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Thank you for the discussion. I disagree with your stance as well.

Why is female->male fear different than other kinds of irrational fear? If we substituted white->black in your comment would you still support it? What makes it different?

"Would you say that black people, take it for granted that they know how whites feel about possible black aggression in private situations, especially late at night? That they know whites have legitimate reasons to be worried about strange blacks who confront them, even in a seemingly harmless manner, in private situations? Would you say that whites have a right to speak about their feelings on this topic, explain why they feel the way that they feel, or even just vent about how bothered they get by those situations?"

Also I'd like to point out that you make the assumption that only men can run afoul of a code of conduct and only women can be protected by it. Not convincing that these standards will be fairly applied.

"Why is female->male fear different than other kinds of irrational fear?"

That's a loaded question. One of the core things to understand is that this is not an irrational fear at all. In fact, it is very rational.

If a person has had consistent, repeated experiences in which male conference attendees have exhibited unwelcome and aggressive behavior, then they are quite rational to expect that kind of behavior again. Public codes of conduct give people hope that when this kind of behavior does happen again, it will be dealt with appropriately.

It is wrong and irrational to expect harassing and aggressive behavior from everyone; that is stereotyping. But it is quite rational to expect the overall pattern to continue.


Hey, John. Loved your movies. ;-)

> Why is female->male fear different than other kinds of irrational fear?

That's the problem: it's not an irrational fear. It would be irrational if a woman was convinced every man was a rapist, but that's the thing: they have no idea whether a man is a rapist or not. Rape is common enough, and harassment even more common, that they have to be wary.

> Also I'd like to point out that you make the assumption that only men can run afoul of a code of conduct and only women can be protected by it. Not convincing that these standards will be fairly applied.

Women can absolutely run foul of them, but there's a systemic bias in favor of men. Ours is the overwhelmingly dominant gender, socially speaking; we assume male interest to be the norm, to the extent that any discussion of media will come to revolve around ideas like the "male gaze", which is the thought that in many films and TV shows, the camera operates as if it were the eye of a man, looking at/emphasizing things which are of special interest to a heterosexual man. The problem with the male gaze isn't that men are evil, it's that men are presented as the default.

And this default is by no means a neutral one. It comes with certain attitudes towards both genders, but especially women, that has led to a biased and terrible representation of them in the media. Have you heard of the Bechtel test? It monitors how frequently movies portray two women having a conversation that isn't about men. Which is a ridiculously low bar for "women portrayed in movies" – yet a huge percentage of films released every year don't pass the bar whatsoever. Either there's no women in them, or the women never talk to each other, or if they talk, it's only about various male characters. Yet if you ran a reverse-Bechtel, tracking how many times men talk about things that aren't women, it would be hard to find a movie that DIDN'T pass.

That's what I mean by "systemic bias". It's not that men suck or are evil, but if you're a man it's way, way, WAY easier to assume that your perspective on things is shared by almost every other person. And in many situations it is – lots of universality to the human experience – but situations involving women is NOT one of them, and unfortunately, the media we consume does a terrible job of that as well. Even things created by women: I'll point out that in the Ayn Rand novel you picked your username from, the protagonist is a woman whose only other conversation with other women revolves around men: she talks to Rearden's wife about Rearden's interest in her, and she talks to her sister-in-law about her brother James. That's because Ayn Rand modeled her novels after the pulp fiction of her era, which is notoriously problematic in its portrayal of women as things to be slept with and little more.

What does this mean? Well, it means that if you're a guy, sometimes the ways you think are completely ordinary ways of interacting with women, or of talking about women, are uncomfortable or outright offensive/creepy for the women involved. Take the controversy a year or two back about the programmer who used a pair of boobs as a punchline to a presentation. If you're a straight guy, the pair of boobs works as a punchline – boobs are funny, our obsession with boobs is funny, women are weird, yadda yadda yadda. But presenting a joke like that at a conference suggests that you think straight men are the only worthwhile people in your audience. What's more, you're projecting, to an entire room of people, that you think it's okay to treat a woman's boobs as an object unto themselves, as if the boobs matter more than the woman they're attached to. It's a (relatively) little thing to you, maybe, but to a woman in that room with a bunch of people she considers her equals, it's more powerful for its littleness – an offhanded reminder that not only is she viewed as a minority, a weirdness, but that minority status is so taken for granted that you can make casual jokes about it without feeling any dissonance.

All this is to say that sure, women can do offensive stuff too. And if they do, I expect them to be reported and dealt with – double standards are indeed shitty. But it's not a double standard to say that a code of conduct needs to place special emphasis on dealing fairly with women. There is enough of a systematized problem, enough of a "boy's club" attitude among many programmers, that it's necessary to note that attitude and to say that it will not be tolerated.

This is all counterintuitive, I think, if you're a guy and if you haven't thought about these issues before. It took me a few years of talking to women about how they felt about these situations for this to really sink in – this is a serious problem that's almost completely invisible to me, and its invisible-ness is exactly the problem. I could link you to some interesting assorted perspectives that really clicked with me and started turning my mind around, if you're interested, but I understand if you feel it's not worth any more commitment of your time. This is unfortunately not a pleasant subject to delve into – hopefully I'm keeping this discussion light and interesting and non-nasty, but the real accounts of shit happening to women are pretty comprehensive and sad and ugly, and there's no way real around that without lessening the impact of their stories.


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