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I've read comments on Hacker News for many years, often finding them a useful source of additional information and insight into details from whatever the linked piece is. Sometimes these threads are full of only subtly veiled hatred and leave me with a feeling of disgust. This thread is one of those.

There have been countless threads over the years where a man gets the credit for something a team has worked on and there is practically never any comments about this. For once a woman gets credit and this thread is full of people complaining that there was an entire team.

Yes, there was a team, but that doesn't matter. For once a woman is getting credit for the great work they've done and this should be applauded. Stories like this help bring more women into STEM fields. Anyone who is complaining about the lack of fairness in this is making themselves look ignorant by ignoring the last thousand years of scientific progress.

In my experience this is common for this type of news about "prodigies" on HN. I remember the same types of reactions a few years ago about an article about a child who made the headlines (it even prompted a response by pg IIRC). Was it Malala? I can't remember.

I think it's just that many people feel threatened or inadequate when they (naturally) compare themselves to these people. It's tempting to put them down so that we feel better about ourselves. I think most of us here on HN like to think that we're clever but when people like Katie Bouman get under the spotlight suddenly most of us realize that we're not such hot shots after all.

It's probably worse when it's a woman/child/minority/... because it gives us the convenient excuse of "this is probably a PR stunt" to dismiss them. It's lazy and it's intellectually dishonest but it's also very human unfortunately.

Indeed, one of the most poisonous things going on in Hollywood/TV right now is writers and actors getting told they didn't get the job because "diversity is hot right now" or some similar rubbish. It reinforces the idea that "the best" people should get the job (not the best people for the job) whilst simultaneously implying that "diverse" people are not "the best".

This leads to people getting rejected thinking it's part of some culture war, when the truth is that most people get rejected, some of those people would have been brilliant in the role they got rejected for and it's exactly the same brutal industry that it was in the 1980s.

>In my experience this is common for this type of news about "prodigies" on HN. I remember the same types of reactions a few years ago about an article about a child who made the headlines (it even prompted a response by pg IIRC). Was it Malala? I can't remember.

For an example of this that involves a male, the media has been hyping the Ocean Cleanup project because it provides them with a great prodigy story, but people on HN have been rightly pushing back against its merits.

I would hope that isn't it. While her trajectory might be uncommon it isn't abnormal. This is the kind of thing you are supposed to do with a PhD from MIT.

But the amount of hours worked are probably insane. I wouldn't be surprised if she was in her lab 12 hours a day for her whole post-doc or something like that.

Many people are intelligent enough, but are not going to work hard enough.

Reading about this reminds me of Dawn Wall. The guy who climbed it was absolutely one of the best climbers in the world, but the reason he was the one to succeed was because he was the one of those best climbers who spent seven years obsessed with a single wall.

She became interested in this problem in high school and stuck with it all the way through. She is a genius, and also the genius who did the work that let this happen.

the closest one that comes to mind is the teenager who was credited with that article summarizing algorithm that I think Yahoo or someone ended up buying. My memory is pretty hazy on it, but in that case it seemed more like a group of researchers actually made it and I'm not 100% certain how he was connected. I remember that one getting a bit of "hey, what a second" kind of comments about it.

I think in this particular case, I have no problem with it. One, she obviously had a big part in it. Maybe it is blow back because they feel a picture of the inside of a black hole isn't a big deal and people are making it into something big? In my opinion, it is. I remember middle school teachers almost scoffing at the idea of a picture of a black hole and yet, 25 years later, here we are. Regardless, she in her twenties has generated something that researchers spend a lifetime trying to find so kudos to her. I'm sure there is a certain gendered element to it in both cases (for and against) and it'd probably be naive to think there wasn't.

Even if this were a smaller aspect of what these researchers were aiming for, I'd love to see a documentary series on what various team members worked on (and in her case, discovered). An image generated by radio waves and she (maybe with others?) was able to construct an image out of that? That's impressive. Probably not, but I'd be curious if this kind of thing could be localized in a way that it could be the "sound to visual model" element of a system so that blind people could make out the world a bit more directly (obviously, there'd need to be a means for them to consume said model. All of this is way above me and my pay grade).

You were probably thinking about the startup Summly, which was founded by a 16 yo [0]. Summly eventually got bought by Marissa Mayer while at the helms at Yahoo! for $30 million [1].

0: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3399377

1: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5442290

I am glad she got credit and I am glad in that respect she got treated equally. I am a little sad that her gender is a 'thing', as in I think I have seen more comments on various news site comments, social media, etc. that are quick to specifically point out she is a woman. I get they are trying to be positive, but it also has this weird reverse side where it is like "An amazing feat in STEM has been achieved, but you better brace yourself, it wasn't done by a man, it was done by a woman! A real living woman!". I understand the argument of needing to make a shout about it to help encourage more women into the field and to try to push against previous years of women not being in the limelight for work like this. But at the same point, every time it is specifically called out, it feels like something that is (obviously) only done for a woman, so therefore it is treating the achievement differently than if a man had achieved it.

Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Anyway, I do not want to sidetrack from this amazing achievement.

Yeah, the most important fact for the humanity that they did it, they created the first image of a black hole, is it a man, a woman, a child, a muslim, a white man, what does it even matter?

I kinda hate the recent trend to focus more on gender or race if somebody achieves anything. Look what Morgan Freeman said about racism [0]. Is it really important that she is a woman? Do people think a lot of women can't achieve these things? And if 1 woman achieved this, all women are better than men? Do everybody just expect men to be smarter and if they do something outstanding it's ok, but when a woman does it, it's extraordinary... Why focus so much on this?

In discussions like this we should really focus on the person (and also the team behind her/him, I doubt she could do it alone without the team), not the gender or race or whatever.

I really hope this positive discrimination hype dies out, it doesn't help anybody. Let the best person for the job get the job.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3cGfrExozQ

If a headline said “the man who discovered the cure” you wouldn’t think they were making a big deal out of his gender. You only see it as being attention-seeking because you are experiencing cognitive dissonance, and you are blaming it on their language instead of your mental patterns.

Spot on.

I think this might be one of those cases where we just have to agree to disagree, but I, well, disagree with the premise that the reaction to men is any different on this point.

There are regularly posts here linking to articles about misattribution of credit in science and technology, the problem with the "great man theory," laments about the role of social media in creating hype, and there are plenty of male figures discussed here who engender bitter discussions about how credit should be assigned. I honestly don't see any difference between this discussion and any other discussion. I seem to remember similar discussions emerging about discovery of the Meltdown and Spectre hardware vulnerabilities, and many other physics discoveries involving large teams of researchers, just to take a few examples.

The way credit is assigned in science is a significant moral crisis in my opinion (as it is in work in general; cf. rampant income inequality), and it really doesn't matter what the genders of the individuals involved are. Strangely enough, I think attention is being paid to this argument here because of her gender. It's one of these unfortunate circumstances where I think two competing ethical goals are kind of conflicting, one being the better representation of women and minorities in science, the other being lack of fair representation for all in credit.

Yeah, these arguments happen all the time, with plenty of male figures as well.

It's the same on Reddit.

The sheer toxicity of many of the comments is something I haven't seen for a long time. They really hate that a women is getting credit and that others aren't getting the same level of attention.

I wonder how those same people think about Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs etc. They had huge teams behind them as well.

Yeah I'm reading all these comments and I hope these people are NOT the sames ones asking why more girls/women don't get into tech, because I've been a programmer for > 8 years and shit like this is off putting to me, a grown ass woman.

Dumb attitude.

For every extraordinarily recognized academic/professional person, there’s always going to be many times more people who are never publicly recognized for their achievements.

Maybe they fly under the radar, maybe they picked the wrong subject to focus on or industry for career, maybe their timing is bad, maybe there’s nothing wrong with them.

I’m proud of this (stranger to me) girl for accomplishing something so large at this age. Being about the same age, I’m not jealous - but it is one more reminder that somewhere along the line my record-player skipped a few years. My 20s disappeared too quickly, or maybe I was focused on the wrong things (work) instead of passion.

Agreed with you that her accomplishment is great.

As in engineering, it's helpful to use proper terminology with people:

if using a gender is necessary for the narrative …

- under 13: girl

- 13 – 18: girl / teenager / young woman (depends on context; 16? – 25?)

- 18 or over: woman

Some additional anecdotal information on the above comment:

My wife absolutely loathes being called "girl". It is used to reinforce the toxic idea that women are less mature and capable than men. Same feeling from other women that I've discussed this with.

18 or over = woman.

it's important not to allow age-based vocab to drift when you are talking about a woman vs. a man, but I think it's more contextual than you present it. there are plenty of males over the age of eighteen whom I would not refer to as "men". if you changed only the gender of these people, I would probably not refer to them as "women" either.

Eh, if it was a man, a lot of people would call them a guy and nobody would care. Girl is opposite both boy and guy and encompasses the range.
aphextim 12 days ago [flagged]

Please stop spamming the thread with this link. This doesn't meet the bar for substantive discussion here.


I like how you highlight some admittedly minor commits in big scary red boxes while ignoring technically significant ones like "added function to figure out amt of systematic noise you need to add to get a chi squared of 1",

This is why people say there's sexism in tech bud. A male MIT PhD who was the public face of their project would not be subjected to nearly this much doubt and accusations of being deadweight by insecure 4chan weirdos combing through git logs.

Yeah, this comment section is really bad.

As someone who's been interested in astronomy my entire life, and considered getting a degree in it but only ended up with a minor since I sensibly prioritized CS and wanted to graduate in four years, this is an awesome, amazing, really clever accomplishment. And yet many of the comments here are just so negative, either outright sexist, picking nits and trying to argue that it isn't a big breakthrough or anything, or going through code contributions line-by-line trying to establish that really someone else had more to do with it.

All I know is, she must be insanely intelligent and hard-working. What an awesome PhD project, and at MIT no less!, an institution that I have enormous respect for and that I somewhat identify with because my dad attended and I've been there for many events. I'm jealous. This would've been the exact kind of thing I'd have gone into in astronomy for (because of my background in programming) had I seriously pursued it, but I know I'm just not diligent enough to have seen it through. And being honest, I didn't apply myself well enough in undergrad to have gotten good enough grades to get into a good grad school.

It sucks that so many people jump into "push people down" mode instead of "life people up" mode in these kinds of situations rather, because this is an amazing scientific accomplishment that deserves celebrating. One of the PIs in one of the press conferences said that this was the most important accomplishment in astronomy since 2014 [when Rosetta landed a probe on a comet], and I tend to agree. It's not just about this one image, but about establishing the feasibility of a virtual planet-sized radio telescope that is capable of imaging lots more than just black holes. A lot more discoveries are likely to come out of this technique, and guess who came up with the algorithm to make sense of all those petabytes of data?

I agree with your general sentiment but two comments:

1) Look back at any physic journal for similar stories of experimental success (example gravitational waves), you won't find news stories of focus pieces on a single team member because it is a COLLABORATIVE effort. The only cases were single people get recognition is for theorists like Prof Higgs, Hawkings etc, but not for the individual experimentalists at the LHC or other astronomical projects.

2) The idea of focussing on a single team member is a technique for creating a clear narrative that readers can follow. The story would get less interest if you were told about the live and works of all of the team members.

It's not all hate :)

Craig Venter

Hacker News isn't some monolithic community. Each time, you're seeing different people express their opinions. There's no hypocrisy there.

I think it's friggin awesome to see women in science. But even if Bouman was male I would still be cautious of attributing so much of an international collaboration to one person in the form of "Meet the _____ behind the first black hole image". That phrasing disregards too much hard work. I see no reason to offer Bouman special treatment in this regard at the expense of others solely because of her gender. That isn't equality.

I don't really think she's getting special treatment because of her gender though. I think she's in the spotlight because:

1/ She led the team and was first author on the image reconstruction paper

2/ She gave a Ted talk on the topic a while back

3/ There's a brilliant photo of her initial reaction to the image that captures the excitement of scientific discovery circulating on the internet

Thanks for mentioning the Ted talk, I'm about to check it out now.

The first headline on Google for me when searching "black hole image" is this very BBC article.

It was clearly written to grab the reader's attention, and it grabs it away from the actual phenomenon as well as all of the other brilliant minds who came together to make this happen.

She led the CS team. But very-long-baseline interferometry has been around for half a century. Heino Falcke proposed the experiment. Shep Doeleman led the entire EHT initiative. Scientists around the world brought techniques to the table.

I imagine even Bouman takes issue with being labeled "the scientist behind the first image of the black hole". She is surely aware and appreciative of the massive international effort involved.

Her existence is not a distraction from the science, and her being a her definitely isn’t. If it distracted you, that sounds like a you problem. You could try spend time reading about various women’s accomplishments until their gender is simply a fact rather than a “distraction”.

You are arguing against a strawman. I never made any such claim that "her existence is a distraction from the science".

I never made any comment as to her gender being a distraction, either?

Your post is very mean-spirited, ignorant of the views I just expressed, and honestly I don't like your implication that I am not familiar with the accomplishments of women in the past, especially in my field. Or that I have a problem with their gender. Ada Lovelace and Joan of Arc are two of my greatest inspirations! Cut the obvious virtue signalling.

My entire point is that gender has no bearing on this discussion. It's a discussion about misattributing a massive group effort to one individual. The point is that gender should not play a role in either direction, because that would be sexist. Everything you've extrapolated upon you just pulled out of the aether and not my mouth.

Yes, quite a number of big academic, scientific or industry figures have had stories about their achievements without any major reference to their (obviously necessary) team. No-one felt moved to point out there were contributions from the graduate students and staff that worked with Yann LeCun, Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio in the HN story about the latter three's Turing Award.

I don't think I've ever seen so many people suddenly desperately concerned that the Little People get a mention, and I'm at least part-way convinced that gender (and maybe youth? she's 29...) has a good deal to do with it (apparently the other thing that triggers the "harrumph, what about the team" crowd are stories about child prodigies, according to another thread).

“Women and children” is a phrase for a reason: men tend to treat both patronizingly, rather than identifying with them.

Imagine you had just had your invention create a picture of a black hole, you wrote the paper where you were the first author describing this and then the press came knocking: would you be as gracious as she has been? Or would you feel like the fucking rockstar you would, in fact, be?

I think there is a misconception here.

Dr. Bouman is a talented, enthusiastic and no doubt indispensable force on the larger team responsible for this achievement. Her role is as a co-lead for one small team which is responsible for one algorithm (out of four) used for imaging, as well as for an imagine verification algorithm (with Dr. Bouman's focus more on the latter). The larger imaging group (about 45 people by my rough count, led by Drs. Michael Johnson and Kazunori Akiyama) is itself one part of the analysis group, which has three other working groups, and then the analysis group is one of a half dozen larger groups in the EHT project which produced this result.

So it's not a case of the project lead being presented as the face of the project, which is par for the course in academia (and the outside world). It is a postdoc one level above the grad students who form the least-senior rung of the project, and many levels from the top suddenly being misleadingly presented as the key figure in a major result.

Imagine you worked on a small team of a couple of postdocs and a few grad students near the bottom of a hierarchy of teams involving hundreds of people, and then came in one day and your colleague and co-lead at the same level as you was suddenly presented as the face and key contributor for not only your small slice of things, not even the larger component to which the slice belongs, but the entire project?

You'd probably be pretty happy for them, but also confused as to why the many people with the actual role as overall group leaders or the project leaders aren't mentioned. One might also note how distant the general public is from the machinations of the academic world that no one is asking how a 20-something CS postdoc ended up leading a multinational astronomy project involving top faculty from top institutions? In terms of notability and improbability, that would probably be a bigger story than any image produced by the group!

Explaining her actual position and contribution is not in any way to detract from her contributions: only to clarify the record in the face of an onslaught of misleading media articles, which seemed to largely sourced (transitively) from a few misleading tweets, themselves triggered by a viral image.

On top of that, none of this is doing Dr. Bouman any favors. Although they are mostly silent, no one in the EHT project is confused about her role, and none of the other people in her faculty or almost anyone else who matters will be under any misconception despite the headlines. If anything, academia is even more picky than other fields when it comes to attribution, so any type of misplaced credit can be viewed very negatively and can attach itself to a person indefinitely. Now she hasn't invited this or propagated this story, so one should consider her a blameless victim here: but not everyone in a position to care will necessarily remember that subtlety.

Are you personally involved with the project? I'm curious about the motivation to write (via a throwaway account) a massive thesis debunking the supposedly excessive contribution given to someone who you also refer to as a "no doubt indispensable force".

In much of STEM women are basically at parity. With computer science, and engineering being obvious exceptions. Further there is a study which has shown that in countries with greater gender equality women choose STEM occupations less. Overall women get more graduate degrees than men and have been for the last ten years.

HN seems to have an unfortunate problem where any time women are promoted in tech it creates incredibly toxic threads with lots of thrashing and gnashing about how unfair it is.

One needs to just look at another large thread that generated controversy to get an idea of the growing trend [1].

Which means one has to ask themselves: Is HN cultivating an environment that's only going to get worse? And personally, I think the answer would be yes.


I think those comments try to react to the fact that this news got overblown because the researcher is a very talented woman.

She definitely did something amazing and unfortunately it turned political because it fits the narrative that some people love to push currently.

I'm not a fan of the liberal agenda of positive//negative discrimination. I really believe that it is making everyone worse off, especially women that are being treated like little kids that need to be shown the correct path.

Nobody is aiming to treat women like little kids.

We just want to show that you if you accomplish something in tech you aren't going to be diminished or dismissed simply because you're a woman.

Is there some blind spot people have when a woman is involved? Achievements by men are run through a gamut of informed and not-so-informed criticism all the time on HN. Bouman is getting standard treatment.

I disagree with the premise that it is possible to overblow the news about a picture of a black hole. What kind of crappy nerd thinks science is getting too much press!?!!

> Stories like this help bring more women into STEM fields

How do you know?

One of the reasons I felt isolated in STEM 20 years ago was the very lack of role models. That's changing and I know for a fact, as I interact with young women, that seeing another woman in action as a professional in STEM helps them feel there is a place for them. It definitely fosters a sense of encouragement to pursue higher dreams.

What prevents you from taking a man as a role model?

I do! And many of them. But imagine you have a strong, particular physical trait and you are in a room with others who do not share that trait. Usually you forget about it, but sometimes it matters because you have to use a different bathroom, or you don't get easily invited out for drinks because of tension or maybe you don't speak the language well, or maybe there are perceived cultural barriers. If you saw someone on television or in the news about someone with your trait and excelling in your field, imagine how delighted you would feel! That somehow, after all you do belong in that field. It's a natural human response to want to feel part of a community, and that's hard to do when you are a singular type of a clearly-visible trait.

Except in most of STEM there are already an equal number of women. As soon as the baby boomers retire itll be obvious. Women get more PhDs than men, and have been for a while.

Do you work in an office with low-level programmers and hardware designers? I do, and I'm one of a handful of women in the building. Actually at the moment, I'm the only one and I'm lobbying for our new hire of managing director to be a woman but it's likely not going to happen because I can't find someone qualified. When I teach in the field at my university, I'm the only woman. And I live in a very popular, large city. Even less, as owners - when I go to a conference of hundreds of businesses, I'm maybe one or 3 or 4 in my field who owns her company. We're not equal yet. Maybe California and the East Coast have some slight more balance, but it's not distributed to the rest of the world yet.

In spite of this, I'm lucky to have an amazing network of other women in my field, and thanks to the internet and cultural exchanges, we don't feel so alone these days.

EE is from what I have seen one of the most, if not the most, male dominated field in STEM though. I am not sure why, but it could be that it is not old enough to be traditional, but not new enough to be accessible. Wouldn't surprise me if there are more women in EE research than in EE.

Unfortunately, we're not there yet in California, either.

I worked at one of the most progressive / women-friendly companies in San Francisco, and as of last year, only 34.3% of our technical roles were filled by women (company size ~1,000). I'm eager to see this year's numbers, and hope they've improved, but there's undoubtedly a lot of room to grow.

tropo 12 days ago [flagged]

Your "lobbying for our new hire of managing director to be a woman" is fuel for rage and even return fire. I hope you can see how it might be used to justify discrimination in the other direction. You aren't being fair.

Your statement is ignorant of office and network politics: I work surrounded by men who communicate professionally with men, primarily. At conferences they drink and socialise with each other. It's harder as a woman to get into these networks. When there is an opening, this information spreads via the network. Which has few women in it.

You may feel uncomfortable knowing the hiring process is weighted. But I feel uncomfortable being in an office that doesn't have other women. If I can change that WHILE at the same time meeting my hiring standards AND not consciously turning away a clearly better candidate then absolutely, I'm going to use positive discrimination.

I'm a man and I am ignorant of this alleged man-only social network that supposedly helps me get notice of job openings. Doesn't that suggest that it doesn't exist? If it does exist yet I'm ignorant of it, doesn't that suggest that the same might exist for women? I propose that there is a woman-only social network that is helping you to get notice of job openings, and you are exactly as ignorant of it as I am ignorant of the one helping me.

The women-only network is tiny. It's true, we rally together and encourage more women to work with us, for fear that the field of STEM will continue to be unbalanced. Where the continued creation of technology is primarily designed by and for the global minority (non-working class men), we lose out on innovation and this affects everyone.

Women make up 48 percent of the total work force, yet only 24 percent of STEM workers https://haasinstitute.berkeley.edu/women-stem-its-not-just-n...


15% of engineering professionals are women https://ngcproject.org/statistics

Women make up less than 10% overall in computer science and engineering https://www.higheredtoday.org/2015/03/03/where-are-the-women...

It seems very likely that as a woman, you would have an easier time to get into those assumed networks (and so would other women). Don't believe all the propaganda.

A 'role model' is someone who shares your background and is successful in an area of interest where you would like to participate/contribute (science, art, sports, politics, ...) . It's someone who demonstrates that 'someone like you' can be successful, too. Therefore, the closer this role model is to your inherent and unchangeable properties (age, sex/gender, origin, social class), the more it can inspire you.

Surely, a man can be a role model for a woman in science (and vice versa) - e.g., if you are from the same small ethnic minority as the role model. However, male/female lifestyle, upbringing, interests, challenges, etc. are quite different in general, even in otherwise very homogeneous (western) societies. Therefore, the role model having the same sex/gender is very important.

(Just my view - I don't have evidence or experience in this regard).

>the closer this role model is to your inherent and unchangeable properties (age, sex/gender, origin, social class), the more it can inspire you. //


I call bunkum on that. TBH it seems both sexist and racist to say one can only be inspired by people of one's own characteristics (in science).

In this case the sex and race are irrelevant to Bouman's contribution AFAICT.

If you were talking about someone like Payne-Gaposchkin, then she overcame a deal of sexism, fair enough.

The whole she did it and had ovaries, omg, seems so condescending and unnecessary.

Dude where does it say we can only be inspired?

> The whole she did it and had ovaries, omg, seems so condescending and unnecessary.

it's not omg she had ovaries, it's omg she did it, knowing she's going to get shit on by people (e.g. these comments) instead of applauded for what her and her team did for science. That's how it's inspiring to me.

>A 'role model' is someone who shares your background and is successful in an area of interest where you would like to participate/contribute

That may be your personal definition, but that is not the actual denotation of "role model". Some definitions I found are:

"a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. "


"a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others"

There is no mention or qualifier of it needing to be someone who shares one's background


This is exactly the kind of comment that make these threads toxic.

Gender, like it or not, shapes the life experience of an individual. Why would you not want to have a role model that had a similar life experience to your own?

Except, inevitably, when a woman expresses that desire, it gets called "toxic feminism", and the justification is, wait for it: the personal anecdotes and experiences of a male.

I am shocked that in 2019 there is still so little self-awareness around this.

So the personal life experience of a male doesn't count for anything? THAT is what I would call the actual toxic attitude. What makes women unable to have male role models, but men able to have female role models? Is there a difference between men and women, then? Is that what you are saying?

By that logic, why shouldn't I as a man say "fuck women in STEM", because apparently we will never be able to communicate about anything meaningful anyway. People who make it clear they don't care about my opinion, why should I want them in my life?

I stated my reasons why I think focusing on gendered role models is misleading and harmful. Fine, you may disagree. But calling it toxic and "mansplaining" - that's not furthering discourse, and frankly, if that is your attitude, STEM may be better off without you anyway. After all, science is about keeping an open mind, among other things.

>So the personal life experience of a male doesn't count for anything? THAT is what I would call the actual toxic attitude.

Ah yes, the classic: "I'm not toxic, you are!".

Where in my original comment did I say the male perspective, anecdotal as it may be in a given context, counts for nothing?

I didn't.

What I did say was that a singular, anecdotal male perspective was not appropriate as a justification for depicting a woman desiring a similarly-gendered role model was somehow indicative of "toxic feminism".

>What makes women unable to have male role models, but men able to have female role models?

No one said they couldn't, but you're depicting what was said as far more benign than it really was. You didn't ask an open-ended question about it, you specifically categorized said desire as "toxic feminism".

>if that is your attitude, STEM may be better off without you anyway. After all, science is about keeping an open mind, among other things.

Maybe one of the STEM fields will be able to develop a device that can accurately measure the immense amount of irony bundled up in that sentence.

Same merry-go-round as usual in these threads:

Subtly patronizing comment(mansplaining if you will), someone points out "hey that's kind of toxic", original commenter retreats to victimhood and "I'm not toxic, you are! No one has an open mind about this kind of thing etc...", and around we go.

If you want to pretend like STEM doesn't have a centuries-long history of fairly uneven footing for other genders and minorities, and accuse everyone of suddenly being close-minded and toxic, fine, but you're going to have a hard time cashing in the victim card when someone points out the ridiculousness of it.

You twist all the words - I suspect you are not really reading, just rerunning your stereotypes in your head.

I did NOT say desiring a female role model is toxic feminism. Feminists claiming women need female role models is toxic feminism. There is a difference.

And that is what feminists claim, because they need this claim to support their victim narrative of why fewer women are in STEM.

No point commenting your other stuff, because you completely misrepresented what I said.

And by the way, you directly called ME toxic, whereas I made a general comment about feminism.

Yes, "role models" are a good indication of how weak or strong our social capital is. Our society is increasingly fraying apart, so much so that people are now unwilling to view others as fundamentally sharing the same humanity and social outlook as themselves, unless they happen to share some shallow but somehow salient features like gender, ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation and so on and so forth, that make them a part of some increasingly narrow "tribe". This kind of thing used to be seen as a significant social faux pas, but increasingly we see it being accepted.

(FYI I'm not directing this anger at you dude, it's generalized) what the fuck don't people understand about a woman wanting a woman role model? I got the same questions asked to me in the Marissa Mayer thread a day or two ago.

Like yeah I got some male role models too, but fuck I want some representation! Someone who I can relate to! Someone who I know went through what I did!

"Someone who I know went through what I did!"

Which is what, exactly? What is so fundamental different abotu your experience? The immeasurable pain of being a minority in a group of people?

A few things. I wouldn't say these if I didn't think you had the capacity to listen and learn.

1. Your tone is excessively combative for Hacker News. If you're put off by my saying that, ask yourself what a non-combative way to take that in and reflect on it would be. As a concrete example, you said "What makes women unable to have male role models, but men able to have female role models?", in a thread after the OP had already replied to you that she had/has men as role models. It implies either that you aren't listening, or that you're being antagonistic for the sake of being antagonistic. Neither is welcome here.

2. Using phrases like "toxic feminism" make you sound intellectually feeble. Try to be more specific and concrete about what you're addressing without using charged words like that. Unironically using the phrase "toxic feminism" instantly undermines any argument you might make. Again, if your point really is to learn from / share with others, find ways to communicate that don't put up walls.

3. If you're legitimately interested in finding out about why representation matters — and I sincerely hope you are — this is a good piece on it: https://medium.com/@uxdiogenes/just-a-brown-hand-313db35230c...

This paper[1] gets at it for one.

From the abstract:

" Consistent with the importance of exposure effects in career selection, women and disadvantaged youth are as underrepresented among high-impact inventors as they are among inventors as a whole. These findings suggest that there are many “lost Einsteins”—individuals who would have had highly impactful inventions had they been exposed to innovation in childhood—especially among women, minorities, and children from low-income families."

[1] https://academic.oup.com/qje/article-abstract/134/2/647/5218...

Why do you want to change the behaviour of women regarding their choice of study field?

You misunderstood. We want any person, women and young girls included, to be able to pursue a career path, if they have even the faintest desire of it, without self-censorship, negative remarks, feeling out of place, their vocation and/or skills being continuously challenged randomly, or having to cope with various forms of harassment. If you build an environment that allow that, women presence in the field surge. And then you see retrospectively that many women wanted to try this field, but it was really the field that didn’t want women to try. Because, as you will probably agree, desire for a career is not natural destiny, it’s the result of many factors including avoiding being hurt.

Maybe you can help me understand. So how do you explain why there are fewer women in STEM fields in Scandinavia and more in Turkey, Tunesia and United Arab Emirates?

Well at least according to the paper "The Gender-Equality Paradox in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Gijsbert Stoet, David C. Geary"


That is some just-so-story that doesn’t present a disprovable hypothesis. There was a better-supported causal hypothesis floating around that exposure to the internet, in particular, turned women off of CS because the culture #onhere was so full of sexism. Try looking up “ambient belonging”: I remember some thing about all you had to do to get more women interested was change the decor to not suggest they were going to have to put up with sexist bullshit if they chose the field.

Do you realize that women aren't a monolithic group? Various effects can be at play at the same time - women preferring on average other kinds of work isn't an argument in favour of discriminating against those that do not.

Scandinavia has hundreds of years of mostly unbroken history in STEM. It is literally the home of the Nobel prize. It isn't really comparable to nations that have rapidly shifted their workforce and industries more recently.

In more equal societies women tend to choose STEM less though

> without self-censorship, negative remarks, feeling out of place, their vocation and/or skills being continuously challenged randomly

This is the life of all men in competence hierachies. All of these things happend to me within the last half year and have been since I was a boy. Doesn't matter in the least, you couldn't pry me away from my interests with a crowbar.

This is your real problem: generally, girls want to be invited, boys just do.

The reason I speak up at all and will take all the abuse and downvoting thats sure to follow is it irks me so much.

We got into PCs and didn't matter one damn if they came from space aliens or out of the dumpster. We sat at them, we sat at them and we got scolded for it and told to go outside and called nerds. Our status was absolute dogshit and few women would associate willingly with computing in any form.

I am old enough to remember that at parties we mumbled "something with computers" and smiled apologetically hoping the topic would move on. Yes, many of us spent years, decades even, feeling slightly ashamed of our profession.

Now that the best and brightest of us nerds literally reshaped the world into a place where your personal handheld computer became a status symbol here come the women.

And you know, it would be okay, we are very tame men overall, except now you claim your collective absence from this topic is because we hurt you. No, we did not, you all just didn't like computers.

To add to this, another important question to ask is: what kind of equality, in general, do you want? Do you want equality of opportunity or equality of outcome? They are mutually exclusive.

Optimal application of talent. The concept of "choice" isn't very consistent, especially when applied to populations instead of individuals.

Really? You could easily find comments on here talking about how Steve Jobs wasn't really the genius at Apple, but rather it was Steve Wozniak. We do care who really did it. Always.


> I'm copying my comment I made on reddit

Please don't. HN threads are supposed to be for people conversing, not copy-pasting.

She obviously deserves some credit, and you can see she got some for her hard work and skills, i.e., she already has a tenure track position set up at Caltech. But rarely do post-docs actually get credit. The credit they get is usually by PIs in seminars where they mention their students or try to get their students jobs. The person who provides the funding for the project, not the one actually doing the work is the one who usually gets the credit in science. She was the first author but not the PI hence her getting credit may be a bit unusual. There have been countless post-docs and grad students who have made discoveries and were never mentioned in press.

However, she may be a superstar, no pun intended, and so her getting almost all of the credit is completely warranted, but graduate student and post-doc are training roles, and a lot of the time the post-doc won't really make a name for themsleves until they establish their own lab, because it is unclear who is producing the ideas.

Citation needed? I’m a postdoc, and that doesn’t ring remotely true. At least in CS, authors get most of the scientific credit all the time, and not just in citations to “FirstAuthorSurname et al.”, or in giving talks about the work (especially in CS). They’re the ones doing most of the hard work and thinking.

Advisors often range from consultants/consulents to managers. Not because they’re not smart, but because they seldom have months of uninterrupted time to focus on a problem intensely enough.

How kind of you to suggest that she deserves “some credit” for the paper where she was the first author. That totally makes me think this is rooted in something other than you assuming there is no possible way someone who looks like her and sounds like her actually deserves credit for this incredibly fucking cool science.

She started working on this problem in high school, and worked on it across multiple institutions. If the PI should have gotten the credit, she wouldn’t be first author.

Can you point to some of those threads (men getting credit)?

Search for Elon Musk.

You would say that's the same thing? Seeing as Elon Musk initiated all the things himself (and raised/provided the money)? I don't think he is getting credit for constructing rockets, for example, but for making the project happen.

There was, however, an extra article about his rocket engineer on HN. Mabye that is more like it.

Fun fact: Elon Musk is not the founder of Tesla. He became an investor and board member a year after the company was founded by two other people. His role grew and now he is synonymous with the company.


I guess we didn't the read the same threads about Elon Musk on HN.

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