more hours gives you more experience.

Doesn't jibe with my experience. The best people I've met have broad curiosity and variety of interests that synergize to make them what they are. This may drive them to spend more time practicing their craft but that's an effect, not a cause.

The raw number of hours with one's butt in an office chair is irrelevant unless it's used wisely.


Do expert violinists put in crazy hours of practice? Where is the evidence that experts achieve this experthood by the application of brute force?

In my understanding to become an expert requires a careful balance of focused and deliberate work, with alternating periods of rest and reflection.


I think your point hinges on what you define as 'work' then. Because I so often hear the phrase 'if you do something you love you wont't have to work a day in your life' yet in real life people seem to respect the 'work' you do for your employer way more than any 'work' I do purely out of passion. (And although I do very much like my job in software engineering, I like to have a balance for it, like going rock climbing, for which nobody would ever give me money though)

I'm probably also biased by the culture I grew up in, but this always kind of irritates me when people praise working long hours:

Which one is it, do you love what you do, so it isn't actually work for you after all, or do you just push yourself really hard and therefore create higher standards for your colleagues to be measured by? (which would lead to the general inclusion problem that this is simply easier to do for young white, childless, men discussed by the author)


> working more hours gives you more experience.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diminishing_returns


If you want to be a high performing software engineer, you need to put in a lot of work.

BUT!

One difference I've found between startups and companies like OP described is how that work is allocated. Working at a startup had me laser focused on things that were directly tied to the business. Working at a big company means I can work on anything I want off the clock. Top performers at my current (bigco) workplace spend their time organizing community events and meetups, or live coding on twitch. Startup work might be like that if you get the perfect project that ties directly to your career ambitions, but for me it was just a particularly demanding job with more responsibility (and more potential upside.)


It sounds like you are saying in order to be great at software you have to put in double time on software. Spending half your time, e.g., painting, would be a crippling disability relative to the 80 hour a week programmers.

Am I getting that right? Seems like an odd argument given what I know about your opinion towards head-down traditional game design process.

I feel like I get a lot of software expertise from making gnocchi and watching my chickens scratch around the garden, but maybe I'm fooling myself. Genuinely interested to know your opinion.

My (baseless) opinion is that quality of experiments matters a lot more than sheer number.


I think he's taking the surface level and assuming if we copy the surface level, we are going to get the rest.

No.

The reason Fog Creek works well, is because it's very smart people, who care about what they're doing. They care because it's a product company - they get to make decisions that impact the product. They feel a sense of ownership.

Contrast that with a sweat, uh sorry, I mean dev shop. Contrast that with doing contract work for big companies where you come in, leave 6 months later. Contrast that with start-ups that only exist because someone got free money.

Contrast that with shit maintenance work at big corps.

Does that about cover 95%, if not more, software jobs out there?

There is no fixing shit workplaces because the foundation is rotten. When you have no say, when you don't care about the product, when you move around every few years - yeah, it's shit culture.

There is no fixing that - most people long for a stable group of people they can make something happen with.

Most people are confused about how much work and dedication it takes to make something great. Most people's actions create what most people complain about and they don't even know it. There is no fixing it, there is only becoming good enough to either start your own Fog Creek, or be good enough to join one.


>Yesterday, I had a wide-ranging Slack conversation with some very nice people who patiently allowed this privileged white male to repeatedly touch the third rail of diversity and inclusion.

Read this three times and I can't understand what it means. Can anyone "translate?"

On the overall topic, it seems really obvious in retrospect that removing formalities in the workplace turns the office into a social club and those who don't want to socialize are excluded. Its certainly an unintended consequence though.

I can certainly see the benefits of formality in the office now that I'm older.


The term "third rail" comes from underground subway systems where there is a third, electrified rail to provide power to trains. There are usually warnings in the subway not to touch the rail due to the risk of electrocution. "The third rail" is used colloquially to describe a topic that is socially or politically difficult to discuss because of the reactions it can bring up.

In this context, I think the author is describing conversations he had with people who were patient with him as he asked (possibly naive or hurtful) questions about a hot-button and loaded topic that they had more experience with than he did.


These topics can be particularly tough to ask about because it isn't an oppressed persons job to be an "oppression explainer". I thought his recognition of this was very respectful.

FWIW in other parts of the world an electrified third rail is the norm on overground railroads too.


>These topics can be particularly tough to ask about because it isn't an oppressed persons job to be an "oppression explainer". I thought his recognition of this was very respectful.

If you leave it up to the oppressors to decide for themselves how to make the world a more inclusive space for you without your input, I don’t think you can expect better results than what we’ve had thus far.


However, if it's the oppressed's responsibility to educate every person they interact with, it becomes trivial to DoS them through willful ignorance.

There can't be a social expectation that the privileged are entitled to cognitive labor from already-oppressed individuals, because that can and has been abused.

(That said, people are more likely to be open to a person that they can sense has already done the basic research.)


This isn't a question of ought, it's just a matter of is. People with power will act in their own interests always. The only way to make them act in your interests is to make their interests align with yours.

If nobody is willing to do that, they will appeal to your interests only in the most perfunctory way that never threatens their privileged position. Thus, you get a lot of "diversity panels" that are full of old White men speculating as to what makes you tick.

Fairness and "problematicness" don't enter into it. That's just how the world works. It's easy enough to differentiate ignorance born out of good faith from malicious sea-lioning without having to assume bad faith on everyone's parts simply because of how they present to the world.


OP was expressing frustration at having to deal with explaining third rail topics and the lack of awareness of the asker of how annoying it can be.

It doesn't need to be in bad faith to be annoying. To illustrate the problem, I had a visible medical problem that didn't resolve quickly and had to deal with constant questions about how it was going. While I appreciated the sympathy, it was a bit annoying after answering the same question to tens of people.


> The term "third rail" comes from underground subway systems where there is a third, electrified rail to provide power to trains. There are usually warnings in the subway not to touch the rail due to the risk of electrocution. "The third rail" is used colloquially to describe a topic that is socially or politically difficult to discuss because of the reactions it can bring up.

An older metaphor for the same thing: minefield.


Current social norms require a degree of self-abasement before it's socially acceptable for certain types of people to offer an opinion on certain cultural topics. This is a ritualized phrase designed to fulfill this norm. It's not intended to convey any information.


I wish to subscribe to a newsletter in which you annotate, line by line, speeches by politicians and other popular figures.


I think I basically understood this concept, but having it explained so succinctly made me pause and re-read it. Thank you for summing it up so well.


That's a cultural norm only among groups of political extremists, and peddlers of left-wing conspiracy theories. Any well-adjusted individual should reject any attempts to have this imposed upon them in order to be a good "cultural-fit".


Slack = javascript-based IRC chat system

privileged = in posession of advantages, or lacking disadvantages, that some other people experience

"touch the third rail" = in this context, discuss a difficult topic which often blows up into hostility

diversity = the property of having people of different appearance and background in the same social context

inclusion = work done to bring in people to share the same social context.


Keeping up can be a problem. The US State Department has some off-line resources on political correctness for the use of people returning from a few years outside the US. After a few years in Djibouti or Bangkok, some readjustment is necessary. These are even offered for kids of foreign service officers. ("Transgender bathroom rights? Waat?")


In most tech contexts, diversity means racial and gender appearance-only diversity. There is very little to no thought put into background or cultural diversity.

The different groups (immigrants and 2nd generation children of immigrants) that offer the most cultural and background diversity are flagged as a monolithic group based on appearance, completely ignoring the cultural diversity that they bring.


That line is how people write when they're trying to signal something to a minority of people at the expense of the normal reader. What's really strange is the following "I'll thank them by not naming them".


It's an assumption that they're not comfortable discussing hot-button topics publicly.


I am going to wrap this article around a bigger more general concept. I might be going off topic but bear with me.

The difference between a startup culture and a corporate culture is the difference between a creative company and a disciplined company. "Discipline" is like a swiss knife, something that can work anywhere and everywhere. Creativity only works in some places, in places that are desperate, in places that are still making basic decisions, in places where the problems are high and the solutions are few.

A disciplined company has no problem being acquired by a creative company. But a creative company has many problems when they start masquerading in a disciplined company. (Read: Microsoft acquires Company X and writes it off 5 years later.)

Working in a disciplined company is easy for most people. No manual required. Working in a creative company is difficult for most people but easy for creative people. Most foreigners or people with diverse minority backgrounds have a difficult time adapting to very social environments. They would rather stay strictly professional and confined to their work.

But here is the problem: what is the point of having diversity if social interaction is nil? How messed up is your social world if it does not include unsocial minorities?

There is a balance that is needed. Google started as creative and became more corporate and also became more "boring". (Sergey Brin's word)


"Most foreigners or people with diverse minority backgrounds have a difficult time adapting to very social environments. They would rather stay strictly professional and confined to their work."

Maybe rephrase this sentence, this reads like anyone not like you cannot do creative work. It sounds extremely racist and other 'ists.


I guess I stepped on a racism mine, even if I happen to be of a minority myself.


Simply, people socialize more with people like them. It has nothing to do with "creative" or "disciplined". In that environment, it may appear like less social is more work focused or disciplined in some stretch of the imagination but really that is a big stretch, and has nothing to do with that person's capability.


How is this statement even possible to make that because it's a creative environment it drives away minorities when the vast majority of actually artistically creative pursuits like theatre, several fine arts, and fiction have massively more diversity than startup culture?


If there is a "very social environment" it is a club of friends that supports itself by doing work, not a company in which employees meet colleagues that might become friends.

Discipline and creativity are attributes of the professional side of a company, and a successful company needs both; they cannot be associated with mature or immature workplaces. Are the youngsters that flock to startups creative or merely clueless optimists?


I very much agree to most part. So regarding your question, that's really a problem I guess. The obvious bottom line is that for obscure reasons diversity works well in these mega boring environments. But in the very lively places not.

So the irony is that in the private life it tends to be vice versa. In the super conservative world you find males only hanging out with males - not sure what the women do to be honest. On the other hand really chaotic people tend to have much more diverse friendships. (Just stating the obvious ;))

But back to the companies: yes it's much tougher to get the chaotic work place right. I had pretty much given up on that to be honest. I still believe in it, but probably you must be suuuper careful who you work with. What if the secret to 'success' is a top notch HR? Most startups have virtually no real HR people.


This approach finds its parallels in other collaborative spaces where meritocracy is valued; open source software development comes to mind. In that arena, this approach was widely deployed, but is at odds with the more recent trend of explicitly stating to promote inclusion and diversity.

Staunchly meritocratic online interaction and collaboration, from software development to messageboards, allows people to cultivate identities largely defined by their contributions, which is often distinct, or even at odds, from the identity they wish to demonstrate in their real life. In online spaces where individual contributors aren't restricted from speaking out against the leadership, this disconnect will manifest instead of being suppressed.

While I don't disagree with the author's recommendations and rationale, it's unfortunate that the OP's argument essentially reduces down to the fact that the less casual interaction between people, the more inclusivity will result. It's also re-framing the implied problem: the equality vs. equity debate. In the OP's view, the solution is to cultivate a minimalist, work-focused culture that solves the inclusivity question by avoiding it entirely. This is very much at odds with the approach that receives a lot more press these days, which seeks to prescriptively address inclusivity within its own problem-space.


How are you defining "meritocratic online interaction"?


A contribution defined by its payload's self-contained substance and value-add to a core mission of the effort, e.g. a block of code for a requested feature, documentation to accompany a feature, an insightful on-topic post, or a stimulating exchange.

It's an artifact whose value is derived from its content, and not from its provenance.


OK, I'll bite.

In principle, this makes sense, but I think if we poke at it a little you may agree that there are some holes.

>A contribution defined by its payload's self-contained substance and value-add to a core mission

Let's discuss the core mission. How is this mission decided? Is there a process that includes multiple stakeholders? Who picks these stakeholders? I would presume that most open source projects are started by 1 person, or a few people who work together, but recognize that other arrangements exist. At some point either they must set these goals or expand the core group that makes such decisions. So to start with, the first person(s) setting the mission are as arbitrary as having been there when it started. Are they the best at setting goals once a project is in full swing? Perhaps, perhaps not. But, I think you can agree that at the outset, merit is defined by those who start a project or are arbitrarily close to it's start.

> It's an artifact whose value is derived from its content, and not from its provenance.

How does a project determine the "value" of a piece of content. What is the process for derivation? Is it simply the fulfillment of a feature request with accompanying tests and docs? I would suggest that for any non-trivial code, it will be difficult to determine if a pull request will do exactly what it is purported to do with no negative externalities.

What is you have competing contributions for the same feature request? How do you determine which one to choose? Let's say for example that concurrently an issue is addressed by a core contributor and a first time contributor and both arrive at equivalently good solutions. Which implementation should you choose to maintain "meritocracy"? How do you justify that decision?

You may be interested to look to the origin of the word meritocracy[1]. It was intended as satire.

[1]The Rise of the Meritocracy https://books.google.com/books?id=QelNAQAAQBAJ


I think you're talking a bit past temp-dude-87844's point.

Yes, a system based entirely on the contents of the contributions will end up modeled by the biases of those who take the decisions. But aren't those the same forces that would apply to a "work-focused" company environment like the article proposes?


The thing with meritocracy is that, at the end of the day, a person is making those value judgements. A person with their own set of biases and prejudices. And especially in code, there is very little in the way of "This code is objectively better than that code."


I don't think the point is about avoiding value judgements, just setting scope of them.

And yes, any judgement can quickly turn into yak shaving. I don't know that this is about mathematical precision, it always reads more like saying "put down the goddamn shears!"


I think you mean bike-shedding.


> It’s so comfortable and nice to lead an integrated life where your colleagues are your friends and vice versa, where your conversations over beers solve problems encountered over keyboards.

> But maybe that comes at a cost. If we set aside that desire and focus on what we’re really trying to do here — make good software — then maybe we’ll open up some different possibilities. By constraining the number of things we have to agree on, and the number of hours we have to spend agreeing on them, we naturally open ourselves to a diverse world of talented people.

Much as we might wish otherwise, I think this article is right that informality and diversity are in tension (though I think it's massively wrong to conflate informality with long hours; it's very much possible to have a culture where you drink alcohol, play Rock Band, play board games, but still go home after your 35 hours/week). But having to give up informality would be a very heavy price. For me a comfortable life is the end and making good software is the means. But even if your goal is good software, looking at the past couple of decades of big professional companies being displaced by scrappy startups, informal organizations seem a lot better at producing good software.


> For me a comfortable life is the end and making good software is the means.

I have a comfortable life. It involves being on a kayak with my wife and kid, not hanging out with coworkers.

> But even if your goal is good software, looking at the past couple of decades of big professional companies being displaced by scrappy startups, informal organizations seem a lot better at producing good software.

Are startups "better at producing good software?" They may be better at entering novel markets, software that's novel isn't the same thing as software that's good. E.g. Facebook's iOS app used to be a buggy piece of crap. It's gotten much better as Facebook as gotten more "corporate." Some of the best software I've used in the last decade was made by Apple, which hit a billion dollars of revenue the year I was born.


> I have a comfortable life. It involves being on a kayak with my wife and kid, not hanging out with coworkers.

Having friends in work is no barrier to spending time with other friends or family outside of work - it's not zero-sum. Even 35 hours/week (and if you've got a better deal than that then I envy you) is a lot of time to be spending with a bunch of people none of whom are your friends.

> Are startups "better at producing good software?" They may be better at entering novel markets, software that's novel isn't the same thing as software that's good. E.g. Facebook's iOS app used to be a buggy piece of crap. It's gotten much better as Facebook as gotten more "corporate."

Users vote with their feet for featureful-but-buggy over well-engineered-with-less-cool-functions, and I don't think it's because users are stupid. I think a willingness to "move fast and break things" translates into genuinely more life-enhancing software on the whole.


> informal organizations seem a lot better at producing good software

I don't think the formality has anything to do with the quality of software; I think it has more to do with VC-funded companies operating lean, and HR is overhead.


Maybe. But can see how it would affect it: informality leads to much more effective communication, within-team but especially across-team, and that removes a huge class of the mistakes that cause businesses to fail. Even just reducing the barrier for people at the bottom to tell people at the top when something's completely broken makes a huge difference to the organization's effectiveness.


Informality works if there's low cultural distance between employees because you can make a lot of assumptions. But it's not exactly conducive to dealing with differences, because those assumptions might not hold.


I think it's the opposite, I think informality leads to much less effective communication, not more. It's hard to have "tough conversations" when personal relationships are on the line. Telling Steve he needs to start carrying his weight is much more difficult if it means endangering your friendship with Steve.


Also, it would mean that informality would be a privilege of white people.


It is also known that casual dress is somehow connected to less social mobility.

> But above all I didn’t have the cultural and social capital to know how to dress casual in the right way. My casual dressing was made of nerdy, unfashionable and cheap clothes: you could immediately say that I haven’t accomplished anything. And I didn’t even know that there was a “rich” way to dress casual.

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/05/inf...

there’s more art to looking sharp in casual attire than in a suit and tie!

> Tyler Cowen: Well, being a casual person myself, I'm very glad being casual is in vogue, and probably will stay in vogue. But what I find striking is societies with a lot of upward mobility often tend to have strict dress codes. So you see this today with Mormons, at Mormon businesses. You see it in Japan in its heyday years--you know, the businessman or journeyman suit, they more or less all looked the same. There's something about upward mobility where actually clothing is not that casual and one is being more formal in trying to impress; and that is a [?]. But the thing about being casual is it actually makes it harder for people to prove themselves. So, Bill Gates goes to a meeting and he may show up dressed very casually; but he's still Bill Gates--either everyone knows or if you really needed to, you could Google him. So there's a code of casual that's actually very difficult for, say, people from other cultures in America to master or demonstrate that's actually made signaling harder. Just that right way of looking casual is in a funny way more conformist than like the blue suit and tie, which you could do and then innovate around and try to climb to the top. So I find this disturbing, the more I think about it.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2017/05/tyler_cowen_on_1.ht...


I listened to that podcast, and I think the money quote is this one:

> Russ Roberts: […] I do think it's--instead of getting a very highly tailored and expensive suit, now you have to know exactly how to match your tee-shirt with your running shoes in a way that doesn't make you look the wrong kind of geek or whatever it is.

> Tyler Cowen: Yes, so say you are an immigrant to this country and you show up at a workplace and they tell you, 'Look, put on a blue suit jacket and a tie, and burgundy shoes.' I mean, don't you feel immense relief at that, actually?


right, though i thought the guests other points were overall garbage


I wish I could up-vote this more.

It is a problem that corporate America tries to optimize function by getting everyone closer and closer together with team building exercises and alignment of values.

Values are deeply personal and we should recognize that people are going to differ. Freedom of conscience is as basic as freedom of religion and important for the same reason.

If we keep work a professional space we maximize diversity of thought and life experience, which are ostensibly what the large push toward ethnic and gender diversity are a proxy for.


The takeaway for me is less about minimum hours and more about minimum culture. Or put another way, "keep your identity small". http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html


Maybe this is more about drinking than dress code. Companies of Japanese salarymen have the same problem - too much group drinking, and a very uniform culture.


Sometimes, to solve really difficult problems, you have to make big personal sacrifices.

Sometimes, to evolve, adapt and gain the edge, you have to be loose and unprofessional.

Sometimes, to survive a famine or a drought, you have to ruthlessly cut what isn't absolutely necessary.

These are the other phases of the business cycle that the author neglects. Professionalism, openness, and work life balance belong to a certain phase of the cycle. That phase does not come from nothing and it does not last forever.


Why does racial and gender diversity matter in tech? I have worked in teams of all white guys and teams of mixed race and gender and I have seen no difference in productivity. The only thing that ever mattered was the skill level of the people. I see nobody complaining that most successful basketball players are tall black people.

I don't see a problem with having companies with corporate culture and companies with startup culture side by side, just because I dislike the suite and tie culture doesn't mean I want it gone, however from reading the article I get the impression that the author wants the more liberal companies gone just because he doesn't like them.


The assumption seems to be that companies culture is driving women away. Is that even true, as in, are there really hundreds of thousands of female software developers in waiting who would jump at a job at a company with the appropriate culture? It seems very unlikely to me - more likely, the pipeline dries out long before the hiring stage.

That some companies with great effort manage to compete over the few female developers on the market doesn't prove every company could hire lots of female developers if only they changed their culture.

To be honest, personally, even if there were those hundreds of thousands of female developers supposedly driven away by bro culture, I would still maintain that people should have a right to create companies they enjoy working in. If some people want to work in T-Shirts and get drunk every night, it is their right to do so (if they can earn the money to sustain it).

Luckily not all companies are the same, so that people can apply to companies that suit their tastes.

If it weren't so, there wouldn't even be a need for hiring or job seeking to begin with. People could just apply to the next best company and be hired, likewise, companies could hire the next best applicant - because there would be no such issues as cultural fit or whatever. Not very realistic (source: I am not friends with everybody and not everybody is friends with me).


Overall good post, but:

Yesterday, I had a wide-ranging Slack conversation with some very nice people who patiently allowed this privileged white male to repeatedly touch the third rail of diversity and inclusion. That conversation led me to the realizations in this post. I’ll thank them by not naming them, and by promising never to bring this up in their Slack channel again.

In other words, people openly hated on him for wanting to discuss something with them and get informed -- a white male in a position of power that few women or poc occupy. And all they can do is make him scared to bring it up again and act like the abuse they heaped upon him is some sort of privilege he didn't deserve or something.

Wow.

I am so sick of women and people of color being openly hateful to people who were born the "wrong" gender and color to be part of the unfortunate many. Hello? Whining about how "it isn't my job to explain this stuff to you!" instead of being all "OMG! An opportunity to have a useful conversation with a white male who is actually curious about how the so-called other half live!" is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

(Before you auto-downvote this on the assumption that I am some overprivileged asshole man, please note I am a woman.)


This was brought up in a post below, but the first sentence is hard to decipher. I think "patiently allowed" here implies that they kindly answered his questions even though he was touching the third rail.

In other words he was afraid of being hated on for opening the dialogue, but the people on the Slack channel were fully willing to engage.


I’ll thank them ... by promising never to bring this up in their Slack channel again.

That reads to me like "It was a shit show, I got the crap kicked out of me. I am trying to be PC." The patience part comes in where they attempted to answer his questions at all instead of merely dogpiling him with a mountain of hatred.

If they were genuinely that patient and kind, why is it described as "touching the third rail"? Genuinely patient and kind people don't make you feel like you are going to be electrocuted for broaching a topic.


It reads to me like he knew it was an awkward conversation and out of gratitude would rather not subject them to that again.


Funny, when I have productive conversations with men actually willing to listen to my side, it is such a rare and wonderful privilege that I am eager to repeat the experience. (This may explain my position on HN as the highest ranked woman here. Enough men genuinely engage me on difficult subjects, it is worth putting up with whatever crap goes along with it.)

Your interpretation in no way succeeds in changing mine.


> Your interpretation in no way succeeds in changing mine.

It doesn't have to, as there is sufficient ambiguity in the writing to make either interpretation iron-clad. Yet I shared the same interpretation as the commenter you responded to, and was surprised by yours. I now see your perspective, though it rings less true to me.

Although, I do think it's borderline inarguable that you are reading too much into the personality traits of the Slack channel members (e.g., "hateful") with far too little information to justify the strength of the words. If those descriptions weren't intended for the Slack channel participants but more of a general comment, then that makes more sense.


Although, I do think it's borderline inarguable that you are reading too much into the personality traits of the Slack channel members (e.g., "hateful") with far too little information to justify the strength of the words.

That is a misinterpretation of my remark. I have personally seen this firsthand over and over. My general remark that I am sick of seeing it does not attribute hatefulness per se to the discussion members. I still seriously doubt that it was a very warm fuzzy conversation. I think the author of the piece is being incredibly charitable.

Just look at how I am being attacked here to give you some inkling of how such conversations typically go. It is hard enough to get privileged white males to be genuinely respectful to each other in an internet conversation. That used to be kind of a given on HN, which deteriorated over time. I hope to see that sort of atmosphere return here -- it does seem to be improving -- but I hope it also includes the women in a way they never were before.


Talking about what was said in the slack channel would distract readers from the main point he was trying to make in the post. If anything he should have said less, as it is clear some still want to discuss the slack channel more than his main point.


I do a lot of blogging. I also get paid to do freelance work, often for business sites, where I get explicit instruction to say nothing negative. This is sometimes an incredibly challenging thing to do.

There was no gun to his head to comment on this discussion at all. He was under zero obligation to describe it as a slack channel or even an online discussion. He was under zero obligation to give what description of it he did. He could have easily said something incredibly generic about "Discussions I have been fortunate to be privy to suggest...."

The fact that he had to spend an entire paragraph not talking about the contents of the discussion and trying ever so hard to be PC while the pain of that discussion clearly bled through in his framing of his comments speaks to how not well it actually went. It is entirely possible to just say nothing about things you wish to say nothing about. I do that pretty often.


You're making a lot of assumptions for someone who hasn't seen that Slack conversation.


Straw feminists are frightening.


I don't self identify as a feminist. So if you mean me, you are in error.


Straw feminists are fictional feminists that live in hypothetical situations like your parent's comment.

http://www.harkavagrant.com/?id=341


Well, I feel a tad lost (in terms of what you were intending with your remark), but count me educated. Thank you for the link.


I was agreeing with you, and providing an emotional basis for your OP's attitude!


Ah. Gotcha.


You got the opposite vibe from that paragraph than I did, but assuming you're correct about what happened:

Why should the onus be on the minority to be required to have a conversation with everyone who comes up to them and says something ignorant?


I am not talking about an onus on the minority to have a conversation with everyone who comes up to them and says something ignorant.

But the current openly hostile position that so many underprivileged people take shuts down real conversation. And it basically assumes that privileged peoples are supposed to somehow psychically know what their lives are like while they refuse to inform the people who are in the best position to make their lives better by being more informed. How on earth are white males supposed to learn what the lives and experiences of women and poc are like if no one will have a conversation with them? Do you think being openly hateful to them opens their minds and makes them more understanding? I don't.

FYI, I am not only a woman, I am the top ranked woman here. Maybe there is some correlation between my attitude and the in-roads I am making on HN.


How does your rank on HN as a female matter for us to get your point? To me, the FYIs (which I have seen at least two of your comments in this thread) aren't letting your comments stand on their own merits.

For what it's worth, your point makes sense and I agree with it. However, it didn't seem like the author of the article had a hateful experience, so much as an awkward one.


> FYI, I am not only a woman, I am the top ranked woman here.

How do you know? I mean, it's not like HN profiles have mandatory gender field, and there are higher-ranked profiles than yours that don't link to external profiles or provide real names from which (risky) guesses can easily be made about gender, and whose comment/post history doesn't, on a quick review, give any direct indication of the user's gender.


I spent some time gathering data because I was getting what seemed to me to be a fuckton of excess pushback for someone who was a big fat nobody with a paltry amount of karma. There is a quick and dirty summary of the data here:

http://micheleincalifornia.blogspot.com/2015/01/some-raw-dat...

I usually couch it in terms of "I appear to be the highest ranked openly female member here" because, no, there is no absolute way to know. But I have also been saying that for something over two years and, so far, no one has jumped up and said "Nope! HERE is a link to HNmembername who is openly female and outranks you!" Given that this is HN, I consider that fact to be probably strong evidence that no one knows of any openly female members who outrank me.

Of course, this does not preclude the possibility that there is a woman with more karma who is actively hiding her gender. But even if there is, that still makes my typical framing -- apparently highest ranked openly female member -- an accurate statement.

Edit: Just as an FYI, I upvoted you. It is a perfectly reasonable question to ask and the framing is perfectly reasonable. I don't know why people are downvoting you. That sucks. Meanwhile, some other comment that is being genuinely dismissive of me and the pertinence of my "rank" here is being upvoted. And that sucks even more.


I don't think the openly hostile posture is good, nor do I think the general theories of social justice are doing much good anymore.

However you actually are saying that 'minorities' need to have conversations with ignorant people.

How understanding these ignorant people are is not a function of how 'minorities' respond to them - by which I mean that many people will not be able to have an open mind or become understanding even if they are treated like princes and princesses.

One effective way 'white males' can learn more is to find other white males who have successfully navigated this space and learn from them.


Saying that such conversations are needed in the world in no way suggests that there is an onus on specific people to have them with every random asshole who blurts something awful. There is a difference.


The flip side (based on my observations as a white male who actively engages in social justice) is that many women and minorities are so utterly sick and tired of harassment and obliviousness from white men that they simply have no patience for the engagement anymore. I can't say I blame them. I tire of the fight too - and I know it's my privilege that allows me to retreat when I'm tired of it.

I really appreciate those who can stay active and upbeat when trying to educate the privileged, but I understand those who can't. I don't think I could.


I tire of the fight too

I really appreciate those who can stay active and upbeat when trying to educate the privileged, but I understand those who can't. I don't think I could.

I am not looking for a fight. I am actively looking for a conversation, in good faith that is as respectful as possible from both sides, given that we are all human, we all have crappy days and stupid baggage and words on a screen are a very hard way to communicate. If I thought I was fighting some battle, I imagine I would tire of it too.

And that is kind of the entire point of all my comments here. You aren't required to go looking for a fight in order to try to make the world a better place. In fact, you are probably going to be more successful if you stop approaching it that way.


So why did you start this by openly attacking women and PoC?

"I am so sick of women and people of color being openly hateful to people who were born the "wrong" gender and color to be part of the unfortunate many."

Seems like it's ok if you just slander and attack whole groups, but you aren't interested in a rebuttal which only attacks your statement and not your race or gender.


Sometimes, it's a conversation, and that's great. Sometimes, it's a battle.


Sure - but lots of well meaning people calmly say awful things too, and it's no different to be on the receiving end - maybe even worse.


And if they genuinely are well meaning, they are usually open to getting some push back. It isn't necessary to hate on people in order to inform them "Well, that isn't how it works if you are X."

One of the things that most opened my eyes to racism was when I was dealing with the DMV and it was incredibly frustrating. There seemed to be no means whatsoever to fix my issue. And then the black person at the counter walked over to their white boss and straightfacedly lied "She never got her bill." At that point, all I had to do was pay a late fee and, voila, my stint in DMV purgatory was over. (I had driven a thousand miles with expired plates to handle this debacle in person and was still hitting a wall until this person did that.)

That clued me that blacks routinely deal with "Fuck you, no, it can't be solved" situations that are not the norm for white people. It made me vastly more informed and sympathetic. It did not make me feel alienated.

I know far too many people on the internet who claim they want the world to be a better place, but by their actions it is clear that they take it as a given that the lord of the flies pecking order bs is just how the world works and cannot be solved. They just want to change who gets shit upon and gets to do the shitting.

Is it any wonder that people in privileged positions aren't very friendly to their proposition that "No, YOU should be the designated toilet of the world, and I should be one of the people who gets to shit on you!"

I would like to see a world in which we all agree that shitting on other people is not ok, no matter who they are.


Seems like you think that the legacy of slavery and institutionalized racism is equivalent to unkind words on the internet.

Personally I'd only call one of these 'shitting on other people'.


Words on the internet really caused this heterosexual male some serious problems: http://micheleincalifornia.blogspot.com/2014/11/having-sad.h...

Words on the internet and via text message probably helped drive this man to suicide:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/true-crime/wp/2017/06/10...

My mother always said "Two wrongs don't make a right."

I don't see how taking your anger out on random strangers somehow fixes anything in your life.


By supporting your position with these examples, it sure seems like you are continuing to try to equate the two.


By ignoring these two examples, it sure seems like you are continuing to justify a desire for revenge, which has nothing to do with trying to make life better in the here and now and in the future for women, poc, etc.


For what it's worth - I think it's terrible when anyone kills themselves as a result of psychological suffering caused by another.

Not only that but there are clearly examples of straight up murder by PoC and women.

Claiming that because of this you get to dismiss the legacy of racism and institutionalized racism, is a straight up defense of racism and white supremacy.

Nice job.


No, that isn't what I claimed at all. And you twisting my statements in that way belies your statements elsewhere that you aren't angry.

I am sorry for whatever it is you have suffered that you are so angry.

I have a very deadly medical condition. I am homeless. I was sexually abused as a child.

I am also getting healthier, paying off debts and I am the top ranked woman on Hacker News which is helping me further my personal goals. Because I spent a lot of years working to put my anger down and stop using every person I ran into as a scratching post to sharpen my claws.

Whatever other shitty thing you say to me next, I think I am done with this conversation. Because you are dragging me down to your level and failing to see that no one here wants to listen to your side precisely because you are being so consistently ugly.

And that is exactly my point. I am the top ranked woman here because I don't come in here and kick the shit out of every man here for simply being born male. I do, however, stand up for myself and give push back when I feel that is appropriate. There is a difference between those two things. They are NOT synonymous.

That is getting results and it breaks the cycle of "who gets to be the designated toilet in our Lord of the Flies society?"


You don't come here and kick the crap out of every man, but you happily do so to women and PoC:

This statement of yours is overtly sexist and racist.

"I am so sick of women and people of color being openly hateful to people who were born the "wrong" gender and color to be part of the unfortunate many."

Compare it to this version:

"I am so sick of people being openly hateful to people who were born the "wrong" gender and color"

I'm sorry you have suffered in your life, but that, and your Hacker News Karma score is not a license to make racist or sexist comments and not expect them to be rebutted.

You say that from your point of view there are 'sides' in this. It's clear which one you have chosen. It's actually not anyone else's duty to try to change that. If you don't like how you feel when people respond to what you say - that is your problem to solve.


How did you get from "very nice people" to "hateful" and "whiny"?


Thank you for pointing out that quote.

I can't imagine anyone saying that sentence in Italian with a straight face. Translating those words really puts things into perspective. It sounds self-hating and humiliating. I wonder what the long-term effects of this culture are going to be.


I think more of this levels the playing field for all.


Especially recently, for every one person who actually is sincere in their desire to learn and grow, there can be three or more people who are trying to be a concern troll or are otherwise asking in bad faith.


That isn't news to me.

But a problem I face is that when I try to inform and empower women, I am often viciously attacked and accused of "blaming the victim."

I was sexually abused as a child. I have thought long and hard about this problem space. I don't believe we will see real progress until we can stop assuming that women are always the victim in any interaction with men, men are always abusive and men are the only ones who can change this situation.

And I find it baffling that people seem to not see that the position that the onus is entirely on men to change their behavior is an excellent way to make sure women remain disempowered victims.


"I am so sick of women and people of color being openly hateful to people who were born the "wrong" gender and color to be part of the unfortunate many."

Really? So now being born white and male is the "wrong" color and gender? Those are identities that are near the apex of privilege in our society. As a white man, being afraid to ask questions for fear of being unintentionally racist or sexist is nowhere near comparable to the actual experience of racism and sexism. God forbid we hurt a white man's feelings while discussing social justice. That would be a true injustice.


This is an infuriatingly unhelpful attitude.

Presumably the goal is to encourage people who lack awareness about issues surrounding racism and sexism to both become aware and to actually care about these problems. And to change their behavior, to the extent that it should change.

Unnecessarily attacking, humiliating, or embarrassing a person who is willfully admitting their own ignorance and seeking a better understanding of the situation is so obviously counterproductive that I can't believe I'm having to write this comment. This is not the way to win people to your side — in fact, it's completely the opposite. Doing so only causes both sides to become more firmly entrenched in their beliefs and less likely to try and discuss the issue further. By giving them a positive experience, you not only increase the likelihood of them seriously considering your arguments, but you also open the door for them to come back to the table for discussion again, even if you didn't win them over the first time around.


> Presumably the goal is to encourage people who lack awareness about issues surrounding racism and sexism to both become aware and to actually care about these problems. And to change their behavior, to the extent that it should change.

For some, this is the goal. Unfortunately, they tend to be drowned out by those who find the experience of loudly attacking and embarrassing "privileged" folk to be cathartic and uplifting — a goal unto itself.

Evergreen College professor Bret Weinstein made a great point on a podcast earlier this week: "You have the real equity movement which are people who wish to end oppression, and then you have another movement that wishes to reverse oppression. And they don't know that they are different, because until you reach equity, they're pointing in the same direction."


"You have the real equity movement which are people who wish to end oppression, and then you have another movement that wishes to reverse oppression. And they don't know that they are different, because until you reach equity, they're pointing in the same direction."

I think the difference is pretty readily discernible. I don't think they point in the same direction at all. The difference is between "Can you help me up off the pavement and help me dust myself off, given that you are standing above me and have strength I lack?" and "Hey, lay down on the pavement so I can shit all over you because someone who looks kind of like you shit all over me and it's my turn. That's only fair."


Right - clearly it is the job of women and PoC to give positive experiences to white men otherwise they cannot expect to be treated well.

It is also clearly not the responsibility of white men to give positive experiences to PoC and women, because they can't be expected to understand how if they aren't first given positive experiences by PoC and women.


It's not a duty or responsibility. And it's not unproductive as a sibling commenter suggests. It's straight up counterproductive and a form of self-sabotage.

If your goal is to feel self-righteous and superior, by all means attack those who are showing genuine interest in coming over to your side. If your goal is to actually bring about a positive change in society, perhaps it's worthwhile to consider a different approach.


This is based on an almost ludicrously simplistic straw man: you conjure up the idea of someone who is "showing genuine interest in coming over you your side"

How are they 'showing' this exactly? What makes it 'genuine' that they want to come over to another side? Why are they on a 'side' in the first place, and what makes you think that the goal is to have them change 'sides'? Are you saying they are not already on 'our side'? What does that imply? How can you distinguish their arguments from those of people who simply want to argue their position and remain ignorant?


Attacking someone for ignorance is very unproductive


So why do white men do it to women and PoC, or is your claim that ignorance only exists on one side of this?

You imply that while men can do nothing for themselves unless given positive experiences by women an PoC.

This is obviously false, since there are plenty of white men who have a good understanding of these issues.

Stop blaming women and PoC for your own ignorance and go and learn something from people who have figured this stuff out.


I can think of virtually no better example to prove my point than the contents of this exchange.

So thank you for helping me to demonstrate to everyone else in this thread that speaking from anger, constructing and attacking the flimsiest of straw men, and repeatedly misconstruing a sympathetic counterparty's points only serves to push away the people you might hope to see your point of view.

I genuinely hope it was satisfying for you, because that's about the only positive outcome that's likely to arise for you out of this.


Try reading what I am saying without projecting anger into it. Just because it's not to your liking doesn't mean it's angry.

Also - there is nothing you have said that indicates you are a sympathetic counterparty. How do you expect us to know that? Therein lies the problem.


I'm not actually saying we should attack people for being ignorant, I'm saying that if a white guy gets offended while trying to learn that it's less of a problem than the actual object of our activism.

Frankly if I have to argue with this person and tiptoe around their fragile ego in discussing these things I'm not sure we want them in the first place. Allyship is complex and defined finally by those you are allied with.


> ...if a white guy gets offended while trying to learn that it's less of a problem than the actual object of our activism.

Nobody is arguing this.

Here's the thing though: it doesn't matter if one problem is worse than the other, at least as to the point people are trying to make in this thread.

When activists are openly hostile or otherwise inflammatory to people who are sympathetic to but not yet behind the activists' cause, they undermine that cause by pushing away and alienating the very people who are signaling that they're on the cusp of changing their perspective. Those people who held out an olive branch only to have it knocked aside are less likely to become allies in the future.

> Frankly if I have to argue with this person and tiptoe around their fragile ego in discussing these things I'm not sure we want them in the first place.

I'm sorry, but this is phenomenally short-sighted. This is how the human psyche works. Virtually any person who's been converted to your cause started from a position of disagreement, went through a transition period where they started to question longstanding beliefs and assumptions, learned to empathize with people who were harmed by the status quo, and eventually discarded or significantly amended those original beliefs. You will be hard-pressed to find a psychologist who will suggest that ridiculing or attacking a person in that transition period will do anything but turn them away and calcify their original position.


>Those people who held out an olive branch only to have it knocked aside are less likely to become allies in the future.

You're still acting like people are doing us a favor by trying to understand us.

They aren't, and we deserve better than that: either deal with us substantively or dismiss us, but don't expect us to try and manipulate your biases in such a way that you end up agreeing with us. That's what you're asking when you say we should try to convince people.

>You will be hard-pressed to find a psychologist who will suggest that ridiculing or attacking a person in that transition period will do anything but turn them away and calcify their original position.

And yet, I've seen the opposite of this happen time and time again. When people are ready to learn, it looks a lot different than this. When people aren't ready, yeah, this is basically what happens. Not to mention that if you talk to a psychologist about rational argument they'll tell you it's a quirk of human cognition, not the rule, and that it's basically futile as a means of really convincing someone.

If they really support us they'll understand eventually and come around. If they don't, they won't. I say this because it happened to me, and here I am arguing with you about this. It takes a very mature person to want to understand these things, and not everybody is mature enough.

This whole concept that we have to be nice to bigots lest they become more bigoted is hugely abusive and unhelpful, and you've yet to justify it.


> they undermine that cause by pushing away and alienating the very people who are signaling that they're on the cusp of changing their perspective

You have repeatedly made this assertion, but you have made no effort to substantiate it. Why do you think you're in a better position to judge what works and what doesn't than the activists who deal with this stuff every day? Being hostile towards people who are ignorant and react indignantly when their ignorance is pointed out is a strategy, and one that seems to work. Sure, some people don't take criticism well and you lose them. But some people _will_ listen, improve their behavior, and will eventually become worthwhile allies.


You have repeatedly made this assertion, but you have made no effort to substantiate it.

(I am not the person you are replying to, but) I have actually offered myself as an example in this discussion, which has been repeatedly pissed on. I am the top ranked woman on HN, in spite of never having had a tech job. When I still had relatively little karma, I was noticing that men on the leaderboard were closing ranks and things were getting what felt kind of ugly on my end. I was getting remarks that suggested to me that I was "prominent" for a woman here. I gathered data to verify that and soon concluded that I was rather high ranking for a woman, in spite of my low score.

I have worked really hard to move certain people out of my way without turning it into a fight and to participate in good faith and so on. I am noticing in recent months that other women are benefitting from the changes here, which weren't simply wrought by me, it is far more complicated than that.

Of course, I have known lots of people in life who will simply dismiss whatever I have accomplished with some convenient explanation like "survivor bias" or "that's just your opinion" or even "It is wild coincidence, stranger things have happened." People seem to basically believe what they already believe. Confirmation bias seems to make most people interpret all events through the lens of their current mental models and getting people to consider others is quite hard.

I did not originally set out to become anyone of influence on Hacker News, but after discovering that I had fairly high rank for a woman in spite of zero ambition, I decided to run with it. And I went from something silly like 4k karma to currently above 19k karma in probably a shorter time than it took me to get that original 4k. Furthermore, I no longer see men on the leaderboard routinely closing ranks to exclude me and things like that. The atmosphere has changed and without a battle.

I am expecting this comment of mine to also be torn apart and pissed on, which is par for the course for this type of comment. Nonetheless, I am leaving it "for the record" in hopes that it causes some people to think, even though it is highly unlikely to change your mind at all.


For what it's worth, I upvoted you.

Nonetheless, I think you're making a bit of a generalization here from messageboard karma to the real world.

The community here on HN is self selected for a particular kind of person, and the people that would be on my side in this discussion really tend to avoid this board for similar reasons.

I have no doubt that you'll get more karma for being cordial instead of abrasive, respectable instead of radical. But I care very little about how much karma I have.


Eh, karma is far easier to point to than the things I actually pay the most attention to. I also cannot fathom why people make this sort of distinction between cyberspace and meatspace. People get jobs and work and meet future spouses and on and on via online forums. There are an awful lot of real world movers and shakers right here on Hacker News.

Best. Have a good day.


>I also cannot fathom why people make this sort of distinction between cyberspace and meatspace.

I don't, in general, I just meant that randos online are not the target of my activism, and I'm not currently trying to conduct myself in such a way that they become allies. That's all.


If the outcome you want is empathy, you need to demonstrate it. If you don't demonstrate it, you are essentially dehumanizing yourself in the conversation, making it harder for others to empathize with you.

Then again, >whatever< outcome you want, you will need more empathy: you are not demonstrating enough empathy here in order to outwit an adversary, let alone to foster productive egalitarian relationships.


Yeah but empathy is not the outcome I want at least; the outcome I want is to reverse the material inequities that foster oppression. I don't care whether or not you have empathy for victims of racism and sexism, they don't just need empathy, they fucking need help.


Empathy is not sympathy.

Empathy is the ability to model another individual's internal state. Sympathy is resonance with the emotional value of that state.

The more empathy you have for someone, the better you are able to anticipate and meet (or thwart) their needs. I can hope you will win a game of chess (sympathy) whether or not I can guess the next move you will make (empathy).

Empathy is the outcome you want. Racism, sexism - objectification is the inability to model another's internal state sufficiently.

Material restitution would not change these underlying dynamics, and, moreover, is hinged on an implied subsequent social egalitarianism that it does little to bring about. Reverse those material inequities without denormalizing the attitudes that put them there, and it's only matter of time until the inequities will return: nothing has been actually been done about the root cause. For that, empathy for the outgroup in question has to occur, to the point where people do not make the misapprehensions that are dehumanization, and treat them with the respect they deserve in an egalitarian society.

If you think this is impossible or unnecessary to achieve, then the reversal of material inequities you seek will only happen under the barrel of a gun - one pointed specifically at those groups who you consider responsible for the status quo. Moreover, in order to take that attitude, you implicitly judge them as incapable or undeserving of an egalitarian status in society. In other words, the specific discrimination of a group, based on their dehumanization. So, how is this not 'fostering oppression'? :)

Society exists under the tacit assumption that all our needs are being met appropriately. This may not be accurate, but only through empathy can that assumption be challenged appropriately.


>Reverse those material inequities without denormalizing the attitudes that put them there, and it's only matter of time until the inequities will return: nothing has been actually been done about the root cause.

Yes, but this problem is not a lack of empathy. Racists have plenty of empathy, it's just conditional on race. This liberal doctrine that empathy is the real problem is completely absurd. Empathy is for little kids who hit somebody and need to be taught to apologize.

The kind of environment that we have which fosters racialized hyperviolence is a little beyond the scope of empathy. Stuff needs to change at a material and structural level, reducing this to empathy at an individual level is a key fallacy of liberalism.

>the reversal of material inequities you seek will only happen under the barrel of a gun

You do realize that this is a very key strain of radical thought starting in Maoism, right? I'm not saying I'm a Maoist, I'm just saying that yes, there are people who believe that, and yes, they have a lot of reasons for it.

>one pointed specifically at those groups who you consider responsible for the status quo.

And why shouldn't it be, metaphorically speaking? The responsibility for oppressive systems which were constituted by a certain class to benefit said class (white, wealthy, male, etc) absolutely falls at the feet of that class.

>Moreover, in order to take that attitude, you implicitly judge them as incapable or undeserving of an egalitarian status in society.

They are deserving of egalitarian status just as much as anyone else. Unfortunately, the culture we live in is currently structured such that they are the only people who are treated as equals. Everyone else is the result of an imperfect striving towards that ideal.

This is the difference between Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. Of course All Lives Matter, but certain lives are under direct threat for the color of their skin and nothing else.

If I sound like I'm dehumanizing white men, it's because white men took it upon themselves to dehumanize everyone else, and I consider that violently inhumane. Nonetheless, their humanity is not in question, and they are in a good place to defend it themselves, and thus it needs little protection from me.

>So, how is this not 'fostering oppression'? :)

Yeah, completely lost you here. Sorry.

>Society exists under the tacit assumption that all our needs are being met appropriately. This may not be accurate, but only through empathy can that assumption be challenged appropriately.

But that is a terrible assumption to operate under. Humans are shitty, shitty people in general (I'm no exception) and if history has taught us anything it's that oppression and violence are constants in human society to some extent.

I'm all for transcending this past, but I think you're severely mistaken if you think we can do it through appeals to an abstract concept of empathy. We've been trying that since at least the Greeks, and it doesn't seem to have worked out too well. Better solutions are needed.


... I never thought I'd see the day that someone would argue that sensitivity to sexism and racism is white fragility and fragile masculinity.


Remote work is even more inclusive.


Remote work, in my experience, also tends to be managed/ rewarded largely on the basis of productivity.


The whole article is brilliant. I'd argue one great way to make this happen is remote work. Agree on some basic tools for text and voice chat and you're good to go. No stupid bro culture. No having to be seen working late. No dress codes. No bullshit. Either you create the product or you don't and get fired. Been working for years for my company and many others.


There's no shortage of corporate environments to work in for those who want it.


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It's an abuse of HN to use it for ideological battle like this. Since you've done it repeatedly in a particularly inflammatory way, we've banned this account.

If you don't want to be banned on HN, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and promise not to do this in the future.


"When America was 90%+ white (before ~1965), it experienced a huge surge of productivity"

Yes, by enslaving blacks and exploiting non-whites, women, and children, something that any population with a workforce of slaves could easily do in a country as big as the US thus making the "huge surge of productivity" hardly impressive and definitely not something to ever be repeated again.


[flagged]


We've asked you countless times not to post generic ideological flamebait like this, and we'll ban the account if you do it again.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14538494 and marked it off-topic.


Why so spiteful? You don't see any value in recognizing and trying to be respectful of the disproportionate difficulties and hardship that certain groups have experienced in the past? Especially as such things have been somewhat overlooked or ignored until recently?

This isn't a dynamic that will continue indefinitely. Similar to how individuals move on from events where they were wronged in years past, society will move on regarding many of the hot button issues today. For example, you don't see people hawing and hemming about women's suffrage these days.


It is not spite, it is contempt. A healthy well-adjusted individual doesn't talk that way about their own race and gender. It's toxic and I steer clear of such people.

You don't see any value in recognizing and trying to be respectful of the disproportionate difficulties and hardship that certain groups have experienced in the past? Especially as such things have been somewhat overlooked or ignored until recently?

It's not my responsibility, concern, or problem. I reject any attempt by anyone to insinuate that it should be. I also reject anything that is against my interests as a member of any demographic group I am a part of.

My position is universal and logically consistent (I expect the same of any other human being, no matter what groups they belong to). Is yours?


I think your interpretation of their statement is not something they would agree with. Which means you are arguing against a strawman.

You are welcome to feel that you have no responsibility to consider the difficulties other people have gone through. However, you may have a harder time connecting and relating to other people as a result. And that implies many other potentially undesirable ramifications...


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> Your transparent attempt to assume the moral high ground has been noted.

I wasn't attempting to do so. I probably could have been a little more careful with my wording, though.

> because I reject guilt via membership of demographic groups

It's not "guilt". It's simply acknowledging legitimate societal dynamics, and being considerate of these things when interacting with others.

Here's a basic example that I find very analogous: Imagine having friend who is currently struggling with money, and you have just received a large bonus. It seems very reasonable to be a bit more careful with how one shares the good news with this friend. In fact, it isn't hard to imagine a scenario in which one unintentionally comes off as a jerk if they didn't remember about the friend's situation.

If someone has experienced very little discrimination in life, then how is it unreasonable to tread carefully when asking difficult and potentially naive questions about discrimination to those who have experienced a fair amount?


I wasn't attempting to do so. I probably could have been a little more careful with my wording, though.

Alright, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

Here's a basic example that I find very analogous: Imagine having friend who is currently struggling with money, and you have just received a large bonus. It seems very reasonable to be a bit more careful with how one shares the good news with this friend. In fact, it isn't hard to imagine a scenario in which one unintentionally comes off as a jerk if they didn't remember about the friend's situation.

If someone has experienced very little discrimination in life, then how is it unreasonable to tread carefully when asking difficult and potentially naive questions about discrimination to those who have experienced a fair amount?

I can be sympathetic about the plight of an individual. But I am not of the opinion that living in a society full of people that belong to my groups is a net-negative for people that don't belong to my groups. Which seems to be the underlying assumption of wringing your hands over being a 'privileged white male'.


> living in a society full of people that belong to my groups is a net-negative for people that don't belong to my groups

This is not a statement I would ever make, or an analysis I would find valuable to explore.

Trying to compare the overall net gains and losses that different groups in society receive from each other seems both incredibly impossible, as well as unable provide any concrete, actionable information.

> wringing your hands over being a 'privileged white male'.

Once again, I doubt the author of the linked article would agree with this characterization. To me, it seems the author is simply trying to be considerate about a touchy, complex issue.

Being disappointed that the company one works for is lacking in diversity is NOT the same thing as being wracked with guilt over one's cultural background or privilege.

Edit: Made a few tweaks and tried to make my points more clearly. Hopefully you weren't already replying.


Privilege is a left-wing conspiracy theory. It is not rigorously defined and has no consistent logical basis.

Is my point clear? I reject the very notions upon which you want to base this discussion.

If you don't see guilt and hand-wringing when you see

Yesterday, I had a wide-ranging Slack conversation with some very nice people who patiently allowed this privileged white male to repeatedly touch the third rail of diversity and inclusion.

then you are being deliberately obtuse. No self-respecting person would write that.


I'm not dwaltrip, but I don't see that as hand-wringing either, for what it's worth. I don't think I'm being deliberately obtuse.


To be honest, this time it may have been a kind of joke or irony, not actual self-hatred. But of course there are people who really mean it.


[flagged]


At this point, it's an increasingly outdated original sin. Don't get me wrong - it's still a worrisome attitude - but such sentiments were at their peak between 1990-2010 and are now in decline (among the general population, not among the HN crowd). These days practically every socio-economic group has had exposure to the internet from a young age - this had done a lot to undo the programming that people undergo in the education system.


[flagged]


Please don't take HN threads on generic ideological tangents, the very worst kind of tangent.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14538494 and marked it off-topic.


"Cultural Marxism" is nothing more than a fringe-right conspiracy theory that develops into antisemitism at its worst. [1]

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20040217231449/http://www.splcen...


Cultural Marxism is not a conspiracy theory. It's simply a name for a strategy of advancing leftist political causes by using cultural institutions such as academia and the media; undeniably, there are leftists who do this, and they have openly stated that they do this. It would be a category error to refer to a strategy of political action as a "conspiracy theory", since no organized conspiracy is being proposed.

Saying that using the term "Cultural Marxism" is "antisemitism at worst" is nothing more than an attempt to preemptively scare off people from investigating the idea.


> Cultural Marxism is not a conspiracy theory. It's simply a name for a strategy of advancing leftist political causes by using cultural institutions such as academia and the media

Were that true, it would still be poisoning-the-well through guilt-by-association in naming, since Marxism and leftism are not equivalent, and Marxism (largely, though not entirely, as a result of guilt-by-association with Leninism) has strong emotional loading in most of the West, particularly the US.

It would be like calling the same thing on the Right (which absolutely does exist, also: everyone with a viewpoint they are trying to advance uses cultural institutions in that effort to the extent they are able) cultural Fascism.


Are you not aware that there are thousands and thousands of active Marxists in the US who proudly call themselves Marxists and who engage in political action for explicitly Marxist ends? Feel free to pop on over to /r/socialism or /r/communism to get acquainted with them (the type of anarchism espoused at /r/anarchism is also a very close ideological relative of Marxism, although strictly speaking, they are not Marxists). It's not poisoning the well to call someone a term that they voluntarily adopt for themselves.

To make it clear, I'm not a Marxist, but I don't think that it's inherently evil or outlandish to be a Marxist either. It's simply a philosophical position that I disagree with. So, there's no emotion when I (and many others) use the term, it merely denotes an ideological position like "liberal" or "conservative" does.


> Are you not aware that there are thousands and thousands of active Marxists in the US who proudly call themselves Marxists

Yeah, I've been involved in coalitions where some of the members were Marxist. That doesn't make labelling generic leftist action as “Marxist” any less of a false label and attempt to to use the emotional loading of “Marxist” in the wider society as a technique of poisoning the well against leftism generally.

> It's not poisoning the well to call someone a term that they voluntarily adopt for themselves.

It is, on the other hand, poisoning the well to use a label adopted by a small subset of a broader group to refer to actions of the broader group generally, when that is done specifically because of the negative emotional loading in the target audience of the label I question. Which is, at best, what is at play with the use of the term “Cultural Marxism”.


That's a good point. I'd be happy to admit that the term is somewhat vague and inaccurate, so as long people first acknowledge that it's not a conspiracy theory.


It is, on the other hand, poisoning the well to use a label adopted by a small subset of a broader group

Welcome to the synecdoche of online discourse, where the masses are responsible for everything done by the extreme fringe. Why deal with substantive arguments when there's a weak man [0] close at hand?

[0] http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/12/weak-men-are-superweapo...


Here's a source that otherwise: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sc1pi4

By the way, SPLC is radical left wing activist group at its best and an organization openly working against the Bill of Rights at its worst. If you can counter any of the points presented in the video, I would like to hear it.


The usage of Cultural Marxism on the internet appears to this reader to completely divorced from academic concerns.

I note that the author of your linked piece claims to be: "Fighting to save Western civilization one-hundred forty characters at a time." which implies to me a certain political agenda.


>The usage of Cultural Marxism on the internet appears to this reader to completely divorced from academic concerns.

[citation needed]

>I note that the author of your linked piece claims to be: "Fighting to save Western civilization one-hundred forty characters at a time." which implies to me a certain political agenda.

No one is claiming that the contrary is true, and the fact that he has an agenda does not dispute the facts he has presented (unlike SPLC's opinion-based piece).


Oh cultural "marxism", the meme that keeps on giving.

read https://www.academia.edu/10149049/The_Origins_and_Ideologica...


[flagged]


Please resist this kind of dismissive condescension towards other community members.


Here's a claim to the contrary: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sc1pi4


Am I the only one who gets the niggling feeling that anyone who uses the words "males" and "females" in their public dissertations like it's normal to refer to people the same way one does cable connectors must have a tenuous and possibly weakening grip on the real world?


> Am I the only one who gets the niggling feeling that anyone who uses the words "males" and "females" in their public dissertations like it's normal to refer to people the same way one does cable connectors must have a tenuous and possibly weakening grip on the real world?

I hope you are, because I don't think your "niggling feeling" has any rational basis. If you want to indicate the gender of a person, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the terms "male" or "female".

I guess I need to clarify that I'm using the term "gender" in the traditional, biological sense of the word, rather than the current fashionable sense that vicious scolds and busybodies insist that everyone must use.


> If you want to indicate the gender of a person, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the terms "male" or "female".

In English, "man" and "woman" are the preferred terms for male and female humans, respectively. "Male" and "female" are clinical and dehumanizing. It's like saying "Laura is gestating an embryo" instead of saying "Laura is going to have a baby." They're also just grammatically weird, because they're adjectives that have been turned into nouns. It's like saying "Ben is a Hispanic" instead of "Ben is a Hispanic person." Finally, they're one letter longer for no benefit.

Neither of the reasons people use "male" and "female" instead of "man" and "woman" are any good. The first is attempting to sound educated by using French-derived words like male and female in preference to German-derived words like man and woman. The second is that "male" and "female" punt on having to refer to the person's age, and in our era of perpetual adolescence people are terrified of being considered a "man" or a "woman."


>In English, "man" and "woman" are the preferred terms for male and female humans, respectively. "Male" and "female" are clinical and dehumanizing. It's like saying "Laura is gestating an embryo" instead of saying "Laura is going to have a baby." They're also just grammatically weird, because they're adjectives that have been turned into nouns. It's like saying "Ben is a Hispanic" instead of "Ben is a Hispanic person." Finally, they're one letter longer for no benefit.

Neither of the reasons people use "male" and "female" instead of "man" and "woman" are any good. The first is attempting to sound educated by using French-derived words like male and female in preference to German-derived words like man and woman. The second is that "male" and "female" punt on having to refer to the person's age, and in our era of perpetual adolescence people are terrified of being considered a "man" or a "woman."

No offense, rayiner, but I think everything you wrote is simply ridiculous on its face. Saying they're "clinical and dehumanizing" or "grammatically weird" are simply your opinion, which I do not share. And saying that "they're one letter longer for no benefit" just smacks of desperation.

If you want to indicate the gender of a person, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the terms "male" or "female".

But, as evidenced by this thread, there are people who want to make that usage taboo.


No Python programmer would say that it's "simply [an] opinion" to prefer using "for __ in __" to iterate over a list instead of indexing it using integers, even though the two constructions give you the same result. English isn't any different. Words carry "out of band" information, and good English speakers and writers choose words carefully to convey the intended extra-lingual meaning.

None of the reasons I gave are "simply ... opinions." They're based on the rules of the language. First, English has specialized words for people and things people do, and we use those words in preference to their generic counterparts unless we are purposefully trying to dehumanize the subject. It's not necessarily wrong to use dehumanizing language. Consider the word "human" versus the word "person." They basically mean the same thing. But "human" focuses on the biological species, while "person" also implies things like legal status and rights. So we might talk about humans migrating to North America 10,000 years ago, but we say that several people transferred to Google's California office from New York.

Second, "female" and "male" are typically used as adjectives, and it is weird to use them as a noun ("weird" being by definition what people don't typically do). It's not wrong (the Oxford English Dictionary does recognize that the words can be used as nouns), but it's weird, especially when there are perfectly good nouns to use in their place.


There is a reason that the Ferengi on Star Trek referred to women as females. It sounds weird and dehumanizing. This isn't a new thing either. The first Ferengi episode aired in 1987.

You can obviously believe what you want but know that people will judge you in a negative light if you talk like that.


To me these terms simply sound like how a biologist would talk about animals. But it seems they are indeed gaining traction among feminists for reasons I haven't cracked yet.



>The second is that "male" and "female" punt on having to refer to the person's age, and in our era of perpetual adolescence people are terrified of being considered a "man" or a "woman."

But many times you want to be clear you're referring to that sex, irrespective of age. So using "woman" isn't any shorter -- writers inevitably end up using clumsy constructions like "women and girls"[1]. We have a word for the union of the sets. Just use it already!

I'd be glad to entertain it as being dehumanizing if we had a less-dehumanizing, shorter term for the same semantic space. But as there isn't...

Similar issue for "male" and "female" as adjectives; to my ear, "woman doctor" and (especially) "man doctor" sound a lot clumsier than "male/female doctor".

[1] From a quick Google search, see the CDC and a big pharma comapny:

"Which girls/women should receive HPV vaccination? HPV vaccination is recommended for 11 and 12 year-old girls. It is also recommended for girls and women age 13 through 26 years of age...". (Emphasis added.) Lovely! http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv-vaccine-young-women.h...

"GARDASIL®9 ... helps protect girls and women ages 9 to 26..." https://www.gardasil9.com/


> But many times you want to be clear you're referring to that sex, irrespective of age.

I think it's okay to use "female" when you need to refer to that sex, which often arises in a clinical context anyway (as in your example). But how often is that the case? Typically, you see people say things like "they hired three new males at my office." They didn't hire three little boys!

> Similar issue for "male" and "female" as adjectives; to my ear, "woman doctor" and (especially) "man doctor" sound a lot clumsier than "male/female doctor".

Embrace English's Anglo-Saxon roots! http://www.plainlanguage.gov/whatispl/definitions/orwell.cfm. There is nothing wrong with using two nouns to describe something or someone: http://grammarist.com/grammar/nouns-as-adjectives.


>I think it's okay to use "female" when you need to refer to that sex, which often arises in a clinical context anyway (as in your example).

Yes, but enough writers take this confused hate seriously enough that they feel they have to tiptoe around using "female" even when it's majestically appropriate. You can't win!

>Typically, you see people say things like "they hired three new males at my office." They didn't hire three little boys!

If there were the possibility that they were boys (say, 13 year olds), and you wanted to make absolutely clear that the listener should not conclude they were all adults, and the gender was relevant to the point [1], then "males" would be preferable, yes. (I think this is the position the writer of the article was in!)

>Embrace English's Anglo-Saxon roots!

Sure thing! The vast majority of the population still rejects the construction "man doctor" or "man president", refuting the claim that "woman doctor" is somehow part of some consistent attempt to avoid dehumanizing language.

(I notice you still didn't provide an alternative to "female" as noun that indicates age irrelevance and is less dehumanizing.)

>There is nothing wrong with using two nouns to describe something or someone

There is when you do it inconsistently ("woman president" but not "man president"), and only in response to a collective outrage that won't provide you with a preferable alternative for the same semantic space.

[1] say, the role required you to only pair people of the same sex together, and finding enough males to meet the demand was an issue


The preferred usage (I'm told) is that man/woman is used for gender and male/female is used for sex. Gender is largely limited to humans, but humans also have a biological sex that is both difficult to ascertain in some cases and also completely irrelevant to most discussions around the workplace.

This also leaves open that there is room for more genders while leaving sex as a somewhat resolved issue.


>The preferred usage (I'm told) is that man/woman is used for gender and male/female is used for sex. Gender is largely limited to humans, but humans also have a biological sex that is both difficult to ascertain in some cases and also completely irrelevant to most discussions around the workplace.

>This also leaves open that there is room for more genders while leaving sex as a somewhat resolved issue.

Until relatively recently, the terms "gender" and "sex" meant essentially the same thing and could be used interchangeably. But these days, a small, but very vocal, vicious and vindictive segment of the population has decided that their definition of the word "gender" is the only one that is acceptable in public forums, so they deploy tactics ranging from public shaming to career destruction to enforce their own cultural taboos.

If someone wants to hold the unscientific (and IMO weird) view that, for example, "otherkin" is a gender, that is perfectly fine by me. I'm not going to try to stop them or convince them they're wrong. What is not fine by me is any assertion that I may no longer use the term "gender" in its traditional (and IMO correct) sense of the word.


>Until relatively recently, the terms "gender" and "sex" meant essentially the same thing and could be used interchangeably

Um, no, absolutely not, it's literally the opposite, the term "gender," was essentially introduced to be distinct from biological sex. Its entire purpose for existing is to be different from "sex."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender

>Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity. Depending on the context, these characteristics may include biological sex (i.e. the state of being male, female or an intersex variation which may complicate sex assignment), sex-based social structures (including gender roles and other social roles), or gender identity.[1][2][3] Some cultures have specific gender roles that can be considered distinct from male and female, such as the hijra (chhaka) of India and Pakistan.

>Sexologist John Money introduced the terminological distinction between biological sex and gender as a role in 1955. Before his work, it was uncommon to use the word gender to refer to anything but grammatical categories.[1][2] However, Money's meaning of the word did not become widespread until the 1970s, when feminist theory embraced the concept of a distinction between biological sex and the social construct of gender. Today the distinction is strictly followed in some contexts, especially the social sciences[4][5] and documents written by the World Health Organization (WHO).[3]

>If someone wants to hold the unscientific (and IMO weird) view that, for example, "otherkin" is a gender, that is perfectly fine by me.

Gender is not a scientific concept, it's a social one. Gender categories and concepts are not uniform throughout history or cultures.

Even biology isn't so clear cut, there also exists people who are intersexed to varying degrees. Is it "unscientific" to call someone who has female sexual organs but has a Y chromosome a women? Maybe, but it makes sense on a social level and if she wants to be referred to as a woman.


The modern concept of "gender" was introduced to be distinct from that of "sex", but the word dates back to Latin at least and, until repurposed, it was synonymous despite the strong specialization towards use in grammar: the gender of nouns, pronouns, articles etc. is aligned with the sex of things.

Of course, the aspect of cultural arbitrariness of grammatical gender (with different languages assigning a different gender to corresponding words) leads directly to the new psychological meaning of the word.


"vocal, vicious and vindictive" are the words you use to describe people who are saying "Respect the wishes of people who want to be referred to in a specific way".


>"vocal, vicious and vindictive" are the words you use to describe people who are saying "Respect the wishes of people who want to be referred to in a specific way".

You left off the "or we will destroy you personally and professionally" part. Those are the people whom I describe as "vocal, vicious and vindictive".


This isn't new, being needlessly rude has always destroyed you personally and professionally. I know a guy who lost his job for calling a coworker "Sugar Tits." I would not describe his boss as "vocal, vicious and vindictive" for firing him.

If you are polite to others and "respect the wishes of people who want to be referred to in a specific way" you will have no issues.

If you're being a dick you can be expected to be called out for being a dick, we live in a polite society, this is how these things work.


>If you're being a dick you can be expected to be called out for being a dick, we live in a polite society, this is how these things work.

True enough. And I happen to think that people who are trying to establish that referring to men as "male" and women as "female" are violating the rules of polite society are giant, throbbing dicks. So I'm going to call them out.


And I can say "people who take offensive to being called 'Sugar Tits' by their coworkers are giant, throbbing dicks" but that is completely irrelevant because we live in a society where that's not appropriate behavior. There can be consequences for violating social norms, this isn't a difficult concept.


> There can be consequences for violating social norms, this isn't a difficult concept.

I've already agreed with that. And referring to men as "male" and woman as "female" is not violating any social norms, at least not in the United States.


First you claimed "until relatively recently, the terms "gender" and "sex" meant essentially the same thing and could be used interchangeably" which is objectively incorrect and you've ignored that I pointed it out.

You also claimed that gender is some sort of scientific concept, which is also objectively incorrect.

If someone asks you to call them by "him" and you call them "her" instead, you are just being unnecessarily mean. This is not a hard concept to understand, be polite to others if you don't want to face problems in your personal life and career. Refer to people as they wish to be referred as. Asking you to do that is not "vocal, vicious and vindictive... [people] ...enforc[ing] their own cultural taboos" and quite frankly I find it disturbing you think is it.


>I hope you are, because I don't think your "niggling feeling" has any rational basis.

How frequently do you hear a friend, colleague or family member use the phrase "I met a new male/female the other day"?

This is deeply abnormal language use. It's perfectly rational to assume that such abnormal language use might be the product of these people receiving limited exposure to normal, healthy society.


It is often a bit of a red flag, but he only does it in one sentence. Overuse of "females" in particular is usually a bad sign.


I continue to find the use of "woman" or "women" as an adjective to be really grating. "Women firefighters", for example—we don't say "men nurses", ya know? Reads/sounds awful to me, like we're referring to someone who only fights fires for (on?) women, or does nursing stuff for men. To take dictionary.com's adjectival example, "woman plumber" seems like a gross euphemism for a gynecologist. Imagine "man teacher". Wow is that an ugly and misleading construction.

It seems like we only started doing it because someone decided "female" was suddenly a word to be avoided regardless of context, for reasons that elude me. "Male" seems to still be fine, fortunately.


I think the point is that using "male/female" as a noun is clinical and dehumanizing, but there aren't any issues with using the words as an adjective.


"Male" and "female" are fine as adjectives, but "female" as a noun is routinely used as a derogative, and definitely has that connotation in (at least parts of) the US.

I'm told it's not that way in the military, but it definitely is in many subcultures. Working with poor urban kids, I saw this all the time. "Don't listen to that female", etc. It's not something progressives just came up with--it's very much used as a derogatory term by a lot of people in the US.

(There is also the probably-related progressive concept of "people-first language"--you're not an "addict", you're a person who's addicted. Funnily enough, my first introduction to this was Cryptonomicon, and only in the past couple years have I heard it pushed by progressives.)


I think women find most of these clarifiers (that's how I see it, anyway) as a title worth being proud of. They've overcame social and potentially physical adversity to obtain this position (Female Firefighter, etc.)

I've probably heard Male Nurse vs. Nurse (who's a male) about 50/50 at this point. As the world learns that gender is not a prerequisite for nearly every job title, then these gender qualifiers will probably diminish.

Language is a slippery slope though. I don't think it should be read into too much.


I don't care about using a sex/gender modifier on the names of the positions, but using the adjectives women/men woman/man instead of female/male. Comes off really weird to me. We don't do it for men, we use "male X", which sounds/reads way better, and until very recently we just used "female X" too—I think the allergy to over/misuse of the noun "female" has bled over into these phrases, too, and the result is jarring and strange.

[EDIT] word "noun" where I intended "adjective" fixed.


- man nurse

- man housekeeper

- man secretary

- man escort

Wow, these all sound absolutely awful. How did the female, err, woman version become such an accepted construct?


+1, I read Woman Firefighter and auto-corrected it to Female Firefighter without second thought.


>we don't say "men nurses", ya know?

It's much worse! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murse


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