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Dear Hacker Community – We Need To Talk (asherwolf.com)
98 points by th0ma5 1792 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 149 comments



The problem with this woman's story is that she takes a few cases of explicit sexism and extrapolates them as the reason why everyone is saying rude things to her. Or at least that's how I see it. Perhaps she is just commenting on the general douchebaggery of the community, but even then much of the criticism she received could be seen as fair if she was actually in the wrong.

Although sexism is clearly an issue in the hacker community that needs to be tackled, the story makes me wonder if the author's behavior didn't initiate some of the vitriol directed at her. There was certainly plenty of it without any sexist connotations.

She says "I’ve gone from being a Facebook user to running OTR, PGP and Tor all in under a month." Perhaps she is not as knowledgeable or as experienced as she thinks she is, and so she is receiving criticism from those who know what they're saying/doing.


Yeah, it's all just a few bad apples, there's no underlying problem. Just like all the other women with appalling experiences of sexism in the tech community.

Seriously, if you can't see a fundamental problem, I seriously doubt you're looking very hard.

http://therealkatie.net/blog/2012/mar/21/lighten-up/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cerian-jenkins/the-tech-indust... http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/CouchDB_talk http://bitquabit.com/post/seriously/ http://farukat.es/journal/2012/10/669-kathy-sierra-primer-se...


"a few bad apples"

If you are going to use that expression, you should use it in it's entirety. A few bad apples spoil the bunch.

A few sexists are creating a a negative situation that permeates the community/industry. Not everyone is to blame, not everyone is guilty of this sexism, but the problem is everybody's.


This.

So many upvotes.


> Seriously, if you can't see a fundamental problem, I seriously doubt you're looking very hard.

If you missed the line where I said that "sexism is clearly an issue in the hacker community that needs to be tackled", then I seriously doubt you read my initial post very carefully.


>Yeah, it's all just a few bad apples, there's no underlying problem. Just like all the other women with appalling experiences of sexism in the tech community.

Except without the sarcasm, that isn't all that an unlikely hypothesis. HackerNews makes a big deal about sexism in the tech industry, but for all the evidence that's actually been presented and isn't anecdotal, it could actually be just a few bad apples influencing each of the victims that explains it.

And as jiggy2011 alluded to, the links you posted aren't meaningful statistical proof of sexism in the industry in the first place.


It is all trolls doing these things. If a troll notices someone is female, they posy sexist things to troll her and make her react for the "LULZ". If she was a man, they'd troll him by calling him gay or saying racist things to him for the "LULZ".

There is an Internet MEME that "There are no women on the Internet" that trolls use. I think it originated on 4Chan, IIRC. It has multiple meanings. One in that it claims women in real life use the fact that they are women to get free things and benefits, and that does not work over the Internet unless she shows some nudity in a picture. Another meaning is that women on the Internet use feminist tactics for attention on how sexist men are towards them and then act unlady-like (arsehole?) towards people and then cry 'foul' when they react and reply back. Not my definition, but ones the trolls use to justify their behavior and actions towards women.

I was once on Kuro5hin, it was another Slashdot clone, and was striven to be like Hacker News before there was a Hacker News. The trolls got on it and scared people off of it. Yes they targeted women using sexist remarks and harassment and bullying, even called some of the women as men pretending to be women. One by one the trolls picked on and bullied the users and ganged up on users by downrating their comments and stories until they quit. The editors refused to act and the owner thought it was funny that they did that to "people who deserved it" and so many users left Kuro5hin and it turned into a troll site. The trolls had scripts and web robots to control the comment ratings and story voting with sock puppet accounts and directed things on IRC. I was asked to join them one time and I refused, so I was made a target. Eventually I was no longer at that web site either. Yes I spoke out against the trolls and protested only to have my account deleted/anonymized so my account no longer worked. They put up a $5 paywall to keep the trolls away, but it seems the trolls don't mind paying for new accounts after they burn their old ones. I've never seen a technology or policy that effectively deals with trolls yet.


To be fair , a handful of blog posts (some with a feminist bent) could be as much a confirmation bias as anything else.

Technical people are more comfortable publishing online than those in other professions.


Look a majority of the users are not this way. It is only a small minority that are this way because they are anonymous trolls who only do it for the "LULZ" and to see reactions to the troll.

It is really a troll problem that we should address. Yes I do feel sad for women who have to put up with those trolls. Yes something should be done, refuse to feed the trolls and vote down their comments so they learn not to troll hacker news and other places.

Look I've seen trolls ruin web sites like Kuro5hin and then just plain take over as the majority and turn it into a troll site. It may seem like a lot of people, but usually it is just several people on an IRC channel directing the trolls and then Tor, VPN, and Proxy servers to hide IP addresses and make it look like a lot of people via sockpuppet accounts. They'll even conspire to downvote a target's comments and stories to drive them off the site, and then post nasty things about them after learning their real name or something. Yes it is a real problem and yes it has to be addressed.


She does explicitly acknowledge her own lack of technical knowledge (e.g. where she notes that she was not qualified to evaluate the technical components of the cryptoparty manual). And still, we should hope to be a community that embraces a willingness to learn regardless of current technical knowledge.


And learning is great. But there are cases where I think the author was expecting too much. For example, she applied for a speaking spot at a conference despite her lack of experience. She said that her family offered childcare only if she got a speaking spot, but that doesn't mean she should have just applied for it or expected to get a spot when she didn't have the necessary experience, just so she could participate in the conference.

In essence, she should have applied for a speaker spot because she has experience and knowledge she wants to share with other people, not because her family agreed to watch her kid if she got the spot.

Now if her story is true, the "Sydney-based male Cryptoparty organiser" was being douchebaggy by not contributing to the application for the panel. But perhaps he had more experience and felt that it wasn't fair that this newbie (regardless of gender) was turning a speaking spot that he (perhaps rightly) deserved into a panel, just so that she could be on stage as well (since if she believed that she really had the knowledge/experience to get the spot over the other guy, why didn't she just apply for the speaker spot?). I don't really know what happened, but there tends to just be a lot that you miss out on when you only hear a story from the perspective of just one person.


>she applied for a speaking spot at a conference despite her lack of experience

Non-technical are not unusual at that conference as they know they'll get a wider perspective that way.


Even if that is the case, it doesn't change the fact that she clearly felt the other guy would have a better chance of getting the spot. Otherwise, why didn't she just apply like the other guy had already done, and let the best (by whatever standards they want, whether it be experience or perspective) person be selected by the conference organizers?

Tell me, how would you feel if you had already prepared and turned in an application, and then some random person asks you to instead help with an application for a "panel" to replace the individual speaking spot you had already applied for? That man had absolutely no obligation to indulge the author's desire to have a panel.


She's not a random newb. She invented the thing that he wanted to talk about.


I agree with you, but I give her a bit more benefit of the doubt. There's definitely an element of negativity in some areas of hacker culture. As a white male it's easy to accept it as impersonal, but if you're in the 0.6% of women at an infosec conference, it's easy to see how a few instances of subtle or not-so-subtle sexism could make the negativity seem much more personal.


Or, to put it in another light.

As a non-victim, it's easy to conclude that just about 1% of the people have some random bad behaviour. As one of the 0,5% that are victims, it's quite obvious that there are 2 jerks for each one of your kind, and they have nothing better to do.


I do not believe that was the point of the article. Extrapolations and technicalities aside, she is showing her perspective of why she is pissed at the cryptoparty community. Personally, I find that somewhat interesting.


"The problem with this woman's story is that she takes a few cases of explicit sexism and extrapolates them as the reason why everyone is saying rude things to her. Or at least that's how I see it."

Yes, that "because I don't see it, it doesn't exist." attitude is a definite problem.

"She says "I’ve gone from being a Facebook user to running OTR, PGP and Tor all in under a month." Perhaps she is not as knowledgeable or as experienced as she thinks she is, and so she is receiving criticism from those who know what they're saying/doing."

This however seems more plausible, no kneejerk dismissals necessary.


> Or at least that's how I see it.

This is perhaps the most cunningly dangerous thing you could allow yourself as a response. In the case of any kind of discrimination or behavior that is experienced by someone else, please start working to taboo your acceptance of and reliance on "how you see it". It won't help you understand someone else properly. It won't help you spot this kind of situation as clearly whenever you might run across it in the future and could perhaps be the sole person able to speak up and stop it.

Also, it is most helpful to orient your mind in the trajectory of the article--a reading of all the events leading up to a big event. It's a mini-history. It has a linear progression from the founding of CryptoParty to the Creeper Card bullshit at 29c3. Then she breaks. It makes an incredible amount of sense when you allow yourself to experience it as the author did--this isn't some here's "a few cases of explicit sexism" article and then an extrapolation of "the reason everyone is saying rude things to her." This is a here's-all-the-bullshit-I-experienced-in-rough-chronologically-incessant-order-until-I-broke article. Now, add to that that CryptoParty only started up about four months ago. She experienced all of this in FOUR months time. Judging by that timeline, I find it highly unlikely that one could so easily chalk it all up to being in the wrong, other people knowing what they're saying/doing, and still have all those other experiences. I think this was a case of a bunch of men who didn't know how to be led by a woman who came up with a really badass idea.

> Perhaps she is not as knowledgeable or as experienced as she thinks she is, and so she is receiving criticism from those who know what they're saying/doing.

Reading this after the article seems as if you missed quite a few of her disclaimers. For example, she admits repeatedly that she is neither as knowledgeable or experienced in a number of technical areas, but that is not the point here. She's not criticizing the technical aspects of things (at least, not to any degree that reads as more serious than asking questions that any organizer would ask to have clarification and understand the reasons for doing X over Y). I see few, if any, examples where she, as the organizer, faced off against someone on the technical merits of anything at all--the only way knowing "what they're saying/doing" would actually have any weight.

In fact, most of the account reads as someone who was actually smart enough to recognize the limits of her skill set and not try showboating well beyond one's level as so many men in tech do.

Let's call her the non-technical founder, shall we? It's a term everyone on HN seems to understand and, usually, respect.

So here we have a non-technical founder who is also a woman. And not just a woman, but a single mother. That's effectively three strikes against her in the tech world, as far as I can see. I'm a technical, male, single-parent and I don't ever have to deal with shit from anyone. I'm not cross-examined in a project meeting or a conference because I am the daddy-type. Nobody questions my experience or the soundness of my advice because I have to leave by a certain hour to pick up, feed, bathe, and play with my kids. I have never seen a woman treated that way--much less a single mother who is non-technical--while working in or engaging with the tech world.

> ...she takes a few cases of explicit sexism and extrapolates them as the reason why everyone is saying rude things to her. ... but even then much of the criticism she received could be seen as fair if she was actually in the wrong.

Did you actually read (and maybe re-read) the opening where she states quite plainly that she is not chalking everything up to sexism? "Some parts of this article deal with misogyny, sexism, and harassment, while other aspects of it respond to experiences of down-right douche-baggery."

How about the bits where she talks about criticism she experienced? She lists several instances of it. She doesn't extrapolate that it's all sexism purely, but that there is behavior that is gender-targeted, douchey, harrassing, etc., occurring when she is questioning or reacting to decisions that were made (e.g., the no-laptop rule, the logistics of writing a manual that received shit planning from these people who supposedly "know what they're saying/doing", publicly taking the blame when others' shit-brained ideas blew up, the shitty dickhole creator of CryptoCat, etc.). She didn't say each instance was sexist.

But even that doesn't matter. She's the founder. She busted her ass to organize the whole thing. It seems she involved a number of smart technical people to cover the gaps in her skill set. That's what a founder does. And when the technical people are criticizing the founder, that's some pretty dangerous ground. The non-tech founder isn't held to the same standards as the tech co-founders & team. When the founder asks questions about whether something is a good idea, or whether someone is doing the right thing for the org, there's not much wiggle room here to try and assuage the problem by throwing her into the "she was wrong" camp.

> I thought if the gap between cryptographers, hackers and users could be bridged...

Here's the core of CryptoParty, directly from the non-technical founder. Bridging the gap between these disparate segments of the population who could benefit from the party. And who better, from my standpoint at least, to get on your team for achieving this goal than a semi-technical single mother who is passionate about bridging this gap and has a lot of energy and life she wants to live outside of her parenting duties?

She came up with and organized the idea of the CryptoParty, with very specific goals in mind--both for the group's aim, as well as its community standards and practices. She repeatedly brings up multiple situations where she objected or questioned others involved about actions that were going against those goals. As the person who appears (by her account) to pretty much be the first-mover, I was left with the expectation that as I read through the rest of the article, I would read the experience of someone who wanted to shepherd a community in light of its goals while being admittedly non-technical, and how everything went awry in a way that was very personal (founders are usually the ones we expect to have the most personal investment, right?).

> There was certainly plenty of it without any sexist connotations.

You can't rightly judge from a distance the degree to which vitriol was directed at her with sexist intention. Note I say intention and not connotations. Connotation is a deceptive thing that, when focused on, makes one think s/he is successfully spotting discriminatory, sexist, racist, what-have-you acts. You have to look beyond the connotations because it's much too easy to hide a predisposition to reject anything a certain gender says behind a litany of jargon and adequate explanations, smartly avoiding trigger words that connote the sexist intention. Plenty of good ideas are rejected because of their source of origin, not their technically sound qualities.

Moreover, there are things that are said that seem to me would not so frequently have occurred had the organizer been a man. If the organizer had been a man, technical or not, the tone of disagreements would have been very different. His reactions may not, as the organizer, been very different from hers--but the key is that they would have most likely been interpreted very differently. Nobody would tell a male founder that he wasn't being "level-headed", or tell him to quit, or call him emotional, or anything else that frequently is launched against women. I've seen men in screaming matches over ideas, passionately and intensely convinced they're right, shouting obscenities and hurling personal attacks that have nothing to do with the issue, and nobody ever busts in and calls them a bunch of emotional basketcases who aren't level-headed enough to lead or make decisions. And yet women don't have such privilege and protection.

---

As far as I can read, this is one hell of an account of how not to treat your non-technical founder/co-founder/teammate. It's just reprehensible and wrong. Especially the bits about the application to 29c3. I was reading that trying to imagine a world in which the Python community would behave that way if, say, Jesse Noller wasn't able to afford making it to PyCon or something. Or if Jacob Kaplan-Moss couldn't afford to make the trip to a DjangoCon. Or anything similar. Say there's one spot open to have a talk, like her situation. I can't see anyone from those communities acting in such a way as to throw shit in those guys' faces while they're trying to turn that talk into a panel that allows other applicants to take part with them or whatever -- and then turn around and not only succeed in keeping those guys out of the party, but talk about how great it's going to be to get together. It's just atrocious behavior.

Moreover, that image of the Creeper Cards is just disgusting. That kind of behavior isn't even appropriate when scrawling it on a desk in middle school, much less a conference. That looks like it would barely belong at the AVN Expo.


From what I read she is dealing with trolls on the Internet and in real life. They don't just target women, they target anyone to get a reaction out of them for the "LULZ".

Part of the reason why she is targeted by trolls is she has a position of authority and organizes events but doesn't have a detailed background experience or knowledge in them (she says so herself) which the trolls see her as just another "stuffed shirt" (or suit, a stuffed shirt implys that the person stuffs a shirt to make it look like muscle or something they are not to fool people, no sexist remark meant there, consider the alternative of a 'phoney' or 'scammer') pretending to be a hacker. (Their view not mine.) They would have done the very same things if she was a man. (Maybe call him gay or racist names instead of sexist remarks)

I see that she is into 'disruptive journalism' from my experience it is a different form of advertising and marketing. For example, Marvel Comics kills off Peter Parker in Doctor Octopus' body after a body-swap. They did it as 'disruptive journalism' or 'disruptive media' to get reactions from people who loved Spider-Man and Peter Parker to Tweet and Blog about it over outrage to make Marvel Entertainment and The Superior Spider-Man comic get more attention and free publicity. In the same way she is using 'disruptive journalism' to draw attention to her blog and herself by making people react to it. So now she makes front page at Hacker News (Edit people are voting this article down, good for you, no more front page) and it is blogged and Tweeted everywhere. 'Disruptive journalism' is really just another form of trolling, it is designed to get reaction for the "LULZ" for free publicity and free advertising and to get people to talk about her and her blog. While I feel sad that she is targeted by trolls, not much can be done to stop it. What she is doing is no different than what the trolls do, morally and ethically, as she exaggerates the situation into being worse than it actually is (trolls are a minority of HN not the majority) so she gets more reactions for promoting her blog and name.

P.S. don't feed the trolls.


> Nobody would tell a male founder that he wasn't being "level-headed", or tell him to quit, or call him emotional, or anything else that frequently is launched against women.

On that point you're wrong. Just as an example, look at how people responded to Nadim Kobeissi and his own responses to criticism. Nadim is male (the Cryptocat guy). Many of those criticizing him and his responses to technical criticism were female. "not level-headed" would probably be overly mild.


I can't help but notice how much you read into and objected to w1ntermute's statement "At least that's how I see it", and yet you end up with the very similar "as far as I can read".

Anyway, you would've made a hell of a TV detective.


> This is perhaps the most cunningly dangerous thing you could allow yourself as a response.

You're reading far too much into "Or at least that's how I see it." My sole point with that statement, as you can see in the following sentence, is that the author seemed to be suggesting that sexism was behind most of what happened to her, rather than just saying that sexism was an issue, along with other things that could have happened to her even if she were a man.

> She experienced all of this in FOUR months time. Judging by that timeline, I find it highly unlikely that one could so easily chalk it all up to being in the wrong, other people knowing what they're saying/doing, and still have all those other experiences.

Why not? She was the common factor in all these occurrences, not the other parties. It would be much more unlikely that a series of 3rd parties ALL chose to attack her because of her gender.

> I think this was a case of a bunch of men who didn't know how to be led by a woman who came up with a really badass idea.

That's a statement completely lacking proof. Whoever said she came up with this idea on her own? In fact, she said herself in the blog post:

> Cryptoparty was created one very boring evening, in a very open and inclusive conversation on Twitter, a little over four months ago.

And being "led" by a woman? Again, she said herself:

> Decentralised, DIY, psuedo-leadership.

So she wasn't "leading" the men. Again, your statement conflicts with the author's own statements.

> Reading this after the article seems as if you missed quite a few of her disclaimers. For example, she admits repeatedly that she is neither as knowledgeable or experienced in a number of technical areas

And reading this seems as if you missed the point I was trying to make. I'm not saying that the others were in the right by criticizing her or putting her down. I'm just saying that it might have more to do with her lack of experience than her being a single mother. After all, I can imagine if that if any other random newbie were to enter the community and start throwing around his weight, things wouldn't be received too well either, even if that newbie were right. And I'm also not saying that such a situation should exist - it shouldn't. But it has nothing to do with sexism.

> Let's call her the non-technical founder, shall we? It's a term everyone on HN seems to understand and, usually, respect.

No, we shall not. Cryptoparty, as a community project with "pseudo-leadership" is not at all comparable to the tightly controlled, profit-oriented, founder-driven environment of a startup.

> That's effectively three strikes against her in the tech world, as far as I can see.

All I can do here is quote you, from earlier in the very same post by you:

> This is perhaps the most cunningly dangerous thing you could allow yourself as a response. In the case of any kind of discrimination or behavior that is experienced by someone else, please start working to taboo your acceptance of and reliance on "how you see it".

Really? You just violated your own taboo.

Have you ever stopped to think that your personal experiences might not be applicable to all other single fathers, because anecdotal data isn't all that useful? Have you ever stopped to think that raising a child is a serious task that requires a significant amount of time, much of it unplanned, and that many jobs/projects may simply not be able to accommodate that for logistical reasons?

> Did you actually read (and maybe re-read) the opening where she states quite plainly that she is not chalking everything up to sexism? "Some parts of this article deal with misogyny, sexism, and harassment, while other aspects of it respond to experiences of down-right douche-baggery."

Again, did you actually read (and maybe re-read) my initial post? My point was that despite her statement that it wasn't all about sexism, that seemed to be a common thread in the whole post. Following the bit about the poor Cryptoparty decisions that you mentioned, she says that she "got emails telling me to stick to motherhood and tweeting."

> But even that doesn't matter. She's the founder. She busted her ass to organize the whole thing.

> She came up with and organized the idea of the CryptoParty

Once again, she said that there was only "pseudo-leadership" and the project developed on Twitter during an open conversation. You seem to have conveniently ignored that part of the post.

> Moreover, there are things that are said that seem to me would not so frequently have occurred had the organizer been a man. If the organizer had been a man, technical or not, the tone of disagreements would have been very different.

Again, you're just assuming things here. As you said yourself, "connotation is a deceptive thing that, when focused on, makes one think s/he is successfully spotting discriminatory, sexist, racist, what-have-you acts.

> Nobody would tell a male founder that he wasn't being "level-headed", or tell him to quit, or call him emotional, or anything else that frequently is launched against women. I've seen men in screaming matches over ideas, passionately and intensely convinced they're right, shouting obscenities and hurling personal attacks that have nothing to do with the issue, and nobody ever busts in and calls them a bunch of emotional basketcases who aren't level-headed enough to lead or make decisions. And yet women don't have such privilege and protection.

Once again, you're generalizing your personal experiences. If anything, I've seen women get treated quite nicely/equally by the vast majority of men in the industry. The problem, as someone else put it, is that when only 0.5% of the participants are women, it only takes 1% of the men harassing them to make life difficult for them.

> As far as I can read, this is one hell of an account of how not to treat your non-technical founder/co-founder/teammate. It's just reprehensible and wrong.

I'm not condoning any of the things that happened to her. If it really is as she says (usually the other side has a very different tale to tell), then she was treated quite poorly, regardless of her gender or children.

> I can't see anyone from those communities acting in such a way as to throw shit in those guys' faces while they're trying to turn that talk into a panel that allows other applicants to take part with them or whatever

Have you stopped to consider how that man from Sydney who had already applied for the speaking spot felt when some newbie comes along and says she wants to turn the speech into a panel? A speech and a panel are two completely different things, and serve different purposes.

The conference had previously decided there would be a speech, and the other applicant was under no obligation to agree to participate in a panel.

Besides, if this woman is as great as you're making her out to be, why didn't she just apply for the speaker spot? Surely she would have been selected over the other applicant, given her achievements.

> Moreover, that image of the Creeper Cards is just disgusting.

Yes, this shouldn't have happened. Unfortunately, it only takes one or two people for that sort of thing to happen.


I think you're missing firstly how dangerous the sentiment of your initial response was - it reeks of complete ignorance of what women face, and is at points flat our victim blaming "she brought some of it upon herself".

> and the project developed on Twitter during an open conversation. You seem to have conveniently ignored that part of the post.

No, they were pointing out that they were an organiser not a technical person.

> it only takes one or two people for that sort of thing to happen.

Does. Not. Matter. The fact is that when one or two people do it and it isn't met with outright condemnation and vitriol from the other 99%, it feels like this sort of thing is accepted or event silently celebrated.

Fuck passive observers.


> I think you're missing firstly how dangerous the sentiment of your initial response was - it reeks of complete ignorance of what women face

Well, your thinking is incorrect. If you had bothered to actually read my initial post, you'd know that I clearly stated that "sexism is clearly an issue in the hacker community that needs to be tackled".

> is at points flat our victim blaming "she brought some of it upon herself".

Yes, she did bring it upon herself in the sense that she was inexperienced, something that had nothing to do with her gender. If a male had the same level of experience as her and tried to pull some of the shit that she did, he would have gotten his ass kicked out, no questions asked. Such incidents just never get attention, since they're a regular part of the tech industry - you're incompetent, you're out.

To reiterate, I am not suggesting that she should be blamed for the sexist comments she was faced with. That is a separate issue and one that clearly needs to be dealt with.

> No, they were pointing out that they were an organiser not a technical person.

Wrong again, bobwaycott repeatedly referred to her as a "founder". There's a big difference between an "organizer" of a loosely organized internet project and a "founder". And the organizer of a loosely organized internet project can't claim credit for having come up with the idea for it, as bobwaycott credited the author with in his post.

> The fact is that when one or two people do it and it isn't met with outright condemnation and vitriol from the other 99%, it feels like this sort of thing is accepted or event silently celebrated.

Blatant strawman. I never suggested that it should be accepted or "silently celebrated". Do you actually bother to even read what you've written before hitting the reply button?

All I'm saying is that for men, when we're at a conference with 1% of the attendees being women, we may never even see this harassment going on, since the harassers and the victims together may only make up 2% of the total attendees. How are we supposed to stop something that we don't even see happening?


Here is a mirror of the original blog post, in case it gets taken down or is changed:

In image format: http://i.imgur.com/YBRgZ.png

In text format (with links to in-line images, rehosted to imgur): http://pastebin.com/GDVSsj8V


So it did get hacked by some butt-hurt sad individuals, and forwarded on to a flash that falsely implicated Austrian Anonymous. Thanks for the mirror.


As a hacker, you should know that even a "small" statistical bias (10%-20%) can invalidate experimental results, or contribute to large problems in a complex system.

So why is a small but real bias against women in tech still not a huge problem?


> why is a small but real bias against women in tech still not a huge problem?

Did you actually bother to read my post before hitting "reply"?

> sexism is clearly an issue in the hacker community that needs to be tackled


And I apologize if you really do see this as an issue that needs to be tackled, and if you do something about it whenever you are in a context to do so.

But to often I see this same response to allegations of sexism online - admitting that it's a problem in the general case while undermining the woman's argument in the particulars. You could even possibly be right in this case, but by taking the approach of poking holes in women's complaints, you're undermining their point in general.

Worse, it strays dangerously near "blame the victim" mentality... "if only she hadn't been so inexperienced/emotional/womanly". Regardless of the truth of it, it's actively harmful to genuinely addressing the problem.


You may be interested in reading this: http://www.derailingfordummies.com/complete.html#proveit.


I've never seen this before, but this is seriously fantastic.


I just glanced at several of the headings, and it looks like that page is just a list of reasonable things to say.


That's the point.


I think either your sarcasm meter is broken, or mine is. Honestly cannot tell which.


I'm confused. Isn't that page supposed to be holding those statements up for ridicule? I'm saying that although the person who made that page thinks that the statements are bullshit, they seem perfectly reasonable to me.


Yeah, that is what I am getting out of it too.

I think that either mburshteyn is sarcastically saying "that's the point" (perhaps to indicate that you thinking that is exactly the problem s/he is trying to highlight?), or mburshteyn has missed the sarcasm in the derailment page (it's not actually advocating 'derailment').


I'm saying these arguments may sound reasonable, but they can also be viewed as a tactic to derail conversations about oppression and marginalized groups. The fact that "it looks like a list of reasonable things to say," as part of our dominant discourse about topics such as gender, is exactly why they're such a powerful and effective tactic. Until a discussion can move past using derailing tactics in these conversations, marginalization and oppression won't really be challenged.


Thank you for being dismissive of a concern that is personal and emotional. You are the problem.


If you are a man reading this, I invite you to:

a. Resist the urge to pick apart the OP's life and criticize how/what she said.

b. Honestly reflect, without shame or blame, about what you know of sexism. What do you understand of it? What do you understand it's roots are, and how it works? What do you think your responsibility is, as a man, and as a member of this community?

I invite you to do this, because it's a charged topic, but an important one. See if you can look past the hurt feelings and accusations, and sincerely reflect on what you can do to understand how sexism works a little better, and address it.

EDIT: I am by no means an expert on the topic, but I've spent the past few years earnestly looking at how oppression works and keeping an open mind. I was truly astounded by the magnitude and difficulty of the problem.


I am a man, and the question of how to apply these experiences that female colleagues have has always troubled me.

Many of the events she lists seem commonplace in decentralized movements (groups are often mis-represented by zealous adherents without the leaders' knowledge or throw out their founders). Public faces of projects are often viewed as difficult to work with or technically lacking (partially or fully) due to their high profile.

So, part of me reads this and wants to say that she's experiencing the problems that I've read about (but not experienced) when dealing the "hacker community."

However, there are also instances of language that could ("level-headed", "don’t worry your head about it") or definitely are ("mommy-type") aimed at her gender. I don't defend people who dismissed people for their gender. I also think everyone needs to understand that it's her call if she felt discriminated against. We can't deny how she felt, even if all of the people who said what they said didn't mean it that way.

So the other part of me wants to do something that will help women feel welcomed into communities, but I'm at a loss as to what.

So much of the language quoted in the blog is subtle and insidious. If they had said "parental-type" instead of "mommy-type", it still could have been just as alienating, just not as quotable. The comments all seem to have two components: a neutral complaint (difficulty collaborating, concerns about technical skill, disagreement about direction) and sexist sentiment (don't worry about it, let us handle it, it's too much for you). I can see the second component, but I don't know how to call it out without getting the other party to buy into the undertones of their statements.

I feel like I understand where the author is coming from, but I also feel like these are also probably socially inept people who didn't like her. For some portion of those quotes, they probably did not consciously intend to be sexist, or reference her gender. It's a problem, and no one should be made to feel like they're rejected for their gender, but I don't know how to address it.


>Honestly reflect, without shame or blame, about what you know of sexism. What do you understand of it? What do you understand it's roots are, and how it works? What do you think your responsibility is, as a man, and as a member of this community?

You know what? I don't think I've ever personally witnessed a woman in tech being subjected to sexist behavior. And I know exactly why that is. It's because I so rarely encounter a woman in tech. They're like unicorns. And so we treat them like unicorns, because we, men, are having a new experience. Lo, a woman has entered into our mancave, let us attempt to impress her with our alpha geek abilities. But for them, that must be the experience they have continuously -- they are perpetually in the presence of a woman because they are one, so the novelty of that wore off a long time ago and now they're just constantly surrounded by men who act as though they've spotted a fantastical creature and are suddenly anxious to capitalize on this rare opportunity to try to mate with it.

I don't know how to fix that. A woman who knows what data locality optimization means is rare. And it's dangerous to be rare. It's difficult. You don't have safety in numbers. You don't have the benefit of the experience of many others like you. You don't have a strong voice because you don't have a strong population of similarly situated individuals.

So if I had a prescription for fixing it, it would be to make it not rare. We need a thousand million new women in tech. Easier said than done, right? But that's what we need. Chicken and egg. We drive all the women out by making them feel awkward and vulnerable, and then there are not enough women to move the needle on the treatment of women.

So women in tech… to use a popular phrase, a market segment in serious need of disruption.

We need to make it cool to be a unicorn. When we encounter such rare creatures we must make "respect" rather than "capture" to be the default response.

Which I know is hard. It goes against our nature. "New toy" and "human being" are not equivalent but are far too easily confused, and the fact is, most of the time we don't even realize we're doing it. And a lot of us are going to fail a lot of the time, but we still need to try.

And we're still going to fail even when we're trying. Which is why I say to those women who have bothered to read this far into my nonsense: Don't give up! Please don't give up. Because we -- men -- need strong female role models. We need to encounter women we can respect on a regular basis, so that respecting women is something we have experience doing. We need you to put up with our shit when we're embodying human imperfection and throw it back at us when we deserve it, because if you don't, no one does and then it happens again. We need you to call us out. We need you to not quit in the face of adversity, because our daughters should not have to go through what you already have.

Being a rare specimen is hard, but we need you. The future needs this to be fixed. And if enough of you hang in there when the going gets tough, eventually it can stop being rare, and stop being hard.


I agree with you completely. It's partly a problem of rarity. It's also partly that men in tech don't often have well developed social skills (were in the computer lab all night in college instead of out at the frat parties) and don't know what's appropriate and what isn't. More women in tech would go a long way to make it easier to be a woman in tech.


Honestly, reading this the only thing I wish is to have been at 29c3 when whoever made the creeper card image did that so I could give them a piece of mind.

I wonder if we couldn't have some sort of allies/mentoring system for people (of either sex) who are confident/connected that are volunteering to be around if someone's having issues - just as a fall-back. I mean ideally it'd be great if every woman had the confidence to chew out creepy fucks, but they shouldn't have to. It's definitely something I'd be cool with doing if it enabled more women to be able to attend conferences and have confidence.


Rumour has it, the image was actually created by someone female - https://twitter.com/skytee/status/285909186565517312

Looks like the cards didn't go down very well with women either.


This was horrible to read.


What do you mean? Writing style? It's my run on sentences isn't it.


I think this piece would have been stronger if it were just 3 - 5 examples and then discussion. If the piece is going to be billed as a call for discussion about sexism, then the piece should be mostly about sexism rather than about things not related to sexism that went wrong with the project.

Also, for what it's worth most of the questionable behavior I see comes from the developers who are part of open source culture rather than from the ones who are part of startup culture. Not sure if others agree or disagree.


> billed as a call for discussion about sexism

I'm curious why some people seem to think that she is exclusively talking about or attributing her problems to sexism. The very first sentence:

> Some parts of this article deal with misogyny, sexism, and harassment, while other aspects of it respond to experiences of down-right douche-baggery.

...explicitly states that sexism is only part of the discussion. Was this edited at some point after publishing? Perhaps some readers not carefully perusing, or some combination thereof.


Fair enough, I forgot about that part by the end.


It's so hard to know what to say in response to stuff like this. I want to believe that there's a consensus amongst the enlightened hacker community that the type of sexist behavior described is Not Acceptable, but it seems hardly a week goes by without another major incident in which a long-standing female contributor is finally pushed out of a project by stuff like this.

I agree with Ms. Wolf that community and convention anti-harassment rules, policies, and introductions are a good place to start, but I can't help but wonder what the real answer is. My introduction to this entire world came through a female hacker, one that I still hold in highest esteem, and I can't help but feel a sense of immense confusion and sadness that she and all those beyond the straight/white/male class are still made to feel like outsiders.


Prominent male members of the community burn out all the time (_why, Mark Pilgrim) too. I think sexism isn't really the culprit, so much as being exposed to the howling nether of the internet. There are a billion people online, and some percentage of them are in a shit mood, and the more prominent you are the more likely it is that someone will try to shit all over you for no visible reason. If you get famous enough, you'll get it every day.

A lot of the other stuff sounds like the mundane bullshit that happens to every open project- people promising to build stuff that then don't, bikeshedding, flakiness, poor communication and clashing goals. The eternal heartbreak of people preferring talk to action.

This sounds like her first rodeo. It sounds like that made everything worse.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the gender stuff is basically incidental to the people making her life miserable, even if it feels central to her. Being internet famous and trying to organize internet volunteers is a recipe for awfulness.


In one paragraph, the OP implies that some in the hacker community have "no will to fight harassment, discrimination and douchebaggery"

In the next, she describes "a bunch of privileged white boys" who seem to anger her.

Why, then, is she surprised to be called a "mommy-type" when others are angry at her?

My point being, people sometimes use mean words when they are angry. The best way to "fight harassment, discrimination and douchebaggery" is not to use that type of language when angry, or at all. The OP should consider her own message.


They (big bad men) gave you trouble for seemingly valid difference in opinions, deal with it.

And please don't imply that the HN has any hand in fostering misogyny or sexism because it's a completely false characterization of the community at large. In fact if you haven't picked up on it yet we're actually one of the more "progressive" and or liberal industries.

But that doesn't mean we're going to hold you to any lesser standard or treat you better because your a girl either.

By the way quitting and blaming others in a rant was probably the wrong decision on your part.


I think you just proved her point - your tone is itself evidence that sexism is a problem on sites like HN.

By using the phrase "big bad men" you are engaging in precisely the sort of gender-oriented down-talking that she is complaining about. You are not just criticizing her, you are implying that she's an emotional woman who can't play with the big boys.

I don't know anything about the author, but just reading her post and your response, it is quite obvious that there is a genuine problem here, and that problem is you and people like you.


How can you be so certain that her interpretation, or your interpretation, of what is happening is actually in line with reality? One cannot simply observe something and immediately react emotionally and simultaneously imagine that they've just completely nailed the core of the issue with complete accuracy and no misunderstanding has taken place whatsoever.

From my subjective perspective for example the OP you're responding to used the phrase "big bad men" to sum up the article case that the problem is sexism / men / external rather than her lack of understanding / expectations of unearned respect / internal. It's up for argument which one of these positions is valid, but I just don't grasp how people can immediately jump for the second one as if it were indisputable truth?


Of course we can't know the true motivation of any of the parties involved.

But as big a problem as this has obviously become, I'd rather err on the side of calling out apparent sexism when I see it rather than giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and giving sexists the impression that this shit is ok.

And if I'm wrong, oh well. Worst case, some people might stop to think about the language they use and how it affects others.


Worst case; in a field where logic is paramount, emotion trumping it on a political correctness card starts to creep into the culture, poisoning everything it touches and slowly bleeding it into just another mostly political, messy, emotional human endeavour.

Honestly, if that's what it takes for women to feel accepted in this field I would prefer they were not. I sincerely don't believe that to be the case though, it's just convenient for sideline histrionics to label their cause with something more mainstream like gender equality in order to advance their agenda.


You're gonna tell me you never got cut up about the way people treated you? You let cool logic rule you instead?

Bullshit! It's a basic fact that most people don't like being routinely belittled and side-lined. That's got nowt to do with gender. The difference is that women suffer it more often and gosh should they have the temerity to complain, suffer a further avalanche of abuse under the guise of cool, logical criticism.

"emotion trumping it on a political correctness card"

Political correctness is just short-hand for "don't be racist, don't be sexist, don't be a prick". Pretty simple.

It's naive to think that politics and emotion can somehow be kept out of any human endeavour. So, the _logical_ course is to have a open discussion about how we can maintain respect and encourage all who are interested and able to contribute. That's what is best for the field.

You've got such an undeveloped idea of gender equality that when someone directly talks about it, you want to label it 'sideline histronics'.

You, yes YOU, the individual using the handle etherael are part of the problem.


Sure, I've disliked the way people have treated me, on occasion I've disliked it even when they had a good cause, at the end of the day though the way I was treated wasn't at issue, the cause was. And yes, I throw away my immediate emotional response in any situation like that so I can get to the core of the issue and actually decide if there is valid information to take from the event rather than simply something to complain about.

And if there never is valid information to take from the event, and it's truly just an endless tirade of "you're a woman, shouldn't you be in the kitchen making me a sandwich?" level prattle, that in itself is a person telling you that they're not worth your time interacting with, which is useful information of another kind.

> Political correctness is just short-hand for "don't be racist, don't be sexist, don't be a prick". Pretty simple.

That's your definition of political correctness, but that sure isn't the universally agreed and undisputed definition thereof.

But even accepting it, it opens a whole lot of doors; What is it to be racist? simply acknowledging some statistics that are unfavourable to some ethnicities is by some definitions racist. What is it to be sexist? Not to swallow wholesale typical claims of gender discrimination from women's groups with skewed supporting statistics without looking at the entire picture, or even to be aware of certain information that skews the debate in the opposite direction than currently has the mainstream cultural high ground? What is it to be a prick? To acknowledge realities regardless of the fact that other people may find them uncomfortable?

All of these things are useful, You can't plan affirmative action programs or associated actions to address problems with ethnic groups unless you can quantify what those problems actually are. You can't address the real problems with gender equality if you simply swallow all the propaganda on one side of the argument and instantly think you have the whole story. And you can't fix your own problems if you're unaware of them because noone ever saw fit to tell you because doing so would make them a prick. That's my fundamental problem with it, political correctness promotes premeditated ignorance of various facts which are inconvenient to culture.

A taboo on the objective examination of reality is never a good thing.

> It's naive to think that politics and emotion can somehow be kept out of any human endeavour.

I actually agree with this, but I disagree with your prescription, as soon as you acknowledge the inevitability of it and set up political solutions as a prescription, you simply hasten the downward slide. If on the other hand you firmly allocate the entire pursuit into the waste of time category, any kind of politicking will be out of place, and it won't simply be an endless argument over which kind is appropriate and which kind is not.

> You've got such an undeveloped idea of gender equality that when someone directly talks about it, you want to label it 'sideline histronics'.

I'm not labeling this particular episode sideline histrionics, that's why I originally laid out the two possibilities. The poster doesn't provide enough information in my opinion to actually make a judgement as to which of these cases it actually is.

My statement about sideline histrionics was precisely that it is a tactically sound move for those that engage in them to attempt to frame them in a more mainstream way that makes it appear that their personal grievances are a real and widespread problem that requires addressing by everyone.

> You, yes YOU, the individual using the handle etherael are part of the problem.

I think that lumping people like me in with the "get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich" crowd is simply allowing them to mask their own sideline histrionics with something much more rational and you do yourself no favors by doing so. But if you still see fit to judge me in such a fashion then I'd simply point out that by doing so, you move yourself out of the set of people whose opinions I take seriously.


"a field where logic is paramount" Which field is that? The field that produces Hacker News threads? The field where Academic Politics are vicious?


Any field where math is the final arbiter and emotion is just a distraction. Cryptography qualifies in my book. But to take it as a subset of the larger field of technology implementation in general works just as well, too.


>By using the phrase "big bad men" you are engaging in precisely the sort of gender-oriented down-talking that she is complaining about.

But that's absurd. He only used that phrase in response to a claim that men in tech are incorrigibly sexist and hostile.


Admittedly, the post is very ranty, but that doesn't take away from the the issue itself.

Picking apart the person behind the argument does not lessen the issue either. By doing so, you are only trying to detract from the seriousness of the issue via a borderline ad hominem response.

Finally, at no point in the post did Asher Wolf mention Hacker News, it was directed at the greater hacker community.


At no point does she explicitly cite HN. The post is directed to all "hackers."


Hence my use of the word imply. As in 'implicit' ... you know - the opposite of 'explicit'.

I also believe she changed the title.


I don't think there's anything implicitly linking the people in her article to HN, either. We don't have a monopoly on the word "hacker," after all.


In fact, quite the opposite. HN's use of the word is the tag-along.


"Progressive liberal" techies unfortunately can still be sexist


"on-going experiences of misogyny, abuse, threats, put downs, belittlement, harassment, rape."

This seems a little strong, is there any evidence to suggest that women in a technical field have a heightened risk of rape vs any other field?

Especially something like lapdancing which seems to have no lack of female participants.


I submit that like most socially active voices, her method of appealing to emotion will win no converts and will probably receive the praise of people who agreed with her before she made the post.

I sympathize with her in regards to harassment, but I don't think there's anything wrong with a headless female (or male) body made out of "creeper cards" (a poorly thought out endeavor since, after all, not one of us is righteous enough to hand out the cards in the first place).

My advice: nobody likes "we need to talk" conversation. Or, at least nobody on the opposition does. The art of persuasion is still an art, no matter how obviously correct you think your side of the argument is. Collect more facts, provide more details that relate to harassment, edit better, don't preach. The data and the details will be enough.


> like most socially active voices, her method of appealing to emotion

I'm not sure of the validity of this statement - history has been all about appeals to emotion being more powerful than appeals to reason.

> don't think there's anything wrong with a headless female (or male) body made out of "creeper cards"

It's the sentiment - creeper cards are there because of the oppression of females by lecherous males at these types of events. The fact that someone is making fun of that it by being mildly perverse is terrible because it's literally anti-anti-oppression - it's oppressive.


" I didn’t create Cryptoparty just so a bunch of privileged white boys could.."

Why did she drag race into it? Completely unnecessary. She has valid points without this.


This isn't the first time that I've seen anti-white racism on Hacker News[1]. The emotion behind theories of class privilege gets separated from its intellectual content, and people think it is okay to say things like this to their fellow hackers. It isn't.

[1] For example, a previous comment thread blamed Elon Musk's success on the fact that he is a white male (as if every white male were a billionaire). I didn't comment at the time because I was logged-in to my main account, and defending white people against racism is un-PC. But I do worry that this kind of attack is accepted here and goes uncommented.


repeat after me. there is no such thing as reverse racism.

By comparing this (oh no, someone called me white on a blog, and said I was successful) to the experiences of oppressed minorities, belittles history, it belittles their experiences. and it makes you look like a spoiled privileged white boy.


anewguy99 did not say anything about "reverse racism". He was talking about racism.


"reverse racism" is what it is called when someone claims that someone is being "racist" against the privileged majority. It's nonsense. It doesn't make sense that there is systematic oppression against ... the cohort that is undeniably and unshakably in power. If you insult someone for being white, yes it might hurt their feelings. Do the same to an unprivileged minority and it is potentially life threatening. There is no comparison.


> systematic oppression

> Do the same to an unprivileged minority and it is potentially life threatening. There is no comparison.

Racism must be systematic in order to be 'real' racism? Instances of racism must be comparable to one another in severity in order to be 'real' racism?

These implications of severity and comparability are entirely your own invention. anewguy99 was not suggesting anything of the sort, you have assumed that he was because your pet definition of 'racism' requires that those implications be present when the word is used.

If you want to use another definition than the casual/traditional one, that is fine. But don't expect others to take your pet definition seriously, and don't expect to extract legitimate meaning from what others are saying when those others are using the common meaning of the word.


See: Derailing. When instances of oppression occur, the most important thing to do is not point out the hypocrisies of the victim. It's not to whine about the oppression that YOU have to deal with yourself. It's not to compare your minor suffering to their systematic bullying. Everyone suffers, everyone has their own battles. Now is not the time to dredge it up as if it's more important, or just as important as what is happening here.

No, name calling is not racism. not on its own. It must indeed be backed by a system of oppression. A system of belief about the inherent qualities of a particular race. You apparently believe that all you need to do is call someone a name to be racist. It is your definition of racism that is skewed and uncommon, not mine.


I'm seriously not trying to undermine you here, but there's a massive empathy failure across this entire thread and I think this needs to be pointed out.

What you mean when you say "racism" is not what the parent means. The dictionary definition[1] of racism is actually quite broad and basically says that you're both right - the word "racism" can be used to describe a systematic system of oppression of racial minorities, but it can also be used to describe any instance where race is used as a discriminating factor.

You're not going to persuade very many people by simply asserting that the word means what you think it means, when other reasonable people could disagree about that meaning. You'll end up in pointless semantic arguments, and if you're doing this on HN then you'll be arguing with people who can make some very nuanced arguments about semantics.

There is a whole discourse about race, privilege, oppression, gender and so on which has acquired its own vocabulary, often by applying very specific meanings to words which have historically broader meanings, and which places emphasis on systematic or aggregate effects of oppression/privilege. Communities which are not steeped in this tradition do not share these word usages or these emphases; the average HN user is going to see a reference to "...white dudes..." as "racist" because it's a phrase that invokes race and gender when these factors are otherwise irrelevant, and they're going to focus on the individual case rather than where this fits in the aggregate sum of all racism/sexism across humanity.

In other words, your average HNer is probably follows deontological ethics[2] and is likely to evaluate individual instances of behaviour according to general rules. If invoking race is bad, invoking race in relation to white people is therefore bad, and therefore the "white dudes" comment is bad. You can't easily argue (to a deontologist) that it's "not racism" because this means that sometimes the "rules" don't apply.

Now, I'm not saying who is right or wrong, only that it's something that reasonable people can disagree about. I doubt that there is a right or wrong. My belief is that it should not be impossible to agree on how to tackle discrimination, but in order to engage everyone in doing so we'll need to appeal to a range of different ethical viewpoints, and trying to argue that the other person's ethics are simply wrong is unlikely to be persuasive.

[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racism?s=t [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deontological_ethics


Dehumanizing individuals by identifying them with some genetically defined class is always wrong, even if the individual is a member of a class that it is PC to hate on.


Her agenda is about making crypto accessible to lots of people that it's not currently available to. To those people, hackerdom often looks like an undifferentiated mass of white dudes. Leaving race out of a discussion like that is not a neutral thing: omitting race is a statement of its own.


This isn't the white males fault though, I am sure all of them would be happy to see more diversity. The event is open invite though and this is the crowd that it attracts right now.


Are you saying that crpyto is not available to people who aren't white guys?


It's inherent to the concept of "privilege"; the understanding is that the people with the most "privilege" in the western world are men who are white. If you are making a point that a group has "privilege", it makes sense to point out they are mostly white since it affects the amount of "privilege" they have.

That said, that particular remark seems to be imbued with some bitterness and desire to wound; which may be understandable coming from someone frustrated, but prevents me from endorsing it myself.

edit: quotes are not for sarcasm, but to denote less common usage/meaning


I've always found concepts of privilege to be lacking explanatory power. A European-derived culture is dominant in America, but east-Asian Americans still manage to do better than whites in education and in earnings. If racial privilege is powerful, it is not all-powerful.

At the same time, I find the focus on race and class privilege to be incomplete. A poor white boy growing up in Appalachia has less privilege than a member of any race or gender growing up in a California suburb. But if he manages to get to college (statistically unlikely), he will learn from his professors how his success is all because of his skin and his genitals.


I think it's important to note the concept of privilege in this sense is a bit nebulous, is distinct from the common usage, and based on context. I'm partially at fault for the confusion here for talking about "privilege" as an absolute.

Privilege is something that basically everyone has. It's about talking about the advantages one has due to factors like sex, race, geography etc over others when all other things are equal. It's not a concept that is focused on race or gender; but any sort of difference. The reason that I think it often focuses on race and gender is because those are areas where people are particularly unaware of their own privilege and where the issues are most crucial.

As you point out, you could have a young black women who grows up wealthy and this would imbue her with some privilege related to that compared to a poor white male.

However,

> A poor white boy growing up in Appalachia has less privilege than a member of any race or gender growing up in a California suburb.

As a general statement this is wrong; it needs to be qualified as above in terms of who exactly is being compared and on what sort of privilege. In this example both have some privilege and I'm not sure being wealthy would always out weigh being black and female (or vice versa).

What I do think is reasonable to say is that if you look at large groups, white males do have a bit more privilege than many other groups. Again, in particular instances this can be completely turned around, so context is important to keep in mind.

So why focus on white males in the general sense as a group with a lot of privilege? Because it's a converging of many types. They don't deal with many issues women and minorities do and even if you take a color/gender-blind issue like wealth; as a group white men are doing much better in that regard than others.

I agree though that it would be beneficial to consider it more widely, and it's important to try and do that in discussions.


I am fairly certain that a black woman going to a high school where 90%+ of graduates are going to university will have many more advantages in life than a white boy attending a high school where ~10% of graduates go to university. I don't think people understand just how dismal such places are. And yet, geographic prejudice abounds, people say things about "ignorant hicks" that they would never say about a class based on race or gender.

> "as a group white men are doing much better in that regard than others."

Whites do worse in America in a host of ways compared to Asians, such as educational attainment, average income, criminality, and etc. For almost every documented white/black achievement gap, there is a corresponding asian/white achievement gap.

As far as gender goes, males earn fewer college degrees than women do. I expect this will cause the earnings gap to reverse in the long run. It already has in urban areas.

Whites are the majority race in America and men have traditionally been in charge of things. But to truly look at privilege, you have to look at the present, not the past. Academic concepts of privilege are rooted in the 1960s and they don't fit well with the modern world.

I hope you get to read this comment, my last account I used in race/gender discussions was hell-banned. These discussions come too close to things you can't say.


I think you are not entirely understanding the concept of privilege in this context, or it's purpose. It's a common problem. You seem to regard it as some sort of insult or badge of shame, which is understandable. As I said before, privilege is something basically everyone has. In any situation it's likely that both sides have some privilege.

> I am fairly certain that a black woman going to a high school where 90%+ of graduates are going to university will have many more advantages in life than a white boy attending a high school where ~10% of graduates go to university.

Of course she would, but she would also have many disadvantages. In this example it's important to look at BOTH sides and see what sort of privilege they have.

> Whites do worse in America in a host of ways compared to Asians, such as educational attainment, average income, criminality, and etc

The reality is more complicated than that.

Remember privilege is about relative advantages. White men overall are doing better because not only do better than many (but not all) demographics purely in terms of group-to-group comparisons, if you take a white man versus a comparable member of another demographic they will almost always do better.

A white male compared to an asian male with similar educational and professional histories will earn more on average for the same job...just as men tend to earn more than women all things being equal.

That's why I feel comfortable making the heavily qualified statement that as a group white males are doing better. This is also why there is often a focus on white males in these discussions.

That said, it's important to understand that all sides will have generally have some privilege, and it's important to discuss. I'd also note this has diverged a bit from my original point, which was merely that race enters such discussions because it's relevant to the amount and type of privilege someone has.

So to summarize: in many ways it's meaningless and counterproductive to talk about which group has "more" privilege"....however I think in some comparisons and contexts it is possible and useful, and in those cases when talking in a general sense I think you'd have a hard time coming up with a group besides white males.


Disparate impact is certainly a component of systematic bias. It may be true that a white American with a prestigious college degree has advantages in life compared to an Asian American with a prestigious college degree. But the fact that a far higher proportion of Asian Americans receive prestigious college degrees in the first place points to biases earlier in the educational system (Asians are 8x more likely than non-Jewish whites to attend Harvard, for example, compared to their proportion in the population).



This article is so big and confusing that I do not understand a thing... Besides the fact that someone is pissed because of the way they treat her in the tech community?


The real problem is that she thought she was an exclusion to RTFM and trusting some random person to make a website for her. That really stands out to me... she seems to make such an effort to learn crypto but just writes off reading a wiki tutorial? I don't buy it.


So she is getting mad because people did things $differently at their own crypto parties and didn't obey when she told them to do otherwise?

And then all those people who created unofficial IRC channels and didn't add those to the wiki?

This whole article sounds like an ego-thing rather than gender based discrimination.


That's quite the rant. It's a shame that someone's been put off like this, but it doesn't seem like there's enough in this article to really work out what's gone on.

Regret that I'm only learning of Cryptoparties now - I quite like the concept.


I agree; I find the message clear but the story itself very hard to follow.


I've been around the Android modding/hacking community for a couple of years (I'm an admin at one of the larger ones) and it's quite a bit different than this to give a different outlook. If you happen to make it known you're female (through name/avatar/comments/etc), you'll most likely never suffer an ill comment, no matter how "noobish" you are.

However, if you're a guy and asks something obvious like how to root your device (because it's a pinned topic in a sub-forum), be prepared to be flamed by a dozen or so users.

One can draw conclusions from all that, but I don't think it's really important as the Android community I help to admin does not factor gender when moderating discussions (though some of the general users might). I'll help a user regardless of who they are, not because of their chromosomes. I may not reply to a question or post for help because the information was discussed many times over and can easily be searched, but I won't flame a user for asking anyways. However, I will moderate those that do flame them because they should either ignore them or give a helpful response. I'm a huge believer in trying to seek out your answers first (if they're easy to find) and sometimes a user will never do that if you don't let them try on their own before providing assistance.

Android is kind of different though than many modding/hacking/tinkering communities. It's far less exclusive and developers inter-mingle with average users. Many times, it ends with the developer becoming introverted or ignoring users after a while because of general douchebaggery of the community or users (the community as a whole, not just the site I admin). Much of that though is from the developers just being too accommodating (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4969041) and letting the users walk all over them for their generosity.

The community I admin generally tries to prevent user flaming (regardless of gender) and douchebaggery by users towards developers, but there's always some that happens anyways and users have to be put back in check. I get annoyed at some of these users and want to go off on them, but I just ignore them for the good of the community and be polite or ignore them when possible. A community is only as good as those that cultivate it.


Is there actually a point in all these because I've read about half way down and I'm not seeing any substance, and I'm not convinced that there is one. If anything, her approach to organisation (do whatever you want) is a big red flag to me that this wasn't going to work well for her/or anyone in fact.


>> Women stay the hell away from hacker-spaces, conferences and tech initiatives because of on-going experiences of misogyny, abuse, threats, put downs, belittlement, harassment, rape.

To be clear, anyone who has abused, threatened, or raped someone should be criminally prosecuted. And if you act unprofessionally, you should be disciplined, fired, removed, etc. It doesn't matter what your race, sex, age, sexual orientation, or educational background is, there is no excuse for mistreating or restricting the liberty other another human being.

That said some of this post doesn't fit with what I see historically, globally, or in my day to day activities.

For example, Ada Lovelace is widely recognized for envisioning the first computer program. Marisa Mayer is the CEO of Yahoo. Meg Whitman runs HP. I work on a team of ridiculously talented software engineers, many of whom are women. Several books I've read to learn how to program were written by women. There are many women who have been tremendously successful and influential in tech.

With regard to women's rights and attitudes towards women, we've come a long way, and undoubtedly have further to go. But I'm optimistic that tremendous opportunities await women. I'm hopeful that ultimately intelligence, ingenuity, drive, knowledge, and experience will lift women above the experiences described in this article.


> Inequality doesn’t just spring up without a context.

There's the problem. People aren't equal, and they never will be. So yes, inequality is fundamental. The sooner you accept that, the better.


It exists therefore it should accepted?

The hacker culture has always been about being a better version of itself than it currently is and inequality in the community is just another hurdle to overcome.


You misunderstand. I said inequality was fundamental. It cannot be "overcome". You cannot make people equal. I != You. We have different skill sets, experiences, relationships, ideas and other thoughts that make us all fundamentally different. As a result, we are each treated differently.


This is correct. Everyone is an individual and no two people are, strictly speaking, equal.

But that doesn't justify all instances of treating people differently. If I steal from you, you would expect me to receive the same punishment as if you had stolen from me. We are therefore "equal before the law".

In the case of the law, we ask our legal system to suspend judgment of certain inequalities and to focus only on the facts of the case. There's no reason why we should not do this in other matters - if we're judging someone on their merits as a software developer, we can legitimately consider their unequal experience, intelligence, skills and abilities, but we should not consider their age, gender or ethnicity.

Now, you might argue at this point that we wouldn't consider age/gender/ethnicity anyway, because these have no bearing on software development. And you would be mostly right to do so - these factors are genuinely unimportant. But most people are imperfect judges; they use heuristics and intuition in ways which can sometimes go awry. We might apply stereotypes, we might allow our judgment of other similar individuals we have met in the past to cloud our judgment of the person before us now, and so on.

When people talk about equality, they're really asking that we find an effective way to ensure that we're making our judgments using only the truly relevant criteria. Past experience suggests that this takes effort and requires some cultural reinforcement. It's emphatically not about denying that people are different, but about ensuring that only the most contextually important differences are considered.


I don't disagree with you. Actually, you're spot on.

The problem was the phrasing in the OP: "Inequality doesn’t just spring up without a context." That doesn't jive, because inequality doesn't need some "context." It's always there.


It's not about "people being equal". It's about equality of opportunity. Curious that you don't see things this way...


What is equality of opportunity? It's understandable that you'd like people to be equal with respect to the law, but "opportunity" is a word so vague and general that it's borderline meaningless.

Do you mean to say that we should all be trying to make sure everyone around us has equal opportunity to resources that we control? Or that we should treat everyone the same way?


>> He sat in on the crowd-sourced process of writing of the application, contributing nothing except criticism to anything I wrote for hours.

That's the part of this post which really grabbed me. I went through the same sort of thing in a corporate environment not too long ago. I had suffered through discovering a massive security hole on an internal system, managing disclosure to just the right groups, writing the fix myself, and making sure it was 100% patched in production before talking about it. This went on for over a month.

When I did finally talk about it on an internal system, someone on the internal security team spotted it and said I should expand it a bit to add some recommendations about how others might avoid creating the same sort of hole in the future. I asked if they had any restrictions on content, length, or whatever, and they said that I could just keep doing what I had been doing.

I took that as a thumbs-up and started working on my new and improved writeup. This "version 2" had code snippets showing the actual problem, a walkthrough of how it happened in the first place, and details about how I managed reporting and containing it (including escalation to appropriate corporate security folks). I fired it off and waited.

Instead of a "thanks!" and an appearance in their next issue, someone else from the security team jumped on it and started raising issues with my prose. I was either "too chatty" or "too wordy" or similar, and basically, he had his own ideas for what a post should look like, and I didn't write like him, so he didn't like it. I told them they could "take it or leave it" as-is, and they wound up rejecting it.

I turned around and self-published it internally, using the same sort of chat-type channels my original writeup had used. A bunch of people spotted it and shared it around, and I got a bunch of comments. These were just ordinary engineers, not the special "security" ones who had turned me down. Yet, they managed to focus on the security and technical content of the piece, and actually found a bug in what I had written! I got some logic inverted somewhere, and they caught it, so I fixed it. The document improved as a direct result of sharing it with them.

Meanwhile, the so-called security guy was so fixated on my writing style that he had apparently failed to look at the actual technical content within.

It's that last point I want to emphasize here: some people get so fixated on the container that they completely miss the technical content (or ability) inside. That's just one way sexism rears its ugly head at times in my experience.

Original post: http://rachelbythebay.com/w/2011/11/11/prose/


I'm going to piggy-back on your comment here solely because I've appreciated your comments in the past:

There clearly are talented women in tech (and other fields, I know a pretty amazing CEO), and clearly this is a problem that a lot of men aren't "getting", in the sense that either they don't see it as a problem or they don't know what to do about it.

Do you think there's an opportunity yet for some of the leading women in tech to start collaborating on projects together, just to see how that goes? i.e., conferences where both genders are invited, but the organizers are strictly (or at least mostly) women. I'm partly curious to see if there would still be some of the same personality conflicts, but mostly, I'm starting to think that excluding guys from awesome things might be the best way to change behavior.


I'd like to see it happen but I can't imagine it would be an easy thing to do. I've seen a small number of people lash out at being "roped into" a group that was women this or women that. They did not want to be a part of it.

You might think those people who reacted badly would be guys. They were not. They were women.

I got the impression from one of them that her thought process went something like this: "I'm currently accepted as 'one of the guys' and as a result I am successful in this lopsided environment, so how dare you loop me in and remind them that I'm different?"...

I was surprised by this, but it's real. I saw it happen when someone created a new group for women engineers of some sort at Google and auto-subscribed a bunch of people. There was a small but distinct amount of pushback from a few new members.

So, really, I guess you'd have to find people who don't care if they come off differently (relative to the overwhelming majority) because they are in fact different. Then find the members of that set who are willing to take such a risk, and then the members of that set who have the resources to attempt it.

Unfortunately, this kind of filtering effect doesn't yield a lot of people in my experience.


RockHealth is run by all women right now. AFAIK that outcome is not dictated by any founding principal, merely inertia. They are doing phenomenal, so there is one data point for you.


There was nothing sexist in this post.


>That's just one way sexism rears its ugly head at times in my experience

Sorry but what in your story shows that it's sexism? It could easily have happened to a guy or been done by a lady security expert and is more a symptom of a superiority complex.


Yeah, as stated that doesn't sound sexist at all. That sounds like an exchange I've had with male colleagues from both perspectives.


I'm mostly talking about the situation of reacting to the "wrapping" and missing the content entirely. The fact it comes from person X instead of person Y, and person X is not like person Y. When you see it enough times, you start hypothesizing about why it happens. Then you share notes with others in your situation and your hypothesis gets stronger.

... then you post about it to HN and have a handful of comments insist that it's not happening at all.


.. then you post about it to HN and have a handful of comments insist that it's not happening at all.

Well this is part of the problem. You weren't clear. You weren't clear in a way that other people asked you politely to clear up.

You turn around and accuse them of their own sexist behaviors.

When I read your initial description, it sounded like dozens of incidents that I have been party to when groups create documents.


I understand what you're saying, but you may be in the (annoying) position that to back up your argument you'll really have to enumerate all those interactions and show the pattern. Drawing one anecdote without the context is less convincing than: "trust me, I experience sexism in the workplace."


"Unless You Can Prove Your Experience Is Widespread I Won't Believe It" http://www.derailingfordummies.com/complete.html#proveit


Yeah, derailing for dummies is a guide to tactics that people on forums use to ensure no questions are asked, skeptics are silenced and shamed, reasonable questions are avoided, and the speech is carefully policed.

In this case, no one is allowed to question rachel's account because the user name rachelbythebay contains a name commonly associated with being female. It's likely if the username was "robertonthebus" we would be able to question robert's assertions.

But this being Hacker News, I am hopeful we can get past your attempt to speech police and get back to a constructive dialogue.


I'm suprised this doesn't get said more often, I've seen dfd (and gfw) linked many times, on many forums, but rarely are these sources critisised.

Also, your first paragraph is ambiguous, I'm guessing it means: drd is a guide to 'derailing' tactics used on forums, that is itself used to...


Also, your first paragraph is ambiguous, I'm guessing it means: drd is a guide to 'derailing' tactics used on forums, that is itself used to...

Yes, thank you.


a: "i believe in jesus, you blasphemer"

b: anecdotes dont' cut it

a: you are derailing the topic, here see this link


> The fact it comes from person X instead of person Y, and person X is not like person Y. When you see it enough times, you start hypothesizing about why it happens. Then you share notes with others in your situation and your hypothesis gets stronger.

>... then you post about it to HN and have a handful of comments insist that it's not happening at all.

The problem is that without this additional context you just posted it's hard for someone to make the connection because we see all of this happen regularly around us even without the gender or a race factor thrown in.


This 'letter' is addressed to the hacker community, but I've seen similar behaviour at other male-dominated conferences, specifically commercial construction conferences/seminars.

I'm not trying to get the hacker community off the hook for their behaviour, I just wonder if the discussion needs to be broadened?


> Would 10 minutes at the start of a conference explaining anti-discrimination policy and acceptable conduct really infringe on anyone’s “fun”?

> It won’t change the culture of asshattery over-night, but it will begin a conversation that’s needed – far more necessary than another article or blog post like this, or more red-card waving in the wind.

It's an interesting strategy, but I don't have much hope for it. The thing that makes HR rules effective is that they can forcibly eject people from the workplace. They also work in a framework of a fairly static population and an understood hierarchy. A conference is a bunch of strangers together for a quick day or two. It's hard to police, and hard to trust complaints from people you don't know about things with no evidence.


I think there will be a lot to learn by how people respond to this. (There's already been quite a few revealing comments.)


It might be nice to sit around on the throne of privilege and gaze over the people with their problems, seeing simple solutions to all their petty seeming squabbles, but until you feel the anger, dismay, and emotion that comes of being on the ground, in the thick of discrimination and oppression, of not only seeing those problems but having them affect you and those that you love, you cannot "rationally judge" or "objectively assess" such events, because true understanding requires not only reason but experience, and emotional experience is one of those things.


Surely the term 'objectively' is at odds with requiring 'experience' (which would be 'subjective')?


This article is exceptionally difficult to read because of the low contrast between text and background color and because Firefox won't allow me to highlight the text for some reason.


The highlight color is just a nuance darker than the background - almost not noticeable.


I fail to see the connection between her personal incidents (website/29c3/crypto) and the hacker community as a whole. Title is very misleading in my opinion.


I feel like I'm missing something.

Edit: I thought this said "Dear Hacker [News] Community"


Yeah I'm pretty sure the original title was "Dear HN..."

I could be wrong though.


I wonder if people "in security" are just particularly abrasive assholes, or if there is just observer bias on my part.

In ~20 years of following this stuff, I've never seen a professional discipline as petty and mean as security. On the other hand, I've never gotten as deep into other fields like politics, finance, other parts of computers, etc. From what I have seen, security is an outlier. Network operators are slightly abrasive but nothing approaching security. Firearms and tactical stuff absolutely has the "for guys" thing, but there are women in the industry, and they tend to be treated fairly well. SANs and storage are positively polite by comparison to security. etc.



I recommend counseling. ASAP.


To be fair to the author, she doesn't claim that everything is a result of sexism. The down-right douchebaggery is more apt a description for the majority of it, but there's no question that sex factors into big parts of it.

There's a lot of egos in these communities, there are a lot of young people with adolescent hormones and something to prove. The communities themselves are pretty insular, and distinguish themselves by being exclusive.

Girls are outsiders, for whatever reason. I wont speculate as to how this started, but it can perpetuate by staying hostile to girls. These communities strive to maintain some exclusivity; you're something special, better than others, smarter than others. You can't just let anyone new in, then you won't be so special.

So in this article, you have a girl (outsider) who is non-technical (going to get ridiculed whether you're a boy or a girl) trying to exert her will (which is going to get you into fights regardless).

Sexism is a thing. It's not a good thing. However, I don't think that removing sexism from this kind of community is a possibility, because sexism isn't the basic issue here. I think that the basic issue is the general exclusivity of the community. It's not a group to educate new people. In fact it's a group that is hostile towards "noobs". It's a group that is trying to restrict membership to those who are similar, who think similarly, or who can bully their way to the top.

I think that the better situation is to recognize that this crowd of douchebaggery does exist. The way you fight it isn't to try and get into it and start shouting at people to change it. That's at best going to make you hoarse, and at worst going to make you one of them. I think that to deal with this is to do the kind of things that the author did.

The wiki creation, the creation of the cryptoparty. These are the things that should be focused on. This is actually some cool stuff, and the author, a woman, was instrumental. Now the thing about the idea is it's not something that is owned by the author, it's just a good idea, and douchebags can make use of good ideas.

I think the problem was that the author gets herself wrapped up in trying to control and maintain the purity of her idea and in the end gets drawn into pissing contests with other people trying to prove something. This is going to happen whether you're a girl or a guy, however when you're a girl, the guys have that knife in the wound already and they just need to twist it.

Naw, I think instead the way to do it best is to endeavor to make this knowledge available to more people. Make it harder to be exclusive. Make it something that anyone can learn. People can be douchebags when it's them vs. the world. They can't be when it's just knowledge.

So I guess the question is, are you trying to educate, or are you hoping to get people to accept you into their exclusive club? If you're trying to do the former, then I wish you all the luck and support in the world. If it's the latter, then even if you get your wish, you'll end up treating others how you hate being treated, whether by race, age, prior knowledge, whatever or else it will stop being an exclusive club.

I agree that sexism is a problem. But it's a big problem. It's a problem that demands a lot of attention. You set up, or helped set up, a framework, and then put yourself under pressure to control how that framework is being used and abused all over the place; all the while still feeling responsible for fighting sexism within this framework. I think that's far too much for one person to handle, and I can promise that if a guy were to try it he wouldn't have any better success just because the other guys respected his testicles.

Anyways, I commend the author's efforts, and I think the best way to combat that form of general douchebaggery is to make the thing that they hold above everyone else available to the mainstream. You don't stop sexism by going to the men's club and ranting at them to treat women nicely. You stop sexism by letting women vote, by training them to be doctors and engineers, and otherwise giving them, (and further, any other excluded parties) access to those things that were held over their heads before. And it's not a fast process, it's a very slow and hard one. But don't be discouraged, I think she did something good. Small, but good.


There is a whole lot of derailing going on here.

http://www.derailingfordummies.com/complete.html


i think they should have one more section which says "i have no arguments to make, so i'll add a link to some blog or website and go around smug in my intelligence". I think it's a much needed section if you ask me, which should be at the top of the list


You clearly did not read the parent comment.


First male that says something like 'I've never seen any sexism in the field' has to leave Earth _forever_.

Of course you haven't my dears, because you don't suffer it, you're blind to it.


The causes of the problem as I see it.

1. A female who is a geek doubles her hotness to other geeks. 2. The guys in question are in the US, which has a shortage of hot women (which is hotly debated) and an even bigger shortage of geeks in general, and therefore of women who are also geeks.


Let the mansplaining commence...


HN comprises mainly of men doesn't it?

'mansplaining' seems to mean a man explaining something to a woman in a patronising way.

A man posting on HN will be seen mostly by other men.

I can't see how there will be mansplaining.


Moral of the story: focus on the damn hacking and stay on your computer, at least until you've achieved something worth having a conference speech or "Cryptoparty" about. The thing about the hacker community is that people won't like you if you draw unwarranted attention to yourself. Hoping that people would accept her, the author just keeps on hitting herself with "creeper cards" and social media outbursts that draw more unwarranted attention, feeding the feedback loop.

Your life will be easier once you realize emotions and human relations only get in the way, at least when it comes to hacking. If you want acceptance, invent something good.


> Moral of the story: focus on the damn hacking and stay on your computer

Focus on the damn cooking and stay in the kitchen?


Uh...no?


What I learned from the post is the absolute lack of organizational structure or delegation for "Cryptoparty" with everyone going off to do their own thing. This is why structure is super important to organizing events.

Coming to sexism, there are a great many sexist events here as well as the regular "you noob!" moments which seem to have been mistaken as sexist. There is an extreme amount of manipulation, general douchebaggery, credit stealing, blame shifting etc. in office politics and not just in IT and all of it happens to guys too. Hearing only one side of the story from an an obviously anguished individual also does not help. Alcohol, a thousand guys and six women don't mix well and alcohol should have been taken off the table.

Having lost my father recently and realizing some truths about life, my sincere advice for her is to take a step back, turn off Twitter, turn off comments on her blog, take a deep breath and spend more time with her baby for a week before coming online again. Wasting sleepless nights on things so trivial in the long run is not even close to being worth it.


Applies to many of the comments on this thread, so just posting it separately. TL;DR the language we use to discuss and analyze these kinds of issues is not neutral.

http://www.derailingfordummies.com/complete.html


Instead of spamming that link, why don't you try leading by example?

(Now tell me, which derailment tactic did I just employ? I can't be bothered to read them all to find out.)




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