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A different take on sexism in IT (antirez.com)
38 points by antirez on Oct 13, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 105 comments

> As a proof in the United States where politically correctness and protection of minority is a topic always over-discussed, the condition of women is worse than in North Europe, where such an obsession does not exist.

I don't really know how hard you can say "correlation ≠ causation" without getting an aneurysm, but I'm scared to find out.

I mean, it's just so damn obvious. Let's suppose that sexism is more of a problem in the US than in country X. Wouldn't you want to talk about it more?

Don't you think it suspicious that, say, people complain more about corrupt local police in countries that have corrupt local police?

Don't you find it bizarre that people complain about the heat in places where the temperature exceeds 35°C?

Isn't it fascinating that the people who complain the most about headaches are the most likely to suffer from migraines? Obviously they should stop complaining, it would make the headaches go away!

And worth mention is religion. The United States has a jaw-droppingly powerful contingent of politically active Baptists and Catholics who have outspoken opinions on why sexism is moral. Northern European Christians tend to be Lutheran, which gives many fewer shits about political issues; I'd have to check stats to see the strength of Catholicism there, but I believe it's weaker than Lutheranism. Not to mention that atheism has a far stronger showing in Europe in general.

Finding third variables are your friend! (I am not saying that religion is the root of sexism in America; I am just agreeing with the correlation ≠ causation point and offering an alternative theory.)

ETA: It's also worth pointing out that Catholicism itself is not a good root cause to point at; I've noticed that their political actions are driven by a desire to remain relevant and possibly to maintain support from political actors, rather than some sincerely doctrinal motive. Thus, American Catholicism could be very different from Northern European Catholicism.

I think he is saying that PC doesn't help, not that things will be fixed if PC is removed.

Except that it does help.

I consider american PC towards women (or blacks etc) as a symptom. What makes you think it helps, other than overstating the problem (which in itself does not solve it)?

Political Correctness is great if you are a minority. It means you have similar rights to the powerful group. As a gay man, I know I can mention the gender of my spouse (male!) in a workplace environment without being worried about being fired (say). Straight people have always (more or less) been able to mention their spouse in the workplace without fear of repercussion. Now I can too! Political Correctness means I don't have to watch every word I say in the office! It's done wonders for my freedom of speech.

But PC is only the first step! The more accepting a society is, the less PC is needed, because people embrace each other without a need for self-censorship and no one is offended.

Yes that's the end game

Can I just ask you, how is that PC? Wouldn't PC be exactly the opposite, not mentioning the gender and only refering to him as "my spouse" or "they"? Personally, I'd say that your workplace has an accepting culture where you don't need to be politically correct...

The workplace has to be PC, which means that other employees (and managers etc.) know that jokes about "the gay one" are unacceptable. It means that the company will have to be PC, so if they invite employee's partners to a work outing, they'd have to invite my husband. If they get a company perk (like health insurance, discount gym membership), they have to make sure that company isn't going to say "well Family Membership is only between 1 man and 1 woman".

Aha. Nice, thanks for the explanation. Just one more question: Why would jokes about gays be unacceptable? It's perfectly ok to joke about straight people...

I cannot think of any jokes about straight people that are at all comparable to jokes about gay people. Do people joke about straight people's health or sexual activities on the basis of their sexual orientation? Do people say or joke that heterosexual relationships not being real realtionships (i.e. Mitt "I didn't know you people had families" Romney)? Do people joke/say that heterosexual people shouldn't be allowed near children? No, these jokes don't exist. If you can find some, please provide links.

There are several definitions of sexual based discrimination, one is essentially "making references to someone's sexuality and implying everyone in that group is the same (in some attribute)". Lots of people like this definition because it's nice and simple and it means homosexuals can be discriminatory or joke about straight people.

There's another definition, which is talk that's designed to maintain & reinforce the institutionalised power structure among sexualities (specifically to maintain advantages that heterosexuals have). Right now, if modern USA/Western life was a video game, "straight" would be an easier difficulty level than "gay". There are statistically less problems for the "straight" group. Sexual discrimination talk is talk that re-enforced that imbalance. This definition is harder for some people to accept because it means that you need to look at yourself and think about what power imbalances you might be benefiting from, and it means you can't just do s/gay/straight/g and make it just as racist.

Stating the problem is a step towards solving the problem. You can't solve something properly if you don't know it exists.

How is that, by itself, not helping?

Because there are better avenues (despite initial reactions, gender quotas in some EU countries managed to change deeply rooted corporate attitudes). And sometimes PC is misleading. I imagine if your workplace says "Our company welcomes women", it implies that it shouldn't be taken for granted, which would be illegal.

Unfortunately, the term "quota" has been uber-toxic in US politics for the past twenty+ years. So ... what is known as PC[1] (which I wish could just be called "common decency"[2], or "non-douche-ism") ... becomes an indispensable (if thin) lever.

[1] Interesting, to me, because I think of it as starting in the late 1980s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness [2] Credit to Vonnegut

I think it is always an error to talk about sexism, even when the root cause is some asshole not respecting you because you are a woman.

This is backwards. The thing that we absolutely have to do--especially those of us who are white males--is point it out when other white males are abusing our privilege, and show that we won't tolerate a work environment where women are not treated as equals. This is the single best, most powerful thing that we can do to end this type of discrimination.

If a woman is expected to do something because she is a woman, if she is being subjected to sexual harassment or threats because she is a woman, everyone in the room has a moral obligation to point that out and nip it in the bud. And it is important, actually, to point out explicitly that you won't tolerate it because you don't accept discrimination against women (or minorities, or what have you). In person, in front of people, so everyone knows who you are are and where you stand. This is called making the environment safe for people to do their jobs; also known as having balls to do what's right.

Unless, of course, you like working in a sexist/homophobic/racist environment, in which case let me know so I can make sure to avoid working with you in the future.

I'm relatively new to HN, but I already have seen these kinds of tone-deaf articles pop up over and over, and it's maddening, and absurd. Surely there is something you people writing these articles could be writing about which is more worthwhile than rehashing the right to be a sexist over and over.

> I'm relatively new to HN, but I already have seen these kinds of tone-deaf articles pop up over and over, and it's maddening, and absurd.

You should read the comments, too. It will become painfully obvious why these articles keep popping up. (Also note that this one was submitted by its author.)

I agree with the author that you don't want to "protect" women or other minorities, you need to make a general effort to make your work environment suitable for everyone.

That said, I can't think of an instance in the ~13 years I've been working professionally where I have observed a minority in a tech company receiving "special care or protection." This may happen in more traditional industries, but my experience is that everyone works their asses off. (My experience is that minorities are often overachievers. I can't think of a single female engineer who was a slacker. I can think of quite a few white males and one or two South- and East- Asian male slackers. Ironically, when we start to see female slackers, then we know that we are creating the right environment. And can proceed to apply the same management tools that we apply to anyone not pulling their weight!)

Today, software developers are in extremely high demand. There is no reason to believe that women, african americans, or any other minority are fundamentally less capable of being excellent engineers. So the question is: what are we doing wrong as a society and as company creators that causes certain minorities to be underrepresented in our tech companies? South and East Asians appear to be well represented, so it is clearly not an impossible problem.

I welcome articles that help me better understand how to create a better environment for capable engineers. There is a clear shortage of female engineers, and there is an encouraging uptick of women speaking about the problems and issues that cause them. The more we learn, the better we will be at closing that gap.

I'm starting to feel that this whole issue is being taken up by people who were born too late for some actual struggle against sexism and racism. 50s are over, women are not sent away by the bank teller and told to come back with a husband, people who aren't white are not barred from employment, and almost all that's left to "fight" against is unpleasantness and stupid jokes.

And so unpleasantness and stupid jokes are being fought, which makes it easy and risk-free so more people join. Not to disparage the authors of those but anyone can write a blog post and feel like they've done something.

ps. Your text requires some stylistic corrections, and it's not obvious what you mean by "too easy" in the beginning.

EDIT: Thank you, rmc (below), for providing examples. That's what I mean -- unpleasant words is largely the extent of sexism nowadays, or even just shortcomings of pop culture (like there's a shortage of those). And that is met with major outcries, not to mention actual discrimination which is met with million dollar lawsuits.

Some highlights of modern sexism:

* Women don't "dress like sluts" and you won't be raped (Canadian police officer advice ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13739876 ) ).

* USA politicians think that somehow women's bodies can recognise "legitimate rape" and prevent getting pregnant (* http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/us/politics/todd-akin-prov... ), which is just a way to stop rape victims getting abortions.

* The EU made an advert to get women into science. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g032MPrSjFA ). "Science: It's a girl thing". Just look at it. High heels! Make up! Lipstick! It's like something from Mad Men ('women won't be interested in a thing unless you have lots of make up!')

* It's amazing that so many films still don't pass the Bechdel Test. It's a simple game, where a film passes if it has 2 named women talked about something other than a man. Many many films don't have that. Many many films have 2 named men talking about something other than a woman, one would struggle to find films that fail the male bechdel test. What's going on here?

Your last point seems like it should be a function of market demands. If people wanted to see women talking about something other than men, those movies should dominate at the box office. Since women buy more movie tickets than men[1] and thus movies will be generally catered towards that demographic, if there is sexism at play here, it seems like it is coming from the female gender themselves which brings up a whole new set of "what's going on here?" questions.

[1] http://womenandhollywood.com/2010/03/11/guess-what-women-buy...

Your last point seems like it should be a function of market demands. If people wanted to see women talking about something other than men, those movies should dominate at the box office.

This is a correct deduction assuming (a) the film industry is a perfect market, that film producers will act as rational actors (how many "take my money" posts do we see?) and (b) that there is no institutional sexism at work in production/distribution etc. I think (a) & (b) are working here, making your "but people don't buy it!" argument false.

randomdata, the invisible hand doesn't seem to have developed such fine-motor control yet, and the media market has the special luxury of manipulating demand to suit its product ("hmm, would addressing real issues, encouraging honest dialog, and fostering fulfillment of folks's true potential ... sell as much popcorn? better not risk it...")

Half of Americans are women. Half are men. Give or take.

83% of Congress are men.

60% of college graduates are women.

91% of inmates are men.

84% of single parents are women.

If you think all that's left of ten thousand years of systemic discrimination is unpleasantness and stupid jokes, I just don't know what planet you live on.

I'm not sure these numbers show anything but that men are more violent (hormones and culture, maybe?) and women are more "attached" to their children (a side effect for carrying one on her belly for 9 months, perhaps?)

And thats why we don't have equality. Men are violent and bossy, women are nurturing and caring, let's parade tough on crime and the nuclear family.

It's funny how some "mass stereyotypes" (like "men violent, women nurturing") tend to take longer to die. Let's look at some other "mass stereyotypes" that are no longer so accepable to say in civil discource:

• Women can't do maths (like at all, their brains are tiny and incabable of abstract thought) It's in the nature!

• Men can't look after babies, they'd probably hold them by their heads or something! It's in their nature!

• Jews are only concerned with money, it's in their nature!

• Women lack the mental capabilites for politics and shouldn't be allowed to vote, it's in their nature.

• Women are very emotional, and hence are unsuitable for high pressure jobs (high level political leader, CEO, doctor, military commander), they'd just have some sort of emotional break down when the going gets tough, it's in their nature.

• etc. etc. (I haven't even touched on non-noble people, black people, LGBT people, catholics, prodestands, muslims, etc. etc.)

All of these things have been said about natural differences between various groups, mostly due to what we now realise as massive biases. When one says "men are naturally violent" or "women are naturally caring", the burden is on you to show how this time it's different, rather than it being just another (false) statement born out of bias. All these claims had some sort of evidence behind them. The burden is on you to come up with a standard of evidence that supports your biased claim, but doesn't show that women are incable of high office (say).

The "mass stereotypes" you're mentioning here are respectively called "testosterone" and "oxytocin". It could be that, one day, someone is able to prove that there is more to it, but I'm certain that obtusely comparing a hormonal effect with "jews love money" won't help much...

No. This argument has been dismantled so many times by so many (yes, often "feminist") scholars ... it pains me a little to recapitulate.

Gender is a construct. It is /tethered/, but not mapped, to sex. They are in no way identical, and often, in so many ways, orthogonal. Sex (ie, sex difference) has a finite number of dimensions, and the ones we can identify with confidence are physiological (currently, we understand neither the connection between neural function and behavior, nor the mechanics of culture, in enough detail enough to draw clear conclusions about what might really be "male" vs "female" characteristics in the realm of culture or behavior). Gender, OTOH, has unlimited, fluid dimensions. The prospect of discovering or creating a simple mapping between sex and gender, begets a vain project. [Similar to the project of mapping Jewishness to thrift, ethnicity to ability, sexual orientation to morality, etc.]

Moreover, the process of peeling away the layers of what may be constructed / learned, or may be more-or-less dictated by genetics -- to varying degrees depending on an individual and a set of circumstance -- is /exactly/ the process of dismantling gender, which we can also hope will lead to a more equitable distribution of power.

So if one is sincerely curious about the underlying realities, keeping at chipping away the presumptions, is the way to go.

Historically, a number of great cultures used Eunuchs, or people who weren't allowed to marry in high-ranking offices (the Chinese, Byzantine, Ottomans, and the Church). Apparently, good leadership is not tied to testosterone.

I don't think I made or implied any such connection... The link in question is that testosterone (both in males or females) greatly increases the propension to violence in individuals (although it's not NECESSARY that violent individuals have high levels of testosterone or that anyone with high levels of it is automatically the Incredible Hulk)

Right so how do you know lack of testosterone (and/or presense of oestrogen) doesn't cause someone to be bad at maths or cause them to have an crying fit during high pressure situations



Or do our sexist views make us believe men are more deserving of jail time? A good example is the way we look at a man raping a woman vs. a woman raping a man. The former is the most heinous crime one could commit, but the latter, in the eyes of many, isn't a big deal, if even a positive experience.

Sir, you have confused a term. /Consent/ is the opposite. Look it up.

And I'm not sure how that's supposed to matter. We are all of us predisposed to live in caves eating roots and nuts and anything we could kill with a pointy rock, but somehow we got past that.

You referred to these numbers. I totally agree with you now - they don't mean a thing (and we'll never know why you included them here in the first place)

I included them because they are facts, unlike the idea that men are inherently violent or women inherently nurturing.

But sure, keep guessing.

(a side effect for carrying one on her belly for 9 months, perhaps?)

The fact that one partner can literally walk away has nothing to do with it?

Yes, it does - but given one of the creatures is HORMONALLY ATTACHED to the child, which one do you think is more likely to walk away?

(Hint: statistical data has the answer...)

herval, a handful of numbers can't show anything conclusively.

Volume one of Simone de B's epic "Second Sex" covers your points in depth. Worth reading - some of its 1953 English translation is online at : http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/de-beauvoir...

What point are you trying to make? There are large differences on average between men and women? Why is this a problem?

So, seriously, what are the "large differences" you infer from these statistics? That women tend to be harder-working, while men tend to be more dishonest?

I mean, I'm not saying you're wrong.

Do you honestly believe that 91% of inmates are men because of sexism? That there are no differences in let's say propensity for violence between sexes?

I'm saying that on the day you're born somebody flips a coin and if it comes up tails you're about 15 times more likely to wind up in prison.

I don't really care why that is. It's not the world I want my kids to grow up in. Let's not give up trying because we think there's an easy out.

There's clearly some injustice at work here, we must fight to have more women put in prison! Stop the injustice!

Uh, let me think.. yes? The biological argument cuts every way, and if you're going to use it, you only end up cutting yourself.

What? We can't accept that things that might be true might be true, because you might cut yourself with that argument?

No, it's not just unpleasantness. Even digressing from the fact how much those words you talk about actually hurt, here's a neat link: http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/299-fast-facts-statisti...

Some highlights, cherry-picked for specific statements about "first-world" countries, because I don't feel like googling for more right now:

* In the United States, 83 percent of girls aged 12 to 16 experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools.

* In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by their intimate partners.

* Between 40 and 50 percent of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work.

As said before I don't really feel like googling, but from memory in the US at least 15% of women experience sexual violence during their lifetime, and stats for EU aren't really that much better.

As for OP, the issue here is that in case of a systematic bias against a certain group of people it isn't always possible to remove the possibility of perceiving the dividing factors. You can forbid asking about religion in interviews, but gender is, in many cases, immediately obvious, either from given name or from appearance.

Ah, and calling talking openly about gender an "obsession" is somewhat offensive, saying that the issue isn't treated seriously about EU is also patently false (we regularly have ideas like forcing a percentage of company boards to be women, for example, sadly still ineffective), and adding a dismissive quote by a woman at the end right after mentioning that women can be sexist too is sorta ironic.

> * In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by their intimate partners.

Why is that a bad thing (except that you're killed)? If with men, the percentages are not so high, and the rest are killed by random people, then surely women are better off - it's easier to investigate murders, find and punish the killers, even prevent murders.

It points that there's a sexual background to a huge chunk of violence against women.

I'm struggling with the idea that you don't think these recent examples are 'actual' racism/sexism. I'd like to think that you're characterizing the people who see the situation as 'risk free' but the more I read your comment, the more I think you really are trying to trivialize recent events.

To take a small step into the oppression Olympics you're trying to play, being told "don't dress like sluts" by a police officer is a direct indication of how your police will handle cases of rape and sexual assault, i.e. poorly. Comments made about "legitimate rape" by politicians reveals the sexism to the point of disregarding reality these politicians hold. And these are the same politicians trying to pass anti-woman legislation. And an government ad campaign is not just words, it's tax dollars and policy.

So sure, I'll grant you that women aren't being sent away from the bank teller outright and non-whites aren't barred from employment explicitly, and I would say not because the -isms have become trivial, but because they have become more complex and/or structural. They manifest in forms where it is difficult to point your finger at something blatant, until someone slips up when speaking and reveals their true feelings and intentions (and no, I don't mean in a Freudian-slip way).

Or sometimes, the effect is so drastic that even though it's not obvious what factors are responsible, we can tell that something fishy is going on: https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1cdxtcX2ICdWA2gWMW74...

And it's not 'risk-free' for women to speak out about sexism at work. Many fear backlash at work, and many get long-term harassment and rape threats online. I'd provide examples, but I've already taken so long writing this that now I'm one of many similar responses to your comment. But if anyone asks, I can dig some up.

Your critique of rmc is a bit of a Catch-22: if everyone can agree that it's unjust sexism, then it's just making it "easy and risk-free so more people join." More controversial examples than that, though, and you'd see a bunch of people arguing it's not Really Sexism(tm).

To prove the point, here's some actual struggles against sexism. Racism will have to wait for another day.

1) Rape culture. A large proportion of women are the objects of nonconsensual sexual encounters. People make excuses for this, saying that it was not "legitimate rape" or arguing that lots of women "rape easy." Note that this isn't a super odd or rare occurrence pushed by hillbilly conservative legislators but happens in the highest seats of power, from candidates on the Presidential ticket trying to pass legislation only providing protections for "forcible rape" to the New York Times saying a gang-raped 11 year old child was sort of asking for it.

2) Access to healthcare. Many women are not covered for even the most basic protections. In some areas, a hospital is allowed to refuse access to abortions for women who have been raped or are victims of incest. While men have for ages been given insurance coverage for Viagra and baldness treatments, it was only recently that it was mandated that women should get coverage for birth control, to much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Probably worse of all, it's become incredibly difficult in many areas to get even a first trimester abortion. Those legislators banning abortion, I'll point out, are the same ones minimizing rape and opposing laws that enforce against gender discrimination in the workplace.

3) The glass ceiling and sexism in the workplace. Yes, they're real, and just because it's a bit more subtle than disallowing women to own property or making it legally impossible for a husband to be subject to legal penalties for raping his wife (which in the USA only ended in 1993) doesn't mean that they're not sexism.

4) Sexism in the home. People love to point out that women are more likely to have jobs than men now and more likely to have a degree, sometimes in an attempt to say "well aren't men the oppressed ones now?" But on top of those responsibilities, women still do a disproportionate amount of the housework in opposite-sex coupled homes. You might laugh and say "well what's 15 minutes of work extra a day, it's nothing compared to not being able to own property" but that kind of thing is deeply pernicious.

I'm sure you can also point out places where men are screwed by sexism in our society. And you know what? Those suck too, and everyone should oppose them just as much as sexism against women.

The flipside of this "new generstion" is that racism/sexism matters are being taken to an extreme absurd. In my country, for instance, you can get sued for racism for calling a black person "an idiot"...

Citation needed? saying something like "all black people are idiots" or "you people are idiots" is racism.

Again and again, people make the mistake of treating individual solutions as similar to institutional solutions.

Sexism is not a topic you bring up in an individual setting. You are absolutely correct about this. Women should live and die by their merit just as much as men do.

But at an institutional level, this isn't possible. To exaggerate a little, think of chattel slavery. Could you really say that chattel slavery would be obliterated simply by not talking to slaves about chattel slavery? Of course not; there are physical restraints driven by economic and political assumptions about what would happen. Note that I'm only talking about chattel slavery here, which today only exists in rare parts of the world; I am not talking about racism.

We talk about sexism in IT because this is what needs to happen: people in IT need to pause and think before making a sexist comment. They need to be able to review what they just said in their minds and understand why a comment or evaluation is sexist. They need to be able to do this especially when accused of sexism. They need to understand that some behavior can be offensive and that being civilized in part means that they make sure such behavior is kept in check rather than spewed around flippantly.

That's why we talk about it. It's the same reason we tell you to comment your code. You have to REMEMBER TO DO IT. Some of us are happy magical and already do it as a habit. Others need the reminder.

I encourage you to explore http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Geek_Feminism_Wiki

The article's point is that we should stop thinking about things like systematic sexism/racism and simply treat individuals equally and with the respect that every individual deserves.

That's not wrong. Unfortunately, it's necessary but not sufficient to combat the problem of inequality resulting from sexism.

Yes, we should lead by example, and absolutely treat our female coworkers with the respect they deserve simply because they're people, dammit. And if everybody else did the exact same thing, yes, the problem would disappear!

However, that's not the world we live in. Not everybody is going to follow our lead. And that's why each of us who is interested in ending this crappy state of affairs can't simply do our part and then bury our heads in the sand. We have to do MORE than our parts.

Not sexism-specific, but here's an example. I had a gay coworker a few years back. Of course I treated him with respect. His orientation was a total non-issue to me, not something I even thought about. But other coworkers said some insensitive things, tossing the word "gay" around as a synonym for "bad" and things like that. So I privately talked with a couple of them and, hey, let's not do that, let's make ____ feel at home here. Not putting my coworkers down; asking them to join me in doing something positive. And I made some progress that way -- progress that never would have happened if I'd simply treated him right and then buried my head in the sand.

(For the record, I'm not some wonder of workplace harmony. I screw up a lot. About a decade ago, I was in a similar situation except I was the insensitive coworker. I learned from that situation. And frankly I wish I'd been steered in the right direction sooner, though I can't blame anybody else for my actions but myself.)

> That's not wrong.

It is wrong. Sexism isn't a conscious choice that we can avoid on an individual level. It's a collection of bad habits and systems of bad behavior in groups. If you "stop thinking about things like systematic sexism/racism" then they become invisible to you, and you will lack the power to do anything or even articulate an argument about discrimination.

For example, if you treat everyone equally but don't think about sexism, how do you stop someone else from doing stupid sexist things? How do you let them know that it's not acceptable?

As an analogy, it's obvious that murdering people to steal their TV is wrong, and we know that because we think about murder. If we never thought or talked about murder, how would we know it is wrong? How would we catch murderers? What should the punishment be?

It's not enough to not murder people, we have to talk about murder, hire people who catch murderers and put them in boxes, and think about how we can prevent more people from getting murdered.

Wow. Really well-said, and thanks for that reply. I'm going to use that murder analogy.

Though I would hope that the rest of my post showed that my intent was not to ignore this stuff, despite my poorly-worded sentence that made it sound like I thought it was okay to stop thinking about it.

"It's silly to try to protect all the minorities because they are minorities"

Although I share OP's thought that people should be treated equally, that's just not what happens. We get examples every day, so trying to "solve the problem" by not talking about it will only make things stay the same (or get worse). It would be like pretending the elephant is not in the room as an attempt to make it disappear...

"Another naive way to consider the problem is to think that sexism is a state of mind of men. Actually the problem is more complex than that, and a lot of women don't consider themselves or other women as capable as men."

Actually it's more complex than that: a lot of women consider themselves inferior because they have been trained to think like that. Sexism all the way, in a cycle that is very hard to break. I do think that "being nice to women" is a great first step to "break the ice" and guve those who want an opportunity to "become equal"...

I disagree. If a bunch of people are facing the same problem a good way to solve it is for them to join together and fight it collectively. Insisting that women should play dumb when faced with sexism is just bad strategy.

This works on big things. Not so much on little, cumulative ones.

Why did A make a tasteless joke about B's outfit? Because he was nervous and his dubious sense of humor got ahead of his judgment. But he didn't mean anything by it and said he's sorry B feels that way. Well everyone says stupid things sometimes. No actual harm done. B should lighten up, right?

That doesn't work.


Some things are problems only because they're part of a larger pattern. That's when we need to think outside of the individual domain.

Morgan Freeman nails it. Stop talking about it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3cGfrExozQ&feature=relat...

Yep. General rule of thumb: If you're considering adopting a view that's held by Stephen Colbert (the character), it's probably a bad idea.

Are you referring to Morgan Freeman's comment as colorblindness?

I see many comments in this post where sexism is referred as "bad jokes" or things like this. This is the smaller part, and the sole that you can address with a campaign.

My point of view is focused on the sexism that is NOT blatant and obvious like that. Examples:

1) The male boss promotes a male instead of a woman not based solely on merits but for prejudice about the capabilities of women.

2) The male boss promotes a prettier woman worker even if another woman deserved it more.

3) The female boss promotes a male because she feels (without possibly fully understanding it) in competition with the pretty woman even if she deserved it more.

There are a shitload of cases like this, and this is the whole point, because the bad jokes can be addressed directly: they may be unpleasant, but there is an easy path to fight this behaviours. Instead the more subtle things that prevent a carrier from having the same chances of everybody else is where I would be more focused. And this stuff is not the one you can fight with being politically correct.

Okay, so you have given a few examples of sexism.

So why do you think we shouldn't talk about this? Don't you think that what you've just described, being more prevalent in the US, warrants the discussion? Don't you think it's irrelevant and destructive to play the quote at the end of your article telling us just to get back to work?

wow. way to go about ignoring and denying your privileges, mister straight white man!

why on earth is that bigoted drivel on the front page of HN?

Its on the frontpage because antirez is the author of redis. Who knows what prompted this but seems like its coming from way out of left field. Digging a bit into his blog archives, this seemed to be the only post that wasn't about redis.

I understand what he's trying to say, but the self-contradiction ("I think it is always an error to talk about sexism, but I'm going to talk about it anyway") shows that he's missing whatever point he's trying to respond to. Plus, its not at all a different take.

what about the absurd institutionalized privileges of minorities are much larger in America?

They took errr jerbs? (hat tip, south park).

Are you talking about affirmative action or quota hires as an institutionalized privilege of minorities? If so, then what about institutionalized discrimination of minorities?(eg education of the average black student at an inner-city school way underfunded, relative to the majority).

Even most proponents of AA are ready to concede that it should be done differently, but its not fair to rail against the evils of "reverse discrimination" without at least acknowledging present-day, ordinary structural discrimination.

Oh, you mean the astronomically higher incarceration rates of blacks? The ridiculous voter ID laws being introduced across the country? The increased likelihood of being subject to a 'stop and frisk' despite the decreased likelihood of finding a weapon? The fact that most public school systems are funded by property taxes, so poor areas are underfunded?

I can only imagine you're referring to affirmative action, which I would say has done little to undo generations of structural inequality.

I'd really like antirez to explain his inclusion of a quote that implies his entire article and the topic at large aren't even worth discussion. Randi has been able to bravely endure incredibly cruel sexist treatment from various online communities, some of which undoubtedly stemmed from pursuing interests in male-dominated spaces. However, I don't think it's fair to say that every woman can or should suffer such experiences with the same aplomb.

Edit: I have discussed this a bit with Randi, and there is indeed some context missing that makes me understand where she was coming from in the original quote.

You are seriously telling me that what made your female coworkers "deeply upset" was the idea that asking to be respected as women and not things like getting significantly less pay, sexual harassment and fewer career options? Either you are not telling the truth or this is the most ridiculous case of selective bias I've read on HN in a long time. Ask these female coworkers of yours what bothers them the most, the fight for gender equality in the workplace or getting paid less because they are women.


As a woman you want respect because you are capable and smart. Not because you are a woman.

This is an really old and equally flawed argument that doesn't consider the fact that men discriminate women based on their gender not their individuality.


In the course of my life I started to develop an higher and higher intolerance for topics like politically correctness and protection of minorities unless this was clearly put in general terms.

Political correctness is a weasel word designed to avoid meaningful discussions. By using it you've already made it clear that you have made up your mind on a topic that you're ignorant about.


If you are an human being you need to be respected because you deserve respect like any other. I don't care if you are black, white, yellow or woman, you are an individual.

And yet you fail to see that individuals cannot fight centuries and millenia of stereotypes, biases and general ignorance.


Similarly, I will not care who you are if you do something silly at work. Nothing is more offensive for you than me being too easy with you because you are part of some minority. This is, basically, a masked form of reverse-sexism, and is deeply offensive.

No one is asking you to subsidize minority stupidity, so I have no idea why you are bringing this up. Also, is this really a problem? People's work, regardless if they belong to a minority or not, are held to a certain standard and if they don't perform accordingly there are ways of remedying the problem.


In general if there is a problem at the work place between individual A and B, I think it is always an error to talk about sexism, even when the root cause is some asshole not respecting you because you are a woman.

This is a very convenient way of avoiding to deal with sexism and other related issues. Imagine the guy who claims that he doesn't have issues with woman despite countless cases of harassing his female coworkers, that he just happens to have problem with individuals that always happen to be women.


Trying to protect women in tech since they are women is like moving a cultural problem (the sexism) into an individual domain.

It's quite the opposite. You are so desperate to focus on individuals that you refuse to acknowledge that minority and gender issues can only be solved on higher level, i.e. group, company and society level. This is how we've managed to get things like equal political rights; centuries of organizing and fighting on higher social levels.


A woman in tech has nothing less than a male in tech, as such does not need special care or protection. She needs to be respected as everybody else.

What does "less" mean? Woman are clearly more often harassed in the workplace, they get less pay, etc, so obviously something isn't working. I'm not sure that they need "special care" (nice pejorative term there) or protection by manly men, but they need to be treated equally and currently that's not the case.


Another naive way to consider the problem is to think that sexism is a state of mind of men. Actually the problem is more complex than that, and a lot of women don't consider themselves or other women as capable as men.

You don't explain the complexity of the situation but you're implying that woman can be sexists too. Yes, that's obvious but doesn't change the fact that men are far more likely to be sexists and woman far more likely to be discriminated against.

"Political correctness"

I actually love political correctness, and people ranting about it always appear to me as deliberately obtuse and trying to avoid responsibility for behaving in certain ways.

Here's the thing: political correctness is not the same thing as Orwell's newspeak. It's about being recognizing that certain expressions are hurtful, and remaining conscious not only about what you want to say, but also what will be heard when you say it. It's also about the idea that the original author almost got, but not really: that maybe the divisive attributes shouldn't be mentioned when they're irrelevant (though the author is certainly wrong about gender's relevance. Yeah, it should be -- but it's not, and making gender activists shut up won't make it irrelevant). It's about recognizing that language actually shapes the social reality and the perception if certain ideas (both desirable and not) are something acceptable (there's some neat studies on how people choose their ideologies based on whether they perceive them as socially accepted).

It's really sad that the concept ended up becoming a weasel word used by bullies to say "this person just complained about me being a bully, and that makes me feel uncomfortable".

I'm not an American, so I might not be familiar of all the ways one ought to be politically correct, but let's focus on the one example that I do know: fat vs. overweight or horizontally-challenged or [silence].

My main objection with the idea that saying that someone is fat will hurt their feelings or make them feel bad is that no, it will NOT make them feel bad - rather, it will make them feel worse, because they must already feel bad. If someone is fat and they are ok with it, they wouldn't be hurt if I was pointing it out. It's just like I wouldn't be offended if someone called me a man, or European, or short/not tall, or geek, because I'm ok with all of those.

Therefore, based on personal reflection, I believe that people that get offended by saying they are fat are people that don't like being fat. But in that case, they should be shamed, in other words encouraged to do something about it, to make a positive change in their lives! I find the idea that I should limit my own freedom of speech just so that other people can continue living in ignorance, ridiculous.

> [fat people] should be shamed, in other words encouraged to do something about it, to make a positive change in their lives!

Have you considered all possible alternatives and decided that this was the best thing you could possibly do for them? Or was it just kinda convenient to do what you've always wanted to do anyway?

Or, trying another tack, replace "fat" by "nerdy".

> I find the idea that I should limit my own freedom of speech just so that other people can continue living in ignorance, ridiculous.

Fat people pretty much all know they're overweight. Freedom of speech means specifically freedom from your local government censoring your speech; it doesn't mean you can be as offensive as you want without being called on it.

Well, lets start with the fact that your personal reflection is bunk, and I'm not an american as well, but culturally aware enough to know that the european stereotype of Americans being really politically correct is actually present in an american "Europeans are politically correct" version. Also, "horizontally-challenged" is not something that really happens. Actual political correctness is either saying "overweight" when it's relevant, or keeping it to your own damn self when it's not.

Now, to the personal reflection — people might rationally know that it's no-one's business how much they weight, but still be aware of the societal perception of their looks. They might be still healthy people, and they would be happy with their looks, but the reaction of society to their looks makes them feel bad anyway, and one of such reactions is using expressions such as "fat".

As for "shaming" == "encouraging," it's just not true, to avoid harsher statements. In fact shaming is extremely discouraging to people, is mostly done without awareness if the person being shamed can or wants to actually change the state that caused shaming, and is just done to boost egos of people doing the shaming. It's only use is in discouraging extremely unwanted behaviors – such as, for example, shaming people whose looks don't conform to your particular standards of beauty. Oh, and "positive change" might be actually a load of bunk as well.

And, finally, as to the "keeping in ignorance" remark, it's an extremely ignorant remark. For one, the "if irrelevant" is important here. My doctor can still tell me that the recently acquired extra load on my joints is probably contributing to my knee issues, interestingly enough without using the expression "fat slob", and people can talk about oppression of people of color in general or blacks, or immigrants in general or Mexicans in specific, depending on how specific the issues in question are. The words become "incorrect" when either used for no reason (why did you need to mention the race of a person doing that annoyed you on the street, for example?), or using the words that are racial slurs used specifically to offend.

I'm not running around calling overweight people fat and offending them... It's rather neutral, really. Simply, when describing people, I might say blond, if the person is blond, or I might say fat, if the person is fat.

Maybe if we all start saying what we think, either fat or overweight (I prefer fat because it's shorter), and stop putting so much pressure on the issue, the society would be a much better place to live. For fat people and others that live "unconventional" lifestyles.

Just wanted to remind you that this post was about sexism at work, NOT about sexual harassment.

I wish I could draw you a Venn diagram. There'd be a circle that's labelled "sexism at work" and a circle labelled "sexual harassment" and there'd be a bloody overlap between the two circles.

Well the article is obviously about the rest of the venn circle. Sexual harassment is a crime not restricted to the IT community.

Some candidates in these ten pages: http://thisisindexed.com/category/women/ ?

Here, I made one.

( sexism at work { [ professional golf ] ) sexual harassment }

Thank you! Well said, arkitaip.

Your original, short comment seems much clearer about the point you're trying to get across: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4597584

I agree! The trouble is, once i started telling the story as a parable, I got emotionally involved in telling the town's story instead of using it as a secondary device for making a primary point.

Thanks for the excellent feedback.

Is it wrong for me to assume that the author is a white man just by what he wrote?

"It's silly to try to protect all the minorities because they are minorities"

That is silly. Societies are not made in heaven and are full of prejudices against minorities molded through centuries of white male domination.

To the ardent feminists, a simple question -- do you believe the world would be a morally superior place if there was no biological distinction between men and women -- i.e. there was only one gender?

I think ardent feminists are focused on making realistic changes to reality, i.e. working with the reality that we have a great diversity of sexual identities, gender identities, and gender roles, rather than try to fight against it. Fair treatment of women and minorities does not entail erasing all differences until we are a uniform grey.

There is a lot of weird cognitive dissonance in this article. "Special protection" is one of those vague phrases that can (and appears to be here) used in a few different ways.[1] In some senses it is taken to mean "elevating one group to have a higher privilege set and stronger boundary enforcement than the norm". In other senses it is used as "stripping unfair privilege from one group by a combination of positively asserting the rights for the protected group and punishment for those who deny those rights or assert a privilege for their group".[2]

This fuzzy, conflicting set of understandings leads to a lot of cases of people talking past each other, and not really accomplishing anything. We really need to stop using such terms in discussion and be a bit more specific. There are good and bad examples of both meanings, and there needs to be frank and open discussion, without reduction to overloaded and emotionally loaded terms.

Similarly there is the problem of privilege blindness. Even if I treat everyone the same, or think I do, I may not be. This is a real thing - people have notions of the right way to treat someone and they don't even notice that it is absurd or privilege enforcing. For example: In college and for a short time after, I worked at a bar as a bartender. My boss was a black man, the owner of the business. I am a white guy, 10 years younger. People would come in during closed hours with deliveries or job applications or sales pitches and come to me first. I honestly didn't notice or think anything of it most of the time, even when it was obvious when he was in charge (e.g. i was mopping and he was counting out drawers). I would write it off as "oh they just don't want to interrupt the boss" or other reasonable sounding explanations.

One day right before we started accepting a round of applications, he mentioned this to me and I was a bit resistant to the idea that it was racial. I offered the reasonable sounding thoughts and explanations. So we did an experiment. Half the days I would do grunt work and he would do boss work, the other half the days I would do boss work and he would do grunt work. In both cases, a significant portion of the applicants came to me first[3]. Surprisingly, all groups of applicants (divided by gender, race,etc) displayed this behavior. This is a case of privilege that is really difficult to see if you think everyone is treated equally or think you do too. I seriously doubt the applicants were racist (well most of them weren't), and I presume they truly believed in equality and that they actively wanted to treat everyone the same (evidence: how embarrassed they were when I pointed out who the actual boss was). The privilege I had here, by being white, was that the default assumption is that I was in charge.[3]

The point here is that sometimes, despite the best intentions, there are societal/cultural assumptions that are ingrained to the point of invisibility for those who are the norm. It is important to point these out and discuss them, so that people can actively stop doing participating. I believe most people don't want to be (.)ist, but also that the just don't know when their actions are conforming to it unintentionally.

I think that one thing this article is great for, is highlighting that. The author obviously cares that everyone is treated well and equally. It would be insulting to point out to him any of his actions as sexist, because he really isn't.[4] Instead the better approach is to have discussions, which are inherently uncomfortable, in the light of "here's a privilege or default assumption that exists, here is evidence", and get the people with the privilege to see it as existing at all. Once that happens, they will stop asserting it on their own, because the don't want to be unfair or unequal or whatever.

</unintentionally ranty post>

[1] Please note, that my definitions after this footnote are my understanding of the scenario, if this is inaccurate please link me to sources with good explanations!

[2] There is another commonly used understanding of this term, which is as a code word for "I am about to say something that really is about protecting my privileges", however I don't think the author meant this here.

[3] Later, after learning about various equality issues in a more formal way, there were even more things that pointed out the privilege in this situation... my boss was someone who could "pass" as white, I'm a guy who dresses down and is generally scruffy, and so on. There is also a related bit of privilege in this situation from when I was hired. My friend who hooked me up with the lead and a good recommendation made sure to casually point out that the owner was a black man. This priming was something that at the time I thought nothing of, it was a bit of conversation about the environment, but in retrospect, I probably would have made the mistake I described above without that priming. No one ever casually mentions that the boss is white when describing a job to a prospect.

[4] (.)ism implies the person actively wants to keep the targeted group in a state of lower privilege. It is insulting to be called that when you actually want the opposite.

Privilege is essentially a shaming tactic. It's proponents believe that they can create a reverse social hierarchy by convincing those supposedly at the top (straight while males) that every aspect of their lives benefits from a social advantage they don't know they have. Thus straight white males are encouraged to live in a constant state of paranoia and shame essentially for being born. For those who accept this belief system, the only way to achieve harmony with those around you is to actively "give away your privilege" which is to say sabotage and undermine your own potential and achievements so that other, less privileged persons may somehow benefit. How this should be done is typically left unclear. As with most "social justice" belief systems the point is to spread guilt and shame. Ultimately, this belief system just further stigmatizes those that it seeks to help by not only classifying people by race, class and gender but by states of privilege as well.

No. Actually it is things that shouldn't happen in the first place. It is not OK that everyone went to the white guy assuming he was the boss, no matter if he was dressed like a bum and holding a mop or if he was counting out money drawers while the black guy was holding the mop.

It is the cops showing up at the bar when it's mostly white people and being polite and trying to figure out who the fighters were, but the same bar on a different, calmer, night when its mostly black people just dropping tear gas canisters on the crowd, and grabbing me, the one white guy and saying 'stay over here out it's safer'.

It's me dressed like a bum with a mountain man beard being allowed into the club, but my black buddy with a suit being told he was too dressed dressed down for the dress code.

It the time the gas station cashier asked me to stay for a minute because some black people were out in the lot filling their lexus.

It's the innumerable times I've been told to "level with me, $female_dev just isn't that good is she", despite having written the entire codebase they were complimenting me for.

It's the fact that I've never been stopped by the cops for looking suspicious or being in the wrong neighborhood no matter what I am wearing or doing, and no matter how illegal the contents of my pockets were.

Talking about privilege is not talking about undermining anything. It's not about being shaming anyone. It is about real occurrences that happen daily, in an era when people claim there is "no difference between anyone", yet anecdotally and statistically it just isn't true.

I don't want to give away my privilege. I want the standards that apply to me to apply to everyone. This is different. I don't want, nor think anyone should start being hassled and denied more, I think that those who are hassled and denied more for stupid reasons to not experience that. Period.

I don't want a reverse social hierarchy, I just don't want a social hierarchy base on anything other than actual accomplishment. If getting there means cutting some slack to someone who did a damn good job despite constant unwarranted criticism, or an environment that pushes them to the outside, I'll do it. It is a bigger accomplishment to do well when there are people actively acting against you, than to do great when everyone is trying to help you.

This is a complete misunderstanding of every single facet of privilege. I honestly hope you feel less persecuted someday; may I suggest looking up some statistics to assure yourself of your particular demographic's dominance in your preferred field?

> It would be insulting to point out to him any of his actions as sexist, because he really isn't.

You were doing fine up until this sentence. So well that I suspect you know better. But in case you don't, have some dialogue:

"Did you know that, when you make the site crash because you're testing code in production, we lose users because they're frustrated about our uptime?"

"Oh, gosh, I just wanted to make sure my code worked in that environment! ...but it was insulting for you to point it out to me. I actually wanted for us to gain users from the cool new features I'm building!"

I think you misunderstand, maybe I was unclear.

I know that the term sexism in a technical sense describes the scenario. But it is a term that has taken on connotations of misogyny, active harassment and the belief that women aren't as good as men in non-technical situations (where I mean outside of topic specific literature, the colloquial). So to call someone sexist is to say all those things are true of them. It is a loaded term and it carries implications of it. For someone who is actively trying not to do that and mostly succeeding, it is an insult to tell them that.

It is equivalent in your analogy to saying "hey you're a shitty coder and are trying to destroy our business", not the relatively benign and straight-forward statement you provide. I'm merely suggesting that rather than say "hey you're a sexist", saying "hey look, that is uncool, it undermines the women here, and comes off a bit piggish".

Perhaps I'm being misguided here, but isn't there a real difference between someone who tries to be fair and sometimes fails and someone who doesn't try and someone who actively opposes it?

> It is equivalent in your analogy to saying "hey you're a shitty coder and are trying to destroy our business", not the relatively benign and straight-forward statement you provide. I'm merely suggesting that rather than say "hey you're a sexist", saying "hey look, that is uncool, it undermines the women here, and comes off a bit piggish".

It's odd. Your suggested statement sounds a lot more equivalent to the statement I gave than the way you framed my statement.

I still think we're misunderstanding each other. I think:

"Hey you are a shitty coder trying to destroy our business" is analogous to saying "hey you're being sexist".

"Did you know that, when you make the site crash because you're testing code in production, we lose users because they're frustrated about our uptime?" is analogous to "hey look, that is uncool, it undermines the women here, and comes off a bit piggish".

All I'm saying is that I don't think the author is intentionally being sexist. I really think he wants there to be equality. An I think that throwing around loaded phrases doesn't help anyone, but puts them on the defensive, and underlying a lot of the author's position is him reacting to the connotations of the term sexism, and that is interfering with his ability to understand privilege.

As much as it seems silly, people's fears and emotional state matter in this sort of discussion, on all sides. We have to be willing to work within that to accomplish anything. It is why terms for various racial and ethnic groups change a lot - the old terms get loaded with connotations and misconceptions, and we have to move to a neutral term to have rational discussions. There's an apocryphal tale of some pollster asking "do think we should increase welfare" and getting an overwhelming response of "no", but later in the poll asking "do you think we should help more people" and getting an overwhelming "yes". It's absurd, but just a human nature thing.

> An I think that throwing around loaded phrases doesn't help anyone

Are you saying that your contention is that we shouldn't use the word "sexism" in a post with "sexism" in the title?

Now I'm pretty sure you're being disingenuous. I'm saying try to understand the author:

He is reacting to accusations of sexism, that he can't see, because he understands it in the emotionally loaded way I described ad nauseum in my previous posts.

I'm saying: he says he's not sexist, and in the overloaded way he isn't. Yes his statements ignore systemic sexism. Yes his proposed actions don't do anything about the status quo. BUT he seems to actually think equality is a good idea, and that sexism of any kind is a bad idea.

I'm saying: there are a lot of people in that same position.

I'm saying: there is a problem caused by the emotional connotations of the word sexism, and they cause a backlash which prevents further improvement of the situation.

I'm saying: perhaps part of the problem is that we are using a term that is actually causing more problems than it is fixing.

I'm saying: perhaps if a better term or description of the problem could be used, one that doesn't carry accusatory and "bad person" loading.

I'm saying: the people above will react favorably and actually help change the status quo if we can find a way to adress the problem when they aren't feeling attacked.

You appear to be hearing something completely different. I suspect that when I say "we should work with the people who want there to be equality to do it better", you are hearing "sophacles defends the status quo". Please try to understand, when people feel attacked, they don't hear the message, they hear "you suck, you need to stop being you", not "there is a problem we need to fix, here it is." - I am suggesting ways we can approach people that allows them to hear "here is something to be fixed" that doesn't invoke defense mechanisms. I am suggesting that the term sexism invokes that defense response in a lot of people, whether or not they would agree with the issues existing.

So here is a question for you: if it isn't called sexism, but instead called something else, but results in systemic sexism being reduced and/or eliminated, does it matter what name it has?

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