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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.




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