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Female Founder Secrets: Men Clamming Up (femfosec.com)
1005 points by femfosec 20 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 1449 comments



All: if you're going to comment, please make sure you're up on the site guidelines at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and that you're posting in the intended spirit. Here's a brief refresher: Curious conversation is good. Substantive comments are good. Thoughtfully sharing personal experience is good. Flamebait is bad. Personal swipes are bad. Ideological boilerplate is bad.

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A quick reminder to read the article before commenting. HN usually has a better track record of this, but this is a particular issue people are sensitive about so don't draw your conclusions from the title alone.


Female founder friend (non tech space) was in a female focused incubator / competition. She got only one set of somewhat critical feedback - ie, lacks experience in X and Y which are key in product space Z.

She posted a comment on her social media focusing on this feedback as "criticism" that came from a sexist guy "of course". It was pretty easy to draw the line to the three panelists, one of whom was a guy. Ouch.

In a previous life, I'd worked in a awesome (female led!) product company. While I had no experience prior to this, I quickly realized that the product itself and its quality etc was almost irrelevant to success, the X and Y mentioned by the male panelist was unfortunately everything, which you'd only know if you were in the space itself. The female led company I worked for was bought out by a (male led) competitor, who then using much strong x and y skills - cleaned up. Company I worked for got basically nothing.

Fast forward - my friends business not doing so great, she asks me for feedback. I said nothing other than enthusiasm. Partly because I was really enthusiastic - she'd put her heart into this project. But her comment on social was in my mind - I had no desire to be next sexist guy "shooting down" an idea

She's out of the business I think mostly. Anyways, this parallels the take of the article.


I've had similar a few times. The most illogical was had a sales person (female) telling me (male) about how girls cant get ahead in the company, naturally in context to themselves.

I asked them what their boss was (female) and their bosses boss (female) and til a few months before, their bosses bosses boss (was female and recently changed to male). Was not a happy look I received.

And 100% there is sexism/racism in workplaces but in my small bubble of the world it feels a reasonable proportion of people put these kind of excuses on their lack of progression over looking inward, but I've tended to work in more progressive environments so maybe I've missed what the wider world is like.


maybe she was talking about Queen Bee Syndrome?

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


But saying a woman has queen bee syndrome is misogyny, right?


Would you please stop posting flamebait comments? You've done it repeatedly in this thread already. We're trying for more substantive discussion here.


This victimhood mentality is atrocious and is something I recently wrote about. I don't normally do this but here's a shameless plug if anyone wants to read a bit more about this phenomenon.

https://inconvenientconsiderations.blogspot.com/2021/03/hero...


I've found that women in particular seem to really try to avoid any form of "open conflict" and seem to have a much harder time taking any form of "criticism".

I'm much, much more likely to feel like I'm walking on eggshells around women, this happens with men also, but more in a personal setting.

This combined with the whole metoo movement certainly didn't help women in receiving frank feedback or mentorship.


Thanks for sharing this. One of the best pieces I've read on the topic, it's sad to see society's shift in this regard. I agree with you, and we can't know yet what the consequences of this will be in the long term. It seems like it matters less and less how good we are at what we do, and more and more what "class" we are considered to be in.

In my view there are few things more rewarding than taking control of our lives, and stop blaming others for our own shortcomings.


I'm glad you enjoyed it, I agree entirely about the reward in finding a sense of agency of ones own life. The mentality I wrote about has a way of robbing us of our independence and leads to a deeply rooted unhappiness. I truly believe it to be a major contributor to so much of the turbulence in the world today.


Very nicely put! Thank you for this. Hits softly when you’re past this obstacle. The big question for me is how to show this to your dear people in a kind and helpful way.


Your article hit home, very good read. Does your blog have an RSS-feed, or is there somewhere I can 'follow' you?


Generally append rss.xml or atom.xml to a blogspot url and you've got it.

https://inconvenientconsiderations.blogspot.com/rss.xml

https://inconvenientconsiderations.blogspot.com/atom.xml


Thank you! I see another user replied to you about an RSS-feed, do you find their answer sufficient? I don't have any social media presence as of yet, I'm just getting into blogging and that was my first ever article.


Thank you for this read. Very observant and insightful in only a few words. Communism is the outcome if this mindset continues. Like you said, we must teach others not to believe the lies of victimhood. Thank you so much for sharing. Teach it to all you encounter.


This reminds me of a previous workplace.

An otherwise cool female coleague kept making claims people were misogynistic, at first I thought she was joking or that she did have some claim, because someone made an unintentional mysoginistic joke.

Then I left the company, and I talked with an ez coleague who was promoted as a team lead.

The guy was into some new age stuff, about helping everyone, and she was slaking/not interested; the higher ups wanted to fire her.

Not my friend, he really believed in her.

When it was clear she was about to be fired, she complained about him to the HR, that he's sexist and all that.

That guy was the least sexist guy I've ever met and the only one caring for her.


> someone made an unintentional mysoginistic joke

"mysoginistic" in the sense of "I literally hate women" or in the sense of "I think women are less capable than men" or "I liked a physical feature of her"?

There's more to choose from, the list of things that are called "misogyny" nowadays has gotten incredibly expansive.


You are right, I should have said sexist joke.

I witnessed such a joke, from a brogrammer -- he thought it was funny, but noone else did, especially knowing how sensitive the female coleague was -- someone broke a pot of plants and he said "Why should we clean it, we have plenty of women around here" -- I just know the guy, the tone of his voice, and so forth, and I know he just tried to be funny, but at the end of the day, that was a sexist remark, we knew it, he knew it after he said it, he should have apologized, but he didn't.

But that was the only instance that struk me as sexist, and the guy always helped female coleagues, in no way did see any other "bad behavior" from him, it was just that guys generally have thicker skins when it comes to jokes and jabs, and he was usually very friendly, I've worked in male teams that were outright toxic, he was nothing like that.


Even that example is very suspect - lampooning sexism is not sexism.


It's a very, tired joke, and context matters. Like how jokingly saying "call over one of the nerds, they'll sort it out" regarding a difficult problem would be okay in a technology company, but on the risky side (as in, likely to cause a bad feeling) in high school.

Of course, high school kids haven't learned etiquette and don't care, but we want to hold higher standards in the workforce.


I agree context matters, which is why the context from the second paragraph of the parent comment is rather important.


I think the concept is pretty straightforward? It's if you believe women < men generally (not like, avg(women height) < avg(men height)).

The last one, "I liked a feature of her" is not misogynistic absent of context. The context here is really important. It's like saying "I like your haircut". Did I pass up promotion for another person in a non-modeling job because they had a shitty haircut?


I think the problem was the "unintentional" part, which seems to be contradictory.


I clarrified it, basically someone made a remark/joke that is clearly sexist, but he never displayed sexism at all.

It was just unprofessional I would say.

For instance I can appreciate a dark joke that would clearly be sexist/racist/antisemitic/homophobic, I can even reproduce it in a like-minded circle of people, and I still don't consider myself sexist/racist/homophobic.


You are right that context is everything, but it works both ways.

You can make a sexist joke without being sexist, but it can still be inapropriate/unprofessional, and it can still cost you dearly.


Not sure I understand the analogy. You mean speaking professionally in a professional context is not (should not be?) misogynistic. Then is it not a little strange that you're commenting on a person's haircut, who is not applying for a modeling job for which they're required to cut their own hair?


You seem to be implying that it's not professional to mention a haircut. What is unprofessional about it?

I've had my haircut mentioned at work… because I'd had a haircut. It's people trying to be nice or make conversation, and neither of those things are unprofessional.


Parent comment seemed to mention promotions based on appearance? Something else?

I understand your point, of course, but it does not actually explain theirs.


Fair enough, I should've taken that into account.

I work from home so the only person who remarks on my hair is my wife, and her comments, if overheard, might pass for misandry. I'm trying to forment a Twitter mob against her in response.


If you take a step back, you could actually look at this as a sign of progress in society. Things are moving enough for sexism to be a concern to a company - even if it's for cynical reasons and it has been weaponised by a dishonest person. Progress is bumpy and people can end up suffering during a transition.


The problem is what is good for society can hinder progress in certain individuals, as in this case.

It's not just a regular weapon, being acused of sexism or sexual harassment or God forbid rape is a nuclear weapon, it can do such tremendous damage to an innocent man with zero damage to the one making false allegations that there's no wonder men a really careful.

We have reached a local peak for sexual equality, but I don't think it is possible to move forward as long as mens lives can be completely destroyed by false allegations.


> The problem is what is good for society can hinder progress in certain individuals, as in this case.

That was exactly my point.

Sexism in the workplace has gone from normalised, to being recognised as a potential issue, to having a process which can deal with it all within my lifetime. To expect a perfectly executed deescalation undoing hundreds of years of history across all of society is disingenuous.


This could easily be made into hilarious copypasta


What were X and Y?


I won’t even pretend to know enough to be able to solve this problem. But does your social circle not include other female friends that you could discuss the optics of this situation with? Or better yet, be honest with the female friend that you wanted to advice, pointing out what she had done before and expressing your apprehension in providing critical feedback?


"But does your social circle not include other female friends that you could discuss the optics of this situation with?"

Respectfully, this shouldn't be on the person from whom advice is being sought, but on the asker.

"Or better yet, be honest with the female friend that you wanted to advice, pointing out what she had done before and expressing your apprehension in providing critical feedback?"

If someone asked me this, I'd probably think they used hashtags like #redpill or were into bashing Ellen Pao or something. It comes across as, "you can't say anything these days without being offensive, men in tech are soooo mistreated."


>If someone asked me this, I'd probably think they used hashtags like #redpill or were into bashing Ellen Pao or something. It comes across as, "you can't say anything these days without being offensive, men in tech are soooo mistreated."

Wise moderates don't even join the conversation on social media. A wise decision for an individual, but it's harmful to all of us collectively. One negative side effect is people assume that everyone is an extremist of one stripe or another.


the oppression olympics get nobody anywhere

the problems genders face are interrelated, invalidating all men that complain about something just because of a history specifically disenfranchising women will not help your cause


> If someone asked me this, I'd probably think they used hashtags like #redpill or were into bashing Ellen Pao or something. It comes across as, "you can't say anything these days without being offensive, men in tech are soooo mistreated."

Interesting. I hesitate to accept your interpretation as the universal one, because my experience has been that there are ways to express these concerns without coming off as a bigot. Perhaps more education, awareness or discussion is required.


> my experience has been that there are ways to express these concerns without coming off as a bigot

Please share with us. I can't think of a single way to express these concerns without looking like a "red piller". The mere fact someone even has concerns marks them as suspicious and harmful.


This is a fair question - not sure why you are getting down votes.

Background - I'm actually on the left a fair bit. So one issue - you are not supposed to really ask minorities / women to explain / teach you / help you deal with these issues because it in fairness burdens them. I'm not looking for that either.

In terms of my colleague who I'd mentored in past (before things had gotten more extreme). I think others have made good suggestions - do you want some suggestions that may have already been made (it's never truth really - just another persons guess) or comfort.


> "So one issue - you are not supposed to really ask minorities / women to explain / teach you / help you deal with these issues because it in fairness burdens them."

Well, yes and no. I can see how it's a burden, but they're also the people with the most hands-on experience. If they won't explain, how can anyone else learn?

Because it is a serious problem, and not solving it is not acceptable. Of course men, or whichever the privileged group in any particular case is, have a responsibility to listen and learn, but that only works if someone is willing to explain.

Although I'd love to agree that it's the responsibility of the oppressor or privileged group to fix the problem, it has got to be a collective responsibility. You can't help people without the involvement of the people you're trying to help.


> Well, yes and no. I can see how it's a burden, but they're also the people with the most hands-on experience. If they won't explain, how can anyone else learn?

Take a sociology class at your local community college, read a book, read some blogs/articles by women, people of color, and other minorities.

There are a lot of really good ways to learn from the people who have taken the time to write/speak about the issues they face.


> I'm actually on the left a fair bit. So one issue - you are not supposed to really ask minorities / women to explain / teach you / help you deal with these issues because it in fairness burdens them. I'm not looking for that either.

Thank you for pointing this out. You’re absolutely right on this one, and I would retract my suggestion if HN allowed me to edit the previous comment.


“Only I’m qualified to talk about my experience” vs. “It’s not my job to educate you.” Can’t have both.


I have female friends who would advise the same thing as the OC.


> lacks experience in X and Y which are key in product space Z.

Obviously you didn't post the feedback, but I wonder how this was phrased. If the feedback was "improve X and Y", I think I sympathize with the panelist. The feedback was solicited! If it was framed as "unlikely to succeed because inexperienced in X and Y" then I think that crossed a line from critical feedback to a somewhat demeaning comment, even if it was right.

Regardless of how it actually played out, there's a good lesson here that you should be mindful of how your communication is understood. It's not enough to be right, it's important to speak in a way that makes sure what you're conveying is delivered in a useful way.


What the people in this thread are saying is that when there's nothing to gain by speaking, the most foolproof way to be mindful of how your communication is understood is to not communicate. That's a great life principle that goes a whole lot farther than this particular subject.


Completely agree, in the face of a person who is possibly hostile, or just in general a person that generates a lot of uncertainty what incentive could you give me not to stay silent?

People need to think about it in terms of incentives, what incentive do I have to try communicating with an incredible mindfulness and scrutiny that I might then fail at. The failure to do so properly could have potentially endless downsides? The default incentive is always going to be avoidance as much as possible. Not because of any desire to be sexist, but because is the instinctive path of least resistance.


> or just in general a person that generates a lot of uncertainty what incentive could you give me not to stay silent?

not OP but the silence is a feature that allows you to actively listen[1] which is impossible when trying to come up with an answer while the other person still speaks.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_listening


I don't think anyone is accusing people of not listening to each other, at least not in the context of this thread. The issue is people actively listen, and then decline to provide any meaningful feedback on what they just heard as a means to avoid controversy. Me listening to someone doesn't do much good if I decline to contribute to the conversation afterwards.


"A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."

- Joshua/WOPR

edit: clarified provenance to the best of my ability.


I guess the internet is wrong in some places.

It was the computer WOPR who said this in the WarGames movie.


I believe in the film NORAD names their Supercomputer WOPR, but the AI gives itself the name Joshua. Not sure, it's been a while. Guess it's time for a rewatch!


The person who built the AI named it after his dead son.


^ this

The problem is that in the investing world, often not playing is losing.


This is also known as 'Half of winning is showing up'.

Heroes are mostly martyrs. Bulk of winning is done by showing up every day and doing small improvements, slowly albeit steadily. This is today's culture is called 'below average' or 'mediocrity'.

Consistent sustained mediocrity, and occasional 1% progress is 99% of success.


There are better and worse ways to communicate, sure. But fundamentally, you cannot control how people interpret the words that you say.


That doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to be sure you're communicating thoughtfully.


In general, but the risk-reward ration is now way off, as the author of the article mentions, so why risk it if you potentially face harsh repercussions.


If you've been thoughtful in your reply, there should be no risk of repercussions. Post your message publicly. If you were thoughtful, no reasonable person should be able to look at your communication and fault you. If you weren't thoughtful, you deserve the scorn for proving the point of the person who called you out. If you're not confident that you can be a decent and empathetic person in your communication with others, then yes, I suppose that's a good reason to avoid putting yourself in a position where your foot can enter your mouth.


This is a fantasy. For every person who thinks you're being reasonable, it's highly likely there's another one who takes offense of some kind.

Even if only 5-10% of people took offense, it's not worth it to speak your mind.


Even if 0.1% of people will try to start witch hunt it is still better to avoid answering.


This reminds me of the idea of physical risk for someone with a lifespan of a 1,000 years. If you're 60 with an average lifespan of 70, your actions are risking 10 years of life. If you're 60 with a potential lifespan of 1,000 years, you're effectively risking everything and might be inclined to be more risk averse.

When public discourse magnifies the risk of your comments, you'll tend to be risk averse also. Once upon a time, your opinion would be spoken almost all the time, and perhaps put in a letter rarely. The effort for anyone to raise hell over a minor quibble would involve spreading the word, and doing so enough to find the rare people with a tendency to join you. Go back decades and that is infinitely less likely.

Now, chances are your comment is in writing or recorded, and even if it isn't, the quibbler can broadcast their version of events to increasingly wider circles in seconds, at no cost and with virtually no effort.

I delete half of the comments I start writing online, thinking "What's the point? At best, one person appreciates it. At worst, thousands want to argue."


This is why 20-somethings are extraordinarily risk-averse ;)


Yeah, that's often raised in the hypothetical. Typically, older people with the least remaining life to risk are the least rash with their decision making!


> If you've been thoughtful in your reply, there should be no risk of repercussions.

But in real world it is not true, and risk of witch hunt based on lies/misinterpretations substantially increased in last years.


> "If you've been thoughtful in your reply, there should be no risk of repercussions."

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.", attributed to Cardinal Richelieu.


Something about LOC and Bug Count :-)


> If you've been thoughtful in your reply, there should be no risk of repercussions.

I agree that there shouldn't be, but as life advice this is a bad thought to operate from. If someone doesn't like you or what you've said, there's always a way to put you in a bad light. With discourse that contains a lot of risk, it's probably better to just avoid it.


You are projecting your own thinking style onto the "other" person with this. There are many people who have a pathological sense of responsibility (that is, they have NONE) and will always react defensively to any feedback.


Thoughtful is the keyword here. If it’s not a thoughtful person they might spread close to lies. For example: -masks help! -no what helps is distance! This is what my doctor said. A non thoughtful person would say that is antimask, and it might imply it, but until you ask the person that directly, you don’t know and there is so extremely much bad faith articles online that spring from polarized anger.


When I say “there are better and worse ways to communicate”, that is what I’m implying. Of course you should try. But the way in which we adjudicate these matters should take into account the fact that perfection is impossible. We have no silver bullets here.


In collaborative situations, the vast majority of the time you should try to trick others into critical thinking instead of using logic to explain things.


A risk here is that this is even trickier to do right, and is even more dependent on the person receiving it. It’s very easy to accidentally come across as condescending.


Ahhhh...is there a name for this, and does it have any sibling techniques?


Not sure why you're downvoted. I'm open to suggestions.

The Socratic Method is similar. But it differs because it is trying to expose a contradiction in thought about a particular subject through questions. Whereas you can trick others into critical thinking about a subject just by helping them think critically in general, and it can be done without the use of questions.


I get precisely -1 on 75%++ of my posts regardless of the content, I chalk it up to "one of those HN things".

Your trick a great idea though, thanks for raising it!


Hello friends...let us test this one, shall we?

God bless. :)


Where is the other manchild?


Only one?


Socratic method?


Them having their own interpretation doesn't mean you did anything wrong, nor that they should have no expectation of reason.

Thoughtfulness is for the aware, and many investors aren't even aware of how they can be raked over the coals by a bloodthirsty mainstream outrage machine for something minor, petty, completely misinterpreted, or intentionally twisted for click bait.


I disagree.

Effective communication requires effort, but many people speak impulsively and fail to convey what they actually mean. If someone is unable to clearly express themselves without being misunderstood then either their thoughts need to be distilled further or the statement needs to be carefully worded.

If I am not responsible for how people interpret my words, who is?


You're not wrong, but the key insight is that one key technique for careful wording is "clamming up".

Personal example. A friend mentioned that a new hire at her work didn't have to go through as much interview training as her, and she was wondering if she should take offense. If she were a guy, I would have said something along the lines of "come on, 'amount of interview training' isn't a real status marker, you're getting worked up over nothing". But I strive to be an effective communicator, so I couldn't just bluntly refute her feelings like that; it'd sound like I'm denying the very real ways that women can be subtly mistreated in the workplace. Instead I clammed up, and she ended up deciding to file an HR complaint, which is unlikely to have a positive impact on her career.

Is there any way I could have told her what I thought without being misunderstood? Sure, maybe, if we'd had 30 minutes to sit down and talk about a bunch of abstract principles. Is there a strategy that would have fit inside the 30 seconds of conversation we had on the topic? I don't think so.


I am unsure. I would say maybe if there is a lot of trust there. I offered candid responses before with mixed results. I did get into minor trouble but nothing horrible. Looking back at the experiences though, I still think twice before responding and I am a very talkative person.. In short, I am not sure you could have helped her there. Frankly, the person, whose first reaction is running to HR is not likely to be my best friend.


> Is there a strategy that would have fit inside the 30 seconds of conversation

What about: "I personally wouldn't have cared about that." -- then you didn't say what you thought she should do, instead just what you yourself would (not) have done.

And she could have used that as a data point when making her own decision.

And, optionally continue with: "you got more education than X, I wonder if that might as well mean that the company decided to invest more money in you, maybe a good thing for you. Maybe X could have filed a complaint about that as well"


Create a fake female role model employee that was previously at the company. Talk about how that role model was successful despite challenges X and Y because she did Z.

Of course the problem with this is that the facade will crumble at some point because the person doesn't exist.


Someone I know got their career start as a janitor. Their first boss would teach technique by saying things like, "We used to have this guy, he mopped the floor like this (demonstrating), can you believe that? I do this now."


> If I am not responsible for how people interpret my words, who is?

Not everyone that you speak to is objective or level headed.

Maybe they're low-sugar and crashing. Maybe their dog just died.

You have absolutely no way to prepare for all of the ways someone will be ill-equpped to handle their day. And this is probably a high percentage of people at any given time.

But we can't afford a society where everyone treads on egg shells.


>If I am not responsible for how people interpret my words, who is?

Others too.

First because "Effective communication requires effort" from BOTH sides.

And also because others can deliberately misinterpret your words for their own gain, or because they're biased, or because they've been primed by factors outside your control, or for lots of other reasons...

>If someone is unable to clearly express themselves without being misunderstood

That has been the case for everybody for the entirety of history.

There are better or worse ways to express something, but there's no foolproof way to express even the simplest thing in a way that you "wont be misunderstood".

Sometimes even saying "yes" or "no" with the wrong tone (or what the other person perceives as the wrong tone) can be misunderstood.


> Others too. > First because "Effective communication requires effort" from BOTH sides.

Yes, but we only have control over our own side and have to make it as easy as possible for the receiver to do their part.


This speaks directly to the parents point.

https://youtu.be/3WMuzhQXJoY


Your comment only works if it’s possible to construct your words so precisely that there is no way to misinterpret them. You honestly believe that’s possible?


Upvote. Need to know. Ready to make Wish spell.


Ironically, I’m honestly unable to interpret your response. Are you listing examples of sentences that are 100% unambiguous, in conjunction with a third sentence that is unintelligible?

If that is the case, then it doesn’t invalidate what I’m saying. I’m not saying it’s impossible to create unambiguous statements. What we’re talking about here is complex conversational speech, especially in regards to sensitive topics that people feel strongly about. And specifically, we’re talking about the usage of such speech in everyday interactions, in which words have to be formed on the fly at a rapid pace.


nothing nearly as heady, mate. Just pointing out the obvious trope about wish spells backfiring because unambiguous wording is absurdly difficult. It's all throughout media -- so your argument must be something that people should be able to easily intuit.

I'm agreeing with you.


Ah, apologies, I misinterpreted (because language is hard) :p


Brings to mind the (quite funny) movie 'Bedazzled'.

However Brendan Fraser's character tries to phrase his wishes, the devil finds a way to mess him up.


He is talking about how Dungeon Masters can interpret https://roll20.net/compendium/dnd5e/Wish any way they like. (never played D&D myself)


Oil lamp genies try to fulfill your wishes in the worst way possible.


No I don't, I'm being misunderstood even in this thread!

What I do believe is that as the speaker I have to do my very best to make sure the receiver can understand what I'm saying, they have to do their part too, of course.

If the speaker neglects to choose their words with sufficient care, or the receiver doesn't make an effort in their interpretation then the balance of understanding tips away from being 50/50 and chaos ensues.

Sibling comments mention all kinds of secondary factors such as mood, bad faith, bias, but these are clear violations resulting from the offending side not making the necessary effort to meet half-way.


ANyone who has ever dealt with paranoia knows that an uambiguous sentence does not exist.


> Your comment only works if it’s possible to construct your words so precisely that there is no way to misinterpret them.

Not really. We have a responsibility for the effects of our actions. There is a practical limit to how far we can take worrying about those effects, but that doesn't mean the responsibility goes away.

The same is true for considering how different audiences will interpret your words. You have a responsibility do take those interpretations into consideration but there is a practical limit to how far it can be taken.

However, I believe the listener shares some of the responsibility to consider other (possibly more generous) interpretations beyond their initial reaction.

If both parties do this, is is remarkable how quickly disputes get resolved. If neither party does this, a conversation accomplishes nothing.


>We have a responsibility for the effects of our actions. There is a practical limit to how far we can take worrying about those effects, but that doesn't mean the responsibility goes away.

Doesn't it? I might sneeze and inadvertantly cause a typhoon in Malaysia through the butterfly effect but I can't possibly know or predict that, so how can I take responsibility for it? What does "responsibility" even mean if it's practically outside of your control?

I would argue that the limits of our responsibility are defined by practical limitations. We can't take responsibility for accidental negatives, any more than we can take credit for accidental positives. If you tried to account for your entire impact on the universe, regardless of the practicality, you'd be paralysed with indecision.


You seem to have missed my point and tried to explain the subtext of my argument to me.

The point is that the line for what you are and are not responsible for is a grey and fuzzy one that depends on the context the the decision, the magnitude of the decision, and your own capabilities as an agent.

My point is that the limitations of trying to understand how your words may be interpreted are similarly based in practical considerations.


>Not really. We have a responsibility for the effects of our actions. There is a practical limit to how far we can take worrying about those effects

If you can lose your job because someone misinterpreted what you said (or chose to misinterpret something clear), then that "practical limit" can get quite high...

>If both parties do this, is is remarkable how quickly disputes get resolved. If neither party does this, a conversation accomplishes nothing.

Well, if every person loved each other, then there would be no crime either!


Let me play devils advocate here: I got offended reading your post. And (according to what you said) you are clearly responsible. Now how are you going to compensate me for my harm?


What did you find offensive? Your beat bet is to explain how you understood what I said and how it was offensive to you. That will give me the best bet of understanding how you and people like you interpret the things I say.


No matter how well you believe you have expressed yourself, it is always possible for someone to take your words the wrong way (not the way you intended them to be taken). You can, and should, take the time to craft what you say so that it best (given constraints) represents what you want the person to understand, but that is not always enough. Sometimes, people hear what they expect to hear, not what you say.


Yup, language is a sort of compressed code that exploits model biases. If the receiver's model is biased in a different way than the sender's model decoding fidelity plummets.

Put differently, expectation is half of sensing. That insight goes back at least as far as Helmholtz.


please also take into account that unlike theoretical systems the real world is a constantly moving target. the moment that I've formed an opinion it is probably already outdated within the nano-second an additional thought has entered my subconscious and is waiting to be integrated into what I think is my "truth".


So, we're mostly engineers here. Let's use an engineering metaphor. We're trying to achieve interpreters communication. We need to send some piece of data.

We'll simplify down to three elements: the serialization process, the communication medium, and the deserializatiom process.

The serialization process is our speaker. How well can we represent our data in a line protocol? Do we lose fine details, maybe data types get converted? Do things get entirely mistranslated, like a zero value becoming a null? A speaker can do a poor job converting their thoughts (data) into words (serialization format).

The medium is how the data gets exchanged. Maybe details are lost (again) via headers being stripped, or sourced getting over written. People can lose a lot of information based on medium as well, in particular text based communication, different cultural context, or just a noisy room.

Finally, there's deserialization. No matter how well formed your line protocol, how reliable your medium, the receiver can have a library that incorrectly decodes the data. Ints can become strings, zeros can become nulls, formatting can be lost.

So, as you said the speaker is responsible for being thoughtful and careful, but even if they are the listener can get the wrong message due to their own flaws or even just circumstances. And that is leaving aside intentional misrepresentation, which is a problems unto itself.


There is also a related idea in engineering, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robustness_principle

"Be conservative in what you send, be liberal in what you accept"

It seems to me this can defuse some communication issues between people too


Yes, in this context "be liberal in what you accept" really nicely mirrors the good old "assume good faith".


You forgot 99.99999% of what matters when communicating: the context/culture/shared model of the world. You can send a single word and in one context it is a death sentence and in another context it shows that you are part of the group.


I felt I covered that with:

> People can lose a lot of information based on medium as well ...[including] different cultural context...

Perhaps I missed what you mean?


I disagree

I am deeply aggrieved by your clear insinuation that your parent comment is a dim-witted noodlehead.


>If I am not responsible for how people interpret my words, who is?

This is backwards.

You have no control over how other people think, behave or react, let alone how they interpret your words.

Your words can be effective or ineffective conveyors of your thoughts. You are responsible for your words.

Your listeners can be effective or ineffective listeners. They are responsible for their interpretation.


Sure.

But distilling an idea can take lots of time. In the startup partner scenario, one want quick, honest feedback and start the discussion to refine the idea.

Holding up ideas from your partner is... Less then ideal.


The other party. You can't fix broken people.


A good point.

It was basically as part of scoring of ideas. I think in the weaknesses box the panelist had noted lack of experience / plans with respect to X and Y. So while I would make a suggestion, this was probably more in critique space.

The issue was more - unless you'd been in the space, you wouldn't realize that THIS issue was actually perhaps very important in the products success. Since I'd been a part of a business that had gotten TROMPED on for a similar set of non-product issues - it hit home.


It might be demeaning. But it's still not sexist.


My wife, who is a second wave feminist that believes that women should be given the same opportunities, but are not victims, ran across some of the craziness a few years ago.

She was in a tech forum where a woman was complaining about her experience at a company. It amounted to this woman having a perception that she was not being valued as much as a male colleague and was immediately jumping to the conclusion that it was sexism. My wife jumped in and suggested that from the sound of things, it sounded like there may be some other things going on that this person could work on and that it may have nothing to do with sexism etc..

The other people in the forum, including men, crucified my wife for those statements. This along with her daring to suggest in other women in tech forums, groups etc. that not every piece of feedback that is not positive is sexist led her to be banned from several women in tech organizations. Many would not even tell her why, but if they did it was for "being harmful to women" and "suffering from internalized misogyny" among other things.

Given her experience alone, not to mention other things we have all seen in the community none of this is surprising to me. Ironically, one of her concerns when she saw the "micro-agressions" etc. trend take hold, beyond the fact that she felt it was trying to fix one wrong with another, was that it would lead to this...and here we are. [edited for clarity]


Feminism as it is practiced today in the West is a lost cause, but it's been dying for decades. Like many movements around social justice it was hijacked by radicals and became totalitarian in its beliefs, to the point that it brings dubious value to or even harms the interests of most women.

The big topics like violence against women have not been properly addressed and feminists focus instead obsessively on minor topics like abuse of Hollywood actresses or gender imbalance in software engineering.

The strategy has also changed - such factions are focusing less on equality and more and more on taking something for themselves, transforming the dialogue into an us versus them and turning it hostile. The problem with this thinking is two-fold:

1) One can take only so much before the ones that are being taken from push back, especially since there's no shortage of groups that want to take.

2) Other factions also want a piece of the pie and don't care about female victimhood. Feminism has for example failed to tackle both culturally influenced violence against women perpetrated by misogynist immigrants and the zero sum game they play with transsexuals.


preach


There is a form of entitlement that is becoming pervasive where people believe they will walk the world and face none of its ills. If you are a woman you will 100% deal with sexism. If you are a minority you will 100% deal with racism. If you’re not in the ‘in group’, you will deal with isolation. This is part of life.

We as a society only step in collectively when these things happen at an egregious level (what was going on in Hollywood), but if you think you won’t face some degree of it in your daily life then you are just not covering your bases. One must have the resiliency to deal with some of it, and that is fair and reasonable to expect because the contract is we are tolerant of imperfect humans as a society (that those who are sexist and racist have a flaw but are not evil, and we tolerate this imperfection through patience). It’s never going anywhere.


She's lucky to have been kicked out from such a toxic environment.

What I do personally is to just avoid all of these people.

I have the impression it's harder to avoid them in California because people are particularly brainwashed over there - which is one of the reasons I avoid California as well.


as someone that has lived in other states for many years and now recently returned to California, I am finding this out the hard way as well. The issue is that the toxic environments simply don't realize how toxic they are. They think they're doing good and changing the world and most laughably, "smashing the patriarchy" by simultaneously reaping its benefits.


Nothing in my personal experience counteracts this.


If nothing else this will be an interesting time for historians to look back on. At some point sanity must set in and after that I wonder how they will reflect on this period.


Well, its a pendulum that was swung for very long time into one extreme, and now it swung into the opposite similarly extreme one. We can hope that over time things will get to some sort of balanced state, but that might be a wishful thinking for very long time.

It's also quite geographic - in this case I mean US-centric (and spreads to rest of the western countries). Ie in eastern europe/former eastern bloc, there wasn't so much sexism, all women had to work and generally things were way more balanced. Not saying it was perfect, almost nothing there was, but to see current trends from that perspective looks like a bit as western world going slightly cuckoo.


THIS!

> It's also quite geographic - in this case I mean US-centric (and spreads to rest of the western countries). Ie in eastern europe/former eastern bloc, there wasn't so much sexism, all women had to work and generally things were way more balanced. Not saying it was perfect, almost nothing there was, but to see current trends from that perspective looks like a bit as western world going slightly cuckoo.

have spent the past half a decade living in various countries from the former Eastern block mostly working for local companies and not much exposure to the outside. Over here women are generally more comfortable with choosing jobs in STEM and the male reaction to them isn't seen as competition or as toxic as it seems in US. idk what's the reason but perhaps they are not allowed to behave like princess barbies by their parents. But as you indicate the whole cuckoo from the US is spilling over to this region as well. Thanks to Instagram (beauty standards and trendsetting) and US propaganda that tells people how to apply any kind of norms (which is compared to "old" countries massively divisive).

I'm not saying people in the Balkans are less sexist (OMG no :D) but they seem a lot more chill in dealing with this issues. The number of times I had women use the most profane insults hurled at the opposite sex simply because this is how they speak (they swear a lot over here) often balances men's mysogonystic remarks.

edit: clarity


"I'm not saying people in the Balkans are less sexist (OMG no :D) but they seem a lot more chill in dealing with this issues."

Exactly, probably more sexism, but the discourse around it and life in general is not venomous. My theory is that when you have real (economical) problems you tend to focus first on what matters.


Eastern Europe is generally behind on adopting the latest social transformations compared to Western Europe, which in turn is late compared to the US. As such EE is currently not facing the turmoil which has engulfed the US and is well underway in e.g. France or Germany. On the one hand, there's more problems with discrimination and violence against women in EE (except those perpetrated by immigrants), on the other hand EE has the opportunity of not overcompensating like WE and the US did and finding a reasonable compromise.

I wouldn't say that the Eastern Bloc had it better. Based on the experience of my own mother and others from her generation, women both had to work and take care of the children. But the roles were very well defined and people didn't waste time debating everything ad nauseam, for better or for worse.


It depends. The US is behind Western Europe when it comes to reducing superstitious believes (religion). But it will catch up eventually.


The US is behind Western Europe when it comes to reducing superstitious believes (religion)

No, what’s happening there now is indistinguishable from a religious movement. You’ve got prophets, holy books, commandments, taboos and shibboleths, confessions, original sin, the whole works.


Turn that perspective on the Roman Empire and say it again.

If you wait for other people to spontaneously agree with your outlook on like then the wait will be exceptionally long time even when measured in millennia.


At some point sanity must set in

There’s a saying “the market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent”


Particularly apt in light of the modern metaphor of a "marketplace of ideas".


The problem is that a number of good movements have been infected by the "right to not be offended" crowd. Once that happens, you're no longer allowed to disagree or ctiticize lest the mob tear you to pieces.


We don’t know what your wife said. This is such a useless story. My wife says something on a forum and was attacked. Ok??


I'm really glad to see this here. I don't have a better word readily available than sexism for trying to talk about patterns like this but when I use the word sexism, I think people think I mean "Men are intentionally exclusionary assholes just to be assholes because they simply hate women." and that's never what I'm trying to say.

I find my gender is a barrier to getting traction and my experience is that it's due to patterns of this sort and not because most men intentionally want me to fail. But the cumulative effect of most men erring on the side of protecting themselves and not wanting to take risks to engage with me meaningfully really adds up over time and I think that tremendously holds women back generally.

I think gendered patterns of social engagement also contributed to the Theranos debacle. I've said that before and I feel like it tends to get misunderstood as well. (Though in the case of Theranos it runs a lot deeper in that she was actually sleeping with an investor.)


On the contrary, it shows a clear imbalance of power towards repetitional destruction, something that was always in a women's arsenal but much less so in a man's (which would favour, let's say, settling things in a fight).

So, considering you are the potential carrier of a nuclear power it makes sense to thread carefully.

The problem isn't sexism. The problem is that being wrongly labeled as a sexist is a socio-economical death blow while the accusers gets scot free. This imbalance in power has to be settled somehow and I think this is a pretty good solution.

Posting this anonymously since I'm not insane.


What is described in the article isn't sexism - it's fear. Fear of being labeled as a sexist.


It’s probably both.

The men are assuming based on the female founder’s gender _alone_ that she might accuse him of sexism.

Regardless of how rational this fear is, they are stereotyping new female founders they’re meeting for the first time based on what an X% of other female founder’s have done in the past.

For the men, it’s probably a risk/reward calculation. Keep your head down and be polite and have ~0% chance of being accused of sexism. Or, speak up and maybe ruffle some feathers and have a ~X% chance of being accused of sexism.

You can see the problem on both sides of the equation, but withholding advice based on gender alone does meet the definition of sexism, regardless of the intentions of self-protection rather than hate.


Okay. Let me draw an analogy. Say you're in occupied Hungary circa 1956. Whenever you hear anybody walk by speaking Russian, you clam up for fear that they might be Soviet secret police.

Would you describe this person as "racist" against Russians? I don't think a reasonable person would apply that label. I think they'd say they're responding rationally to the specific circumstances of their immediate situation. That sort of behavior shows no inherent animosity to Russian people in general.

(And before anyone cries foul, I'm not in anyway saying sexism accusations in 2021 corporate America is anywhere near the same as the KGB. I think that should be patently obvious. The reason I picked this specific example was to stretch the underlying logic to a situation that's clear enough to be cut and dry situation.)


There are only two things I fear in life: Soviet troops and women.


> Would you describe this person as "racist" against Russians?

Yeah, they're making decisions and treating someone differently based on the person's (anticipated) race. Something being rational doesn't make it not racism.

> That sort of behavior shows no inherent animosity to Russian people in general.

Racism has nothing to do with animosity. Consider that men have the opposite of animosity towards women and yet sexism is something between humans.


> Something being rational doesn't make it not racism.

That's the really tricky part with racism, not the mindless extremism. What is the acceptable limit between rationalism and racism? Is there one? If we take the example of the GP with Russian secret services, if 99% of the Russian speaking people you encounter are from the secret services, does it make it acceptable to discriminate against the 1% to save your life? If yes, then what is the limit? 50%, 10%, just one person, ...?


Further to the point, this isn't about discriminating against those Russians. This is about fearing them, because all Russians have a "super power", and can destroy you with a single word.

No court. No sensible attempts to truly examine the truth. Just a firing squad.

In this context, even "Good" Russians, fear the "Bad" Russians, for they may be labelled 'collaborators', and face the firing squad too.


Right. Label common sense as racism, and then be surprised that men clam up.


> Yeah, they're making decisions and treating someone differently based on the person's (anticipated) race

What the actual fuck? Did you read the context? Hungary in 1956: they would fear those Russians!


Yeah, I read the context. If you're scared of someone because they speak Russian, then you're being racist. Probably. Potentially some sort of nationalism.

Our hypothetical clam doesn't know that the speaker is in the KGB or equivalent. They're stereotyping based on rumours, ethnicity and background. It doesn't matter that they are behaving prudently, it is pretty clear-cut that they are making decisions based on the racial and ethnic stereotypes they know.

I'm the bearer of bad news here. Sometimes racism is a rational response. Strive to make it not so.


If you weren't an enemy of communism you had nothing to fear against Russians and could speak to them openly.

If you aren't an enemy of feminism you have nothing to fear against female founders and can speak to them openly.


Nikolay Yezhov wouldn't agree with you. If he wasn't executed, of course.


That's not how that worked. "If the communism didn't consider you an enemy" is more apt and an average Hungarian had no way of telling how anything they say could be interpreted.


I believe that's exactly what lyu07282 actually implied (that it doesn't even matter if you're a "feminist" but what matters is if the "feminists" consider you an enemy; and that the average "Hungarian" has no way of telling how anything they say could be interpreted by "feminists"). Replace terms in quotes with whatever else feels appropriate - the bottom line is that mob justice lacks due process and is dangerous/very likely does more harm than good.


I feel the distinction is critical in this case - GP implies it's a matter of a quality that you have ("you are the enemy of communism"), while in reality any qualities you had were irrelevant - it only mattered what someone else decided about you, arbitrarily, and with a good incentive for being biased about it.


> in reality any qualities you had were irrelevant - it only mattered what someone else decided about you, arbitrarily, and with a good incentive for being biased about it.

I really don't know how to make this any more clear to you, you almost there. And now think an inch further...


Let's say you're a communist in Hungary in that year: would you still walk in the street very calm? Even if you are a communist, demonstrating that to a Russian communist wouldn't be very easy, don't you think? Saying "hey I love communism!" wouldn't cut it.


People's reputations and careers can be destroyed by a simple accusation of discrimination made on social media, let alone by an accusation levied by a founder against one of their investors.

If the accused also have a powerful position at a company, then that company also faces large liabilities, both reputational and financial. Everyone knows that the costs of litigation in the US are astronomical.

It is less known but equally true that the costs of arbitration (and to a lesser extent, mediation) can be high. Prohibitive for a startup, still painful for a larger company. Which means that all a potential accuser needs to do to get their pound of flesh is threaten litigation, and name an amount less than what would be paid in arbitration.

So our current system, on social media and in the courts, puts a tremendous amount of power in the hands of those who might accuse. And yes, the gender _alone_, or protected minority status _alone_, is enough to set off alarm bells in an executive who has already been burned.


The men are assuming based on the female founder’s gender _alone_ that she might accuse him of sexism.

Are they, necessarily? This could be entirely up to expected value and cost/benefit. Right now, current day, on average, the amount of power and attention wielded by a woman making an accusation of sexism is far larger than that which would be wielded by a man. This gender skew in outcome causes the cost/benefit calculations made by advice givers to also be gender-skewed. As a result, women get one cost/benefit calc, and men get another.

The problem is precisely systemic societal inequality and sexism. It's sexist to automatically value the word of one gender over that of another. However that is essentially what our society does in this context, made worse through social media's amplification of the mob mentality. It's this amplified societal gender skew which is the problem.

The way out of this is to value and respect evidence. The way out of this is due process and the concept of innocent until proven guilty. The way out is through principles which we know can counteract the evils and dysfunction of the mob, which we have known and codified, and whose value has been borne out by history, since nearly a millennium ago. Only this time, let's apply these gender neutrally.


No, men are (correctly, IMO), assessing the general public's level of sexism.

Even if the gender of the accuser has no effect on the probability of the person accusing someone of sexism, it has a massive effect on the probability that such accusations are believed and weaponised by the public / mainstream media.


1. 'Sexism' should be limited to acts of discrimination that undermine another sex.

2. Advice (which is essentially a gift of knowledge/experience) is not something you are entitled to by virtue of your sex.

3. A man cannot be said to be 'sexist' when he chooses not to give advice that could potentially incriminate him, especially falsely. If a person (whether a man or a woman) chooses to keep silent, and especially where no fraudulent aspect is involved, that is part and parcel of doing business. You are not entitled to call a person 'sexist' just because they do not want to give advice to you.

4. There are virtually no consequences to the woman who accuses. Yet in comparison, the long-lasting consequences of an investor being falsely accused in public far outweigh any advantages to the contrary. This is enough to make any man clam up, and is a legitimate cause to withhold advice.

5. More importantly, in a commercial setting, no one is obliged to give you an advantage just because you're a woman. If you expect such an advantage/benefit because of your gender, then you are being sexist. A woman who wants to do business should not posit that a man is actively being 'sexist' if he chooses not to help her. That makes no sense.


> There are virtually no consequences to the woman who accuses

So, women are being segregated before having any occasion to accuse men of sexism, and yet you claim that they would face 'no consequences' if they actually did?


Women are not 'being segregated' (which is a strawman argument on your part).

Men are refusing to giving advice, because there is past history of women falsely accusing them of being sexist when they do give it. Your claim purporting that it never happens - i.e. 'before having any occasion' - skews the time-perspective. And is against the odds that male investors have faced, which is why they now clam up.

This is nothing to do with 'segregation' - that's a silly interpretation on your part. Investors are wising up to hold their tongue, than to let aspersions be (falsely) cast upon them otherwise.


The core issue here is that getting cancelled may be a low risk, but it's 1: substantially higher than it used to be; and 2: An existential / Severe setback tier event.

The fact that the wolves would be out regardless of the veracity of the claims, and that there is no viable avenue for recourse here aggravates this.

Wrapping this up as "sexism" is the same kind of logic that gets you the removal of women-only sports as "sexism".


It's not just only stereotyping, it's just that there's real possibility. That would never happen with men. Women have the power to label you sexist, men don't.


The men are assuming based on the female founder’s gender _alone_ that she might accuse him of sexism.

Not necessarily. In a social situation, you may be more afraid of what other people will think than of what that one person will think.

If that one person misreads you and hates you, it's not some big career-ending problem. It only becomes a big career-ending problem when a whole lot of other people agree that you doing X is some major issue that "obviously" was rooted in some kind of nefarious intent, such as sexism.


> If that one person misreads you and hates you, it's not some big career-ending problem.

The problem is that the story will usually be told by the person who misunderstood the argument, and the other side's defense wouldn't have as much reach. "X is a sexist jerk" will gain way more clicks, attention and support than "I thought X was a sexist jerk but actually I misunderstood and we're all good - nothing to see here".

Furthermore nowadays there are plenty of people out there who love the drama and will be more than happy to keep pouring fuel into the fire, either for entertainment or in an attempt to virtue-signal how "better" they are by (appearing to) care about the issue. Worse, entire industries (social media) happily profit off this and encourage it by promoting the divisive content.


> It only becomes a big career-ending problem when a whole lot of other people agree

generally agree but have seen plenty cases on social media where the barrier to that agreement was incredibly low. I've even watched myself at times backing the wrong side -out of solidarity[1]- simply because I followed that person already for years and agreed to most of their other opinions.

[1] and what monster would not "always believe the victim"? As a proud father of a gorgeous and smart daughter I have an almost automatic response to see women's rights as something I need to protect. I'd always be harsher on my won sex when it comes to blame or "whodunit" (I'm aware of it so I'm able to counter it but no doubt that this pattern is always present like some muscle memory)


generally agree but have seen plenty cases on social media where the barrier to that agreement was incredibly low.

This doesn't contradict anything I've said. If anything, it reinforces it.


It's not only X% chance of being accused of sexism, but a very high chance to lose one's career - and possibly become un-hireable by any large company or to any position of responsibility at least for a while. It's not just that someone says "you're sexist" and you say "no, I'm not!" - it goes way beyond accusation, and accusation itself almost universally is considered as good as definite proof. This is a serious risk, and it's totally understandable that people want to avoid it.


I don't know the solution to this problem, but I do think that turning it into a Morton's fork ("men are sexist regardless of whether they speak or not") is not it.

Instead of playing semantics by saying that "it is technically sexism" (and I'm not saying I agree with whether it actually is or not), we could choose to at least stop phrasing the situation like that.


You’re not sexist if you give honest feedback to both genders. But you are at risk of being falsely labeled sexist if you do. It’s a bad situation I agree, but we won’t fix it by giving into the fear of being labeled.


In a culture where there are huge negative consequences for being labeled a $BAD_PERSON on twitter, people are obviously going to be more careful with everything they say. To expect them to behave differently is nonsense. You can't expect everyone to want to risk their careers and face painful, public, humiliating backlash for your own benefit. It's normal and healthy for people to want to protect themselves, in the same way that it's normal not to immediately trust strangers.

The real problem is the cancel culture. That's what needs to be fixed. A twitter mob shouldn't be able to cause as much damage as they do. There should be laws preventing people from being fired because of social media. Maybe everyone who's ever been fired or had negative career consequences due to a twitter mob should get together and bring on a massive class-action lawsuit. Force twitter to fix their toxic lynch mob problem, and let that be an example for any other social media company that wants to capitalize on harmful gossip and mob behavior.


> The real problem is the cancel culture.

No, the real real problem is that in while there is some behavior that is obviously $BAD and others that are obviously not $BAD, there's a large range of behavior for which it's difficult to tell whether it's $BAD or not.

Consider the criminal justice system. Some people are obviously guilty and others are obviously innocent. But in between, there are lots of situations where it's difficult to tell whether the person is guilty or not. Vow to be more "tough on crime", and innocent people spend years in jail (or worse, end up executed). Vow to protect the innocent, and lots of guilty people get away scot-free. And there are criminals who are very good at exploiting this uncertainty.

There was a very insightful essay I saw many years ago which I can't find now unfortunately; but the main point was this: In superhero comic books and movies, the real superpower is certainty. The good guys always know who the bad guys are; it's just a matter of defeating them. In the real world, we have plenty of power to defeat the bad guys; it's just not always clear who the bad guys are.

So take the example from TFA, where the investor thought male founder A would be a better CEO than female founder B. Implicit bias is a real thing, and has been proven in dozens of studies. (For instance, where people are asked to rate the qualifications of a range of CVs, where the gender of the name on the resume is randomized.) Does the investor think A is better than B because of implicit (or not-so-implicit) bias? Or is A genuinely a better fit than B? It's basically impossible to know; even the investor themself may not know.

In the past, things swung very heavily toward "let the guilty go free", which meant implicit bias was allowed to stand unchallenged (leading to more men in leadership, leading to more implicit bias). "Cancel culture" is an attempt to swing things the other way. But it falls victim to the "certainty superpower" delusion: they think they know who the actual bad guys are, and end up taking down innocent people in the process.

What's the solution? In some sense there is no solution: until we have an Oracle of All Truth which we can consult, we will always have uncertainty; which means either punishing the innocent, letting the guilty go free, or some mixture of both. The best thing we can do is honestly acknowledge the situation and try to balance things as best we can.


> So take the example from TFA, where the investor thought male founder A would be a better CEO than female founder B. Implicit bias is a real thing, and has been proven in dozens of studies.

Incredible.

In TFA, this precise same individual did the reverse first. It is hard to argue bias, when someone worked to get a better founder, female, to be CEO...

Yet this is dropped, ignored, in your comment.

So here we see, that even those actively showing non-bias, are labelled as likely biased still?!

If people's prior actions are no longer any remote indication of bias or not, all is lost.


Two examples of his actions with different genders do not show that there is absence or presence of a gender-specific bias.

Decision maker still could have bias towards men or women generally, but in those two cases some other factors could outweigh this bias, even if it actually was present. No way to tell.

The article also mentions this topic, by listing some factors that may influence decision in such situation:

> The degree to which men hold back on their advice depends on 1) how much is at stake and 2) how much they trust you. For example, you’ll be much more likely to get candid advice from an investor who has invested a lot of money in your company and you’ve known for years vs. a panelist at a tech conference giving feedback onstage who doesn’t know you and hasn’t invested in your startup.


> Two examples of his actions with different genders do not show that there is absence or presence of a gender-specific bias.

Precisely. Yet one of these two was being used as an example for unconscious gender bias.

Why were both examples not used, or conversely, one showing a bias benefiting women?

Answer: because the bias is, that all men are biased.


I'm talking about how we as normal people, and the public, respond when we see something like that situation. Suppose the investor had asked the woman to step down in favor of the man. Almost nobody who saw that situation -- not the woman, not the man, not the other people in the company, probably not the other investors, and almost certainly not the general public -- are going to know about the other situation.

> Answer: because the bias is, that all men are biased.

So, in a discussion where we're discussing the possibility that women might see anti-woman bias where none exists, we have a situation where a man sees anti-man bias where none exists.


You've provided additional info here, which has helped me get what you meant. I'm not even saying you weren't clear before, just that personally, I now see what you mean with more clarity.

"even the investor themself may not know"

The above fragment is what really 'got to me'. I agree that some people may have an unconscious bias. Yet from a few studies, showing some have this bias?

I hear this now spoken of as gospel. As if the very fiber of the male being, is to have this bias. So to this:

"a man sees anti-man bias where none exists."

I say -- I don't think so. Because this 'unconscious bias' theory is a bias in itself. It's like claiming all women have victim mentality, or all women are 'queen bees'. It just isn't so.


It clearly does. You seem to indicate that a male is “guilty” of gender-specific bias no matter what he does. So a non-murdering male is still a murderer because he is a male?


> we won’t fix it by giving into the fear of being labeled.

But we can't fix it by doing otherwise—asking people to stop being "overly" cautious—either. Another comment put it best: that solution is akin to asking people to self-sacrifice, except that at the very least jumping on a grenade gets you a medal; in this case, it gets you vilification.


It's not reasonable to expect the change to come from people without power. The stakes are too high for most and there is very little to win.

You would need someone like Google CEO (with the support of the board) to say: jumping to accusations will get you in trouble. Just because it's criticism doesn't make it sexist. We don't care about your social power pseudo scientific theory and we will not settle in court. Stop making the work place toxic. Then you need to have this sentiment repeated by other powerful people.

Chances of that happening in US in coming years? In my opinion about zero.


It’s really not though. People can spread any rumors they want. Giving blunt advice or not funding a company or whatever other perceived slight still exposes you. The risk is still there from the first contact to the last.

But in any legal setting this will get shut down immediately unless there’s valid proof.


> People can spread any rumors they want.

And those rumors kill careers, as TFA mentions.

> The risk is still there from the first contact to the last.

This is correct, and that's why this problem is very likely only going to get worse... And the people being cautious still won't be the ones to blame.

> But in any legal setting this will get shut down immediately

Outrage mobs don't need a legal setting to ruin someone's life (or livelihood).

I feel like we're probably not talking about the same thing.


Outrage mobs don't need a legal setting to ruin someone's life (or livelihood).

Question: Would we, on average, expect an outrage mob response of the same size and magnitude when a man makes such an accusation? Whether or not this is justified by historical injustice is irrelevant here. What's salient is whether or not there is a gender skew.

If there is such a systematic and large societal gender skew, then we should expect people's cost/benefit calculations regarding the exposure to the risk of such accusations to also be skewed in a way that is large, systemic, and gender unequal. In a word, the way our society works around accusations, current day in 2021, is itself highly sexist.

Therefore, if we don't want systematized sexism, then we have to eliminate gendered skew in these cost/benefit calculations. We already know the mechanisms for the way out of this. It's codified in various legal systems, and in the values of historical liberal societies and philosophies. They are called respect for evidence, innocent until proven guilty, and due process. When society applies these principles gender neutrally, the gendered skew in individual cost/benefit calculations will even out, on average. Society will have eliminated another form of sexism, and the world will be a better place.

When one says "believe women" somehow in preference to believing men, this is a contributing factor. To avoid the gendered skew, it would be obviously impractical to say, "believe everyone." Hence: respect for evidence, innocent until proven guilty, and due process. Applied gender-neutrally, this is our way out.

In short, the tremendous power we've given mobs based on accusations not-requiring evidence is itself highly sexist, and this distorts our society to also be more sexist.


What I mean is that if you’re operating out of fear, you’re doing it wrong.

The only way rumors kill careers is if we fear the rumors.

If everyone is giving honest, straightforward feedback, then everyone has a rumor about them and it becomes powerless.

But if most people are afraid and one person gives honest feedback and is subjected to a rumor, the one rumor seems significant.

I guess I brought up the legal stuff because I think believing rumors is silly in general. If you’re actually the subject of discrimination, you should prove it in court for the benefit of yourself and society.

I’m not sure that we’re disagreeing entirely. I do agree with what you’re saying as well. Just hoping we can chart a new path.


> If everyone is giving honest, straightforward feedback, then everyone has a rumor about them and it becomes powerless.

But this leads me back to my previous comment: this isn't a feasible solution because it means basically asking people to self-sacrifice until the "rumors" lose power.


Yes, that’s how every successful resistance to oppression in history has operated.

Self-preservation and self-interest is how every single resistance has failed and capitulated.

And if you’re actually kind, fair and decent to women you will have people who rebut the rumors. A tweet against you isn’t an inevitable destruction of your career.


And if you’re actually kind, fair and decent to women you will have people who rebut the rumors.

This is very naïve. For this to work, either people would have to be omniscient, or some karmic mechanism is ensuring that "justice always prevails." Let me assure you that neither is the case. I know this, because being different and being a minority, in various times and places, was enough pretext to let people attach falsehoods to you, and have it widely believed. We know this from false accusations in the Jim Crow US south. I know such things from my personal experience.

However, those mechanisms aren't the only ones. No-one is completely immune from such accusations, except for fleeting periods of extreme popularity and societal goodwill. A lie will get seven times around the world, before the truth laces its boots. This, too, I know from personal experience.

The question is this: Do we want mob mentality to be the arbiter of justice? Nearly a millennium of jurisprudence would firmly tell us: NO!

What's more, the mob mentality is clearly sexist! And it's the mob's sexism which is the root of the problem. On average, isn't there a much stronger mob reaction from a woman's accusation of sexism over a man's? It's this difference that gender-skews the cost/benefit calculation. This difference is itself sexist.

Justice doesn't come reliably from the mob. Instead, what we get is bias that results in more sexism. Funny that.


> if you’re actually kind, fair and decent to women [...] A tweet against you isn’t an inevitable destruction of your career.

I think we're never going to reach an agreement so I'm cutting out.

The last thing I'll say is that there's a difference between this particular situation and historical resistances to oppression: If you were to even call this situation "oppression", it would only lead to further ridicule and ostracism, perhaps would even get most of the few people who might have sided with you to turn on you as well.

Like I said earlier; jumping on a grenade gets you a medal, the people who protested during rights movements are heroes. The ones you're calling now to self-sacrifice would very likely be considered "some more toxic males who finally got their just desserts".

Of course, I hope I'm wrong. In fact, I hope a better solution is found.


The day a good, decent, respectful man giving a woman honest feedback is considered by the majority to be “some toxic male getting their just desserts”, we’ve gone way, way beyond where we are now. That destination is only possible if we capitulate to a loud minority making unfair accusations.


>considered by the majority

It is irrelevant that the majority does not actually think this way.

What is relevant is if there is a vocal minority who has power over you and your career that does. And any of the majority who steps out of line in opposition to this power structure individually gets destroyed.

You seem to be mistaking your desire for fair and righteous social dynamics for what actually is today: a Kafkaesque environment perpetuated by fear of anyone speaking up and then becoming a target for the mob and ruination.

Maybe you don't believe this, or maybe this isn't your experience, but take it from many of hundreds of commenters here, this article, or countless stories just like it that this is very real and justified fear.


> That destination is only possible if we capitulate to a loud minority making unfair accusations

This is quite literally exactly what has been happening, and it seem like it will continue happening because the loud minority has everyone else by the balls.


> Yes, that’s how every successful resistance to oppression in history has operated.

I think the difference for this particular case is that the people who have to stick their necks out are the people who generally don't have much to lose if the resistance fails. (Obviously this isn't the case for the larger discussion around combating sexism, where individual women bear the brunt of the risk, but for this particular advice-giving bit, it is.)


You don't need to violate a law to have your career and reputation destroyed. In today's at will employment environment its just easier for a company to lay off the accused rather than endure the cost and damage to its reputation incurred from keeping someone accused of sexism, racism or any of the isms. That person does not even have had to have done anything wrong, the accusation is enough to torpedo them.


Based on your original post, I guess you could say that if you give honest feedback to men but not to women, you could also be labeled sexist. But the chances of anyone finding out that's what you're doing is pretty low, perhaps lower than getting labeled sexist for giving honest feedback to everyone.

I feel like "giving into the fear of being labeled" doesn't fully capture the risk involved. For many people that labeling means the end of their career, or at the very least a lot of personal and professional embarrassment, plus a big negative mark on their record. I have a hard time looking down on anyone too hard for giving in to that fear.


We won't fix it, but demanding to fix it from the people who stand to lose the most and has the least means to fix it might be not the best way to approach it either. Maybe if we became a little more attentive to the potential of false accusations and less tolerant to people who falsely accuse others of sexism, the balance could start moving back to where people wouldn't be afraid to talk candidly just because they talk to a female.


> we won’t fix it by giving into the fear of being labeled

Individuals will consider their jobs and thus their dependents' welfare more important than risking being publicly slaughtered to fix a mindset that's pretty ingrained now.


I just want to say that all the light greyed out comments match my upbringing and worldview as well

Without an explanation about which parts people find disagreeable, assuming thats how people are even using the voting system here, I have no idea what the real world consensus is or what they wish for it to be


This comment is an incredible thing to use as an example.

You made this comment hours and hours ago. Yet in that time, 'what is grey' has changed. Things have been voted up and down. And who's to say that 5 years from now, 10 years, the 'web theme' of this site won't change.

And then grey means something else.

Now what you've said has changed, due to how the 'culture' on this site has changed.

Meanwhile, there have been people examining comments, and actions, people made even decades ago. Comments and actions taken out of context, single sentences quoted out of paragraphs from emails/etc, and then social media destroys them without care.

Not only must people now 'clam up' against current threat, but all potential future threat. A comment well received by a friend, can 20 years later be taken out of context, that context being historical, cultural, and personal.

And on top of all of that, a friend can become an enemy 20 years later, for entirely non-sexist, just normal person-to-person reasons. People can and do change over time, sometimes not for the better.

So:

* fear what you say now

* fear the future, for people will misquote 20 years later

* fear even female friends, for some may change over decades, and destroy you later

I don't think this is here now. But if the perception of what is happening continues much longer, it may.

Heck, I recall reading an article which coached men to "never be alone with a woman", for "she could claim anything later". This thought process makes it highly difficult to even give advice in private!


> never be alone with a woman

This isn't exceptional or even new, it's been solid advice for anyone in a position of public visibility for at least the past thirty years. The same goes for being alone with teenagers: It doesn't take that much effort to have witnesses and keep the door open, especially considering what a volatile other party will do to your life if you don't.


The nuclear option between men is basically a physical fight. The nuclear option for women in any circumstance can be a serious character attack on a man. The explosive is completely weaponized and can be deployed in a variety of ways (air/land/sea, or in this case sexual harassment, workplace harassment, reputation destruction in your peer sphere at school, work, etc). It’s an extremely tactical option that is readily available.

All it takes it is for a girl to even utter ‘that guy is kind of creepy’, and boom, people will extrapolate from something as simple as that.


Society's perception of what qualifies as sexist has changed drastically in a few years. Who knows, maybe well meaning criticism will be considered truly sexist by society in another 10 years. Why take the risk?


There is a reason we differentiate terms like "accident" and "collision" in the English language. Using the same term to define multiple things is not helping men or women. Feminism, I believe, needs to make better use of language.

Even the law, which is usually the last to evolve, clearly understands the difference between a death caused by self defense and murder.


> The men are assuming based on the female founder’s gender _alone_ that she might accuse him of sexism.

Well, I think that unlike women or bin-binary people, a man wouldn't be able of accusing another man of sexism in his direction.


You can accuse people of anything. I think maybe what you’re saying is that a man accusing another man of being sexist against men would be far less believable.

Regardless, we’re talking about social judgements. In a legal setting the burden of proof would be on the accuser.


The legal setting doesn't matter. In these cases the damage is done reputationally, in the court of public opinion, well before any legal matters come into play.

And like many legal outcomes, just being accused is its own stigma. Someone accused of murder but then later (let's say objectively, truthfully, correctly) found not guilty will expect to face social discrimination and alienation. It's not right, but it's unfortunately how people operate.


Presumably, since a man complaining about a woman getting special treatment "because she is a woman" would hardly be unprecedented.


There isn’t reason to assume the increased perceived risk is do to a pre-judgement of increased bad behavior of the “opposing” party. It could be just calculating a different risk based off your own increased vulnerability to any bad behavior.


No, since investors have nothing to fear when they give criticism to males, since they can predict the outcome to about 99%.

With female its the potential unknown predictability that causes the fear.


I don't wear a seatbelt because I'm stereotyping the driver of my car as a dangerous driver though, nor am I stereotyping other drivers either.

Risk is the combination of chance of occurence with effect. If the effect is large then a tiny chance is worth making active protections against.

Given what we've seen in the past few years and how such incidents appear to be on the increase, the chance doesn't even seem that tiny.


Sooo, damned(sexist) if you do, damned(sexist) if you don't. I hope you see the paradox that PC culture is.


I would take zero over non-zero given the consequences.


Its treating people different based on gender. It depends very much on semantics whether you call that sexism. It is certainly not the form of sexism that people these days are most worried about.


It isn't directly treating people different based on gender.

It is treating people differently based on the damage that they can do to you. Generally a woman accusing you of being sexist is will do more damage than a man doing the same (not universally, but usually). So while the outcome is equivalent the decision is based on the very real threat, not the gender.


That would be discrimination based on sex, but no it would not be sexist in this case. Now if, for example, he treated people based on gender because he felt women belong in the kitchen, then that would be both sexist and discriminatory.

The words sexism/racism often get confused with discrimination.


> The words sexism/racism often get confused with discrimination.

Oxford definition of “sexism” via Google:

> prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex

The definition of sexism seems to include discrimination. What definition are you using?


The problem is how politically charged the word 'sexist' is. I'm aware that the boring unemotional dictionary definition is treating someone differently on the basis of gender, but in reality if a guy is hanging out in a women's toilet its not generally seen as sexist/sexism to ask him to leave (even though this is discrimination on the basis of sex).

So labelling anything where two genders are treated differently as 'sexism' or 'sexist' I don't think actually matches the modern usage of the word. I think the difference is it's usually used in a negative connotation and the type of discrimination is seen as non-acceptable - for instance most people wouldn't call a girl-band or boy-band sexist because they select their members based on gender, while most would call an employer sexist if they had a generic business and tried to segregate their teams into single-gender teams. Most people still don't have a problem with boy bands (i.e. a male-only-team in a music workplace), thus not sexist, but do have a problem with male-only-teams in other workplaces, thus sexist.


> if a guy is hanging out in a women's toilet its not generally seen as sexist/sexism to ask him to leave (even though this is discrimination on the basis of sex)

Enforcing a rule isn’t discrimination. The rule itself may or may not be discrimination.

> Most people still don't have a problem with boy bands (i.e. a male-only-team in a music workplace), thus not sexist, but do have a problem with male-only-teams in other workplaces, thus sexist.

They get the label “boy band” after they form. If they were a mixed gender group (like a workplace) and kicked out a talented female musician because they wanted to be male-only, that would be sexist.


I don’t remember seeing rules in the dictionary definition, and I also struggle to believe that something can’t be sexist/sexism if the laws allow it. I think in the western world we would say that another country banning women from driving would be an example of sexism, albeit within the laws of the country.

Also, I hate to break the illusion for you, but boy bands are often planned as such and are manufactured by the record labels. It’s not a coincidence, for example, that the spice girls are all girls - that’s because they only auditioned girls because they were making the spice girls.


Not answering for GP, but some people believe you cannot be sexist against men, or racist against white people.


I see this move towards redefining sexism and racism to be the prevalent form of negative sex or race based discrimination, instead of all forms of discrimination.

That's why I stated it is a semantic discussion.

On the one hand, I think this redefining is good. Because when we talk about the problems of racism and sexism, the prevalent form of negative discrimination (so in the west, racism by white people, and sexism by males) are what we tend to mean.

On the other hand, other forms of discrimination also happen, and we need words to describe them. Racism and sexism used to describe that, but by now such describing tends to feel bad. It tends to feel like drawing an equivalence between e.g. a white person not being able to use the N-word being 'just as bad' as the oppression faced by black people in America.

I feel we need separate words for both the systemic (non intentional) oppression of people by sex and gender. And discrimination based on sex and gender in general. Originally racism and sexism used to describe the latter. Slowly we are moving towards having it mean the former, without having new words for the latter. Ideally wish we had just come up with new words for the latter. But that would have lost some of the power that comes from calling someone a racist or a sexist.

In conclusion, semantics matter, and are hard.


> a white person not being able to use the N-word being

If that is what comes to mind when people talk about white discrimination, then there is a large disconnect in the discussion when talking about the semantic meaning of sexism and racism.

If two people apply to a university and the critical distinction why one got excluded is race, then that is a negative discrimination. If two people are accused of identifical crime and the the critical distinction why one got a harsher sentence is race, then that is negative discrimination. If two people are illegally demonstrating on the street and one get violently assaulted for doing so, and the critical distinction is race, then that is negative discrimination.

Some of that negative discrimination harms white people, some black people, some both in different circumstances, and there is many more situation where such discrimination occurs. Same in regard to gender.


There's no confusion, just a difference in upbringing. I was raised being told that racism was discrimination due to race and sexism was discrimination due to sex. I was told that our goal should be to be blind to such attributes in a professional setting. There were many in my age group that were raised the same.


> I was told that our goal should be to be blind to such attributes

The woke reactions would be like: It’s really saying, "I don’t really see what makes you you". We want you to see the benefit of the diversity people bring to the table. Being colour-blind used to be woke, now it's whitewashing.

My comment: apparently they need the attributes to define the identity they rally around. You can't not see them anymore because it is interpreted as ignoring their identity.


You're treating women differently based on their gender. That's literally sexism.

What's different is the moral color of the sexism. If Eric treats women differently in his workplace because he thinks they should be raising babies, not writing code, our cultural norms say Eric is a Bad Person.

Now suppose Bob genuinely believes women and men should have equal opportunities and career paths in the workplace. But Bob treats women differently in his workplace because he's afraid of a false accusation that ends up with him getting sued, fired, having his reputation ruined, etc.

Then we'd say that Bob isn't a bad person. Or at the very least, he's not anywhere near as bad as Eric. He's just trying to do his best to protect himself from a social system he doesn't control, that will grind him up if he gets caught in its gears.

If you take the definition of "sexism" to be "treating people differently based on their gender," the case against Bob is airtight. Bob's literally a sexist: He treats women differently because of gender.

I think the reason you're trying to argue Bob's not a sexist is because the word "sexist" itself is normative. Sexists are Bad People like Eric. Bob's not a Bad Person, so we shouldn't use the word "sexist" to describe him, because "sexist" has a moral color -- part of the meaning of the label is that you're a Bad Person.

In other words, if you say Bob's not a sexist, you must be taking your definition of "sexist" to be something else. Treating women differently for a certain kind of reason.

With this more nuanced definition of "sexist," it's possible that Eric's a sexist and Bob is not, even if their actual actions toward women are the same.

To properly describe what Bob is, you might need to create a new word to describe someone who treats women differently, but in a morally neutral way (or at least a lighter shade of grey).

Racism might also benefit from having a term that fills this linguistic / conceptual niche. ("Systemic racism" might have fit the bill at one time, but I think that particular term has become colored -- pun intended -- by a moral connotation.)


So if I work in a department store, and I direct the women to the lady's clothing section, and the men to the men's clothing section, I am a sexist? Or if I'm a hairdresser, and I charge women the price of a women's cut, and men the price of a men's cut, then I'm a sexist? Your black and white definition is nothing other than an attempt to double-down on calling more things sexist than they actually are. It does not pass the common sense test. Sexism always has negative connotations. If the person is not viewed as a bad person (as you say) for their actions, then their actions were not sexist.


Fear based actions can still be sexist though. We're talking about treating people different based on their sex.

Let's draw a parallel. Most people would consider crossing the street because there is a black man walking towards you as a racist action. Sure, not burning a cross in their lawn racist, but racist nonetheless (it's a spectrum). I would argue that people that do this do so because they are afraid of said black person. Yes, their action is caused by fear, but their fear is caused by racism (i.e. they view a black person as being more likely to be dangerous than a person of another race).

Looping back, I believe you are right that these decisions are fear based, but it is fear that women are out to get you, which is the sexist part. In reality it does not appear that women are more out to get you than men are. Though we likely have a perception bias that they are because of social media. There's the double edged sword of awareness. It can help you solve a problem but it can also increase the problem because it can make you blind to the root issues.

I think this brings us to problems with social media or more precisely sensationalism (which is amplified in social media but far from the only platform that encourages this). These cases are more visible and gives us a selection bias. But I guess we have to encourage good faith discussions (which is a rule on HN btw) through media, which is rather difficult to do at a cultural level. And we don't want to entirely kill sensationalism either because topics going viral has a lot of utility (such as that more women are being open about the abuse that they've received. Yes, this does lead to a higher number of false accusations, but they still are a very small percentage of accusations). It's a really difficult problem but I think encouraging good faith arguments, being kind to one another, patience, and allowing for mistakes are a necessary step to be able to solve this entire issue (which I'm not going to pretend to have real answers). Particularly I think the last component is essential because we need to recognize that not everyone learns the same lessons. If we're going to say things like "everyone is racist" or "everyone is sexist" we have to also allow people to safely make mistakes and importantly be given the opportunity change/fix their behavior. I personally believe if people are not given this opportunity they double down on their ways. It is a coping mechanism because no one wants to be the bad guy.


> ...but racist nonetheless (it's a spectrum)

It didn't used to be a spectrum and it's a terrible innovation that it's viewed that way today by so many. Racist used to refer to people that believed in the inferiority and superiority of certain races. Only recently has it become socially acceptable to accuse someone of racism or sexism at any sign of prejudice. This is a major cause of the divisiveness in the culture today and if you're doing it, you're part of the problem.

When we talk about people's prejudices it causes us to examine potential solutions in a productive way. When we accuse someone of being racist or sexist, we imply that they're beyond redemption, and we can skip right to hating them and feeling superior about ourselves.

Anyone interested in having good faith conversations should actively avoid labeling anyone or any action as a racist or sexist. The genuine racists and sexists are usually more than happy to self-identify as such. Everyone else, and I mean everyone else, is just a mixed bag of good and bad prejudices that can, with work, be improved over time.


> accuse someone of racism or sexism at any sign of prejudice

At anything that the most hostile interpretation possible could somehow construe as racism/sexism.

And basically, anything can be construed as racism/sexism given some of the current definitions.

Sitting peacefully on your couch minding your own business is racism, according to Kendi/diAngelo.

Treating women equally and not achieving perfect equality of outcome is sexism. Treating men and women differently in order the achieve equality of outcome: also sexism.

Leaving women to make their own choices, which may not exactly match men's, is sexism.

Giving women candid feedback is so sexism. Not giving women candid feedback: also sexism.


> It didn't used to be a spectrum and it's a terrible innovation that it's viewed that way today by so many. Racist used to refer to people that believed in the inferiority and superiority of certain races. Only recently has it become socially acceptable to accuse someone of racism or sexism at any sign of prejudice. This is a major cause of the divisiveness in the culture today and if you're doing it, you're part of the problem.

I'd argue that people now are still treating it as a binary situation and not including the nuance that is requisite of a spectrum in determining their response. As an exaggerated example we can't treat a grand wizard who burns crosses on lawns the same as someone who touches someone else's hair. If we react the same then the reaction is not acknowledging the continuum but rather lowering the threshold for the binary classification.

> When we talk about people's prejudices it causes us to examine potential solutions in a productive way. When we accuse someone of being racist or sexist, we imply that they're beyond redemption, and we can skip right to hating them and feeling superior about ourselves.

I think we actually have a lot of agreement. Reading your response I think a lot of our disagreement comes down to diction, not philosophy. When you say

> Everyone else, and I mean everyone else, is just a mixed bag of good and bad prejudices that can, with work, be improved over time

I fully agree, I just use different words because that's the words used around me. Words only mean what society uses them to mean. This is a big part of why I mentioned intention being an important component. I don't view someone that is racist/sexist as being nonredeemable, this includes Neo Nazis and Grand Dragons of the KKK (I know this is an unpopular belief, but it is one I hold). This is part of why I said that we need safe spaces to fail. I do think how we react needs to be tempered and thought out because my goal is to fix behavior, not punish. But if you lump me together with those that seek punishment (I believe this is a minority, but highly sensationalized minority) we're going to have a hard time discussing. Because I don't have major qualms with what you've said and I don't understand how you read my comment as such.


> Most people would consider crossing the street because there is a black man walking towards you as a racist action.

Yeah, and that is weird, isn't it?

Because most people nowadays would not consider it a sexist action for a woman to cross the street because there is a man walking.

In fact, these days it seems to be demanded of men to notice the situation and cross the street if they are walking near a woman, so to self-discriminate. And the man would be considered sexist/misogynist if they didn't self-discriminate this way.

It's all so wonderfully self-contradictory.


I disagree with this definition of sexism.


Would you like to expand on that point?


I appreciate you asking respectfully, and I understand the meanings of words like "sexist" and "racist" are changing and subject to opinion.

In my opinion, the nuance is whether the difference is truly because of gender or if gender is just something with a high correlation.

For example, if an average man says to me "give me your wallet or I'll beat you up", I'm likely to do it since I'm on the smaller side. If an average woman did that, I'd say no. So maybe it seems like sexism at first, but then I consider, if a woman threatened me who was the size and build and general risk of an average man, what would I do? I'd hand over my wallet.


I would not say you are acting sexist in your analogy. If we take average male vs average female, yes there is a large strength disparity and your response seems very justified. It is clear that your response is more linked to the danger that you're in. I would contrast this from my analogy (black person walking towards you and crossing the street) because there's not a good justification for thinking that the black person is more likely to mug you than if a white person was walking towards you (there's no justification for increased danger). I'd argue that the priors are different in these situations (I'm sure there are people that would disagree and call your response sexist, but I will say that my thesis is about not binning people to easy little boxes. "us vs them". That responses need to be thoughtful and tempered).

> I understand the meanings of words like "sexist" and "racist" are changing and subject to opinion.

Also on this point, I think this kind of "words having different meanings to different people" is far more common than people realize and requisites more care in how we interpret others' statements. I think this is obviously true for any "ism" (sexism, racism, capitalism, socialism, etc). Pinning a definition to strictly our own interpretation ends up being naive and often leads to fighting because we have basic breakdowns in communication. We can't agree even if philosophically we agree. It should be the other way around, meaning triumphing over diction. Diction over meaning is just looking for a fight.


Let's say I agree with you, why create a world in which everything is sexist? Isn't the entire point that we want less of it?


> why create a world in which everything is sexist?

I'm sorry if it was interpreted this way (I know some people want this, but this is not what I'm advocating for).

> Isn't the entire point that we want less of it?

This is goal. But we also can't solve a problem if we don't acknowledge it. To do that expanding the definition helps. BUT if you expand the definition you need to also respond differently (this is where I disagree with what we see). We need to see nuance that there's a big difference between rape and not being as open with advice due to potentially becoming a social pariah. Our responses to these should be extremely different (which is what I'm advocating for). But this also means we need to recognize our progress (which I've been accused of for dog whistling having said that).

I just think we need to stop making our fights over diction and about philosophy. If we're placing diction over philosophy we'll never solve anything and always be fighting. We can never have unanimous agreement on diction, that's just not how language works (words evolve). So the question is if your disagreements with me mainly over word choice or if we have disagreements in philosophy (and are they minor or major?)

to1y 19 days ago [flagged] [–]

So you're a sexist if you do, you're a sexist if you don't?


I know you are being funny but this response does not feel like it was done in good faith (I may be misreading). A major part of my point is that there is a spectrum. "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" is often a false equivalence because it suggests that the two options are equally as bad. Intention must play a large role in how we're determining how to respond because someone with good intentions has a higher likelihood of improving/fixing their behavior than someone who does not have good intentions. But intention is substantially harder to determine. My comment is about fighting back against this binary sensationalization, which I believe you are perpetuating even with the joke.

So no, you aren't damned if you do and damned if you don't.


How exactly does sexism being a spectrum and not binary help men make decisions on this issue in any way whatsoever?

Do you think a slight or partial interpretation of sexism (even if misconstrued completely and therefore a false interpretation) will be treated with this nuance and proportionality you speak of by someone who wishes to publicize and cancel as described in this article?

The entire point here is that whether 9/10, or 999/1000 interactions with women go exactly or even better than interactions with men, it ONLY TAKES ONE to literally ruin your life. Get it?

Because of this, the natural defensive reaction is to avoid interactions and conflicts altogether, out of abundance of caution.

Is this sexism? Who the hell cares! Peoples livelihoods are on the line! That you would care more about your little intellectual exercises and nuanced view of the "isms" means absolutely nothing compared to putting bread on the table, or not, for most people.

One could even say this makes you privileged to even think they should care about this more than protecting themselves and supporting their families.


Sexism being a spectrum makes things worse because everyone assumes that it is binary. So anyone labeled 1% sexist is the devil incarnate.


Right because the consequences of these situations ARE binary, and that's all that matters.


I want to clarify that I'm also arguing that the consequences shouldn't be binary. There's utility in treating sexism as a continuum, but if consequences continue to be binary then we lose the utility of the continuous definition.


I think people need to learn about how power and politics work in the real world. This, like many other things, is political.

The people that are making these binary determinations to wield social power could not care less about the academic nuanced views everyone is discussing here in the comments. They are not acting in good faith, so reasoning with them will not work.


I agree that they aren't acting in good faith. But a big problem is how we, the rest of the public respond. We click all those links, share all those tweets, and talk about the responses. As long as those people get to hold our attention then they have power. It is like dealing with a troll. You don't get rid of trolls by getting mad at them or "owning" them. You can't fight them with logic or anything. You fight a troll by pretending they don't exist.


I don't think GP is saying that your comment by itself can be reduced to "damned if you do, damned if you don't". I think the point is that your position might lead to a Morton's fork in general.

I interpret it like this: On the one hand, there are people (many of whom with good intentions) instantly assuming that any criticism a man might give to a woman is rooted in sexism, to wit, what TFA mentions that investors are cautious about. On the other hand, there are people, also with good intentions, saying that "men being cautious in what they say to women" is also sexism.

Now, I don't know the solution either, but I do believe that a good first step would be not saying that people who are merely cautious (precisely not to come across as sexist) are sexist anyway.


> I interpret it like this

I'm a bit confused, did I not respond in a way that recognized this? It appeared to me as a low quality response that did not actually have anything to do with my comment. I believe the comment vastly oversimplified the problem, which is part of what I'm trying to address, that the problem is complicated and we need to recognize the nuances involved and respond in good faith. To clarify, I do not think a good faith response results in

> instantly assuming that any criticism a man might give to a woman is rooted in sexism

As such a belief is itself rooted in the belief that the only criticism a man can have of a woman is that she is a woman, which I'd argue itself is sexist (and not responding in good faith). As an example we saw this during the 2016 election where people often said that anyone who criticized Clinton was doing so because she was a woman, which honestly is an extremely dehumanizing platform. While there were people criticizing her on this basis (openly and through more careful language) the claim itself positions Clinton as being infallible and thus not human, which is absurd. This is far from a good faith response because Clinton, as any human (and especially politicians/leaders), are deserving of criticism (not that you should be mean about it). So by a good faith response I would expect someone to respond to that criticism instead of accusing the other person of being sexist. But I honestly believe people making such claims are a minority, albeit with high visibility because of the sensational nature of their bad faith responses.


> It appeared to me as a low quality response that did not actually have anything to do with my comment.

I didn't think it was; it seemed to me a succinct summation of what calling the behavior in TFA "sexism" leads to: Ultimately, regardless of what he does, a man will be considered sexist by someone.

Or, to put it another way, calling the cautiousness we're discussing here "sexist" can itself be considered a bad faith position.

> But I honestly believe people making such claims are a minority, albeit with high visibility because of the sensational nature of their bad faith responses.

I'm not sure what to say to this: I agree, of course, but I don't think that's the point. That minority can and has killed people's careers and thus, we have the cautious behavior mentioned in TFA.


> Ultimately, regardless of what he does, a man will be considered sexist by someone.

I mean this is how I read it, but again, I thought it lacked nuance. Someone is key here and ties into how we respond to sensationalized perspectives. I'm advocating for more nuance and being more careful in interpretation. Such as not treating the term "sexist" as being a binary position. I would, and am, argue(ing) that interpreting the word as a binary classification is only detrimental. It in itself is a bad faith response. But we have a problem that "sexist" means different things to different people. While one may interpret my usage as such, I believe that there is sufficient information in my several comments that I am not using the word as such a classification (even explicitly stating so) and this is where I draw contention with the responses I'm getting.

It should be apparent that responding to me as if I am using such a binary classification will give me the impression that one simply skimmed and responded thinking "oh you're one of those people." I'm actively advocating for reducing this type of response, because I think we'd argue that binning people is far too common and leads to many of the problems (in fact, binning is the root of this entire post, thread, and conversation). This is why I'm saying that the damned if you do, damned if you don't is a false dichotomy as (as I stated in the original response) the actions are not equally as bad. It matters "how damned" someone is. My entire thesis lies in a continuum.

> That minority can and has killed people's careers and thus, we have the cautious behavior mentioned in TFA.

Maybe I can be more clear in my response to this. I am saying that how we are responding to sensationalized content is feeding into this behavior. We need tempered and thoughtful responses, not knee jerking emotional reactions (we don't have to be void from emotion). I don't think it is enough to just complain about these people, but that we are perpetuating this system by clicking, retweeting, liking, and pushing these comments into the forefront of our conversations. That minority has killed many peoples' careers (some justified some not, but we're presumably discussing the unjustified cases), but the reason these (unjustified cases) careers have been destroyed is because of public response and selection bias of what majority opinion is. As an example of this Speedy Gonzales was canceled because complaints/fear of ethnic sterotyping. But it was later brought back due to League of United Latin American Citizens noting that he was a cultural icon that was seen positively by Latin American viewers. It is a clear case of letting the minority's opinion overrule that of the majority. I believe that if we let people that are looking for problems dictate what a problem is then we'll only have a race to the bottom. I do not believe the people responding to me and downvoting would disagree, and that is where my confusion lies.


The problem here lies in the word "sexism" and that, I think, you believe a solution should be to remove its baggage. The replies you get are, I think, because many people, with good reason, believe that such a goal isn't feasible. In fact, the baggage itself is probably why you perceive the replies to be "emotional".

So I go back to my first reply: to stop casting people into a binary like I think we both want, better not to throw such loaded words at people and instead analyze their behavior on a case by case basis. Fighting the word itself is prescriptive at best, and language tends to be descriptive, AFAIK.


I'll push back a little, but it seems we're pretty much at consensus. We have to recognize that people use words in vastly different ways, especially as we're enabling more cultures to communicate. Around me "sexism" has this broader meaning and subsequently doesn't necessarily hold as much weight as the binary usage holds (though it can, but again, continuum). Unfortunately language is extremely imprecise and the dictionary not only lags societal definitions, but only reflects certain usages. Because of this it is important to recognize that language has multiple parts. There's: What someone says, what they mean to say (the information they are trying to convey through a function with limited expressiveness, i.e. language), and what is heard. If we don't recognize that these three things can result in three different interpretations then we're going to continue to have many of these problems. Rather if we look at language as the imprecise means of transporting information from one person to another it means we should rely less on the actual words said and more the intended meaning. This is more difficult to do, but it is something we commonly do with friends and people we know well. We need to apply this same restraint to others we don't know as well.

So if we're communicating with words meaning different things (which is extremely common but unnoticed) then we have to be careful that we don't lose meaning on the assumption that someone's message can only have one interpretation. We have to recognize the embedding problems and limitations of language to effectively communicate.


Everything you've written over several comments shows that you've thought about it deeply but are unable to provide an actionable solution for social interactions. Sure sensationalism causes problems, sure some of the accusations are valid but your nuance doesn't matter because you're missing the point. Men just don't want it to be them next. So we shut up. That has usually been the solution to any socially dangerous or awkward situation and for self preservation it works very well.

Any behavioral modifications would have to start from castigophobia. Remove the punishment - that's the solution. Everything else is pointless.


The actionable thing is that we need to change how we respond to sensationalism. Tempered responses. You cannot remove the punishment without this. Removing any punishment is too vague and is no change. Before we had no response. Now we have too strong of a response. I'm suggesting we be more thoughtful before we determine the proper response. This depends on how we, as the general population, respond to sensationalism. As long as we still click on (through anger or celebration) these types of headlines they will still continue because there's major profit. It is a "pick your battles" response that I'm looking for.


You proposal has no teeth and ignores the history and reality of mobs. It's like you expect unorganized people to be intelligent as a collective. That's foolish.

Removing any punishment isn't vague - just take it out of the hands of those who can currently inflict it:

1. Make it illegal to fire employees for any speech in the public square.

2. Make it so they have to be found guilty in a court of law in order to be fired or shunned for anything sexist or racist.

3. Make it so that any publicly funded institution (even partly) cannot terminate their relationships with individuals because of their speech in the past or the future.

Right now what we're seeing is extrajudicial punishment instigated at the will of anyone with a twitter account and following. The above suggestions reduce the twitter mob's leverage because they shouldn't have any to begin with. Anyone seeking damages should have to go through channels that allow some kind of defense. The court system is supposed to be systemized thoughtfulness so we should rely on it.

The way I see it playing out is that companies will force all employees off of social media with their own names or fewer people will attack companies because they know that the company can't do anything. Both cases are a positive change.

You're being optimistic about vengeful people online. I don't think you're being realistic.


I see your proposals as having the same requirements as mine.

> 1. Make it illegal to fire employees for any speech in the public square.

So you can't fire an employee that is causing an uproar and a subsequent boycott of your product? Because that's why they get fired now, to prevent a decrease in sales. The only way maintaining the employee and the sales is for the public to recognize that an employee (including a CEO) does not represent the company (which in a case of a CEO can be shaky). This is a tricky situation that I think you're overly simplifying.

> 2. Make it so they have to be found guilty in a court of law in order to be fired or shunned for anything sexist or racist.

I feel a bit better about this. But this lines up with my tempered approach. I think this may be a bit too light handed though. For example, it is legal to be a Neo Nazi. That is protected by free speech. But if a high level employee is openly a Neo Nazi then that's going to affect your sales.

> 3.

Same goes here.

I think these solutions are too simple that they miss the nuance I'm asking for.

> Right now what we're seeing is extrajudicial punishment instigated at the will of anyone with a twitter account and following.

This is a huge problem that I'm concerned about. But I don't see a way around it without having society act better.

Well I do see one other solution, but it has a lot of consequences too. Twitter/Facebook/etc could change their algorithms to prevent these cases from going viral. But there's big consequences to that and makes them arbiters of "*ism". That's also a dangerous situation and honestly a position I don't think Mark or Jack wants to be in.

> You're being optimistic about vengeful people online.

I'm not optimistic about them. I'm optimistic about the public. That the general public will get tired of this shit. Getting tired will cause less clicks, which will cause less rage, and momentum will dampen the system. But right now we have media resonating with this vocal minority because it brings in dollars. People still click a lot on hate porn (articles like "You won't believe how dumb {Republicans,Democrats} are" or "Watch this {Democrat,Republican} get totally destroyed!"). People are already getting sick of it, that's why we're having this discussion. So I'm saying fight by not clicking. Increase the momentum back to normality.


Genuine question, if you were a man in that situation, what would you do?


For that particular situation, I'd stay silent. I agree there's a risk, and that this is a problem.

Longer term though, I'd make sure we hire female investors into my VC fund. I'd take them along the journey of investing with this startup, and if I felt a female CEO needed to be replaced with a man, I'd discuss this with my investment partners. Any harsh feedback, if given, would be coming from all of us, and a mixed panel would be harder to accuse of sexism.


Any harsh feedback, if given, would be coming from all of us, and a mixed panel would be harder to accuse of sexism.

Nope, a hostile founder/CEO will pick the men out of the panel and sick the mob on them. The women on the panel are either oppressed or anti-feminism. The mob doesn't care and won't hear the whole story.


> The women on the panel are either oppressed or anti-feminism.

"internalized misogyny" is the term you are looking for.


Yep, that's why I used the word "harder" instead of "impossible". At that point, the situation would be within my threshold of acceptable risk.


> a mixed panel would be harder to accuse of sexism

That's not how this works. People eager to engage in this kind of ideological battle always have Internalised Misogyny as an argument to fall back on in this situation.


Use another woman as a shield? Damned if you do, damned if you don't...


If SV is run on candor as the author believes, then surely the solution is to state empirically why you think the roles should be swapped?


In what situation?


Well the situation in the article seems like a good example, you think the female ceo should swap with the male co founder. You're invested but not massively and you've not really known either for years.


It’s easy. Investment is a math game. What is the upside and downside of either action?

First choice, I remain silent. Best case, the female CEO kills it and I make some money. Worst case she flops and I lose my investment. Potentially great upside, relatively minor downside.

Second choice, I suggest a change. Best case the company does well and I make money. Worst case I’m labeled a sexist and I’m effectively ejected from the startup world. Potentially great upside, but unlimited losses.

Easy choice. I stay silent.


And worst case for women: I would not invest in a company that would potentially make me evaluate such options.

Indirectly: Men should be wary of partnering up with women because investors might see such a partnership as "danger zone" and pass.

I KNOW sexism exists and should be eradicated. Unfortunately the current way of doing things cause lots of unintended consequences for women. I (a man), for one, refuse to put myself in a position where I'll have to make explicit decisions for men vs. women on the merit of their work because there is a chance that if the woman "loses" they'll label me a sexist (they can genuinely feel that way, but I know that my intentions are not towards gender discrimination - unfortunately there is no way to convince her of that if that happens). That means I tend to not work with women, even though I hate passing on people that will do the work well. If they have a history with such activism, it is worse because whatever happens, if they are terminated for any reason, it will most probably be labeled discrimination. If they have a social media following, I'm screwed. So it is difficult. I don't want to pass on them but the potential consequences for any misunderstanding are too large. I don't want to live and work while walking on eggshells.


We solve sexism by creating unequal opportunities instead. After all, fairness and honesty are worse than not creating a facade to play along with societies' outrage induced rules.


> Easy choice. I stay silent.

Agreed same here.

Unfortunately I think the reality will be that male founders may get even more funding than before, which will then lead to a potentially wider gap.

And then the cycle will continue, a misread of the situation as sexism or more accusations of sexism than before will lead to more people staying with the easy choice of being silent.

I'm reminded of that quote, "better to be silent and be thought of as an idiot than to open your mouth and remove any doubt people have." The same thing is true for investors but with idiot replaced by sexist.


Actually, biggest upside is, you make a change, the business succeeds because of your change, and you not only make huge profits on the business but also continue to cement your reputation as a top tier advisor.

But yes, doing it safely requires skill.


Third choice: you invest in creating a better relationship with the female founders so that you’re capable of expressing your concern without appearing sexist.

I’m not sure why female founders are being portrayed as a different species? They’re humans. They know about sexism. They know when what they’re seeing is sexism vs critical feedback. And they will understand if you express your concerns with that.


The path of least resistance requires less work? I don't disagree with your view on this but it seems like the incentives simply aren't aligned to learn how to dodge an ever evolving anti-sexist culture that is interpreted as having different communication rules by different people. If it was as easy as like "don't misgender people" or something sure, fine everyone can learn the rules of the protocol in under 15 minutes. There is no reason why anyone can't do that. The rules for interacting aren't this simple though, and they are often differently interpreted by different people. Learning how to communicate in a way that makes every person feel comfortable often just isn't worth the time investment. If we want people to take this other option it has to have significant and demonstrable positive incentives that make people want to invest the time.


I know multiple white men who, when passed up for an opportunity, will say it's bullshit, they deserved that opportunity, and there must be {politics|nepotism|treachery} for this to happen. The difference is that they can't claim sexism, and there's no word they can throw at the person in charge of the decision to strike back on social media the way labeling someone sexist / racist can.


> I know multiple white men who, when passed up for an opportunity, will say it's bullshit, they deserved that opportunity, and there must be {politics|nepotism|treachery} for this to happen. The difference is that they can't claim sexism,

White men can and do blame sexism and racism for their failure to advance all the time, and have been doing so since the day when overt discrimination in their favor stopped being a near-universal norm.

EDIT: of course, the audience that is favorably predisposed to such complaints is very different to the ones predisposed the same way toward claims from other groups, but it is very large and socially influential.


>White men can and do blame sexism and racism for their failure to advance all the time, and have been doing so since the day when overt discrimination in their favor stopped being a near-universal norm.

Yes, everyone is guilty of this. When you mess up, blame someone else. That's how you get stuck regardless of your race or gender. You'll be on a crusade against the wrong thing and never achieve anything.


I do not believe we can have an open, honest discussion of sexism (or racism) in this country when one side of the discussion is effectively shut out.


This is it.

It's only sexism if it happens to a woman, therefore the word "feminism" itself isn't inherently sexist.

It's only racist if it happens to someone of color. White people can't be discriminated against by definition. Anyone who believes in "reverse discrimination" is a "racist" who has "too much entitled privilege."

Be quiet and accept the prevailing, correct opinions and beliefs, or be labeled and canceled. There is no debate and there is no discussion because the ideological mafia has already decided what beliefs are proper today. Oh and anyone who doesn't renounce yesterday's micro aggressions should be forced to resign if they don't apologize hard enough four times.

The left is a circular firing squad that doesn't have any loyalty.


PS: It sucks that we're here because we all need decency, awareness, and fair treatment. What's unhelpful is retribution masquerading as movements for fairness.


That's not quite what I meant. I simply don't think the prevailing narrative--"men can't/don't understand/recognize sexism and (all) women do" and "whites can't/don't understand/recognize racism and (all) black/other minority do"--is either true or useful for moving forward together.

I do believe that in the US sexism is generally one directional due to the intrinsic imbalance in power. There are stereotypes about males, and they are harmful in some cases, but generally because more men have power the harm to women is more pervasive and severe.

Same thing with respect to race and white people, actually.


Well, that's circular logic that implies an -ism is correct because one side can never understand it and is therefore always guilty of it.

I don't understand what you're trying to say about sexism or racism because your sentences don't make grammatical sense.


I'll break them down into smaller chunks for you:

Sexism exists and affects both genders. Imbalances in power mean the effects of sexism are generally felt more by women than by men. The narrative that men cannot understand or recognize sexism, or have an inferior ability to do so, is not supported by the facts. It is also harmful to overcoming the problems of sexism by men toward women.

I hold a similar view with respect to the relationship between racism and white people.


> They know when what they’re seeing is sexism vs critical feedback.

One can't possibly guarantee that every founder (female or not) knows that, and in fact, TFA implies that many don't. So the possibility that at least one of them will think the investor sexist for giving feedback is unfortunately not zero. And, of course, this option doesn't seem to consider the possibility that even if the founder takes the criticism at face value, someone else might not.

In light of that, the third choice you present seems to be GP's second choice after all.


> So the possibility that at least one of them will think the investor sexist for giving feedback is unfortunately not zero.

There is a nonzero risk in any social interaction that involves giving critical feedback. The way you manage that risk is by investing in healthy relationships, not by perceiving literally half of humanity as being too risky to be worthy of critical feedback.

I’m not quite sure what to say to you. Living life involves risks. It sure seems like one of those risks is being deliberately amplified to be used as an excuse to “not even bother” with female founders.


> There is a nonzero risk in any social interaction that involves giving critical feedback.

Which leads me back to GP's point: there are only two choices. I take it that you're saying that the risk of the second choice can be ignored if taking some steps, but the consequences remain the same, and GP didn't speak about the thresholds or ways to improve the odds. He only mentioned that the risk exists and isn't worth it for him, and you disagree, but that's not much to go on.

> I’m not quite sure what to say to you. Living life involves risks. It sure seems like one of those risks is being deliberately amplified to be used as an excuse to “not even bother” with female founders.

Conversely, I'm not sure what's being implied here so I don't know how to reply.

For what it's worth, TFA isn't saying that investors aren't bothering with female founders. They are, but are being careful with the feedback they give.

ETA: Forgot to mention, the way you're suggesting investors to "manage" the risk not only doesn't remove the risk for investors, but it also leaves female founders at a disadvantage anyway: male founders can get critical feedback right away, female founders have to wait until a rapport is built.


> Which leads me back to GP's point: there are only two choices. I take it that you're saying that the risk of the second choice should be ignored, but the consequences remain the same, and GP didn't speak about the thresholds or ways to improve the odds. He only mentioned that the risk exists and isn't worth it for him, and you disagree, but that's not much to go on.

What I'm trying to demonstrate is that the framing of the choices involved as just the two is misleading and not at very useful. Not sure what you're trying to imply by going through the pedantry of demonstrating that what I said is "actually covered by the second choice". If that makes you happy, let it be so, its a false dichotomy.

> Conversely, I'm not sure what to reply to this. It seems to me like you're implying that the people who are discussing this are "sexists looking for an excuse", but that sounds like an uncharitable interpretation, so I might as well ask if you could clarify what you meant by this.

I stated a possibility for why the people are behaving in the way it has been described. The reasoning given seems to be "some women founders may interpret it as sexism", which to me seems like an uncharitable interpretation.

I am trying to point out that this only makes sense to an audience of males. The reason could be equally viewed as "some men investors do not want to deal with women founders", which is another uncharitable interpretation.

> For what it's worth, TFA isn't saying that investors aren't bothering with female founders. They are, but are being careful with the feedback they give.

The article is very clearly stating that investors are withholding from giving the kind of advice that could decide between whether the company succeeds or fails. I would actually say that's worse than outright rejection to work with female founders, as investors play an important role in filtering out bad ideas and convincing founders of good ideas.


> There is a nonzero risk in any social interaction that involves giving critical feedback. The way you manage that risk is by investing in healthy relationships, not by perceiving literally half of humanity as being too risky to be worthy of critical feedback.

Depends on the quantum of risk.

I'll make someone unhappy at most but the truth will help them? Sure.

I can be labelled as sexist and it might end my career? Hard nope.


I would only deal with women founders by Zoom recorded or in-person with several other people present. No closed doors and no alone time because it's a liability waiting to happen.

Regardless of gender, the other issue is if they're crazy or unable to accept feedback, then they may try to make you look bad. It's probably a good idea to socially screen all founders carefully so you know who you're dealing with.


The odds are good I would err on the side of not risking it

Which is why this needs to be discussed: So a path forward can be found. Our current default patterns aren't working well.


The only path forward is for enough high-profile, hyper-woke behavior examples to get negative public exposure. As long as men are afraid of accidentally becoming the target of the next donglegate, it's safer to just not engage.


I agree with what I think you are going for: That this super blamey "hyper woke" bullshit needs to stop if we are going to make any real forward progress on issues like this one.

In my experience, one good example of how to do it right is vastly more powerful in solving social ills than any number of people being hung high and scapegoated for getting it wrong.

In fact, I generally feel that scapegoating people in a system where there are no good answers is actively counterproductive and helps keep things stuck. Hanging someone high for not knowing "the right answer" in a system that gives zero good options for how to handle X implicitly suggests that good answers exist and implicitly denies the reality that "We don't know how to do this dance. We don't have an answer for that."

It implicitly suggests there is a means to get this right when the reality is there isn't. So it actively distracts from real problem solving.

I would like to see more real problem solving in this space. As a dirt poor woman, I have a vested interest in seeing a world where there are answers for how to do this dance.

So far, I am mostly coming up empty under circumstances that suggest to me that my behavior is not the problem. The problem is the lack of good answers for how to do this dance.


Completely agree. Scapegoating can't have positive effects. At best, it causes what we see here: people staying silent in fear. At worst, it just alienates people and causes them to dig their heels in, doubling down on whatever bad behavior they're scapegoated for because they've got nothing left to lose. It rarely, if ever, actually improves behavior.

I recently had a conversation where the lady I was talking to basically said (paraphrasing for brevity) "all men bad, always" and I'm really not sure what she even wanted to achieve. Some kind of perceived revenge maybe? I ended up disengaging and it left me feeling rather deflated. If I'm bad by default and there's nothing I can do to change that, why care at all? Luckily I know that most women are much more reasonable so I will continue to strive to treat everybody equally and how I want to be treated.

But I do worry sometimes that even that can backfire, because I've witnessed another situation (on Twitter) where a lady complained that men who didn't get her joke tweet were mansplaining about how what she wrote was wrong, that they were explaining her (purposeful) error to her because she was a woman. Except others replied with their own versions of the joke and they too were getting "mainsplained" too, even though many were themselves men. That is, some people were misunderstanding the joke and commenting, it wasn't anything to do with her being a woman. But she turned it into a gender issue.

So if I want to treat everyone equal, but that equal treatment can be seen as mansplaining or other negative gendered thing, that makes me more likely to disengage out of fear and then I'm not treating people equally, but not out of malice or feeling of superiority, just out of fear...

Its a big problem and I don't know the answer either.


I've been contemplating your remark and how or if to reply.

I recently had a conversation where the lady I was talking to basically said (paraphrasing for brevity) "all men bad, always" and I'm really not sure what she even wanted to achieve. Some kind of perceived revenge maybe? I ended up disengaging and it left me feeling rather deflated. If I'm bad by default and there's nothing I can do to change that, why care at all?

This is a really thorny issue -- that there are people who have been so hurt that they see no path forward. Trying to reach them is really difficult and complicated and puts you at risk of being burned, which tends to leave them painted into a corner that they can't find their way out of.

I'm glad you know other women that are more reasonable and do not feel like giving up over this one incident.

But I do worry sometimes that even that can backfire, because I've witnessed another situation (on Twitter) where a lady complained that men who didn't get her joke tweet were mansplaining about how what she wrote was wrong, that they were explaining her (purposeful) error to her because she was a woman. Except others replied with their own versions of the joke and they too were getting "mainsplained" too, even though many were themselves men. That is, some people were misunderstanding the joke and commenting, it wasn't anything to do with her being a woman. But she turned it into a gender issue.

To be fair to her, it gets really hard to not attribute certain patterns to your gender. It gets really hard to try to make that nuanced distinction that "Not everything is about sexism." and this also ends up being a thorny issue because trying to tell someone who is in that head space that they are wrong gets experienced by them as just another means to undermine them and gaslight them.

I think the best strategy is to try to avoid talking to women about their "personal" stuff. Try to not make it into a "personal" relationship when it really isn't.

I lived a really private life for a lot of years because I was a homemaker for roughly two decades and what I eventually came up with was this idea that women generally get treated like "private" individuals and men generally get treated like "public" people and the way men and women get socialized reinforces that pattern.

So men frequently have "personal" conversations with women in public settings that they wouldn't have with a man or in a way that they wouldn't have with a man and it happens so often that women don't realize "This is not normal and it is not good for your work life."

It's normal for them in their lives and they don't see that this is a problem.

Men focus on the importance of networking and women tend to be better at the social thing and at making personal connections and that tends to be one of their strengths. It is one of mine and I have been baffled and frustrated that it doesn't turn into professional connections.

People talk to me and they want to see me as their new best friend for life or their one true love or something like that and it ends up being enormously frustrating for me because they generally don't have as much to give back to me as I have to give to them in that regard and what I most need is more income and that's never something they want to help with.

People don't want to pay money to their friends for their friendship. Men don't want to pay money to their girlfriend for being their girlfriend.

And people also don't want to open doors for me professionally once it veers into that "personal relationship" space. And it's not simply because they are being selfish jerks or something.

If a man is sleeping with a woman or hopes to, it can be hard to vouch for her. It can be hard to overcome the public perception that "You're just saying that because you are sleeping with her and I can't actually trust what you say about this woman."

I spent a lot of years being a walking, talking train wreck waiting to happen. I tend to "turn heads" so to speak. I tend to be attention grabbing, but all that attention was directed at me as an individual and I didn't know how to get it onto my work and translate that into traffic for my websites and income.

So what I will say is if you are male, try to focus on her work and try to avoid getting into her personal shit. Women being overly personal in work settings is part of what holds women back.

Not everyone is your Fwend at work and women can be slow to get that memo. That was one of my biggest stumbling blocks because I was a homemaker for a lot of years and the people I had relationships with were basically all friends and family. For years and years, I didn't have a boss or any coworkers, etc.

And it's really hard to do this because it seems like just telling her "You need to stop doing X" would help her but it won't because that is just you getting into her personal business and that de facto reinforces this pattern where women relate to other people in an overly personal fashion and people relate to women in an overly personal fashion.

If it isn't your sister, mother, wife, etc, don't get into that with them and don't talk about it as her problem. Talk about it as "not my problem."

"Oh, well, sorry, I barely know you. This is outside the scope of our relationship. I'm going to go have a coffee now. Catch you later."

With enough repetition women can get the memo.

If you want to help her career, give her work some positive attention. Tell other people she does good work. Tell her she does good work. Tell her you would like to help her connect with people who would appreciate her work.

Make sure the focus is her work and not her as an individual. Keep saying it until it slowly sinks in. Rinse and repeat on the "I'm going to go have a coffee now. This is not my problem." when she tries to turn you into a shoulder to cry on because she has big feels about you giving her work positive attention because no one has done that before and blah blah blah.

Men learn that it's not about them. It's about their work.

Women frequently seem to not learn that. I was very slow to learn that and my gender and the life I lived for a lot of years as a homemaker and the way other people reacted to me because of all that made it super hard to sort this out because I would talk to people like they were my friend and people who were emotionally starved would eat that up and then not know how to say "Look, that's the problem." and no one knew how to say "So, show me your work. Do you have samples I could see and maybe share with some of my contacts?"

People still tend to err on the side of replying to me on HN as if comments I make about gendered issues are just me whining about my personal problems and me being in need of advice and it continues to be a pattern I have to actively work at shutting down.

Everyone wants to make that personal connection to me and that always ends up in a pattern of meeting their emotional needs at my expense and continuing to fail to open doors for me professionally.

So if you really want women to reach some kind of professional parity with men, stop being so personal with them. Get your own emotional needs met some other way and stop investing in having these personal conversation with women and let them know this is not your thing and you want none of it but don't alienate or shun them.

Instead, talk about their work. Help them with their work. Promote their work.

I think women relate less to their work than men do and I think this is the crux of why men's careers tend to stronger than women's careers.

I worked at Aflac for a few years. The CEO at the time that I was there was, I think, the son of one of the three founders (they were brothers) and he made the risky decision to go with the Aflac duck commercials and it made the company a household name.

Aflac had something of value that was underrecognized. If you have something of value that is underrecognized and you add some promotion to it, you can really rake in the dough.

But if you don't have much of value, lots of advertising amounts to a con job, basically.

So when women try to network, sometimes they are trying to promote themselves when there isn't much to promote. It ends up being just an empty social activity and not a career maker because they haven't really done the work and they aren't really promoting the work.

So those are my rambling thoughts at 1am my time, for what it's worth.


I think the best strategy is to try to avoid talking to women about their "personal" stuff. Try to not make it into a "personal" relationship when it really isn't. ... So men frequently have "personal" conversations with women in public settings that they wouldn't have with a man or in a way that they wouldn't have with a man and it happens so often that women don't realize "This is not normal and it is not good for your work life."

This is an interesting perspective, and it's something that I found weird when I started working with Americans - they're so cagey about their non-work lives compared to how people are in Ireland. With most of my previous co-workers I'd know their backstories and their partners/spouses/kids names, even if I've never met them, but with my current (mostly American) team unless I actually ask people this stuff they absolutely only ever talk about work, unless they have a story or two that from their real lives that fits with their work persona


I'm part Irish and part Cherokee and part German. That seems to be a factor in the challenges I've faced in trying to make my life work.

To me, talking with people is a really normal activity, but it's gone weird places with people who seem to think we have a super intimate relationship because I talked with them a little. And they reflect that back to me as being far more conversation than they've had with anyone in ages and now want to treat me like their personal possession or some nonsense.

Just being less share-y and drawing certain boundaries seems to be the only effective approach. Being what I think of as personable, polite and diplomatic just goes really weird places at times and then I can't get rid of people who latch onto me like obsessed nutcases.

Reading up on some Irish playwright helped me feel more at peace with some things.

I'm American. Born and raised here and spent most of my life here. But I tend to get misread a lot by Americans and tend to hit it off better with foreigners, third culture kids, people who have traveled a lot, etc.


Culture definitely plays a factor. I’m not actually American and my day to day isn’t nearly as bad as what I described in previous comments, but I do often work with and interact with Americans, which is mostly where my comments came from. The other thing is that there’s a slow Americanisation happening in some circles so I also want to be prepared. Luckily outside of the interactions I’ve mentioned and a few others, things have mostly been fairly smooth with people being quite understanding and willing to work together to improve things. But I do see it, regardless, which is why I’m here.

Anyway, your comments have given me lots to think about. Thanks! Hopefully you find ways to improve things for yourself too.


Thanks for the reply, it will take a bit of time to digest that!

For what it’s worth, I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s unhealthy to base your social life around work colleagues (for many reasons), so while I strive to get on well with and be friendly with people I work with, I’ve never seen work as a place to find my primary friends groups or people to date or whatever. It’s just too messy, not just for the two people involved but for everyone around them too. I think that attitude has helped me in my interactions with women in places I’ve worked because it meant that I already don’t see them as a potential partner but rather as a professional colleague just like the men there. I try to just treat people how I want to be treated, regardless of gender or race or anything else, and from other conversations with women, I’ve been told that the best way to “help” is to do just that and to watch out for when they are being ignored and to help amplify their voices in those cases (eg if men are not giving women a chance to say their bit in a meeting, to say something like hey I’d really like to hear what she has to say, can you please stop interrupting, or whatever). That all seemed super reasonable to me and I’ve taken it on board (but haven’t been in a situation to put it into practice since, due to covid).

But these two more recent interactions did give me pause and made me question whether I would get into trouble for doing what I believe is the right thing... which brings us here.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to reply, I find these insights enlightening, even if they’re your 1am thoughts :)

PS I find networking pretty hard myself. I guess for very different reasons though...


I think the pattern that has recently been abandoned is trial by jury instead of rule by emotional, angry, partially-informed mob. If you see people in your sphere of influence jumping into a 15-minutes-of-hate session, call them to the mat.


And then there is a chance that their next 15-minutes-of-hate session will be pointing towards you. Safer to stay away.


I am male, and I would say so.

I do not live in the Anglo Saxon world; know this well.

I would say so, and the thought that anyone would level some of these weird gender arguments I've primarily seen from Anglo-Saxon news sources wouldn't cross my mind, for it has never happened to me in my life. — and I am not entirely sure as to how much I should believe such stories I read on the internet that speak of how seemingly every single issue in Anglo-Saxon culture is phrased in terms of an imaginary gender war.

I have never in such professional disputes in my life felt as though gender were used as an excuse, or reason, I have never in my life been accused of sexism when I criticized female staffmembers, and I have never seen it happen to anyone else either, I have never seen anyone go that route as a matter of defence.

Perhaps, a difference is that Dutch professional analyses ten to be more numerical, and that the Anglo-Saxon more often wings it based on feeling rather than numbers. It is o course far harder to argue with numbers.


The Dutch aren't any more analytical or rational than any other nation or nationality.


Of course there is a cultural difference between how much numbers speak in different cultures.

What you want the world to be isn't what the world is, and in this case it's true, as by law in the Netherlands, various promotional and termination choices are required to be justified by numbers, which is not the case in Anglo-Saxon countries, where employers are more so at liberty to subjectively assess whom they wish to promote, and whom not.


Yes, and I'm sure the Dutch robotically compute such numbers, and there is rarely or never any subjectivity in their decision making that is justified ex post facto by clever accounting.


You're attacking a straw man of things I never said.

I simply said that in Dutch decisions of whom to promote, numbers play a greater sway than in Anglo-Saxon promotions; the claim you are attacking is another altogether.


Your remarks kind of sound pretty dismissive of and attacking towards Anglo-Saxon culture and I think some people get tired of hearing about supposed "Dutch superiority." The Dutch don't have everything beautifully and perfectly sorted, though they do appear to have a better track record in certain respects than average.

The Dutch cultural tendency to be very blunt is probably not helping your case.

I'm leaving this comment in hopes of being personally helpful to you as an individual and it's probably foolish for me to do so. It would probably be better for me to say nothing, but it's just kind of a pet peeve of mine so to speak, so I am doing it anyway.


This is anonymous, so I'll speak my mind. Maybe it's helpful to you.

They call it Dutch superiority because they are superior. I immigrated from the United States, and I would never go back at this point. People are still people here, but society functions, and that is because people are critical. Education is better, family relationships are better, infrastructure is better, treatment of the poor and less fortunate is better. And OP is right in that you clammed up, in precisely the way the article describes, at the slightest criticism of Anglo-Saxon culture, despite the fact that you have been describing just how much you dislike said culture in your voluminous comments.

My advice is to start being critical if you want your culture to survive. We really do see how silly you all are, and it is really more sad than anything. Fijne dag!


Note that the discussion was about Anglo-Saxon culture, not the U.S.A., which is a beast of it's own and the problems you speak of are not Anglo-Saxon culture, but extreme capitalism.

You will find many of the benefits of which you speak in other Anglo-Saxon nations such as Canada as well. In fact, Canada ranks far higher than the Netherlands in social mobility indices, and social mobility in the Netherlands is not very high compared to other developed nations, only average, but social mobility is very low in the U.S.A..

The arguments you raised here were not of anything that was spoken of in this discussion, but of how much less capitalist the Netherlands is than the U.S.A., which would similarly apply to any other developed nations.

The topic spoke of gender relationships, which is entirely unrelated, and I remain that I'm sceptical that it's truly as bad as claimed, for I have seen as many anecdotes that point to the opposite from Anglo-Saxons.

But yes, I have seen many an Anglo-Saxon rant on the internet that speaks of a ridiculous, dystopian doom scenario in Anglo-Saxon gender relationships, where the male cannot walk outside with his own children alone, lest he be arrested on the spot for child abduction, and the female cannot buy his own automative vehicle, for the salesman would first ask for permission of a male relative ere he be allowed to do so. — these stories seem very exaggerated, but I have certainly read stories that go to this length.

I have also read counter anecdotes that claim that there is no real problem, and that much of it seems to be outright whining of how bad it is for the home team makes me sceptical that gender relationships are truly as bad as they claim in the Anglo-Saxon world. What I do think is perhaps the big problem is the tribalist nature and tensions, and how quickly people see ghosts, and complain on being mistreated on their tribe. The Anglo-Saxon seems to very often be a team player by nature, an be quick to shout sexism or racism, when other factors might be at play.


Thanks for the comment.

I would personally never live in Canada either. As someone who can say from experience what this culture is really like, I tend to agree with the dystopian doom scenario and that entails all of North America. Try it for yourself if you like.

You really cannot speak your mind with a female coworker in the United States. My guard is fully up because I have experienced numerous difficulties with "just being myself" that have never caused issues here. Threatening to go to HR to get one's way is something that I have experienced personally and seen multiple times with peers, and the men never win. However, this is in the context of startup/tech culture, and it is a worse problem in this area.

In relationships, they know that they can always take the children. The government/society fully supports them regardless of the circumstances. A big female content creator in the U.S., neekolul, went on twitter to trash her ex-husband despite the fact that she was tried and convicted of felony domestic violence for stabbing him during a fight, but her fellow female content creators shrugged and supported her anyway. It's the most horrible example of many, but the point is, it's real. The people who don't believe it are delusional or have an abusive partner themselves.

I'm curious. Do you have any colleagues from the UK or from southern Europe? How do you treat them? I am similarly guarded with women from these places, although not nearly as much as I felt I had to be in the United States.


> You really cannot speak your mind with a female coworker in the United States.

Perhaps, but this is a different matter to how the poor are treated, wouldn't you say?

Do you feel that Canada also treats the poor poorly? or that it has merely also inherited Anglo-Saxon gender chivalry? As I'm sceptical of the former, but not the latter.

> In relationships, they know that they can always take the children. The government/society fully supports them regardless of the circumstances. A big female content creator in the U.S., neekolul, went on twitter to trash her ex-husband despite the fact that she was tried and convicted of felony domestic violence for stabbing him during a fight, but her fellow female content creators shrugged and supported her anyway. It's the most horrible example of many, but the point is, it's real. The people who don't believe it are delusional or have an abusive partner themselves.

Well, these would indeed be some of the doomsday stories of tribalism and gender relationships I often hear of Anglo-Saxon culture where everyone has decided who is right and who is wrong based on little more than “What team do you play for?”, that I have never experienced in the Netherlands.

But, then again, such stories, as in this case, seem to once again come from a team, and are anecdotal, so perhaps exaggerated. The other team frequently paints a doomsday scenario in the opposite direction, of which I am as sceptical as I am of this one due to it.

> I'm curious. Do you have any colleagues from the UK or from southern Europe? How do you treat them? I am similarly guarded with women from these places, although not nearly as much as I felt I had to be in the United States.

None that spent their formative years outside of the Netherlands, no.

The one very mild experience I had in life with someone who did seem to on some level believe in “gender relations” was indeed with a friend of mine who had Finnish parents, and was born in the U.K. but lived in the Netherlands since four years old and spoke Dutch accentlessly. Perhaps it's a coincidence that this is the one person who had such perspectives, but perhaps it isn't; it does make one wonder that the one person happened to be a natal foreigner, but his foreign ancestry was seldom something that came up.

There were certainly not gendered excuses or accusations of sexism, but there were sometimes remarks in the vein of “Are you even aware of that I'm female in how you treat me?”, at least initially, after which it mostly went away.


> Your remarks kind of sound pretty dismissive of and attacking towards Anglo-Saxon culture and I think some people get tired of hearing about supposed "Dutch superiority." The Dutch don't have everything beautifully and perfectly sorted, though they do appear to have a better track record in certain respects than average.

This entire thread is a sea of doomsday tears of fatalism and how bad it is, and how the culture is on a collision course with death, and mine was the perspective that I'm skeptical that it's truly as bad as they claim.

I'm far less dismissive of their own culture than they are.

But indeed, what they're tired of is not dismissing Anglo-Saxon culture, but that an outsider does so and having to hear that it's not the entire world.

They're own dismissals are far greater than mine.

> The Dutch cultural tendency to be very blunt is probably not helping your case.

My case? is it not further evidence of my thesis that there are cultural differences at play here?

One may assume that is is only to be expected that in a blunter culture, one would be less inclined to use sexism as an excuse when one be criticized.

Indeed, the Anglo-Saxon's famed tendency for politeness might very well be a contributing factor, if again, it truly be the case that it is so common for sexism to be used as an excuse when criticism be leveled.

> I'm leaving this comment in hopes of being personally helpful to you as an individual and it's probably foolish for me to do so. It would probably be better for me to say nothing, but it's just kind of a pet peeve of mine so to speak, so I am doing it anyway.

You are free to do so, and I am free to disagree and point out the opposite.

From my perspective, it comes across as a petulant child who excessively and unreasonably talks about a culture that is failing, but lashes out defensively when an outsider chimes in and says “It might be bad, but I'm not sure it's as bad as you claim.”, for then it is an outsider who does so, and apparently that crosses the line, not the dismissal in and of itself.


Indeed, the Anglo-Saxon's famed tendency for politeness might very well be a contributing factor, if again, it truly be the case that it is so common for sexism to be used as an excuse when criticism be leveled

So if a Brit/American wants to insult you they'll do it politely/obliquely, the flipside being that politeness can often be misinterpreted as an insult. That won't happen with the Dutch, because if they want to insult you they'll just insult you directly. Is that what you mean? If so - haha, v interesting!


it comes across as a petulant child

That's basically a personal attack.

I'm not someone who downvoted you and my above remark was my first reply to you.

Have a good day.


It's no more a personal attack than what you did. You said how I came across, and I offered an opposite perspective how they came across.


I have a serious medical condition and I'm sometimes pretty impaired while posting here.

When I said it was sort of a pet peeve of mine, that perhaps sounds like I meant I was criticizing you and that's really not what I meant. I meant it aggravates me to see someone post in good faith, get downvoted to hell until they seem to be pissed off and no one will reach out to them and say "This doesn't work well on this forum for this reason."

I occasionally do try to make that effort in part because I'm a demographic outlier so I don't readily fit in here and have always had to really work at it and I sometimes get a lot of downvotes for what seems to be simply being a different demographic.

This forum skews culturally American to some degree. There do seem to be a fair number of Dutch members who post, but it is run by an American company and that helps shape the dominant culture here.

I'm American but I'm a former military wife. Like the Dutch, I tend to be pretty blunt.

Some people find me to be refreshingly direct. Others find me to be rude, crude and socially unacceptable. It seems to have little to do with my behavior and more to do with their cultural expectations.

I was only trying to tell you your bluntness will tend to be interpreted by most Americans as rudeness and disrespect, though some people with military experience will be more tolerant.

It's always a risk to say something to a total stranger and that's likely why it's common for someone to get downvoted to hell and no one tries to talk to them about that in some kind of helpful fashion: Because it can get misinterpreted and make the problem worse and make you a target of their ire.

I don't really care. I tend to do what makes sense to me and accept that sometimes it bites me in the ass.

Unlike a lot of people, I don't have to sit around justifying my guilty conscience. I don't have one. I don't stand idly by and say "Not my problem."

I'm sorry this didn't go well. I don't intend to discuss it with you further. If your take away from this is that I attacked you rather than that I was trying to reach out and bridge the cultural barrier you will face on HN, welp, you win some, you lose some.

Have a great day. Sincerely.


No, I'm attacking your claim that "numbers play a greater sway" in Dutch employment/investment practices. The claim can be technically true, in that laws or cultural norms might require an employer to put numbers to paper to justify a promotion or termination (for example), while at the same time being misleading, in that the numbers can easily be used as an ex post facto justification.

Bluntly, I am skeptical that the Dutch are any better at belaying their subjective biases than any other culture--anglo, asian, or otherwise. You may believe you are simply bluntly stating a truth as you see it, but the reality is that you are displaying your own blinders (and comically acting superior while doing so).

Your culture produced Pim and Geert: bluntly, it's hilarious that you think you're stating any truth, here.


> No, I'm attacking your claim that "numbers play a greater sway" in Dutch employment/investment practices.

An how would this claim be attacked by this passage:

> Yes, and I'm sure the Dutch robotically compute such numbers, and there is rarely or never any subjectivity in their decision making that is justified ex post facto by clever accounting.

How the numbers are derived is completely unrelated to how large the role they play is.

> The claim can be technically true, in that laws or cultural norms might require an employer to put numbers to paper to justify a promotion or termination (for example), while at the same time being misleading, in that the numbers can easily be used as an ex post facto justification.

So you aren't attacking the claim itself; you're merely saying that the claim is misleading.

> Bluntly, I am skeptical that the Dutch are any better at belaying their subjective biases than any other culture--anglo, asian, or otherwise.

Perhaps you are, but again, I never said anything of the sort, so I'm again pointing to that you are attacking a straw man.

As an side-note. I am sceptical of the existence of such a thing as “Asian culture.”; — I personally find that Chinese culture is further removed from, say, Japanese culture, than Japanese culture is from, say, English culture, especially after the cultural revolution in China. — I have viewed several cultural indicies which attempt to numerically classify various properties of various cultures and they do indeed tend to place Japan closer to England than to China in many respects.

> Your culture produced Pim and Geert: bluntly, it's hilarious that you think you're stating any truth, here.

None of which has anything to do with anything I said.

I find your claim that you aren't attacking straw men to be even more mystifying if you think this is an argument against what I said. This is an argument of the level of “If evolution be true? then how come atheists couldn't stop 9/11?”. — this is an absolutely bizarre connexion you made here of two completely unrelated matters.


> How the numbers are derived is completely unrelated to how large the role they play is.

It is not, actually; it's fundamentally important. Your claim is in two parts: 1) numbers play a larger role in this context in Dutch society; 2) this is a direct cause of lower/non-existent incidence of, e.g., accusations of sexism.

I'm only suggesting that it's terribly easy for someone to use numbers to justify after the fact a decision based on sexism, and that I'm skeptical this condition is absent in Dutch culture.

> So you aren't attacking the claim itself; you're merely saying that the claim is misleading.

No, I'm not calling the claim misleading, I noted that the numbers used to justify a decision can be misleading (which is, in fact, a direct attack against your claim).


Do you really think that all cultures have the same focus on analytical and rational thinking? As an American that moved to the Netherlands, this is comical.


You give the honest feedback.

We won’t progress as a society by being afraid.


What's good for society might not be good for the individual.


The society must work for each individual, if it doesn't, it causes issues like this.

That's why the Soviets failed, their incentive system totally doesn't work for majority of the individuals. Individuals are not to fault here as in there.


True, but a broken society isn’t good for the individual either.


But a broken society might maybe affect you somewhat vaguely in decades, but putting your neck out now can demolish your career today.


Yes, it’s a question we all need to ask ourselves. If you have kids though or plan to live more than a decade or more, the choice is hopefully one of bending towards the greater good for society rather than the individual.


I have kids. Providing for them is number one, becoming a meaningless casualty of culture wars doesn't help their future at all.


Also, in the spirit of guilt by association, kids may become collateral damage too.


It’s not meaningless at all. It’s a great example for your kids to show them how to do the right thing even when it’s hard.


"Son, you may not understand why you're getting taunted, bullied online, and threatened by anonymous people with violence now, but in 15 years you'll come to appreciate what I stood up for and that'll erase all of this traumatic social ostracism I brought on you inadvertently and without consulting you by sticking to my guns."

Yeah, that's some great parenting... </Sarcasm>


Or. We are living in a car and I don't know if we will have dinner today, but let's keep our chin up while we dumpster dive for food because we stood for what is right


I remember my dad telling me that if he had been accused of being a Communist during the McCarthy red scare, he would have said or done whatever was asked of him (named names, etc) so that he could keep working and supporting his family. I thought it was a cowardly perspective but now I'm a father myself I totally get it.


Funny enough, my great-grandfather was Joe Welch who famously stood up to McCarthy. It's hard for me to imagine him not standing up to those baseless accusations and waiting/hoping for someone else to do it.

sure it is. you take advantage of it. some white/east asian woman at work being annoying and you feel you can't voice your grievances with HR without being labelled sexist? deepfake her saying some nastyness and put it up on youtube. make as much money as you can and give nothing back to anyone who isn't your own immediate family and teach your children to do the same. amass all the wealth you can, subvert and destroy your competition and never be alone with a woman who isn't your mother, sister, wife, or daughter. do not hire anyone who isn't a white or asian man, lest they think you stepped on their toes and get the woke twitter mob to harass your family.


Basically the me too movement and the way in which men cannot defend themselves from sexual accusations back fired. Very predictable that this happened, there’s no easy solution.


It's perhaps a bit much to conclude from some anecdotes in this thread that the me too movement backfired (i.e., was a net negative for women in the workplace) as a whole.


Your conclusion is as subjective as his is. There is no real objective criteria by which the "net negative" could be measured. Even history will not be objective, because it will be written by those in power. However I'm of the same mind as him, that this has been more negative than positive for three reasons:

1) This was a precedent for public shaming without evidence or due process 2) This generally changed the working dynamic between male and female to something extremely formal and sometimes borderline hostile 3) It was a bandwagon for actresses(and eventually other careers) to make money because of 1)


You misread. I did not make any conclusions in my post.

I do lean towards the opposite opinion. But I'm in no position to judge definitively whether the net effect has been positive or negative so far, I'd need to interview a sizeable and representative sample of women for that.

Responding to your points:

1) What's missing from this argument is how we get to this point. IMO, the reason public shaming was used by the movement as a way to achieve justice, is because from their point of view, there was no other way to achieve justice. It's a classic example of "taking matters into their own hands" because the system failed them. Public shaming isn't the end goal, it should be a wake-up call to restore faith in the system.

2) I don't feel like anything meaningful changed in how I interact with female coworkers since metoo. But I only have my own experience to go on, so I won't make any big claims here.

3) Even if this is true (citation needed), it seems irrelevant.


If your statement is not a conclusion(albeit not a certain one), than what is it?

1) Do you have faith in the newfound public judgement system which by the way uses privately owned platforms for its media? Would you prefer it over the judicial system which has been developing over the past few centuries with all its flaws? Even with its flaws, the alternative for me is a hundred times worse.

3) Some women decided to pursue public figures and since they knew the damage that could be done to their target's image it was settled before court. I don't keep a record of such news and they are usually quickly buried as part of the deal.


> If your statement is not a conclusion(albeit not a certain one), than what is it?

Do you agree that there is a substantial difference between stating "I think/believe X is true" and stating "X is true"?

In my view, you can only honestly use the second form if you can back it up at least somewhat. You don't need 100% certainty, but definitely more than anecdotes.

My first comment in this thread was a criticism of someone using the latter form without backing it up. In a trivial sense it is indeed a conclusion, but not one about the outcome of the #metoo movement, but one about the parent comment: that it asserts a claim with unwarranted confidence.

1) No, I do not have faith in a public shaming based justice system. I also did not argue that this should be the new normal. But our established justice system has evidently been systematically failing women, and it needed a wake-up call to take their grievances seriously. A justice system should never see its own legitimacy as a given: it is kept honest by the knowledge that if people stop seeing it as legitimate, they will seek justice in other avenues.

3) Again, I don't see how this is relevant to the question we are discussing, which is "has #metoo been a net positive for women?" It seems to be an argument for the statement "it has been bad for some men who did not deserve it", but that's a broader question.


I don't think it's surprising that a movement that advocated successfully that the accusations do not require evidence, has created an environment of fear.


I don't experience it that way, but let's assume for the sake of argument that you're right.

The topic of discussion was whether #metoo was a net positive or a net negative for women. Simply saying that it has created an environment of fear does not address this question at all. Even if true, perhaps having some people be afraid is a net positive for women in the workplace? Or perhaps it is negative, but other positive outcomes of the movement outweigh it?


What's sexist is the lack of agency ascribed to women, as in: success/failure is something that happens to women and something men work for/through. That is the textbook definition of objectification, very much the norm even today and in my mind perpetuated by modern woke feminism framing everything as "we're being oppressed", singling out men's contributions to the situation and ignoring women's own.

I have the deepest sympathy for any hardship you have experienced. From the conversations I've had with my sister and colleagues, it's obvious sexism and its effects are real.

That said, your post frames it as if your career is not in your own hands. Please afford yourself some more agency. I have overcome a narcissist parent, academic failure, classism and depression, working my way up to programming and a college degree on my own dime. I find it's fundamentally unproductive to see yourself as a car vendor mascot, being dragged whichever the wind blows. Engage with the people holding you back to get what you need and change your environment if there's no other way.

I found "Nice girls [still] don't get the corner office" (the second edition added the "still") by Lois P. Frankel educational. The book's about her practice as a career coach for women and lists the mistakes her clients make to subconsciously sabotage their own careers. Of the 101 errors in the first print, I recognised a good 30% in myself. All this to say: it's not because there's sexism and perceived sexism that there's nothing else going on.


Wasn't Theranos debacle because the tech was never going to work due to it being borderline snake oil and whishful thinking hyped by con(wom)man?


Yes, but it was called a "decacorn" because it was valued at $10 billion dollars and its valuation dropped overnight to zero when it was outed as a fraud.

I posit that it wouldn't have gotten so crazy overvalued if it hadn't been headed by a pretty young woman. But trying to explain that is probably "off topic" and just thinking about trying to explain it makes me tired. I'd rather not.


> crazy overvalued

I didn't pay too close attention to the story. If they had managed to produce the tech they claimed for the price they claimed, would $10 billion be crazy overvalued?


I have no idea. Possibly not.

The issue is this: Would a man have gotten a $10 billion valuation based on hot air and zero results for years and years? Or would someone have called him on his shit a lot earlier?

She was literally sleeping with and living with a much older male investor* while publicly claiming to be celibate in her twenties due to her extreme devotion to her career and business. I always figured that was bullshit and she was probably sleeping with someone and "I'm celibate" was probably a cover story.

And no one went looking for that because of fear of being called sexist, I guess. I hesitated to give that opinion on HN for fear of back lash.

But as a woman with six year of college and yadda, when I meet accomplished men in positions to open doors for me, a lot of them find me attractive and this actively closes doors in my face. I'm not willing to sleep with a man to open doors, not because I have some kind of moral objection to that but because I don't believe it actually works.

It didn't actually work for Elizabeth Holmes. Sleeping with an investor did not, in fact, help her succeed in the world of business. It merely helped her cover up fraud while her problems grew larger until it resulted in both criminal and civil suits and her name is mud. She will never really recover from this debacle.

So I don't think sleeping with men to open doors works. I think sleeping with rich and powerful men would get me sex and maybe would let me be a "kept woman" but it wouldn't get me taken seriously as a business woman and it wouldn't teach me how business is done and it wouldn't have some men giving me meaty, constructive feedback.

* Edit: To be crystal clear here, I mean someone who invested in Theranos, I don't mean "Someone whose job title was investor." This was a clear conflict of interest.


> But as a woman with six year of college and yadda, when I meet accomplished men in positions to open doors for me, a lot of them find me attractive and this actively closes doors in my face. I'm not willing to sleep with a man to open doors, not because I have some kind of moral objection to that but because I don't believe it actually works.

I thought this was interesting. Do you mean "it closes doors because they are only prepared to help you if you sleep with them"? Or "it closes doors because they're scared to help you in case you misinterpret it"?


It closes doors because there is no good way for them to proceed. We essentially have no good answers for how to get involved with a woman both professionally and romantically in some ethical, above board fashion.

So men who are attracted to me are damned if they do, damned if they don't.

And I can't trust their motives. Are they helping me because they think I'm smart and talented and a good fit for a project? Or are they helping me hoping it leads to sex?

In practice, they usually don't make any effort to help me professionally anyway. Once they decide I'm attractive, in their minds the relationship is strictly personal and not professional. Period.

My experience has been men consistently decide early whether this is a platonic/professional relationship or a potential romantic interest. If I'm a potential romantic interest, I'm basically dead to them professionally.

They also tend to only think about how this impacts their career, not mine.

When I had a corporate job, one senior programmer in the IT department asked me for a date. In five years working there, he was the only person I met who knew what GIS was without me having to explain it. (I have a certificate in GIS.)

He interpreted that as "We have things in common and she's hot." He did not wonder if I might be an asset to the IT department. He did not wonder if I wanted a job in the IT department.

I did, in fact, want a job in the IT department. Being asked out by him did nothing to hurt his career. He was doing nothing wrong.

I'm sure he stopped to consider that. I'm sure he stopped to check that asking me out was not a fire-able offense.

He likely did not wonder how it impacted my career at the company. It made it vastly less likely I would ever get a job in his department.

This was true whether I said "yes" or "no." Simply being asked for a date, regardless of how that went personally, made it vastly less likely I would ever get into the IT department.

I left the company a few weeks later. I likely would have left anyway and had been planning to do so for some time, but him asking me for a date was something of a final nail in the coffin, killing all hope that I had a shot at a real future at the company.

I didn't. That simply was a non starter.

So it made it easier to pull the trigger on plans to leave.


Also interesting. Why this?

>This was true whether I said "yes" or "no." Simply being asked for a date, regardless of how that went personally, made it vastly less likely I would ever get into the IT department.

Speaking from outside the tech bubble, that sounds nuts - I mean the situation, not your interpretation of it. How can being asked on a date mean you can't work in the asker's department?


I didn't say I couldn't. I said it made it vastly less likely.

It was a big company. You could date and marry coworkers but you couldn't date someone in your chain of command.

I didn't know the internal structure of the IT department, but if he was high enough in the chain of command, there would be many positions below him. I had an entry level job. Transferring from an entry level job in a different department would have meant I would be getting an entry level job in IT.

I was having trouble figuring out how to get a different job in the company as is. I was having trouble finding the kind of info I wanted that was pertinent to me and having trouble understanding the internal job listings.

Adding the possibility that someone had just asked me out who was high enough in the department I wanted to get into that many of the jobs that might interest me would make him my boss made it overwhelmingly difficult to try to navigate the process of transferring into IT.

As I said, I already had plans to leave for unrelated reasons. Had I stayed, maybe I would have eventually drawn different conclusions and found a path forward.

But based on the info I had, my emotional reaction was "Welp, I can stop fretting about whether or not I'm doing the right thing by leaving. I'm basically going nowhere fast at this company."


> The issue is this: Would a man have gotten a $10 billion valuation based on hot air and zero results for years and years?

Adam Neumann?


Thank you for that, though it doesn't look to be nearly on par with the level of sheer hot air that Theranos proved to be.

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


It's true. There was no fundamental lie at the heart of WeWork. It was just bog standard over-exuberance of markets and west coast woo-woo BS.


> If they had managed to produce the tech they claimed for the price they claimed, would $10 billion be crazy overvalued?

Yes, but in the same way that a company that promises faster-than-light travel would be worth $10 billion dollars.

Theranos' tech was so far beyond the realms of any reasonable science, yet people still invested.


I don't know. There are crazy snakeoil hypes without "pretty young woman" being a founder. Even if it did contribute to the hype the it probably wasn't insignificant compared to rest of the factors


It should be noted that past the early stages virtually none of that investment and valuation came from institutional VCs and people who had a clue. The valuation was driven by rich people who didn’t know any better and they sadly got defrauded.


And mod enablement on every platform, including HN from which I've been banned permanently for calling her a fraud.

But hey, I'm a sexist, racist homophobe who wanted to bring down a woman. Why should anyone want to listen to me when I told them she is a fraud whose only credentials are her genitals?


I think the point being made is that no one wanted to publicly question the wisdom of the main founder because she was a well connected young woman.


>men erring on the side of protecting themselves and not wanting to take risks to engage with me meaningfully

Do you believe that people should take potentially career-ending risks to benefit you?


I don't understand how you ended up with such an interpretation of what she said.

As I understand it, she's saying that the current "politically correct" environment is hurting women more than it helps.


edit: removing my comment as this seems to be an uncharitable reading.


You're breaking the site guidelines badly in this thread. Note this one, from https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html:

"Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith."


You should re-read the second sentence of what was actually typed. Maybe a few times. Your characterization is flagrantly opposite of what this person shared.


No.

But I believe I shouldn't have to literally starve and be homeless for years for the crime of being born with girl bits between my legs, which is more or less part of my back story here.


edit: removing my comment as this probably isn't a fruitful avenue of conversation.


I did freelance work to accommodate my health situation. I was also the apparently highest ranked woman on HN and failing to turn that into professional connections and professional development and adequate income.

I believe my gender is a factor in that failing to become what I desired. Every single time I comment on that, without fail, someone acts like I am utterly full of shit and I get really awful and dismissive replies that completely fail to acknowledge that maybe I have a point and maybe my gender actually was a factor in my low income. (And still is.)


"I'm a freelancer. I polish resumes, I do a little website work and I do some writing."

Polishing resumes and website work don't sound like highly paid jobs, regardless of your ranking on HN. This is probably bigger issue then your gender in your income.


I'm not claiming and have never claimed that my gender is the sole factor. I also have a serious medical condition and that's a big problem.

But the issue is that I get told, both implicitly and explicitly, that my gender isn't really an issue at all. Even your comment basically hand waves off my gender as a factor.

I appear to be the highest ranked woman on HN. I appear to be the only woman to have ever spent time on the leader board.

I don't even need that much income. If I could just get enough resume work, I would be content to do resume work part-time at $50/page. That would work for me and I can't even arrange that.

I believe my gender is a factor in my failure to adequately meet my financial needs. It is not at all constructive for people to keep telling me the many, many other reasons I am poor as a means to implicitly say "Sure, sexism is a factor, but it's not the only factor, so quit pointing it out because it makes the guys uncomfortable."

That practice is exactly why so many women (people of color, etc) are so very angry. If people would simply acknowledge that my gender is actually something complicating my efforts to network and establish an adequate income and then spend time wondering what would work for me instead of dismissing it as "not the real reason" I'm poor, I would probably be okay financially.

I'm not asking to get rich overnight here.


I accept that gender could be a factor as well, but gender is not something that a comment on HN can change (or should for that matter). Your gender will not (probably) change and we can't really change the culture quickly either.

My point is that if you have low income, it would be better to focus on improving skills you are offering rather than try to solve "women are paid less" problem. For example, just presenting yourself as a website builder sounds more profitable than someone who edits resumes.

By the way is HN rank really that useful? For example I never knew there is a HN leader board or how to access it.

Thank you for the explanation, I wish you all the best.


I have focused on building my skills.

I don't present myself on HN as "a website builder" because I do little plug and play websites (blogspot, wordpress) and I'm not really a programmer. My knowledge of how to build a useful website is potentially of value to people in the small town I live in where local talent is sorely lacking. It's not anything people on HN are likely to want to hire me for.

I'm amazingly, desperately tired of discussing this. Thank you for acknowledging my point. I don't really want to dig into things like the value of HN rank further. It doesn't do a helluva lot of good.

I bring it up to make the point that "If I am doing it wrong, show me the woman that is supposedly doing it right so I can take pointers from her." and that seems to not be what anyone ever hears.

I appear to be the highest ranked woman here, ergo I appear to be the woman who has most closely "mastered" successfully talking to the guys here and I remain frustrated as all hell and dirt poor. So there doesn't appear to be a good answer here.


> I appear to be the highest ranked woman here

What do you mean?

> show me the woman that is supposedly doing it right so I can take pointers from her

There are successfull women everywhere. What are you on about?


> I appear to be the highest ranked woman here

What do you mean?

I have more than 32k karma under this handle. I had like 25k karma under a previous handle. That handle appears to be the only openly female handle to have ever spent time on the HN leader board.


You're right, connections is everything and right now the business network is partitioned along the male-female line for reasons described above. It would be a monumental effort, if possible at all, to bridge this gap. Probably no less effort if I tried to blend in with english aristocracy.

However I believe you can climb the wealth ladder by leveraging your status. For example, you could start a one-person firm that builds or rebrands sites for clients and advertise your firm on linkedin. It'll go viral very quickly: people there will be retweeting your posts because your case fits the narrative.


Did you write about it in detail somewhere? I would like to read it if you had.

Also in my life professional and personal connections are not totally separated, as I view a person as a person. As an example helped my ex partners very significantly in their professional life (while they helped me in other ways).


There is no nice little write up somewhere.

I have written about it -- quite a lot over the years, in fact. I did so to manage the situation as best I could under difficult circumstances and those many posts have been pretty consistently redacted over the years.

I'm frankly really freaking tired of writing about it and don't really feel a strong desire to try to find some means to write about it as some kind of edutainment for random internet strangers, so don't hold your breath waiting for me to do a write up. That's probably not really in my best interest and I'm just amazingly exhausted with the whole thing at this point.


Sure, no problem, I understand. I often feel that both sexes have lots of their own problems and we won't ever be able to empatize with eachother however strongly we want to.


Online relationships have a shred of value of what a personal one does. I don't know you but to me it sounds more like you didn't want to work for peanuts at a company and instead risked being an entrepreneur or something.


It's more like reverse sexism here. I totally get the behaviour here. You simply don't want to be on the receiving end of potential backlash when you're just trying to help someone. The calculus being you feel as if you might make a genuine remark only to receive a response interpreting said remark as the product of sexism e.g "out of persons A and B, I think B should run the company" where A is a woman and B is a man is simply far too likely to be met with "well of course a man would pick another man" than "it seems they carefully evaluated the attributes and qualities of A and B and B is likely better suited". The former response is itself sexist as it's basing assumptions about the decision on attributes of gender first and foremost, hence it's a sort of reverse sexism if you will. And the man's move here is sexist also in the regard that his calculus of the reverse sexism response is also based on the assumption that this dynamic exists and presents a real danger and it's all based primarily on gender too.

Sexism all the way down on both sides.

I've come to understand in life through experience there are a very thorny class of problems that I don't know of a proper name for, but have formulated my own concept of the "non-native speakers dilemma". It goes as follows:

You're on a bus and while listening to two strangers conversing you realise you can't quite understand what they're talking about. As a native speaker you feel perfectly confident that you know the language and you are simply missing context shared only by the individuals talking and hence it isn't possible for you to understand the conversation, and not because you don't know the language. If you are a non-native speaker, and depending on your level, you often start to doubt your abilities, and can never be fully sure if you simply don't understand because you're missing context that's not possible for you to obtain or there are gaps in your language skills that still need to be filled.

I had this realisation on the bus about a decade ago when learning Japanese. But I've often thought back to it in certain situations and these kind in particular seem to crop up a lot.

One example I overheard was a female engineer talking to another female non-engineer outside their workplace just about their experiences in their jobs. I heard the female engineer remark something along the lines of "the Architect often shoots down my ideas because I'm female".

I sat thinking to myself... That's interesting because the architect shoots down my ideas too (different workplace, so I don't _know_ her situation) but it's certainly not because I'm female, because I'm not female, but it's probably because I'm an intermediate level Dev with lots to learn and the idea has some flaws in it that he can see that I can't.

In this case I'm a "native speaker" so to speak, so I can be perfectly confident my thinking is accurate with respect to the reason why it's getting rejected. The female engineer is the so called "non-native speaker" where this pernicious dynamic exists making it nigh on impossible to confident that your assessment is accurate.

Curious if that metaphor makes sense to others, or if others ever noticed the same thing?


One of the toughest things about discrimination is being able to prove it. I'm a white man, but I spent time living in Japan where I was an obvious minority.

Some situations were clear to me that I was being treated a particular way because of my race. But then others were not so clear cut.

For example, one time I was talking in Japanese with a group and someone kept repeating what I said like "He said...". I was getting angry at that as I took it to mean that they were basically "translating" my Japanese for others. But then later, I was watching a Japanese TV drama and the same thing happened on there (with only Japanese speaking). That made me think that maybe this was just a cultural thing that people do and didn't have any reflection on me personally.

Having mentored a female engineer, I've seen that if you are constantly on the lookout for signs of discrimination against you, you will find so much of it. You'll go crazy thinking the whole world is out to get you because of your sex, race, etc. It's tough because there are no doubt situations where that does happen. But there are also situations where a white man would have been given the same feedback or treated in the same way. As a minority though, you only have your own experience to go on. It becomes tough to recognize what is legitimate discrimination vs what is just ordinarily communication.


I have this issue with my SO where I'll sigh heavily and she'll interpret it as me disapproving of whatever she just did or did not do, inventing scenarios in case there's no immediately obvious cause.

Instead my head is somewhere else entirely, and I might have been annoyed at myself for forgetting to pick something up at the store or whatever.

We've gotten better at handling it, I try to remind myself to immediately tell her it wasn't her, and she asking me what it was if I forget. But there has been a lot of unnecessary bad times that originated from such episodes...


I was watching a Dog Whisperer episode where this couple had a violent pitbull. It turned out the two people (mostly the girl) just wanted out of the relationship and deferred the conflict onto the dog as the conduit of the problem.

This is not uncommon for men or woman to do, and more commonly expressed as ‘you are looking for things to point out’.

You can run your own little test. Convert the sigh to something similar like shrugging. Consider it debugging with console.logs until you find out the source of the bug.


This. It can be a challenge for anyone in the workplace, but I imagine it is harder for minorities.

One of the best pieces of career advice I have ever taken was from this TED talk: https://youtu.be/KzSAFJBLyn4

The section on Abraham Lincoln. Perceive no slights. It changed the way I approach people at work.


There's a real epistemological problem that people of protected classes face that I hadn't considered before reading this article and the comments here; one unintended effect of the current zeitgeist is that, because overt sexism against women is so heavily policed, almost nobody is going to be explicitly sexist against women, so women can get stuck questioning the motives behind potentially any interaction.

For those perceived as belonging to a privileged class, people feel free to (and in some cases relish in and are socially rewarded for) voicing their sexist opinions. A man has a lot less reason to dwell on whether a particular interaction was sexist against them, because when it does happen it is often overt.


That's really fascinating. Did you ever learn more about that "He said..." behavior and what it's connotations are?


Happens in English too when people simply say "what he means is..." and then rephrases what you said.


One example I overheard was a female engineer talking to another female non-engineer outside their workplace just about their experiences in their jobs. I heard the female engineer remark something along the lines of "the Architect often shoots down my ideas because I'm female".

I sat thinking to myself... That's interesting because the architect shoots down my ideas too (different workplace, so I don't _know_ her situation) but it's certainly not because I'm female, because I'm not female, but it's probably because I'm an intermediate level Dev with lots to learn and the idea has some flaws in it that he can see that I can't.

One of the really good things for me about hanging on HN is hearing "X happens to me too as a man because (reasons) and has nothing to do with gender." That's been enormously helpful to me in trying to find a path forward in my own life.

I hope you get constructive engagement of your points. I don't like the characterization that it's sexism on both sides but that's not intended to be a big attack or something. I think we don't have good language for talking about these issues that acknowledge in a non-blamey fashion that "Gender is, in fact, a factor in outcomes and it's complicated."

So far, we mostly do a sucky job of trying to discuss this at all. It ends up being people on both sides pointing fingers and even if you are bending over backwards to not point fingers, it will get interpreted as such by a lot of people and that tends to go bad places, not good.


Mmmmmm the problem I have found with feminist literature is that it often talks about the advantages of men and the disadvantages of women (which is all fair enough) but it doesn't really talk about the advantages of women and the disadvantages of men. To generalise, it doesn't attempt to critique its own model. I'm all for encouraging equality etc. and do my best to avoid identity politics discussions but at the back of my mind this is what I'm thinking when I over hear a woman/man complain about sexism. e.g. Are you really sure that this is true?

Yes things can be improved. But at some point will critical thinking and the benefit of the doubt be encouraged in society?

Or are we doomed to the media/twitter blowing up things out of proportion and people looking through prisms of victimhood.


Mmmmmm the problem I have found with feminist literature is that it often talks about the advantages of men and the disadvantages of women (which is all fair enough) but it doesn't really talk about the advantages of women and the disadvantages of men.

I don't self identify as a feminist. I never have. I generally agree with this criticism.


It’s an evolving identity. If you think about what women have been mostly doing just in America, it’s been fighting to get legal voting rights, and then fighting to get out of the house and into the workplace, and then fighting to legally get rights for contraception and abortions, and then fighting gender discrimination and harassment (and this is just in the last 120 years). This is their identity at the moment, and I try to be patient with that fact.

If all you’ve been doing is fighting for your damn life as a group, then this will define your character until new types of challenges balance out your origins. This is true for a lot of groups that have consistent struggle. I cannot fault them for being combative.


In contrast, it was first in expressly feminist academic literature that I first encountered the idea that men are disadvantaged in ways that are systemic and by design.


That's interesting. Do you have any recommendations on books/papers here?


Why was that flagged?

Here's a link to the website for The Red Pill, a documentary by a feminist who talked to men's rights activists. You may not agree with the subjects of the documentary, but the perspective is interesting, and was interesting to the feminist filmmaker who created it.

I guarantee whoever flagged me for recommending it did not watch it himself (yes, it was a dude)

http://theredpillmovie.com/


> One of the really good things for me about hanging on HN is hearing "X happens to me too as a man because (reasons) and has nothing to do with gender."

I was interested to note something in the hiring page for the company wiki where I worked once.

It said the biggest red flag, an automatic no-hire, was a candidate confidently "explaining" things he didn't actually know. This was a big enough problem to be called out in the hiring policy. Interviewers were on notice to watch out for candidates who claimed to know something, but whose explanations were pure bluffing. Happens all the time.

The feminist literature, of course, refers to this as "mansplaining", except that mansplaining by definition refers to an explanation delivered to a woman. How is it different from the ordinary behavior? Well, it isn't.


You aren't necessarily wrong per se that it's no different, but this is my view of what "mainsplaining" is:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26613161

I don't think I ever accuse anyone of "mansplaining" because I don't think that's likely to be helpful in remedying the problem. But I do think the use case that men can be oblivious to the stuff women are dealing with and can kind of pick on women and can then act like she's just not trying hard enough or something if she doesn't jump on his suggestion as a brilliant solution is a common enough occurrence that it isn't unreasonable for there to be a word specifically for that pattern.

It's a word useful to kvetch to allies about it happening. It's not a word useful to build bridges, explain to the people doing it why their random unsolicited advice to a woman can be actively harmful, etc.

Edit: And I am not trying to pick a fight with you or something. I do realize the context here is you are probably agreeing with me in some fashion. (Turns out I'm still not perfect and I apologize if this reads as fighty. It's not intended to be.)


A difficulty of being a minority of any stripe must be the not knowing.

Was the architect dismissive of my ideas because I am a woman? Because he shoots down everyone’s ideas? Because he has a specific problem with me? Because my ideas are bad?

One of the greatest challenges I had to overcome in my career was not reading too much into the actions of others. When you do you can easily be offended by everything.


A difficulty of being a minority of any stripe must be the not knowing.

It's incredibly hard to keep having an open mind, keep trying to figure out "Is this actually constructive criticism or toxic bullshit?" and keep trying to engage in good faith in the face of certain patterns. It's just exhausting. It takes all your time and mental and emotional energy to try to sort it out, which detracts from putting energy into things that will actually advance your career.

You can spend hours and hours wondering "What did he mean by that?" in an exchange that lasted under a minute. And you may never figure it out.

It's vastly easier to just start erring on the side of "You're all just sexist pigs!" Though, unfortunately, that seems to make the problem more intractable and unresolvable, but it makes is a little easier on a day-to-day basis to cope in the face of a situation that is inherently excessively hard to parse and navigate.


> It's vastly easier to just start erring on the side of "You're all just sexist pigs!"

So if we lived in a world were the concept of sexism was not as well developed as it is now, at least here in the US, you wouldn't have this internal conflict? Is this not enough reason to not engage in discussion and encourage others (presumably women) not to engage in behavior that keeps sexism at the very forefront of thought?


I don't understand what you are trying to say.


[flagged]


That maybe it's better not to pour salt on the wound by talking about sexism? Are you as engaged in the other top 30 stories on HN today or somehow this one is the one you needed to chime in on the most?

That's basically a personal attack.

I tend to get more attention and engagement for certain topics. If I am less engaged on other topics, that's partly because of "audience response," so to speak.

My first comment on HN today is this:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26612921

It's about health stuff. It has two upvotes and zero replies.

I also posted this which is my writing on one of my many blogs:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26615169

It has zero upvotes and zero comments (and not because my stuff never does well -- sometimes, it does well).

I'm not pouring salt on any wounds to engage here. I go out of my way to not pour salt on wounds.

It's an inherently hard problem to solve. My failure to readily solve it is not because I'm not trying hard enough or something.

You can infer that I am handling it pretty darn well based on my cumulative karma here and the fact that I haven't been banned (at least not yet).


I am well aware of your karma points here and have been for years, I was not implying you go around gaslighting or anything of the sort. My point was about you and your wellbeing not others necessarily.

When you said above:

> "Is this actually constructive criticism or toxic bullshit?" and keep trying to engage in good faith in the face of certain patterns. It's just exhausting

I'm not sure why it's hard to get this rather simple point across, but what I'm trying to say is the fact that you engage in frequent discussion about sexism may have something to do with it being at the forefront of your thought and the source of your struggle in deciding if something is out of good faith criticism or "toxic bullshit".


You seem to be reading in a lot more hurt feelings on my part than I really have. I was doing a thing called "giving testimony." [1]

I talk about sexism because it comes up. I talk about sexism because it is pertinent to my life. I talk about sexism because I happen to be online and have nothing better to do because the thing my life revolves around is coping with my medical situation. [2]

I overall have a really positive opinion of HN which is why I spend so much time here. There seems to be no good way to express that and also state clearly "But I still need more income anyway, even though I don't hate everyone here."

Wherever you go, there you are.

I am likely the highest ranked woman here because literally starving and being homeless helped me heal when that isn't supposed to be possible. It's routinely drama to talk about my medical situation and I get called a liar to my face and told I'm crazy for talking about the fact that I'm getting healthier when that isn't supposed to be possible.

Hacker News is the only place on the internet where it is ever possible for me to have any kind of meaty, meaningful discussion of medical material and it has been a source of occasional one-off conversations with people with PhDs in Biology or what not who were kind enough to answer my questions in layman's terms, which has literally been lifesaving and life giving.

I don't hate HN. I do hate being desperately poor. It really sucks and I would like it to stop being a part of my life.

I'm at a point where I got the memo: Contrary to everything medical science seems to believe about my condition, semi-fasting is beneficial and will likely remain a part of my protocol for the rest of my life, even if I stop being poor. Though I only learned that because I was literally homeless and going hungry for part of most months for several years.

For most women, being homeless and going hungry would not be a literally life saving experience for them. It would be merely embittering.

So there is never any good way to talk about the fact that Hacker News literally has helped to save my life and also make the point "I would like to stop being poor." I don't want people to hear "She starved and that saved her life" and use that as some kind of bullshit justification for "Womenz should just be abused. It's better for them!"

I have very poor credibility when it comes to talking about my firsthand experience with getting healthier when the world claims that simply cannot be done. I'm in a no win situation in that regard.

Talking about sexism in the world is generally far less controversial than talking about the fact that I am getting well when that isn't supposed to be possible.

I love and adore HN. I loathe how fucking poor I am. I hate it with every fiber of my being and I would like to stop being poor and I am absolutely certain my gender is a factor in my intractable poverty.

I don't really care to engage further with you on this subject.

[1] https://witnesstodestruction.blogspot.com/p/a-pragmatic-appr...

[2] https://writepay.blogspot.com/2020/07/my-occupation.html


Yes I believe I remember you mentioning that you are poor several years ago, sorry to hear that hasn't changed even though you're the top female poster on HN, I believe patio11 landed a lucrative job at Stripe mainly because of his creds on HN?

I don't think you're alone in having nothing better to do in life than posting here, basically anyone posting here right now has nothing better to do in their life. We have a lot more in common that you might think. I'm not saying find something better to do than posting on HN, far from it, heck I'm doing it myself right now. What I am saying is perhaps find other topics to discuss if you want to rid yourself of the curse of being constantly "exhausted" from daily interaction with people (men) in deciding if they're all being "just sexist pigs!"


Coping with gendered stuff happening that helps keep one poor is exhausting whether you discuss it or not. It is even more exhausting to have to put on a happy face and pretend it isn't happening because it makes other people uncomfortable to hear that you are suffering and their behavior might somehow be a factor in that when they don't want to have to contemplate altering their own behavior in some way.


The original subject that bothered you was the fact you were having a hard time recognizing whether something is being sexist or not. To which I suggested a solution and you seem to be dismissing it, namely, that it might help to avoid topics that have a negative psychological effect.

> they don't want to have to contemplate altering their own behavior in some way

This is mutually exclusive from the discussion we are having so I rather not engage in this topic. My original point stands regardless of whether you think there is rampant sexism: the way to cope with it is perhaps to avoid or at least stop seeking discussions about that subject. Much like the people suffering from PTSD shouldn't be exposed to things that make them remember the events that caused their PTSD. I am not saying you have PTSD or even that the problem is in any way shape or form with you or women, I am saying avoiding the discussion of such topics may be the best game-theocratical way of improving one's wellbeing.


I will reiterate what I said previously: You seem to be reading in a lot more hurt feelings on my part than I really have.

Certainly, I have hurt feelings. Absolutely.

But it doesn't begin to approach anything remotely resembling PTSD.

I can confidently estimate that getting healthier has averted literally millions of dollars worth of medical costs for me and my sons. I just can't talk about that here all that much because people literally call me "crazy" and a "liar" to my face about that topic.

And talking about it also makes me worry that people will use that as an excuse to continue to dismiss my complaints that my gender has proven to be a barrier to networking here and establishing an adequate income. I would like to stop being poor and I never know how to give acknowledgement to HN and the people here for their role in the downright miraculous events of my life while staying the course on saying "My gender remains a barrier to establishing an adequate income and I would like to somehow have that issue resolved."

In Star Wars, everyone focuses on Luke saying "Noooooo!!!!!!" when Darth Vader tells him "I am your father." But the stronger statement of pain in that scene is the silence with which he chooses to fall to what should be his death rather than join his father. (He doesn't die because Leia shows up to miraculously rescue him, but he takes that plunge presumably expecting to die and the statement is "Join my father or die? Give me death, thanks.")

The "loud noise" I sometimes seem to make on HN concerning sexism is the lesser pain compared to issues over which I generally remain silent here.

The whole thing is enormously complicated and there is no good means for me to adequately explain it to you here on HN while maintaining my silence on subjects that I believe other people wouldn't want me to address here.


> You seem to be reading in a lot more hurt feelings on my part than I really have.

It's not about hurt feelings, as I mentioned above, it might be helpful not to focus on such discussions not because they can cause hurt feelings, but because they can actually make your life worse in your personal and professional relationships with men. If 80% of it is "toxic bullshit" you're still missing 20% of constructive criticism coming from men where others are not. We all hope to live in a world where that 20% is 21% but until then why not optimize for receiving constructive feedback by removing any psychological barriers?

I am sorry for your other issues that you cannot talk about here but I'm not sure how that's relevant to the topic. If it's sexism you're talking about, you asserting that you're staying silent on the issue in of itself is not evidence for there being sexism. I'm not sure how to continue this discussion.


I think I get as much engagement as I do at times on the topic of sexism because I'm pretty even-handed and reasonable. I believe that trying to educate people about how this works and doing so in a non-blamey fashion that doesn't act like "men are all simply assholes!" is one of the most effective things I can do to address the issue and I'm generally satisfied with how that seems to be going, though I certainly wish I had a magic wand and could make it disappear overnight instead of making slow, steady headway on the issue.

This isn't actually a conversation I want to be having. I've already said that once. I've chosen to engage with you because I don't think you are being a jerk. I think your desire to be helpful is sincere and your point of view is reasonable, given what you likely know about me and my relationship to HN.

What I'm trying to tell you is that your conclusions are ill informed through no fault of your own. There are things about which I am consistently silent on HN and that's a conscious and strategic choice and it grows out of circumstances that involve other people, not just me.

For that reason, I don't feel free to simply "explain it to you like you are five" as they say. Doing so would likely violate HN guidelines, violate the privacy of multiple other people and probably just make my problems worse, not better.

So my continued silence is in some sense something I feel compelled to maintain and not really something I feel in a position to choose otherwise about. If other people wish to break their silence for my benefit, that's on them and I have no control over that.

So far, other parties have consistently chosen to err on the side of continued silence (which sometimes feels to me like "covering their asses at my expense," but it's arguably a lot more complicated than that) and it's not something I can remedy by calling them out.

It's also not something I care to call them out on in public because the most pertinent parties have generally proven to be of better character than most of the world and there is nothing to be gained by besmirching their public reputation and giving people an easy scapegoat to focus on. The result would be that 5 million people who are more or less equally guilty of essentially sexist behavior would have a short list of people to pin it on and those people would be harmed without my problems actually being remedied.

"It sucks to be me" as they say. But it's also really, really complicated and has helped save my life -- literally.

I would be thrilled to pieces to discontinue this conversation. Continuing to allude to things I am normally silent on is potentially not in my best interest.

Have a good evening. Please don't be angry if I simply stop replying. It's really not a conversation I wish to continue and I'm very sympathetic to what you are trying to do here and why you likely see things the way you see them, but you simply aren't really in possession of the all facts and I am in no position to remedy that matter and enlighten you.


> I'm not pouring salt on any wounds to engage here. I go out of my way to not pour salt on wounds.

I'll just say that whenever I see you comment on posts on this topic, I pay attention. I tend to switch accounts every so often as well, so I have several years of doing so under my belt at this point.

I don't always agree with you, but I've learned a lot from your comments and am confident that you're making from from a place of open desire to share your perspective and learn of the perspectives of others.

Please don't stop because someone doesn't "get it" :)


Thank you.


That reminds me of when I was very young, when I felt treated unfairly I often thought a lot about what I might have done wrong to deserve that kind of treatment. Naturally, in time I also learnt that sometimes people just have a bad day or pent-up aggressions or are simply dicks, and to be wary of projecting too much meaning into these negative interactions.


I strongly agree that there’s a language dimension to this. We don’t have good enough language for lots of passion-invoking social debates. Sexism and racism come top of mind.

For example, an enormous amount of misunderstanding, bad communication and fraught decision making has resulted from the social activist redefinition of “racism” that has gained prominence in the last decade or so. And there are still so many people talking past each other completely obliviously. A richer taxonomy of terms and ideas could help everyone reach understanding.

It seems like the same dynamic as you’re describing in these dialogues on sexism.


For quite a few in this space, reaching an understanding is the opposite of their goal. Intentionally obtuse word meanings that shift constantly to match whatever one party wants them to match is a staple of these discussions. The last thing such people want is a richer vocabulary where everything is clearly defined. Understanding isn't the goal, getting their way is the goal.

Intentionally misunderstanding is a tool for accomplishing that goal.


It's been enormously helpful for me, in contrast, to have female colleagues, and watch the things they go through that I don't. It's easy to say "I accept that this is true because the statistics say it", and another to discuss that no, "X thing", literally never happens to me.


We already have a term for it: victim blaming. Just because someone is using a valid issue (sexism) doesn't mean they aren't using it as a weapon. When the victim acts in a more cautious manner that's perfectly reasonable. To call them out on that (non-imaginary) fear is victim blaming. The abuser in this case is someone with a personality disorder or some other mental health problem that means they will use any tools at their disposal to manipulate or control another person. It's not sexism, it's prudence. One would use the same prudence against men who used something to manipulate or control them. It would look different, but it would be the same thing.


I sad that I cannot respond. It's too dangerous. Good luck.


I think a lot of what is going on in society right now comes down to people buying into a worldview about victims and villains. When we talk about any ism, most people understand that to be a dynamic where one side of the ism is the oppressor - a villain, and the other side the oppressed - a victim.

And as this article points out, the zeitgeist of the moment is the presumption of guilt, so any accusation of being an *ist comes with tremendous consequences, and people are understandably fearful of that.

What you're observing that this creates an unfortunate vicious cycle: the fear of persecution for an accidental offense leads to disengagement which disadvantages the very people who the disengagement is meant "not to hurt."

This isn't a new observation.

MLK said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction ... The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation." [1]

I think this is where the extremes of "wokeism" and "social justice" miss the mark. When the mob is rallied to punish and seek vengeance against those who have done wrong, it can become a witch hunt.

To Dr. King the path to victory over oppression was through forgiveness[2].

"Here then is the Christian weapon against social evil. We are to go out with the spirt of forgiveness, heal the hurts, right the wrongs and change society with forgiveness. Of course we don't think this is practical. This is the solution of the race problem."

In the hypermedia era I honestly don't know if calm, civil discourse is possible. It certainly isn't profitable compared to the level of engagement driven by outrage.

But I think if we wanted to take the next major step forward it would be wise to look back at how much progress happened during the Civil Rights era, and specifically to understand how and why the progress was made. Can we imagine applying Dr. King's words today, to seek to understand each other, to identify wrongs done intentionally or unintentionally, and then to forgive each other for past mistakes so we can do better going forward?

[1]: https://mlk.wsu.edu/about-dr-king/famous-quotes/ [2]: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/mea...


[flagged]


Please don't take HN threads into gender flamewar hell. This sort of generic tangent is exactly what the site guidelines ask you not to post here. If you wouldn't mind reviewing https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and sticking to the rules, we'd be grateful.

Edit: it looks like you've been using HN primarily for ideological battle. We ban accounts that do that, regardless of what ideology they're battling for or against, because it's destructive of what this site is supposed to be for. Curious conversation and ideological battle can't coexist any more than frisbee in a park can coexist with tank warfare. We're trying to optimize for curiosity here. Please use HN in the intended spirit from now on.


okay, noted


Appreciated!


Can an intelligent conversation really happen like playing frisbee? Even court trials, where people want to get to the bottom of the truth, happen on the adversarial dialogue principle.

Also, most of the comments under this topic were ideological. The post itself is ideological. Ideological - where two competing ideas fight. Often ideological means moral in it's root. You don't like this? What is wrong with ideological conversations then?

I am the person who can analyse, think and articulate my conclusions, but, apparently, some positions and thoughts are not welcome here.

Apparently, everybody, you, corporations, government, society, my employer want me to be an empty headed craftsman who can talk only on technical topics and avoids social and political topics because it can be discussed by big boys only.


This is not a constructive or helpful comment.


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