Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
It's Different for Girls (heidiroizen.tumblr.com)
427 points by tkorotkikh on May 2, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 379 comments

I have an ex-coworker who is a really attractive girl, and she used to tell me lots of stories like this about places she had worked at previously. Vice presidents calling her to their room and offering her promotions if only she would give them weekly blowjobs, prospective customers turning away from million-dollar deals at the last minute after she refused to sleep with them, etc.

The really sad thing about is that the vast majority of guys I talk to about this topic are simply not aware that women, especially attractive women, go through stuff like this all the time. So when they hear women complaining about discrimination, harassment, glass ceilings, and so on, they think those women are simply "being bitchy." Which simply perpetuates and intensifies the status quo.

Yeah. Street harassment is another thing like that. E.g., I naively assumed that my girlfriend's experience going out and running alone was exactly like my experience when I was with her. Until she started telling me about the frequent whistles, comments, and sexual propositions she would receive.

It just didn't happen when I'm around, because people who are jerks and abusers are, unsurprisingly, very crafty in doing it only in contexts when they are unlikely to get called on it. So male perception of this bullshit is almost totally unrelated to how much it happens.

As an aside, it made me really happy to come across a poster last week for the #stoptellingwomentosmile campaign: https://twitter.com/williampietri

I think it's even worse than being 'crafty', they're actually trying to show you respect under the idea that because you're with her you have a claim on her and they're deferring to that. Which is incredibly creepy and offensive.

Men are dramatically less likely to hit on me when I am with either or both of my adult sons. Many people realize they are relatives (though some think they are my brothers, not my sons) so, no, they don't think I am the sexual property of these two males. I have only been bothered by a guy when my sons are around when the guy was drinking alcohol. So I think the parent comment is more accurate than your assumption, though, yes, your observation is a social reality in some situations and it is a problem for women -- that "respect" is sometimes given for a man's property rights over a woman, not really given to her per se.

I am upvoting both of you.

I'm not so sure the men doing this are thinking consciously about property rights. They're probably going around motivated at the primate level. This doesn't excuse what they're doing, but it makes me suspect that they will continue to emulate the behavior of the other men they observe in their environment and will only change when they see others around them change their behavior.

This is what people are like: only a minority of people will go through the motions of self examination, and only a minority of those will do that effectively. Where real change happens, or where outdated misbehaviors persist, it's basically a matter of primate see, primate do. Real change has to have a component of motivation at this level.

I didn't say they were thinking consciously of property rights. I have been in discussions with women who were trying to find a way to signal to their boss or someone else who was potential trouble that "No, I am not up for a romantic relationship with you" and trying to figure out how to do so without offending. They often try to do so by emphasizing to the man "I have a boyfriend." I always tell them that is the wrong approach because it signals to potentially predatory men that she is perfectly willing to go along with being some man's property and all he has to do is find some way to claim her as his own. That's the wrong signal for a woman to send if she really wants a career. She needs to find a polite way to deflect his attentions without saying "It's cuz I belong to someone else right now." Some men take that as a challenge, as "come get me, big boy." So it is not a good way to avoid trouble.

If women want to compete with men and not just be their toys, they need to exercise agency and own their decisions that "No, I am not up for a relationship with you. Because I say so, not because of some other man's property rights over me." If a woman says "I would get with you if I weren't with someone else" she needs to really and truly mean that. It shouldn't be a polite fiction. Such polite fictions tend to lead to worse trouble than the one they thought they were trying to cleverly sidestep.

Territory is a deeply animal behavior, as is alpha male claiming of mates. So I think that property rights are an elaboration of primate instincts.

The actions probably get initiated a full second before the thought of "property" ever enters anyone's head, if it does at all.

Would you argue that ideas like "family" would not engage at a subconcious level for extremely social animals like humans? If you wouldn't argue against "family" being instinctual, then you can't argue against "mine-ness", since family is by definition something that is "mine" vs "yours".

Would you argue that ideas like "family" would not engage at a subconscious level for extremely social animals like humans?

I would argue that there is a concept of "relatedness" encoded into Homo sapiens on the instinctive level. The notion of "family" is at least in part a cultural construct on top of that. Also, who said I was arguing against "mine-ness?" I certainly didn't. I'm just highlighting possible unacknowledged/unsupported assumptions in this thread. (Like your apparent assumption of a particular stance on my part.)

I'm sorry for derailing, but I read your HN bio and have to suggest this: Join Gittip. Also, you should come to Nicaragua. It's nice, and stupid-cheap if you have a way to be of service to others remotely :)


Thanks for your concern. I will look into Gittip. Nicaragua is not likely to make my agenda. I sometimes wish I could do something like that, but my health challenges are complicated enough as is in a country where I know the language and culture and so forth. For that and other reasons, I am stuck in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.

Not really, they just want to avoid a fight. Under sexist rules, a man accompanying a woman is her "protector". If someone makes rude sexual remarks to her, it's also insulting to him because it implies that he's too weak to do anything about it. That's a provocation to respond with violence to affirm his manhood.

It's the same logic behind insulting a man by calling his mother a whore. Why should he be insulted by an insult to his mother? Because a real man is supposed to defend the honor of the women in his family.

Well, or they just feel that they will be much less successful hitting on a girl who is accompanied by a guy, platonic or otherwise.

And/or they simply want to avoid a direct confrontation, which might happen when a man is present, but not when the woman is alone. This just happened to me today, biking and of course i heard some rude comments. Really wanted to tell them to fuck off but then I would engage, they might respond, etc, and my biking zen would be even more disturbed.

It's really not "that guy might stop me". It's "they're probably a couple, what's the point". The default assumption is that a mixed-gender pair of people around the same age is a couple. I've been out wandering with female platonic friends plenty of times, only to have people assume we're a romantic pair.

So you think a woman walking with her father would get catcalled like a woman alone?

Do you think a woman walking with her mother would get catcalled like a woman alone?

Contrary to the success always obtained by catcalling?

I just skip catcalling, because I don't understand it.

I'm sure that's an element. But there are other people in front of whom street harassers will quiet down, too, so I don't think that's the only explanation.

Don't understand why we don't start naming and shaming. It's a lot easier to not see as a real problem when it's always stories of nameless men in unspecified locations and situations. And the kinds people who are prone to this behavior are being given a free pass, only to do it again later.

The point is it's a systemic problem. Internet mob justice is generally terrible to begin with (for a lot of reasons) and it doesn't solve the problem.

Also, at the risk of stating the obvious: there are potentially very serious ramifications for the person doing the naming and shaming too. Most people don't like being called sexist assholes even if they are, in fact, sexist assholes.

Shaming usually makes people either dig their heels in more and justify their behavior, or it drives the behavior underground where they won't get caught for it. Neither is a desirable result.

I think that what Heidi did is basically perfect - she's educating people that this does go on, it does have an effect on the women who are subjected to it, and they shouldn't have to put up with it. But she's doing it in a neutral, non-defensive tone, without calling out specific people. That's usually much more effective at changing behavior.

Naming and shaming is hard for anyone who has to have a continue relationship of even a distant sort with a guy and it is hard to prove a lot of accusations. So I wouldn't pressure anyone to be the namer-and-shamer.

But if you could get over those hurdles, it should happen, regardless of those shamed "digging in". Seriously, this kind of behavior seems much more authentically shameful than a lot of illegal activities carrying multi-year sentences. Sorry but knowing that inappropriate behavior has hard consequences works as a deterrent, maybe not for the first guy confronted but for the tenth guy, who at that point knows they just better not do that.

Why shaming? Isn't this shit outright illegal? There is time to worry about shaming after the lawsuits.

Win or lose, lawsuits are an enormous time and money sink. That's for any lawsuit. Sexually harassment ones are worse. Asking somebody who has been harassed to go public or file a lawsuit is putting an enormous burden on them, one that they don't deserve.

In my view, the problem is the behavior of some guys, enabled by a much larger number of guys who are ignorant or indifferent. I think the solution mainly lies with waking up that latter group.

Lawsuits suck, I'm sure sexual ones are the worst.

But if some sleazy fucker knows that the worst consequence of harassment is social disapproval it drastically lowers the stakes for him. You have to count on the harassed person to want to make the harassment very, very public so that the people outside his close also-sleazy social group find out, remember, and hold him accountable.

Beyond losing friends and contacts, any retribution would have to happen in the business world; how do you hold someone accountable inside a system were sociopathical ignorance of the social consequences of your actions (and the actions of other) is rewarded. My entire life has been a series of events crushing the pleasing ideals I was taught as a child regarding morals, they just don't matter in business. Some businesses have them, and it costs them money to exercise them.

Legal recourse is how society turns externalities into internalites.

If the recourse is the lawsuit, then you have to count on the harassed person to a) want to make the harassment very, very public, b) figure out a way to pay for a very expensive lawyer, and c) be willing to spend years in a very stressful proceeding. For criminal law, substitute for b) a willingness to deal with an often-hostile legal system.

It's great when that happens. But take a look at what happens to people who report rapes, a crime for which their is often physical evidence. E.g.: http://msmagazine.com/blog/2011/04/15/woman-pays-for-reporti... or http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/it-happened-to-me-i-... http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/38671/test-case-...

And I can't quickly find the links that were the stories I found most compelling, the ones with the enormous social consequences. The questioning of what "really" happened. Getting smeared as crazy, a bitch, manipulative, etc, etc.

It's great when people who are already traumatized willingly go through that. But it's a great deal to ask of someone in that state.

Because what if the namer/shamer gets it wrong? Have you ever heard of the Salem Witch Trials? Or even Donglegate, for that matter?

It's the whole reason presumed innocence is a cornerstone of every modern justice system.

Let's figure out what kind of behavior you mean by "this behavior." Does it mean saying dongle to my buddy?

I also liked how Heidi Roizen tried not to extrapolate on her own experience now that she is a VC. When you get older, more assertive and less of a 'target', it's too easy to forget what younger women might encounter. [edit: grammar]

What sorts of guys do you hang out with?

I'm not sure how you know that the vast majority of men think that women complaining about being solicited for blowjobs are "being bitchy." That seems like a really jaundiced generalization of men.

Or maybe this is far, far more common than many people would like to think.

Or maybe you are prejudiced. There are also people who think black men are all criminals; they'd also say "maybe this is far, far more common than many people would like to think."

It is far more common than I'd like to think. Facts aren't racist. It's the particular spin placed on those facts which is or isn't racist.

Some difficulties with discussing this sort of misbehavior are the different contextual meanings of "often." Even if a bad behavior is rare, it can still cast a constant shadow, especially when it can happen without warning, and especially when it comes disguised as something else. Even more so when it's attached to highly personal subjects, and even more so when the circumstance is something one has been born into and experienced ones whole life. I'm not sure there is any effective way to understand such an experience without living it.

but you do realise that these women would be complaining about something else as a placeholder for the BJ... and that can be seen as bitchy. rarely does a women complain of BJ's without undertaking harrasment complaints.

“Every time I see the word ‘Girl’ used in scenarios that are supposed to empower women, it really grates on me,” http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/01/30/girls-lad...

It bothers me too. The article is otherwise great.

google, define: girl "1. a female child. 2. a young or relatively young woman."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl: "A girl is any female human from birth through childhood and adolescence to attainment of adulthood when she becomes a woman."

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/girl: "a : a female child from birth to adulthood


d : sometimes offensive : a single or married woman of any age"

In this case, it seems like she is trying to sound cute or informal while unwittingly reinforcing the perception of women as child-like.

The use of 'girl' to refer to women often bothers me as well, but in this case, it's a reference to a song title: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It's_Different_for_Girls

There's nothing about that in the post, and I don't think it's relevant. There are many song titles which have a negative connotation towards women (especially in rap). I couldn't name a blog post the same as one of them, then later say, "I understand how you could see this as a bad thing, but I was just thinking of some song title you've never heard of." It doesn't work that way.

And, she does call herself a girl once more, not just in the title. Perhaps someone said that sentence in a movie, so it will somehow not mean what it says either.

And even if it is an unspoken reference, that doesn't explain how the title should be interpreted differently. It's a pop song, and according to wikipedia the lyrics aren't especially relevant to the contents of her post.

I think the usage of girls here is likely intentional and is a very important and much better word choice than "women" IMO - it shows the power differential common in many of these situations.

I've had a 15-year experiment going in relation to this. Some adult females hate being called 'girls', because of the reasons you state. Some adult females hate being called 'women' in a general context, because they feel it brings a whole lot of feminist baggage they don't want to deal with. It didn't matter what word I chose, I'd find someone who was put off by it, and had had clear complaints verbalised about both words (ie: I'm not wrongly picking up on nonverbal cues).

So I started using 'lass' instead (I am not in an area where this is in common use). I haven't yet found anyone who bridles at this, when before I certainly did with 'girl' and 'woman'. No-one seems to particularly care for or against 'lass', with the exception of some elderly women, who seemed to like the suggestion of youth in the word. The experiment part was that I'd stop using 'lass' when someone complained about it, like they did with 'girl' or 'woman', and to see how long that would take.

I'm not particularly suggesting this as a course of action for the general public, it's just a story to relate.

There's a counter-point to this that is likely to be unpopular, but it's deeply rooted in human biology and isn't going to go away any time soon. Attractive young women may have difficulty getting people to take them seriously, and have to deal with things like frequent unwanted sexual advances, but they have no trouble getting laid. Attractive young women have easy, practically unlimited access to sex (if they so desire). Unsurprisingly, this comes at a cost.

Meanwhile, while it's easier for men to be taken seriously, and they much less often have to deal with sexual harassment, they often have trouble getting laid—especially with the aforementioned attractive young women. It may be true that "the vast majority of guys...are simply not aware that women...go through this stuff all the time". But it's also true that the vast majority of women are simply not aware of how hard it is for young men, especially nerdy young men, to get appealing women to have sex with them. They would be utterly flabbergasted if they learned just how many computer geeks, science grad students, etc., have never even kissed a girl, much less had sex with one.

We see that there are plusses and minuses to each respective situation, but arguably men have it worse off, because women can complain freely of the terrible things they have to put up with, and they're generally met with sympathy by the mainstream (and backed by the full force of Federal law). Meanwhile, men who complain that attractive young women won't sleep with them are shamed and belittled, and told that no one owes them sex. Which is true—but is hardly helpful to the proverbial 40-year-old virgin.

Unsurprisingly, this comes at a cost.

Seriously, no. Don't do this. Don't do "being attractive to men unsurprising comes at the cost of sexual assault." Don't do "not having sex when you want to is as bad as being forced to have sex when you don't want to." Don't do "attractive young women are the only women worth having sex with." Don't go for the mathematical impossibility that women get to have more sex than men. Don't go for "reporting sexual assault is a sympathetic experience with no negative consequences," when women are still basically put on trial for it.

In all sincerity, if you don't get why you are shamed and belittled when you complain about unfairness with respect to women, here's the key to make sense of it: you live in a caste system, and you are the higher caste. Women were literally second-class citizens under the law until very recently (assuming they no longer are in your country), and a society doesn't shake that off overnight. Men have real problems, but you can't talk sensibly about them until you get how stacked the deck is to start with. (And, honestly, a thread about a woman who was trying to cut a quarter-million dollar deal when the man on the other side put her hand in his pants? That's a thread that doesn't need to be about men's problems.)

You might be interested in this book, by a woman, about privileges women enjoy, that men are generally unaware of:


She uses much the same logic that slaveowners used to defend slavery, so no I don't think he'd be interested in that book (published in 1973).

You read the headings but not the content - the slave there refers to the man, not the woman.

Let the man speak his point.

Dude, peeing when my bladder is full is deeply rooted in my biology. But rather than just whizzing willy nilly in the corner of rooms, I know to go to an actual bathroom to do it. Why? Because I'm more than 4 years old.

Biology is no excuse for behavior. It can explain a tendency, but it does not justify yielding to that tendency.

You really need to re-evaluate your perspective on sex. You say you understand it's true that no one owes men sex, but you clearly don't understand that.

Both men and women are owed the respect of not being offered frequent unwanted sexual requests. Of getting people to take them seriously, based purely on the merits of their work.

Both men and women aren't owed sex. And it's not a "downside" to not have something you're not entitled to not be given to you. It would be a downside to have to pay for clean drinkable water. Or not be allowed to get public transport to work.

If someone approaches you in public and asks you to have a coffee with them, you don't owe it to them to have it, and your refusal is completely ok. They have no right to get upset if you refuse. Just because everyone else has refused them before doesn't make them suddenly entitled to have coffee with you now.

If no one wants to have coffee with you, you need to make it appealing for them to have coffee with you. This isn't just looks, and you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and blaming things you can't change.

We all want what we can't have. A woman may be able to get sex, but not a husband who will stuck around for years.

This often settles down around age 30 when a woman no longer youthful settles down with a nerdy man.

A frivolous statement like "We all want what we can't have" can be used to justify anything: You may as well answer ""We all want what we can't have" when slaves demand their freedom.

It's also deeply offensive to compare as pressing a need as the healthy male's sex drive (typically stronger than the need to eat, as you can easily see when you offer a healthy man the choice between sex with an attractive young woman and food), with something completely frivolous like locking in a husband?

> The really sad thing about is that the vast majority of guys I talk to about this topic are simply not aware that women, especially attractive women, go through stuff like this all the time. So when they hear women complaining about discrimination, harassment, glass ceilings, and so on, they think those women are simply "being bitchy." Which simply perpetuates and intensifies the status quo.

Assuming not all (attractive) women will publicly or privately complain about such behaviors by men, will the others submit to such behaviors by the men in those positions? Will some women complain (public/privately) and still submit to such behaviors, and what circumstances is that more likely to happen? And is that act submission more socially accepted than say, if the sexes were reversed?

Tangent: I wonder if such things could be analytically studied? Some one could mine sites like HN, twitter, etc for a signal. Check the various states of the author of such. But then it would be hard to match that with the outcomes of submitting to such behavior or not without some kind of surveillance.

Meta: My tangent makes me really wonder what the world could be like where the current information asymmetry when it comes to present and technically possible surveillance systems, did not exist, where nearly everyone could leverage such scale of information in the same way that nearly everyone can leverage the atmosphere to breathe…

Edit: So I'm not sure why I'm being downvoted since I'm not trying to lead any bias towards any group that could be placed on either side of the interactions, It could be Martian's propositioning some being from Alpha Centauri system. Is pondering a way to study such things (and how one could even approach to) so controversial such that no one will respond yet shame at the same time? It's like we're not even allowed to try to explore what is going on. We all must trout out more anecdota, spout out more faux outrage about what has been going on (we're all apart of the status quo, and even with the internet outrage we haven't progressed very far in understanding it seems, who could have guessed…), and damn everything else. Anyone going to propose another reason to refute that's not what's going on here? Maybe someone can point me to a place where I could attempt to frame such ideas/questions/ways to approach studying such things and doesn't cost $xx,000 per year, since apparently, HN isn't for such. Amusing HN…

It could be Martian's propositioning some being from Alpha Centauri system.

I didn't downvote you, though I was tempted.

I think what's happening people are taking offense at exactly your detached tone, where what they're looking for is a human response.

Involved Person: Oh my god, did you see that guy who was just shot.

Disengaged person: Yeah, the way the blood spurted out of his head was fascinating, I've cut up with an equation for the arc it took.

You see how an involved person can take offense at someone's disengagement?

> […]what they're looking for is a human response.

Well, considering that most people aren't willing to admit that words emanating from this account is the work of some amazing AI platform straight from DARPA, or a being not of this world that is traditionally accepted by the masses, what you really mean is that I didn't illicit a k̶n̶e̶e̶ ̶j̶e̶r̶k̶ reaction (human response: I was tempted) or provide more anecdota to illicit more k̶n̶e̶e̶ ̶j̶e̶r̶k̶ traditional socially accepted reactions?

Meta: But doesn't socially accepted reactions change over time? I wonder how that happened? Did no one try to study human behaviors and some how try to influence such, and we just magically change to the present?

If I took to the forums for all the ways people treated me for the color tint of my skin or other groups I may be subscribed to (black, male, college dropout [some of the things some people would describe me as], etc…), will I learn that all these people behind the their internet connections really give a fuck about me (and vise versa) and that will some how magically change the world now that my ego would have been pandered too? Sure, maybe more people would know that such things happen, but then what? We just keep on keeping on after we log off? Shame on me to even suggest that is/will take the form of actively maintaining the status quo?

Was that human response enough? Now what did we learn that could forward our understanding of such dynamics that take place in a society and change the way people interact for the "better"?

Not just a human response, but one that matches theirs. Attempting rational analysis in the presence of an angry mob is not a good idea - your only real options are to actively join in the fun, or stay at home with the lights off.

> Attempting rational analysis in the presence of an angry mob is not a good idea - your only real options are to actively join in the fun, or stay at home with the lights off.

Probably great advice for the meatspace, but I question if such needs to be the lowest common denominator for online interactions. But I guess some people must be thinking: "How could this person not derive any pleasure/fun from deriding another human being (or in this case, anonymous men who abuse their position in power or in society for a variety of reasons not made apparent but must be inferred by the audience, but human being nonetheless), especially when its socially accepted to do so?!?! How dare he (go figure, but he's admitted to being black [gasp!] so now I'm confused!?!?!) not partake in a sadomasochistic expression of the human condition!?!?!"

Well the online consequences are a lot less serious. The possibility of some downvotes is not dissuading either one of us from carrying on saying what we think. I said what I did mainly to point out that this whole thread is indeed mob behavior, because the phenomenon seems have gotten really bad in this community lately. But even if I do get greyed out, it doesn't really matter because a few people will still read nuance and see that there are indeed people who don't agree but aren't just part of a rival mob. In meatspace, my voice would have been drowned out by the jeers of the day ("faggot" (1995), "traitor" (2005), "privileged" (2015), etc), so that's some incremental improvement to be thankful for.

I don't really think it's a thought of "why don't you take pleasure joining in", but a very base judgment of whether someone is with-us or against-us. Since you're not outraged at this very important subject, you must not share my values. And since you have different values, you must be a contributor to the problem.

>I said what I did mainly to point out that this whole thread is indeed mob behavior, because the phenomenon seems have gotten really bad in this community lately.

Agreed. I figured maybe if I could try to frame the issue in a technical means that might interest people of this community in the context of controversial present uses of technology (trying to expand beyond the mob behaviors in the community towards present asymmetric usage of such) that could benefit us in many spheres if used to study our behaviors if the means were more available/accessible to all.

It's just funny because now people in my position have been pushed towards pursing startups in order to try to address social behaviors using technology because no such freedoms are granted in academia until one is grey haired, and even then you must pander the present status quo in academia which I have friends whine to me about all the time.

At least on HN, I can have a way to even find people trying to do similar things, and I wouldn't know if I didn't state what I was thinking which I think outweighs the fear of being grey out (it still is pretty unpleasant since that affects whether some people who may help pursue such ways of trying to address things may over look, but maybe it attracts those people even more, so maybe not!).

All in all, I'm still pretty hopeful that such interactions here and in derivative spaces like github/twitter can draw me towards people who want to think of/build something to address something like this one day. It's worked form getting me interested in decompiling firmware, network bruteforcing, learning different programming languages, writing code to mine twitter for social information corresponding to crowd sourcing campaigns and their influencers, etc…

> […]but a very base judgment of whether someone is with-us or against-us. Since you're not outraged, you must not share my exact values. Since you don't share my values, you must be part of the problem.

Yeah, I can understand that, but I just stated how such judgements can be construed as (with an intentional mocking touch placed in that train of thought). And this is coming from someone who had an official position at an Ivy League university before I dropped out, as a "Minority Peer Counselor". Funny enough, even there, people who normally initially associate with others (and me) on the basis of their skin (for a multitude of reasons, most predominantly surrounding some internalized fear of rejection/and derivatives from prior experiences or teachings) didn't like when I brought up such phenomena.

Are you in all seriousness saying that attractive women have it hard? You are suffering form a massive case of what modern social though terms "privilege blindness". (And, as an aside, probably have the hots for that girl als well.) Nobody on this plane is more privileged than attractive girls. They don't even have to work if they don't want to.

In your delusion, you also conveniently ignore that (within certain limits) being attractive is very much a lifestyle choice that brings with it all manner of intense advantages. Your ex-coworker made the choice of being attractive precisely because of all these advantages.

The reason women complain about being 'discriminated' is because it works so well for them: there's always, in the lingo of modern social thought, a "white knight" who's willing to believe them because he's so desparate.

Without commenting on the first two paragraphs, your last paragraph makes it sounds more malicious than reality probably is. It's entirely possible that attractive women got BOTH privilege and harassment.

"It's entirely possible that attractive women got BOTH privilege and harassment."

Women tend not to report on minor sexual harassment incidents, since it is socially disadvantageous to do so. They only speak about it in aggregate terms, which will have zero effect, except in the very long term, on the number of sexual harassment incidents they will experience. Speaking about in aggregate terms, also draws in attention from people sympathetic to the woman's situation, at the expense of other people who may be in even more need of attention, (e.g. say starving children in africa, elder women unable to pay bills, foster children being abused), and enables the attractive women to earn additional privileges.

I agree it probably isn't their deliberate intention to have that effect on society, but I do think that effect exists.

There's a woman who's written a book about this sort of thing: http://dontmarry.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/the_manipulated...

> The reason women complain about being 'discriminated' is because it works so well for them

Probably the most bullshit thing I will have read this month.

You have a point - a woman can always choose to be relatively unattractive by cutting her hair short, not wearing makeup, wear unattractive clothes, etc... They choose to present themselves as attractive because there are more social advantages of doing so.

Well, today, Paul, I'd like some of this "terrible reading comprehension" you have so prominently on the menu (I mean, reading both an article and a testimony about actual discrimination, and then saying it's a "lifestyle choice", it's either that or something so much beyond bad faith, it's positively Luciferan). Additionally, I'd like a healthy serving of victim blaming, because I too subscribe to the idea that any abuse suffered by attractive females is completely their fault, why should they be attractive in the first place?

(edit: obviously sarcastic)

Your post doesn't contain an argument regarding my claim that beauty is to a substantial degree a life-style choice.

The style of your post is typical for white-knights who, in my considerable experience, reflexively hit-out against any man who doesn't defer to the feminist/misandric party-line that woman must not be held responsible, that women have only rights, no responsibilities. The great Africa-American philosopher and gender-researcher Christopher Julius has pithily summarised the underlying motivation for this disposition.

> Your post doesn't contain an argument regarding my claim that beauty is to a substantial degree a life-style choice.

I'm not debating this point because it is completely irrelevant. Your argument boils down to "if a woman is attractive, it's perfectly legitimate for her to suffer from discrimination, because she is privileged". There is a word for that, it's "misogyny" (as if your "white knight" dig wasn't sufficient). Women have the right to makeup and skirts, and they have the right to not have strangers grab their hand and put it on their dick. Of course, you're free to disagree with this statement, and you'll find a number of countries, particularly in the Middle-East, agreeing with your views, but that's not what I consider a part of modern western values.

Imagine being an attractive skinny guy in a prison? Or a token burned-out hacker at a business school where everyone needs a "coder" to be the next Steve Jobs? How will you make friends? How much privilege will you be granted to compensate for the perpetual annoyance/fear of being taken advantage of?

> Or a token burned-out hacker at a business school where everyone needs a "coder" to be the next Steve Jobs?

I think this is mistaken. First, the burned-out hacker can always just say no. Second, he has the advantage, not the disadvantage.

"and she used to tell me lots of stories like this about places she had worked at previously. Vice presidents calling her to their room and offering her promotions if only she would give them weekly blowjobs, prospective customers turning away from million-dollar deals at the last minute after she refused to sleep with them,"

When you can use your mobile as a universal recording device and you carry it everywhere I find stories like this incredibly hard to believe.

Is it that hard to download a recording app, like the aclu police recording app, and have the most water tight sexual harassment suit ever? I mean you don't need to know that's happening before hand, when things start to get weird just say you got a text message and start recording.

At the end of the day remember that stories are just that, and people, both men and women, lie. Without evidence believing anyone because they are a woman is just as sexist as the people who supposedly made those passes on her.

That's not legal as evidence in many states. Both people must be aware that they are being recorded or the recording is illegal.

Perhaps it's a sign that it should be changed.

Historically, recording/taping conversations was a "spec-ops" act against someone, which could be only used by those in power to abuse/blackmail people, and it made sense to restrict it.

Nowadays, recording devices are ubiquitous, and easily available even to, say, poor disadvantaged teenagers, and the majority of their use actually seems to be for the "little guy" to protect against abuse by obtaining evidence of it. IMHO we should consider a way (details, conditions, restrictions, etc) to make it generally legal to make recordings of things that are said to you or done to you.

Just because it's easy doesn't mean it's OK to ignore due process. The NSA records lots of things on a daily basis but that doesn't mean it's all valid in a court of law.

I think if a person made a complaint to law enforcement, they could get a waiver - or maybe even a court order - to record a specific person for a specific time for a specific reason. Maybe that should be easier, but I don't think the process should be any less regulated.

Due process is for government and law enforcement; However, gathering evidence in advance to protect yourself should be [made] legal. An abused teenager should be able to record evidence and have it be valid in a court of law, to prevent it being dismissed as he-said/she-said without evidence. If you feel threatened by someone, you should be allowed to record your interactions without their permission (and likely knowledge), so that if violence occurs, the perpetrator gets punished - again, unlike a majority of such cases where nothing happens due to lack of evidence. In places where local police is corrupt or prejudiced, recording your interactions (again, without giving them ability to prevent it) is the best way to fix the problem. The same goes for sexual harassment and discrimination cases.

The whole point is that you should be able to record now, and handle any permission/admissability later; and you shouldn't require cooperation of government beforehand - it's likely for police or court to say that your case is not important enough for them; but it's not a valid reason to restrict your ability to protect yourself.

What you intentionally say to me isn't your private secret anymore - if I had the right to hear it, then I have the right to remember it and to repeat that to any court; and I should have the right to remember it perfectly&permanently on a durable medium, and hand at to any court as valid evidence. In short, it makes sense to require permission of a participant in recorded conversation, but not all participants.

This is significant. I have actually thought through the ramifications of such a recording, and since in many states it would not be legal as evidence, I've concluded that it's not useful if one's desired avenue of recourse for harassment is legal. On the other hand, if one is willing to go for some sort of "nuclear option" (with high self-risk if in a two-party consent state) one could just post it somewhere online. We have seen examples of such postings and their effects recently...

Legal evidence is not the same standard as publishing online.

And there are states, such as Liberia, where sexual harassment laws aren't applicable. Just because you live in a medieval jurisdiction doesn't mean the rest of us are.

If this is in California, would a tape recorded by one party without consent of both parties be admissible in court? I was under the impression that California was two party consent.

>Is it that hard to download a recording app, like the aclu police recording app, and have the most water tight sexual harassment suit ever?

So you're suggesting the solution to sexual harassment is for women to go deeper into an already uncomfortable situation and gather evidence for the 'nuclear option' that can potentially ruin the careers of both parties? That's complete nonsense. Nobody wants to hire somebody they think might sue them. Since women who file big sexual harassment suits face serious repercussions in the job market later, it's usually an option of last resort.

If someone, anyone, asked me to suck their dick or clit, yes, I would go for the nuclear option. You have to be a really well beaten down cubicle slave to think that someone trying to own your body outright like that isn't grounds for destroying their life.

Makes you wonder about how many women do accept such offers and get ahead that way. Which is "unfair" in a way to the men who don't have such an option.

I'm really curious about the numbers here - what percent of women have ever agreed to such offers for the purpose of getting ahead (at any point in their lifetime).

I'm hoping the number is in the single digits, because if it's higher this type of harassment will never stop.

>>Makes you wonder about how many women do accept such offers and get ahead that way. Which is "unfair" in a way to the men who don't have such an option.

Oh yeah, that's another thing that happens: when a good-looking woman is successful, others (men and not-so-good-looking women) will assume she must have done sexual favors for someone in power - as opposed to because she's smart and capable.

(You may have asked the question innocently, but... there be dragons.)

You can't argue that men generally aren't aware that a lot of sexual harassment takes place against women or attractive women, and also that they would assume that when they do come into power that they got ahead by accepting sexual harassment.

Seriously? What do you think is more likely to happen if the woman submits?-

1. She gets a promotion she doesn't totally doesn't deserve because she submitted to sexual harassment by her her boss at work. She's happy about this.

2. She submits to sexual harassment because she is afraid she'll lose her job if she doesn't. She feels dirty and exploited.

And this is unfair to men how? Because they don't have to put up with sexual harassment at work as much?

#3: She files suit, and wins, because the legal climate surrounding harassment cases is overwhelmingly in her favor and she knows it.

I can't take claims of the above seriously in the US, because women are 100% legally protected from professional retribution when declining said "deals". I can't speak to outside the US, but here, the protections are vast and absolute.

It's not 1913 anymore, any anybody who claims otherwise needs to wake up to the current legal reality.

And then she can never work again. Most settlements pay out less than $100,000, not nearly enough to live off. Not worth being blacklisted from future employment because the guys in charge think women need to "lighten up".

> What do you think is more likely to happen

I don't know. That's why I asked. Do you know?

And there is a 3rd option where she refuses.

Jokes/books/movies makes it seems like it happens all the time, but I don't know if it really does.

There is not a 3rd option of 'she refuses' for the scenario 'she doesn't refuse'.

The way you are phrasing this is super offensive and border line disgusting. Do you really think its a privilege that women have this "option"? What if someone offered you a promotion if your wife gave him blowjobs? Would you consider that a sweet opportunity? You want to picture that?

I don't think it's a privilege, but some people would.

But I have no idea if this actually happens as often as jokes and books/movies claim it does.

Those people are wrong, and have no concept of empathy.

I imagine, whatever that number is, that its far less than the number of white, socially-connected men who got their jobs/opportunities because they weren't black/female/gay/poor/ostrich...

Which doesn't justify when a woman gets a job by blowing someone, but as a man i'm not exactly concerned about the relative amounts of privilege I receive relative to the blowjob "opportunities"/discrimination women do...

I am of course doing my small part to fix this by offering to blow every Manager i meet if they'll promote me :( You gotta do what you gotta do for equality...

Imagine submitting and then not getting the offer. You're screwed either way.

I think the big takeaway here, not just for women but for anyone in the workplace who feels uncomfortable with or offended by something someone else has said, is to consider the intent.

Sometimes somebody says something offensive, and they don't even know they're being offensive. And in those cases, you can take them aside, explain to them why it's offended you, and hopefully they'll say, "Oh, dreadfully sorry, I didn't realize" -- and they won't do it again.

Which doesn't necessarily mean that people should always be let off the hook if they say/do something in ignorance; there are some things that one ought not be ignorant about.

But I think there's something fundamentally different about someone saying or doing something in ignorance -- especially if they appear contrite once they realize how it's made others feel -- and someone doing it purposefully, like the creep in the restaurant in Heidi's story.

> But I think there's something fundamentally different about someone saying or doing something in ignorance -- especially if they appear contrite once they realize how it's made others feel -- and someone doing it purposefully, like the creep in the restaurant in Heidi's story.

Sure, agreed, and this is explicitly recognized by the US legal system (i.e. involuntary manslaughter vs. voluntary manslaughter/murder). That said, good intentions don't lessen impact on victims. Intention sometimes plays a role is determining what punishment is appropriate for the person who did the offensive/criminal act, but that's little consolation to those who are routinely targets of said acts. You're dead, whether the person that killed you meant to kill you or not. Something important to keep in mind in the context of harassment and conduct in the workplace.

> That said, good intentions don't lessen impact on victims.

I fundamentally disagree with you on this, but I've noticed that people seem very divided on this issue.

Personally, if I'm offended by something and I learn that it was a fundamental misunderstanding and no harm was intended, then the anger/hurt/whatever emotion just goes away naturally, without me having to even consciously think about it or calm myself down.

My ex-wife was the opposite—once the anger happened it didn't go away no matter how much of a misunderstanding it was that triggered it.

I've come to think of it in terms of "Humpty Dumpty" from Alice In Wonderland[1]: "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

IE, if you are taking more from my words than I put in them (including offense), then that is on you and is not my problem, especially after I've explained myself.

I've since learned to just remove the other type of people from my life as much as possible—they just aren't worth the trouble.

[1] Technically "Through the Looking Glass": http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12/12-h/12-h.htm#link2HCH0006

On a personal and emotional level, I agree with you: once I learn it's a misunderstanding and no harm was intended, I often stop feeling angry.

Even if I'm no longer angry per se some hard feelings may remain. I have dealt with men & women from very conservative backgrounds who honestly and with great love believe I should not do what I do for a living, because it involves public speaking and evaluation of some men, which they believe violates 1 Timothy 2:12. I disagree and I need to remain steeled against the unpleasantness this brings up, even if we are friendly -- it's in this sense that I mean "hard" feelings.

And then I do agree entirely that good intentions don't lessen impacts on victims. The folks who don't want me to teach have good intentions, measured one way, and that's not really relevant. The folks who tell girls not to take AP calc because it's too hard and they won't need it have ~good intentions, but that's irrelevant. The folks who think I'll naturally be nurturing and try to give me some cuddly job with young children have good intentions but they're scarring me and the kids for life. The folks who pass over a woman for a promotion because they think she should focus on her family have good intentions, but she's out the cash and the accrued interest and career advancement for the rest of her life.

You're thinking about how we deal emotionally with good intentions, while the above poster is thinking about the money that's gone, the job that disappeared, the promotion that didn't happen, the mortgage whose interest rate was 2 percentage points higher.

I think the relevant difference here is "intended meaning" vs. "intended/assumed values". Understanding the other's intentions resolves the problem when you interpreted what they said differently than what they intended you to understand - it's essentially a communication failure. Understanding that someone considers chopping your limbs off a kind thing to do, though, does not change anything about the fact that you would probably consider that to be more at the evil end of the spectrum--all it might do would be to shift your anger from their specific action to their general stupidity for not recognizing that people obviously do express that they do feel hurt when you chop their limbs off.

> I have dealt with men & women from very conservative backgrounds who honestly and with great love believe I should not do what I do for a living, because it involves public speaking and evaluation of some men, which they believe violates 1 Timothy 2:12.

Every time I think I have a handle on how crazy people are, boom, a trap door opens. I'm sorry that you have to deal with nonsense like that. But I appreciate you mentioning it.

I think another important thing to consider is that not everyone who takes offense to another's use of language is always a victim, but they'll gladly play the role of victim if we allow it.

Sometimes people are actively looking to be offended. Take this one for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc1zGRUPztc

> Sometimes people are actively looking to be offended. Take this one for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc1zGRUPztc

That reminds me of a conversation I had nearly a decade ago with a black (African immigrant) friend. I don't remember the details, but basically he said that he was annoyed that the words "dark" and "black" had negative connotations. I knew him well enough to know that he wasn't trolling, and that this was something that had seriously taken an emotional toll on him.

Ever since then I've been thinking about this -- maybe it does bother a lot of black folks? And, think of very little whose conception of words is primitive, and how they might associate the words together.

I don't really know what I'm getting it. It's very hard to make any sort of conclusion here. I mean, what's the cure -- we make a prescriptive linguistic change that color-based words can't be used anymore? That's not happening.

I'm of Nigerian descent and I do notice that "black" and "dark" is usually used in the negative. But I know that's not based in racism.

The concept of dark/black being scary I'm confident pre-dates any racism towards african americans.

Also, there are a few things where black is used as positive.

- Finance; If you're "in the black", you're flushed with cash. There's some kinda dark irony here. ;)

- Rich people tend to wear expensive black clothes, expensive black cars... etc. Black is always in fashion and a symbol of wealth... which somehow, again, is ironic. ;)

Light/dark being good/bad in the European sense stems from good things being light and bad things being dark. Fire is good - it keeps you warm and cooks your food. The soot and char left over from the fire is bad, relatively useless. The day is good - it's when you're out and about, able to see and do things, and it's warm. The night is bad, you can't do much, it's hard to see and get stuff done. Criminals do their deeds in the shadows, where they're hard to see, as opposed to morally righteous actions, which are easily performed in the full view of day. Certainly in the christian theology that shaped Europe, dark refers to shadowy nefariousness, and not dark-skinned humans.

The black finance thing is rather simple - in bookkeeping, a positive total is written in normal ink, which is (usually) black. A negative total is written in red ink, to make it stand out. Being in the black just means you're not making a loss, though when used colloquially, as you say, it means you are flush with cash.

In China, white is the color of death. A dead body.and a ghost are pale.

Red is the color of life, of hearty blush in skin.

Here is a clip for a classic hip hop song by 3rd Bass that is relevant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYp28tEAVvs&t=1m58s.

The verse starts: "Black cat is bad luck, bad guys wear black. Musta been a white guy who started all that."

Interestingly, the MC in question here is white-skinned. I think he's Jewish, but I might be wrong.

From the perspective of an African immigrant, I would imagine that it is easy to see discrimination everywhere. I think your friend is annoyed that the idea of "blackness being inferior" is omnipresent (from his perspective). It's even built in to the very way we speak.

I think that what your immigrant friend really wants is just to feel like he has the same shot a person with white skin does. He's kvetching about words because racism is on his mind a lot, but he's not expecting you or anyone to rewrite the English language. He probably just gets treated poorly on a regular basis because of his race, and he wants that to stop.

You (We) could likely cure his annoyances while stopping short of major linguistic changes.

Seems obvious to me that black has negative connotations for all the things it's directly associated with due to the physical fact it's the absence of light. Darkness, death, etc. Humans are hard-wired to fear these things because without light we can't see and if we can't see we can't avoid danger, etc.

If the US did not have such enormous racial issues, I suspect that wouldn't be such a big deal. So if we don't want black people to be bothered by that, we could start with, say, eliminating the enormous amount of racial imbalance here.

On the one hand, it seems clear that the cultural association of darkness as bad has nothing do to with racism. But does anyone know if cultures whose people have dark skin do not have the same connotations?

Intent is huge. If my friend says something incredibly aggressive, but I know they are being facetious or sarcastic or humorous, I will find it amusing. If I know they are being serious, I will not find it amusing.

Actions are generally equal regardless intent, but IMO words depend immensely on intent.

I tend to agree but not completely. Someone mentioned further up that there are multiple categories of murder and also manslaughter, the conviction of which depends on intent.

By "actions are equal regardless intent", I was referring to the impact on the victim. Sorry for not being more clear!

That said, good intentions don't lessen impact on victims.

If someone pushes me hard because I might have been hit by a falling item, that has less impact on me than if someone pushes me hard because they want to start a fight or get the better of me in some way.

Most human actions don't result in the finality of death.

That's one good takeaway. But there's one that is more important to me: no matter how good my intent is, it's easy for me to accidentally make people suspect I'm just like some total asshole they've dealt with before.

So I'm going to try harder to avoid triggering those associations. And when I do, I'm going to try to be bolder in apologizing for it and learning from it. My good intentions may explain a fuckup, but they sure don't justify it, and they don't excuse me from taking full responsibility.

Are you sure this is the right take away? It seems extreme to expect you to take full responsibility for some other total asshole. And also kind of immoral to live in a world like this.

I think the expectation of a moral adult is to seek mutual understanding to continually improve yourself to be a positive and constructive element in others' lives.

If you unintentionally offended someone, it's an opportunity to learn more about their world.

Conversely, it's also an opportunity for them to learn about your world. Maybe not everyone they meet is that total asshole, and there are in fact good people in this world. Just be that good person.

We are made out of meat. We're half-evolved chimps living in a world with a 10,000-year history of war. We start life naked, screaming, and covered in blood, knowing so little that it takes years just to learn how to eat food. At the end, we all die, and then our bodies rot.

It's a ridiculous world, and it's nobody's fault. But somebody has to take responsibility for making it better. I'm going to try. You can help if you want.

As someone who actually enjoys making offensive comments in the _right context_, I can't disagree more with you.

When somebody says something offensive, context is everything. If you're in a meeting with a group of adult men that are culturally similar to you and there's nothing pressing on the table, sure, a dick joke might be fine.

But in the case of the article, I think the author even let off lightly situations like the "dick in the hand" anecdote. It's one thing to make an off-color joke to ease the mood when the context is appropriate, but if you're sitting in a room with a woman, and you make a comment like that, you know for a fact you're crossing a boundary, no matter how small it may be.

For some reason, it reminds me of a former (male) roommate of mine who would always make comments containing indirect sexual references in the presence of our (only) female roommate. He would never say something sexually related pertaining to her, but things like "I watch too many TV shows? Nonsense. Are you calling me a whore??" Shit that would be subtle enough that he could easily shrug off an accusation that he was being offensive, yet he very much knew he was trying to spin the conversation toward sex as a means of flirting.

I don't think there are many excuses to be made in these contexts. If you've ever known your mother, or had a sister or a girlfriend who was attractive (and the recipient of suggestive comments), you know exactly what's acceptable and what's not. Picture it's your girlfriend getting harassed.

I'm hardly the whiteknight, social-justice type whatsoever, but for fuck sake, keep business as business and play bullshit kiddie flirt games at the bar.

"I don't think there are many excuses to be made in these contexts. If you've ever known your mother, or had a sister or a girlfriend who was attractive (and the recipient of suggestive comments), you know exactly what's acceptable and what's not. Picture it's your girlfriend getting harassed."

Your argument is incomplete. I doubt most people have an attractive women in their lives, having either the role of mother, sister, or girlfriend, since such a minority of women are attractive, even if they might be the only women you notice every day.

Where is it writ that a person's right to not endure offensive speech trumps another person's right to express themselves? Of course I would opine that a person being needlessly offensive is a jerk but where would I get off insisting she has to change her behavior to suit my tastes?

I think it's important to look at this as part of a more widespread issue than a few individuals expressing themselves inappropriately. When women are so ridiculously under-represented in the tech industry and are facing both explicit and structural discrimination, it's important to speak out against this behavior.

Put another way: women's "jerkiness" does not make it harder for men in the tech industry, but men's "jerkiness" does make it harder for women in the tech industry.

I appreciate your views and believe they are sincere but when considering "the big picture", I don't think anyone can actually prove anything except there are fewer women in tech. In the big picture how can you show women as a group have it harder? I am a man. It is true I have not been asked to fondle someone under a table to close a deal. It is also true I have never been favored by a boss because he found me attractive. I am not claiming it's easier to be a woman, just that it cannot really be shown which group has it easier. Individual experience can get us closer to certainties but not all the way even then.

Because that would be a polite thing to do?

This is mostly not about rights. It’s also about proper and polite behaviour.

How polite one finds it depends entirely on how much one sympathizes with the request.

I don't think the big takeaway is about how women should act/think.

That is not the big takeaway.

The big takeaway is that straight white men's privilege gives them an advantage over everybody else since they face fewer obstacles such as having their hands forced onto a penis while closing a business deal.

Totally agree. It's always sad to see the response to this type of news on Hacker News. It inevitably immediately becomes something that is no longer about the problems women face, but a defense of the men. Like, how can you read the article and come back and say, "The big takeaway is, don't get mad at me if I'm just being a guy, because I mean well." What weird heuristic did you use to take the article as being primarily about you and the risk that you might be misperceived? That is not what it is about.

> straight white men's privilege

The article didn't actually include the man's race.

The point is the same though: it's about power and privilege.

I am an individual!

When you equate power and privilege with my appearance and gender, not only do you dehumanize me and treat me like a caricature, but you seem to assume that I hold some sort of power that makes me immune to your hate -- or you just don't care.

Well, I'm not immune, and I'm sick of it, and if anything, I'd like you and people like you to take your message of prejudice somewhere else.

I never graduated high-school, much less from Stanford with a MBA, and as far as I'm aware, I've never even had a meeting with a VC. I guess we all just "look the same" to you.

I agree that we should be judged as individuals, but if you are white and male, then you should also be aware that you are perceived differently and generally more positively in many situations than minorities and women. If you apply for a job or a loan, you have an advantage. Even without a Stanford MBA, you would have an easier time getting VC funding than more qualified women and minorities.

Let me apply the necessary nuance to your argument to strip away the racism and sexism:

"I agree that we should be judged as individuals, but if you are white and male, then you should also be aware that you are perceived differently and generally more positively in many situations than minorities and women. If you apply for a job or a loan, you [MAY] have an advantage. Even without a Stanford MBA, you [MIGHT] have an easier time getting VC funding than [MANY SIMILARLY QUALIFIED] women and minorities."

In your statement, you ascribed stereotyped attributes to me, and to every situation I might find myself. In doing so, you ask me to accept the core premise that I always have an advantage over others, in every situation, because of my appearance and gender.

Yet, Heidi Roizen, in many ways (but clearly not all ways, as evidenced by her experiences) started from a position of much greater privilege than me. I hope you can see how these things are nuanced, and that sexist/racist stereotypes are convenient but inaccurate, and in aggregate, those stereotypes become very wearing on those of us who, as is often stated by those with your point of view, "do not inhabit positions of power" relative to you.

The "white man" stereotype used to roll off me, because I only saw it on the fringes of impolite society. Now, I see it said regularly and publicly, in popular if not polite company, often in contexts where I don't have "power" and I do find it both demeaning and threatening.

Do you really think I "hate" you or are being hyperbolic to make a point? If so I think it was lost on me.

Anyway, your appearance has power and privileges whether you (or I) choose to acknowledge it or not.

> Do you really think I "hate" you or are being hyperbolic to make a point? If so I think it was lost on me.

Yes, I think your position is essentially rooted in hate.

yea, but it did say she was dealing with VCs 10 years ago, so an educated person can make a pretty confident guess.

I hope you can see the racism inherent in your "confident guess".

"yea, but it did say she was dealing with [community organizers] 10 years ago, so an educated person can make a pretty confident guess."

"yea, but it did say she was dealing with [an H1B immigrant] 10 years ago, so an educated person can make a pretty confident guess."

racism requires the assumption of a power dynamic that subjugates the recipient. eg a white guy being called a cracker doesn't resonate with the kinds of cultural practices of oppression that that using racial slurs against a minority carries. it's disingenuous and completely misses the point to equate racism with any time the concept of race is brought up


Some definitions consider that any assumption that a person's behavior would be influenced by their racial categorization is inherently racist, regardless of whether the action is intentionally harmful or pejorative, because stereotyping necessarily subordinates individual identity to group identity.

Some people disagree with you.

Tell me how it's not racist to think that all "white guys" are sitting in the better end of a power dynamic when called "a cracker"?

Subsets of academia focused on "critical race theory" might try to redefine "racism" to suite their specific agenda, but I'm content with the dictionary definition:

"the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races."

Retreating to a dictionary definition doesn't argue against the point of the GP comment, namely: a white guy being called a cracker doesn't resonate with the kinds of cultural practices of oppression that that using racial slurs against a minority carries

If you're interested in arguing against that, do so. Posting definitions of words from dictionaries is the height of pedantic laziness in non sequitur form (unless the argument is actually about what the dictionary definition of a word is, of course).


Men live substantially shorter than women, men commit vastly more suicides, men are punished substantially harder than women in courts of law. Men are drafted to armies. Men get their children stolen in divorce cases. Men work vastly harder on average. Consequently men get paid much worse on average for the same amount of work than women. Men pay the majority of taxes, women get the majority of social services. Men are the majority of homeless. Almost all who live in forced celibacy (a form of forced sexuality) are male. Male homosexuality is vastly harder punished than female homosexuality.

It is objectively much harder being male than being female.

Not that I'm justifying it, but I wonder if the deal would even have gotten to the closing table if Heidi had been male?

If we assume that it was going to go through if she was receptive to the deal, then it's probably safe to assume that it would have gone through otherwise.

It's not good business sense to make a bad business deal just to get someone to touch your junk. If you're working for a large company with lots of money, you either find women yourself or find a way pay for them on the company card.

Oh I agree completely that sexual attraction shouldn't be the reason for a bad deal, but OTOH consider that there are a lot of very attractive women in sales who are able to subtly use that attraction as leverage.

Not that they promise sex or anything remotely that overt, only that a lot of men think with the wrong head and will go out of their way to please an attractive woman. That includes signing a deal they may not sign otherwise.

I don't fault women for this state of affairs.

Actions which are done without thinking through the consequences are careless, reckless, or negligent. Each of us is free to let such people off the hook when we are the victim as a result of such actions. But just as we are not obligated to do so, neither are other victims. And suggesting that forbearance is what someone else ought to do is bullshit.

A man who treats women poorly isn't ignorant, he's habitual, and the habit was developed and persists because he's been let off the hook or as is the case with the VC's in the story because of a disparity of power.

It's bullying and part and parcel of bullying is a lack of contrition.

There's a difference between saying something of which you're not aware it can be offensive, and saying something without thinking about whether it can be offensive.

I really REALLY hope that no one is ignorant to the fact that tricking people to touching their penis is wrong.

I'm REALLY really REALLY hoping.

Knowing something is wrong doesn't mean anything when you think you have the power to overcome any consequences.

And then you have people like me who consider trolling to be the single best way of bonding with people. I don't think I could work with a person I can't say offensive things to and who doesn't say offensive things back.

Maybe I'm just too European, I don't know.

Come on, I'm European too and that's not an excuse for hurting people's feelings or worse.

I can't believe that you're receiving this poor of a response for acting like a normal person. It's as though everyone on HN is a hypersensitive person.

Are you a person of color? Are you a woman? Are you gay? Are you trans? Are you disabled?

Not trolling, genuinely curious.

Edit: I can't reply to the children (might be my karma game) and so I'll reply here. The linked article is about specifically about power and privilege, and how being a woman in the tech business puts you at a severe disadvantage in your job, in your community of choice. The reason why I ask is justification "I'm European so..." seems dangerously close to "lighten up" or "get a sense of humor". It's fine to put yourself out there on a joke, humor is hard, but rewarding. But when someone takes offense, I find it problematic when all of a sudden it's their problem for not getting your style or sense of humor.

When a privileged person is forced to check their privilege and they respond with "oh, my bad, I didn't realize, etc." I accept maybe they don't have the experience or perspective that comes with being disenfranchised in that particular regard. When they respond with "lighten up" I find there is no attempt to internalize why someone could feel sadness, or discomfort, or frustration about the offensive topic at hand.

Although I'm not in particular agreement with the OP, your reply is hardly accurate, either. Are you implying that these groups are incapable of making and handling crude/dark humor?

Either that, or that membership in one of them includes some sort of special permission to use humor more broadly than is allowed to people who don't have any boxes to check.

Edit: I can't reply to the children (might be my karma game) and so I'll reply here.

Sometimes it takes a few minutes for the relevant 'reply' links to show up. It tends to happen on busy threads; I understand it's a mechanism to slow down flamewars.

> Are you a person of color? Are you a woman? Are you gay? Are you trans? Are you disabled?

Does it matter?

Yes. If you're speaking from able-bodied, neurotypical, straight, cis, white, male privilege, your opinion on how hurtful 'trolling' is to people who don't share your privilege carries no weight.

When did HN devolve into the insipid land of Tumblr SJW? It takes some mighty mental gymnastics to convince yourself that only a black, trans, gay, crippled, ADHD person is allowed to offer opinions

You don't need to invoke the strawman of Tumblr to conceptualize that at a first-order guess the dreadful SJW (what a terrible insult!) who's been coping with racism/sexism/homophobia/ableism for most of their life has a more insightful perspective on those issues then some dude who only reads about discrimination as something that happens to other people.

No, but the point is that a lot of people will quite happily insist "I'm not really hurting anyone", immediately after being pointed out to that their behaviour patterns do in fact hurt people. That's almost exactly what happened upthread. In many people's books, that's really not on.

I'm not, actually, but that rarely seems to make a difference to how much weight my opinion carries with people who don't share that opinion. If nothing else, the facts that I only tick one, maybe two, of the boxes you listed, and that I loathe identity politics games in general, almost always outweigh the substance of what I actually happen to be saying.

Your distaste for identity politics doesn't obviate other people's legitimate concerns about them.

That's probably the single thing about identity politics that crosses me the worst: there are actually legitimate points in there, but they're so deeply buried under assertions like "you can't say X around me because I'm Y" and "P's have mistreated Q's for so long that Q's deserve special treatment from P's in recompense", which may not be contested in any fashion but must be taken as axiomatic, that ordinary people of all stripes, who would otherwise be quite sympathetic, instead flee screaming into the night.

I am not saying "you can't say that". I am saying that the context of who is speaking matters quite a bit. It may not seem 'fair' that when speaking on how hurtful a statement is to a particular group, whether you are actually a member of that particular group is highly relevant, but that perception of unfairness is itself an aspect of privilege.

Basically, if you make a joke about a group you aren't a member of, don't expect to be able to tell someone who is a member that it's 'just a joke', and that goes double if you're a member of the dominant group (whichever that happens to be in context).

Personally, I hit almost all of the privilege checkboxes with the (very mild) exception of religion/ethnicity. Guess what? If you aren't Jewish, and you tell me a Jewish joke, and I take offense (and I might even if it is a joke I have used myself), and I then call you out on it, 'lighten up' just isn't an appropriate response, regardless of the fact that you may not have privilege in some other area.

Because they're not people too?

Why does privilege mean that white, male, straight, or non-disabled people are not allowed to say "lighten up" or even express an alternative opinion on these topics? Why are their opinions now less because of their skin color or sexuality?

Privilege goes in both directions: It's now become standard to diminish any white male's opinions on matter of diversity or gender or race, because of their identity, and give explicit power to anyone who is not a white male to criticize that group. Some say it's "leveling the playing ground" but it often just turns into a straight-on attack. It is now highly possible for someone in the "most privileged" group to be accused of X -ism and then be publicly attacked by outraged people, often with real job consequences.

By the way, I'm not white, but I don't think that should give my argument any more or less power. The post-modernist focus on identity politics and who is making the argument gives another channel for an ad hominem attack merely phrased in other words.

Edit: I can't reply anymore, but there seems to be a spectrum of offensiveness - and "lighten up" means moving the bar of acceptability in one direction, when people disagree about crass or potentially offensive humor - though of course the bar is different in a professional setting. In general I try to be respectful and conscious of potentially offensive things in a work-place. But among my friends (or among co-workers who have become friends), or at a comedy club, I'd imagine we develop a different threshold of offensiveness and be more open to crass humor. That's the "breaking the ice" effect Roizen mentions in her last example

One good reason: ignorance.

If I were to say "lighten up", it would basically be asserting that I am a better judge of the impact of a comment than the person who's upset. But as relatively privileged person, I am much less often on the receiving end of offensive comments, and I have more resources to deal with situations like that.

If I were to say something racially tinged to a black person and they thought it offensive, I would be strongly inclined to credit them because they've had a lot more opportunity and a lot more incentive to think about the nature of racism.

I agree it's not a perfect rule, but it's certainly the way to bet.

Another big reason to do so is power. Things like "lighten up" are used by privileged groups to suppress criticism because that helps maintains the power imbalance. Not consciously, mind you, but as apes we're hardwired for status.

>Why does privilege mean that white, male, straight, or non-disabled people are not allowed to say "lighten up"

Obviously every situation is different but in general white, straight males have historically set the bar for "offensiveness" and everyone else just had to deal with it. When people speak up and say they're offended by something, maybe dirty jokes in the office, they're told to lighten up.

NOBODY should be saying "lighten up." I don't think you understand the context in which "lighten up" is being used here. "lighten up" here is when you say that after a serious offense has been made.

And it's not a straight white male that is always saying it.

>Why does privilege mean that white, male, straight, or non-disabled people are not allowed to say "lighten up" or even express an alternative opinion on these topics? Why are their opinions now less because of their skin color or sexuality?

Here is why:

"Why did the chicken cross the road? BECAUSE NEGROES CAN'T READ. HAR HAR HAR HAR!!!!!!! Pretty funny, huh? Oh, come on, lighten up."

^Typical context in which "lighten up" is used . You don't want to sound like that guy, do you? So don't say "lighten up', no matter what race or orientation you are.

If someone finds your joke uncomfortable (like I'm hoping we all found the joke above uncomfortable) trying to cajole them into comfort with it is wasted effort at best, continuation of harassment at worst, and a simple dick move most likely.

Those don't matter and what you are doing is generalizing lots of groups of people which is something I assume you would be against. What matters is individuals. Some gay people don't mind jokes about being gay, some do. Some women don't mind jokes about gender, some do. If you are a in a professional setting you NEVER lead with a joke about something personal or potentially controversial if you are not among very very good friends. These topics, along with things like religion and politics, should just not be joked about in a professional setting. If I'm a white male is it ok to joke about my baldness? My religion? My weight? That's my point. It doesn't matter who you are, you don't bring things like that up in a professional setting.

Those do indeed matter. As Louis CK artfully explains, as a white male, you can't even hurt my feelings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG4f9zR5yzY

It's almost impossible for me, as person advantaged by society, to fathom the death-by-a-thousand-papercuts feeling that people who are less advantaged experience. I've tried a lot, for years, and I regularly fail. Just today, I read a great piece titled, "Calling the White Man's Police": http://tressiemc.com/2014/05/02/calling-the-white-mans-polic...

And another little bit fell into place for me. Yes, around here, they are effectively they white man's police. There are a number of factors around calling the police that I never thought about because I never had to. Because I'm white and educated and articulate and I've been well off for long enough that I have a lawyer who I can afford to pay.

It would be easy for me to think trolling is an awesome way of bonding with everyone because my life is pretty swell. I can hear offensive things and not sweat it because I'm safe. But for people whose regular experience is a lack of safety, hearing offensive things is entirely different. Then, an offensive comment isn't necessarily an endearing reminder of cameraderie, it's often a glaring reminder of inequality.

That's not to say I won't engage in clever banter. But I am very careful when it crosses lines of privilege or trauma. As John Scalzi says, "The failure mode of clever is asshole." http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/06/16/the-failure-state-of-c...

Are you saying if you're a heterosexual white male you have no concept of exclusion or discrimination?

People are more than just their race and sex and sexual orientation. People can be discriminated against due to their disability (mental and physical), weight, appearance, intelligence, background, etc., etc., etc.

Protip: if you read somebody as saying something obviously idiotic, try assuming that they are smarter than that and work out their meaning from there.

> Those do indeed matter. As Louis CK artfully explains, as a white male, you can't even hurt my feelings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG4f9zR5yzY

Consider Louis' example (paraphrasing): "'cracker' [...] bringing me back to owning land and people".

If we're to discuss this as something that might be offensive rather than just a joke (which we obviously are at this point), this could easily offend someone. Is it inoffensive to refer to people as slave owners, really? Or to refer to white people as guilty of that kind of thing by association (assuming that they're ancestors owned slaves; but it still isn't okay to project these "sins of the father")?

Why does that matter? Why would you say offensive things about people's physical characteristics and things that aren't their choice? That's just intelectualy lazy and pretty damn mean.

I find that people give you plenty of opportunities to poke fun at them without being lazy about it.

edit: The general idea is to only make fun of things people are completely secure and confident about, otherwise you're not being funny, you're being mean.

> The general idea is to only make fun of things people are completely secure and confident about

How do you know that's the case though?

Exactly. Things may take a completely different meaning depending on the people you're with.

I remember a conversation from a while ago when young me called a gf of mine the "prettiest black girl ever."

When she asked me, "why not just prettiest girl ever?" I was completely dumbfounded because while that's what I had meant, I realized that I no idea what a simple qualifier could do to the meaning of the phrase for someone.

I learned a valuable lesson that day that I won't ever forget. I don't considered myself 'censored' since then, just significantly more tactful in social situations.

So perhaps like ribbing people in a tongue-in-cheek fashion for using the "wrong" text editor?

I think that sort of thing is fine and generally accepted, provided you don't become hurtful or vicious with it.

Actually, I think you are just socially inept.

You'd be surprised by how deep a connection you can form with somebody through ribbing.

Would you please stop posting off-topic, low-substance comments to this thread?

I don't think that's really a fair categorization of the specific comment you've responded to (especially given its parent). Did you perhaps interpret "ribbing" as a sexual reference, rather than meaning "good-natured teasing" ? I do agree that https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7688033 is quite low-substance, and think it would be better to call it out instead.

You'd surprised how easy it is to bully someone without realizing.

Not flexible enough, perhaps. It's all in the context.

She makes a really good point about pausing to evaluate the intent behind the words -- and even using the opportunity to educate -- rather than always assuming the worst.

But did anyone else feel that Brad Feld was very, very lucky that it was Heidi Roizen in the room and not someone less forgiving when he said, "well if you need a dick to hold you can borrow mine anytime"?

What Brad did in that one comment was underscore the power differential in the room between a number of males and a lone female who had just said she feels "very uncomfortable" (even if she couched it as a joke so as not to rock the boat.) Worse yet, Brad was essentially saying, you're here to service the males. Again, it was a comment made as a joke -- but what a crappy joke, to point out that there's an implicit hierarchy in the room.

The only way I can see how that comment would not have made a woman in the room very uncomfortable (or even any respectful male), is if he said it sardonically to make fun of guys who do say things like that without realizing why it's not acceptable.

EDIT: There are a lot of responses analyzing this particular situation and pointing out that Heidi said she wasn't uncomfortable. My point is not about Brad & Heidi, it is that you can't take this one very particular relationship and setting and extrapolate anything from it. The risk of misreading the situation and making someone feel harassed is so high and happens so often, that sexual innuendo in a professional setting is a bad idea. You can find another way to break the tension or team-build.

There's some subtle things going on in that anecdote that are easy to miss.

The meeting they were in was a very stressful one, in a very stressful era. The person who looked nervously at her to see her response was new to the group. Guessing based on his concern, he hadn't yet been "initiated" into a more casual relationship with the others in the room. He was still on a somewhat formal ground.

The person who made the comment was cutting through the unspoken fog underlying the meeting, and no doubt was intentionally using blunt language to assist in that.

She responded with mildly crude humor of her own to indicate not only that she wasn't taking offense, she appreciated the attempt to break through the unspoken fog. She was also bringing the new guy into the circle a bit.

The speaker continued with crude humor to sort of close the scene out. What a screenwriter would call a "button". It also emphasized his original point- "Let's get past this posturing we've been doing. We know what the game really is here, we're normal people and we've been fighting for our own interests."

That would be the end of that line of humor, since it had now served its purpose.

The same approach would usually (but not always) be inappropriate in a meeting of new acquaintances, but this was a different case.

This was an inner circle in a time of stress, bringing a new member a little closer in.

You're absolutely right that there is a lot of nuance in that particular situation, and you did a good job of breaking it down. But that's my point: Brad was taking a very big risk in thinking that Heidi was on the exact same page. And we know that other people, even trusted friends at times, can read situations very differently than we do. If Heidi was even slightly uncomfortable around Brad or, say, had been groped earlier that day -- things unbeknownst to Brad -- her reaction could have been quite different.

I've been in situations where the relationships between coworkers have been misread. In one case, two women reported a male coworker to HR after he sent out an email that many people, including other women in the group, seemed to think was innocuous.

So I'd hate for someone to read Roizen's post and think that that is the typical response to sexual jokes in the workplace. Even if everyone laughs in the moment, someone may walk away feeling ashamed. More to the point, if you're looking for a way to break the tension, you can probably find a way to do it without making a joke that could potentially make some uncomfortable.

  “This is bullshit.  Each one of us is just sitting here with
  his dick in his hand asking for more money without truly
  justifying it.”

  Jason looked nervously at me, wondering how I was going to react. 

  “This is making me very uncomfortable,” I said. “Because I don’t
  even have a dick to hold.”

  Without skipping a beat, Brad replied “well if you need a dick to
  hold you can borrow mine anytime.”
What I think Brad did in that comment is express his frustration at the vanishingly small pot of money they were trying to divvy up, and the way everyone was going about it. From the extremely narrow context, I definitely do not get the impression Brad was saying anything even remotely like "you're here to service the males."

I also think you have it wrong that "any respectful male" would feel uncomfortable from that comment. From that one comment I can relate to exactly what Brad is describing, and I assure you it has nothing to do with actual dicks.

Who in this industry cannot identify with the feeling that everyone in some meeting is 'sitting here with his dick in his hand, asking _______'? I could never feel uncomfortable with someone making that comment, because I would understand exactly what they were saying.

My thoughts about someone on HN getting called out for "sexist language" that I put on my blog instead of mixing it up here, thus probably almost no one has seen it:


Have an upvote.

I think Brad's comment was rude and the only comeback to lighten the mood would be to ask him to slice and hand his dick over.

but hard to think this way for those not natural at wit.

I see what you are saying but I simply disagree. Depending on the age, specific region, and various other social contexts of the participants, not to mention the context of their existing relationship, that joke can be just fine and the story implied it was, in that case.

I don't agree that the comment underscored the power differential, rather than wryly acknowledging the reality that the expression didn't work well in a mixed gender group.

It is also worth bearing in mind, that when people aren't offended by a sexual suggestion, they tend to be complimented. Because the majority of people, regardless of gender, like to feel attractive. This is one reason why the area is so hard to navigate, the line between compliment and offense can be so hard to locate, but compliments are one of the primary ways we smooth over social awkwardness and bond.

I personally feel people should make a distinction between what makes them feel bad, and what constitutes someone else being wrong.

If I feel I am being treated disrespectfully, it is enough, and I will act accordingly. I don't need the disrespectful person to be "wrong." I just need to not experience that behavior any longer. Maybe I'm wrong. Who cares. I'm not going to embrace a situation which feels bad, regardless of objective "wrong." Whether I handle it by asking for clarification, leaving the room, firing something back, this is situational. But in any event, my feelings are my feelings, not someone else's responsibility.

I think the argument is that there are many ways to compliment someone that aren't sexual, and that sexual statements (whether compliments or otherwise) should not be used in work situations: that even in a situation where a sexual statement is taken as a compliment rather than an offense, it is still inappropriate for work.

I understand the argument and I think it is

a) unrealistic


b) especially true for a certain time and place


c) a standard for behavior which may have unintended consequences. If you want to regulate a behavior, you should be able to demonstrate that the harm imposed by the regulation is less than harm prevented by the regulation. In my opinion a blanket ban on sexual comments in the workplace probably does more harm than good.

She did not seem to interpret the joke the way in the way that you are doing here. As with most humor, we can assume that a lot of the meaning had to do with tone and body language, and she describes the "borrow mine" comment as something which defused the tension created by an earlier remark.

That's exactly what I found so strange about this article. In his first remark the dick is clearly a figure of speech. In this case it's maybe an unfortunate phrase but it doesn't really exclude people without male genitalia (because it's not really about those).

His second remark, however, is clearly innuendo. And that was described as having diffused the situation. As a reader, the first remark did not affect me, but this second one absolutely does feel weird and inappropriate.

All of which probably illustrates that I lack social awareness, but for some reason I find this example very confusing.

To the contrary, I think it illustrates your social awareness. You're exactly right -- in the first comment, he using dicks in a generic way to make a point about everyone in the room, including himself. This isn't the issue, really.

The issue is in his next comment when he jokes about Heidi handling his dick frequently. Yes, yes, it's a joke, so it's different from doing something physical like putting her hand on his crotch. But in telling the joke, he paints a picture of the one female in the room in a sexual position. Many people would be uncomfortable about that, even embarrassed. It's not a professional thing to do.

Why read into it this far, and just completely ignore what she said of the incident, "I took it for the joke it was intended to be..."

I don't think it was meant to be taken the way you portrayed it at all.

> But did anyone else feel that Brad Feld was very, very lucky that it was Heidi Roizen in the room and not someone less forgiving when he said, "well if you need a dick to hold you can borrow mine anytime"?

She indicates that they knew each other. So I suspect that it had nothing to do with luck that he addressed her; it might have been precisely because it was someone like her, that he said that.

This is a good, substantive article that draws on long experience.

Commenters: before posting, please ensure that your comments are both substantive and civil. You should always do that on HN, but for obvious reasons, this topic requires a reminder.

Well I should have realised that before putting in my comments. Got massive downvotes, the reason seem obvious now. Maybe I should have atleast have been substantive. Ah well, lessons learned.

Very refreshing read for a few reasons:

- The use of specific examples, rather than broad generalizations. - Explaining that the intent and attitude of the potential offender makes a huge difference (ie. Feld vs. hand in pants dude). - Acknowledging that even she has made some un-PC comments unintentionally. - Not offering any silver bullet solution, because there isn't one.

As a white guy, hearing stories like this are really helpful at getting a sense of what real world challenges women face in the entrepreneurship/tech world.

> Explaining that the intent and attitude of the potential offender makes a huge difference (ie. Feld vs. hand in pants dude).

_what???_ You think INTENT was the difference between those two situations? You really don't see any inherent difference between using an expression that involves genitals but doesn't have anything to do with them and...sexually assaulting by forcing them to touch your genitals? The difference between those two examples had nothing to do with intent or attitude, but the actual action itself was explicitly malevolent in the latter case while accidentally offensive at worst in the former.

Lack of diversity in the tech industry truly saddens me. I love technology, and I want to encourage everyone else to discover how magical it is. It's a tragedy that the industry can be so hostile to some, for apparently no reason.

But as a white male, I feel powerless to do anything. I can't speak for women, or for other races, or really for anyone else. I want to help fix this, but where do I begin?

You can educate yourself and others! There are lots of resources for learning how to do more, including speaking up to other men and putting some money toward supporting people who are making a difference.

Here's an article with a bunch of options ("What Can Men Do? Men working with other men against patriarchy in technology"): https://medium.com/tech-culture-briefs/a1e93d985af0 - and here's an allies training workshop that you can encourage your company (or your friends' companies) to do: http://adainitiative.org/what-we-do/workshops-and-training/

Sorry, but I find Shanley's approach to framing this issue completely the opposite of the OP here. The OP sees the good in good men and lifts them up. The closing point about the joke she shared with her colleagues underlines it: there are people who are unable to laugh off a "dick in your hand" joke regardless of context and who it comes from. Not because of a lack of sense of humor, but because any such joke will be framed as oppressive and sexist due to the gender of the person it comes from.

Shanley sees all men as de facto oppressors (of varying degrees) due to their gender and the existence of the patriarchy. (Don't believe me? Look at her point: "Men need to work with each other on sexism. It is not okay to lean on the class of people you oppress to solve your system or your discomfort with it.".) This is not a productive avenue for making progress IMHO.

I've shown Shanley's post to quite a few women in technology (including some diversity experts) and they all think her concrete suggestions are excellent. [As do I.] So I strongly suggest any guys who really want to help read it and act on the suggestions even if they would prefer a different framing.

And specifically, which of her points do you disagree with? Are you saying that men don't need to work with each other on their sexism? Or, are you saying that instead of men taking a responsibility to address sexism or overcome their discomfort with this issue they should instead lean on women?

I push back hard on the tumblr-ization of language, much as I do with the Luntz-ification of language perpetrated by right wing outlets like Fox News.

Terms like "patriarchy", "privilege", and even "problematic" serve to re-frame the debate in a way that causes many negative consequences. It is pretty much the same tactic used in politics to control the language in order to disarm your opponent before debate even begins.

First, it causes debates on issues to immediately have one side assume the premise. If we are having a discussion about privilege, then I am already conceding that in this instance I had privilege in the first place. Second, it turns small issues between individuals into illustrative examples of a wider power and class struggle, regardless of how appropriate such extrapolations might be. Third, it carves a lens through which all day-to-day human interactions may suddenly become viewed, where innocent actions that normally would have gone unnoticed become immediately magnified into sexist acts because they fit into a pre-conceived mold defined by this language and ideology (lets call it what it is) regardless of context. This is what the OP is talking about. Fourth, these terms provide no way to measure progress, similar to the "War on Terror", the "War on the Patriarchy and White Male Privilege" will never be won since it is by definition immeasurable against an enemy that is a concept. Finally, in this particular case it serves to cause women to see men, all men, as inherently flawed and part of a systemic regime of oppression, and men to see themselves that way too. This is all counterproductive, dare I say, problematic.

Since you haven't acknowledged a single substantive point from the Shanley post cited upthread, you should reconsider writing 250+ words about "framing" and Frank Luntz. And by "should", I mean that you should follow the Principle of Charity.

If you'd like, you can wait to start doing that until the principle becomes an HN guideline. You might have a couple of weeks left to ignore it ('dang has more or less said it's coming). But since it's just a good plan regardless of what the site rules say, I think you should start now.

The tendency for people to litigate framing, tone, and decorum instead of substantive points has a name in online feminist circles: "tone policing". I find the application of that term incredibly annoying. Which is why it's especially discomfiting to see someone directly play into the pattern of behavior the term was coined for.

It seems you are doing the same thing you are accusing me of by not addressing my points. The specific calls to action she makes for the most part seem reasonable. But they are hung not just on a poor tone but a general worldview that in my view alienates both genders from one another and in general would cause more friction and emotional hurt in day to day life if it were adopted by all. Hence the reason I called out what I saw to be a poor comparison, the OP and Shanley are coming at this from what I think are completely different angles. (And yes I agree with you, the 'tone police' card is overplayed and stupid.)

You understand that Britta wasn't saying "tell all your male friends to follow everything that Shanley says", right? She was saying, "this Shanley post has good suggestions in it". It turns out you agree.

If you'd like the "tone police" card to get played less often, stop burying the lede that you agree with all the substantive points of this-or-that feminist blog post under a mountain of concern trolling about tone.

You can buy yourself the rhetorical space to criticize someone's tone by demonstrating that you took their substantive points seriously. But read your comments; you can see clearly that you did nothing of the sort here.

Sorry to slightly derail the point here, but "tone policing" seems to be all we get from most media, most government, and unfortunately most business leaders. It's not surprising that we see it all the time in online discussions,as it's become the new way of being "reasonable".

In Australia we are having a debate about immigration. The actual debate is over the treatment of refugees (or "Illegal Immigrants" as the government calls them) that arrive by boat. The refugees (sorry "Illegal Immigrants") who arrive by boat are treated very differently from those that arrive by plane. In the last few decades, the refugees who arrive by boat aren't even just "Illegal Immigrants" anymore, they're "Boat People". And we need to "Stop The Boats".

So, in less than 20 years, we've reduced the words "Boat" and "People" into snarling invective that the masses can spit at each other in self justifying jingoism.

I agree that the "substantive points" in any statement are the ones that need to be considered, but if the majority of a country can be persuaded to be in fear of "People" who arrive on "Boats", then we need to recognise that the delivery is just as important as the substance.

When we live in a society where "tone" itself can cause offense, then "tone policing" is probably, although unfortunately, justified.

Fair enough.

Hey, I'm being super snippy. Thank you for responding gracefully.

I think you're ascribing too much malice to academic language. Someone with privilege isn't seen as "inherently flawed", it just describes their position in society (particularly relative to someone else, it's not really useful as an absolute metric I guess). The patriarchy isn't posited as a freemasons-style conspiracy of evil men, it's just a coarse description of our society and the set of gender stereotypes etc.

>I've shown Shanley's post to quite a few women in technology (including some diversity experts) and they all think her concrete suggestions are excellent. [As do I.] So I strongly suggest any guys who really want to help read it and act on the suggestions even if they would prefer a different framing.

Sorry, but an anecdotal story from a random anonymous person on Hacker News isn't very convincing. Put another way: I know several women in tech who think Shanley's approach is downright hostile and is not helping in the least and I tend to agree, so you should just disregard what she says.

As somebody said elsewhere in the thread, Shanley is polarizing.

You're saying that since you and others regard Shanley's approach as hostile, guys should disregard what she says.

I'm saying that guys who want to help should find away to get past their initial reaction to an approach they see as hostile, look at her concrete suggestions, and act on them.

Did you read the post? Which substantive point in the post do you disagree with? If you have a problem only with the tone of the post, or its framing, then an honest rhetorical strategy would start by conceding that you agree with the substantive concerns of the post before moving on to attack the writer for tone, framing, or approach.

As it stands, the comment you wrote could have been written by someone who hadn't read the post at all. I imagine that's not the message you meant to send.

> Are you saying that men don't need to work with each other on their sexism?

That feels like a loaded question.

This is not a productive avenue for making progress IMHO.

As Roizen points out in her article, while she believes that things have improved, she's still often the only woman in the room. Other women, like Shanley Kane, believe that working within the system and ignoring or brushing off sexist behavior when it's experienced merely propagates the (unacceptable) status quo. They're different ways of looking at the problem from people who actually experiencing it, and they're both valid perspectives. Listening to the perspectives of women and trying to understand where they're coming from, even if it makes you uncomfortable, is literally the first step towards making progress.

I will suggest that some women, having been beaten and raped (edit: by men, in case I need to spell that out), have good reasons why they can't bring themselves to laugh off some kinds of jokes.

I don't entirely disagree with some of your points but I certainly don't entirely agree with them either.

Wait, it's actually not okay to lean on a class of people you oppress to mitigate the oppression. We don't even have to get in to framing; the quote you used to sum Shanley up is self-evidently true.

1) that joke was sexist, and Brad Feld's follow up after she called him out was more sexist. She may have a relationship with Brad which supersedes the joke itself and that makes it okay in the narrow context of their relationship, but that was a sexist joke.

2) I don't view men as oppressors, but I do think we as men have privilege and that is why we need to work with each other on the issue of sexism. I do not find her language condemning, but I have been working on issues of gender for several years now.

In all honesty, I would love to hear more about why Shanley's language does not work for you as I think her core points are excellent and I would love to know what language to help share this with others.

Why do you get to define if a comment is sexist, and not the people who made and, more importantly heard, said comment? Herein lies the problem, people are all too willing to label language they dislike as 'sexist', regardless of the intent behind it or even the reaction to it by those who it was intended for. Language is a communication tool and a means to an end, not an end in itself, and to try to pin labels on it as an end in itself without context of what it was trying to accomplish and the effect it had on the listener seems backwards to me. The unfortunate effect here is that by focusing so much on "problematic" language we end up diluting the communication value of language itself, where the words someone chooses have negative consequences because they have been defined to do so by others, even if previously they would not have. Sometimes a dick joke is just a dick joke, and it's funny and people should laugh. It's not yet another example of the patriarchy eroding away a woman's agency.

I posted above my issues with Shanley's language, in general I am strongly against the tumblr-ization of language for a number of reasons.

I find your frequent use of "tumblr-isation" as a negative to be alarmingly anti-intellectual for this site. Do you realize that the terms you pick out, "privilege" and "patriarchy" are of academic origin from Gender Studies and that they have been co-opted by Tumblr? It seems that your entire case against Shanley is that they write in the convention of their academic peers.

I have occasional differences of opinion with Shanley on tactics, but I think her contribution is invaluable.

Some people listen well to a quiet, compassionate word. But many need the application of a clue-by-four before they even begin to listen, and Shanley is excellent at applying that. She is also brilliant at expressing the anger that a lot of women feel. So I think her approach, although not the only useful one, has been immensely productive.

I use Shanley's work, and it's effective as hell. As a man, "What about the menz!?" is of zero interest to me. I can buy all the kleenexes to wipe my tears with the money boost I get from male supremacy.

Obviously Shanley is unpopular among dudebros. If she weren't (and god forbid hit the top of HN) it's a sign she's doing something wrong.

Your last sentence seems to imply HN is full of "dudebros," when this thread largely shows quite the opposite.

Really? Are you reading the same thread as me? Look at the current top comment, which says that the "big takeaway" from this post has nothing to do with gender.

'current' top comment. As I write this, the current top comment talks about how men in general don't really understand the harrassment women get.

It ended up dropping to second, but it was definitely at the top for at least an hour.

It doesn’t, really. It shows a fundamental lack of understanding and empathy, for the most part.

I'm curious about how controversial this post seems. It has been bouncing back and forth from light gray to black. Is it that people disagree with educating others? That they have a knee-jerk reaction to the word "patriarchy" and dismiss anyone who uses it? That they idea of "allies training" is somehow repulsive and unfair?

>That they have a knee-jerk reaction to the word "patriarchy" and dismiss anyone who uses it? That they idea of "allies training" is somehow repulsive and unfair?

When ideological lingo is used to communicate, it's going to, right or wrong, cause some folks to stop reading.

What name would you suggest for the system that oppressed women for millennia?

What ideologically neutral lingo do you propose?

I generally agree with the parent and I upvoted it, but I did so in spite of having a visceral negative reaction to buzzwords like "allies" (implies that I'm somehow taking a risk/taking sides in a war) and "patriarchy" (vague and ill-defined to the point of meaninglessness).

mostly that shanley (the blogger linked in the first post) tends to be a polarising figure

I'm replying to this because I can't reply to ForHackernews's comment, but this really needs to be said: "patriarchy" is most certainly NOT "vague and ill-defined to the point of meaninglessness". To say that is to dismiss decades of feminist work. If you are genuinely curious about this, the book Feminism is for Everybody (by bell hooks) is a great, accessible introduction to feminism and the (admittedly esoteric and ivory-towery) language you need to talk about it.

I apologize if I wasn't clear, I think the issue is that "patriarchy" means many things to many people. Maybe you have some clear definition in mind, but that may or may not be what anyone else is talking about when they say "patriarchy"

I've read bell hooks, and I consider myself a feminist. But the problem is that there's no universally agreed-upon definition. How will we know when patriarchy is dead? What metrics are we judging this by?

Well said. Just like "dynamic typing" and "object-oriented" these are terms of art. And great suggestion on Feminism is for Everybody.

britt's post is a substantive answer to 'news_to_me's question, with links off to useful resources.

What does it say about the HN community that it was downvoted?

[And by the way, this is an example of the 'speaking up' that britta mentioned. Guys, when you see this kind of hostile-to-women behavior on HN, call it out.]

That some of us don't find these resources that useful or relevant?

Then perhaps it would be helpful to point out why you don't find the resources useful or relevant. Downvoting should be reserved for low-substance comments, not for hiding (it literally has the effect of hiding things from other people) information which you think is useless to you.

Thanks for the response. If you don't find the resources useful or relevant, it seems to me that it would be better to reply with your reasoning and links to other resources. Or are you using "downvote" to mean "I disagree"?

I can't downvote yet so I'm not one of those who did - I was trying to give an explanation. I don't know the exact rules for downvoting but I assume some use it to say " not helpful".

You (and me) are in the most powerful group to do something about this issue.

First off, check that you are never participating in the behavior you don't want to see. I'm amazed how often I have to check myself.

Second, use your position of power as a white male to call out other men, privately or otherwise, when you see them behaving like any of the reprobates in this article. You'll be amazed at how much weight your voice can have in these situations.

Third, proactively advocate for women.

One thing you can do: talk to people like yourself. It is crazy, but there are people who will believe you when you tell them this stuff is a problem in a way they won't believe others. Ditto for proposing solutions. E.g., next time your company is looking to fill positions, try saying, "Say, our pool of applicants last time wasn't very diverse. I'd like to reach out to groups X, Y, and Z, and also a ask wider variety of people vet our job description just to make sure we aren't giving off the wrong signals." It is much easier for a white dude to say that.

You can also do a lot to signal boost. Passing along stories, links, and books is one thing. (I'll often send people to Everyday Sexism or Project Unbreakable, for example, or to particular things on the geek feminism wiki.) And if you notice non-white-male people getting shortchanged at work, do something about it. For example, I've heard a lot of women in tech tell stories of saying things in meetings and getting totally ignored. So be the person who says, "Hey, Jane's point is really interesting, and we went right by it. Jane, could you say that again, and maybe expand a little?"

And you can do things right here. Among a number of groups, Hacker News is basically seen as a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Call out bullshit. Point out the distorting effects of privilege. When people are derailing, don't let it slide.

Have you worked in other industries? Most of them don't hold a candle to tech when it comes to diversity. It's slightly lacking in a few visible areas, but beyond that it is truly one of the most diverse industries in the world. My coworkers are from all over the world, with a huge variety of backgrounds. Get to know them. If you truly work in a mono-culture, that's not the fault of tech, that's an issue with your hiring manager(s).

"Lack of diversity in the tech industry truly saddens me."

Eh. I work in tech in the Bay Area, alongside people from Europe, Asia, South America, and North America. I would say the amount of diversity is far more than what I see working at other industries. Is there a gender imbalance? Sure, but I don't see it as a bad thing considering that not every industry has equal representation of both races and gender. For example, I rarely see public initiatives to get more Asian men to be hollywood stars, models, politicians, teachers, etc. and that doesn't bother me.

It seems unlikely that, in a hostile industry, you never see anything hostile happening yourself, right? So you can (as we all should) try to call men out on everything they do that's exclusionary.

You can amplify their voices and efforts. For example, depending on your power, you can take Shanley's articles like this (https://medium.com/about-work/514a6edcce2c) and implement them. Or you can disclose your salary. Or install a simple code of conduct.

Society stamped the male designation on my forehead, and feel like there's no end of wonderful things I do that have an immediate impact. Which improve people's dignity and quality of life. Do I attack patriarchy? Good. Do I attack the boss's ability to extract unconscionable hours, dignity and money from his wage-slaves? Good.

But you know that movie Avatar, which portrays the white male hero "leading" an army of poor blue savages? Avoid such corrosive social nonsense, and you'll spend a lot less energy. Simply assist and amplify the efforts of others, share literature which isn't afraid to be radical, and you'll go far.

I'm getting an odd vibe from your comment. Almost as if you try to be some heroic anarchist who has swallowed the red pill, except a rather juvenile one.

Indeed, I'm curious how your being a male lets you do "no end of wonderful things that have an immediate impact". Either you're in a high socioeconomic position, or you're overstating your abilities significantly. "Attacking the patriarchy" doesn't mean much, and the latter sounds like it comes straight out of a parodic parable.

Finally, that colorful interpretation of Avatar was interesting, though not particularly innovative.

There's an aphorism that true power is never given, it is taken. If that's the case, it actually is entirely up to the oppressed to take power, and the most the people in power can do to support it is not stand in their way.

I don't think that's the best conclusion to draw. I'm taking that to mean that the oppressed can't just wait for the oppressors to wake up one day and realize they've been wrong all along. But I don't think it means we get to stand around and do nothing.

You're not entirely powerless. There is exactly one person on the planet that you can force to not be an asshole.

Never apologize for anything that is not your fault, and don't cry about the things you have no power to change.

There is no particular reason to wave someone else's war banner. You won't get any trophies or medals for it. So speak for yourself. And if anyone ever tells you to "check your privilege," translate that as "count your blessings," and let them go about their own business.

And I won't say anything more about it, since these sorts of topics tend to attract "downvote for disagreement" moderation.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact