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Still Here, Part 1: A Memoir (randi.io)
206 points by panic on Nov 16, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 210 comments

I have a seething hatred for weev, his clique and anyone who behaves similarly. I hope to think they're a small minority of people but it's amazing how many women they've tried to turn off tech with their idiocy, their defamation, their death threats and their abuse.

When I see what happens to women in tech and a lot of the abuse they have to withstand, I admire those that can stand the trolls. I don't think I would be this resilient faced with this abuse.

I wish we could be in a world where everybody would be accepted in the tech community regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. I hoped before that due to the relatively higher education level of tech workers, people would be more tolerant but it seems that's not the case.

PS: Now, in the case of weev and his AT & T conviction, I of course support reversing it and support the work that EFF is doing defending him but that's despite weev. It's because, in this particular issue, he's innocent. That doesn't stop him from being an horrible person.

Horrible people are the best touchstone for principles. If you can stand up for the rights of horrible people then you're probably doing ok.

EDIT: It's weird, I'm so conflicted about 'weev'. I have serious problems with him going to jail the way he did (and I know he's been released), but at the same time I feel that I'd probably be A-ok with him serving jail time for the wanton destruction of other peoples lives (and then pretending he never did it whereas he first proudly claimed he had) that he inflicted with so much carelessness, some of which is detailed in this article.

He's right up there with the child pornographers. I recall my frustration with the way /. got overrun by weev and his buddies in their eternal quest for negative attention and griefing. Total jerks, the lot of them.

Kathy Sierra made her feelings on the subject very clear on twitter before she left.

Weev is a horrible person, and probably he even deserves to go to jail. But he does not deserve to go to jail based on bullshit.

We should never forget that injustice done to Weev is not the same as justice for the things he done.

I'm surprised weev hasn't been prosecuted for the numerous campaigns of individual harassment he's instigated and been involved with. Does the USA not have any law against such behaviour?

He's been responsible for deliberate and persistent personal abuse, causing much alarm and distress, and has bragged about it openly. Does this genuinely come under the protections of "free speech", as is claimed by those who defend him?

Yeah. So there's a lot going on with harassment charges. First things first, i'm not a lawyer. I'm just a dude who cares about civics.

The internet makes harassment considerably more problematic. Even setting aside constitutional defenses of speech, just trying to figure out which agency should be in charge of investigating and prosecuting harassment is confusing at best.

Do you go to your local police? Do you go to a federal agency? Which one? Even when you do approach a law enforcement agency after receiving threats, do they think its worth their time to investigate? (Amanda Hess's piece on harassment is an interesting for her interactions w/ the police alone: http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/women-ar... )

Revenge porn is an analogous (but not identical) problem, and even in that case, where basically everyone can agree it's a bad thing, it's clear first that states don't have statutes which they can use to prosecute (until very recently at least: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revenge_porn#U.S._laws ), and in several cases some of the laws being written are complete clusterfucks.

The truth of the matter is that you can get away with a whole lot of bullshit before anybody starts trying to drop hammers on you. And harassers live in that space between what is legal and what is enforceable (a lot of other interesting stuff lives in that space too).

Yes, definitely. From personal experience, not with harassment but with other crimes, if you go to the FBI with some sort of computer-mediated, cross-boundary crime, their first question is "can you demonstrate at least $25,000 worth of damages?"

Even getting harassment handled in a purely local case is challenging. Talk to any woman who has been stalked and I'm sure you'll here a catalog of ways police can be inadequate. But once it starts crossing state lines and requires a lot of computer forensics to run down, it gets orders of magnitude harder.

So wait, in the first paragraph you're saying that we should stand up for horrible people's rights, and in the second, you're saying he should go to jail because he's a horrible person. Which one is it?

Personally, my principles are perfectly clear: just because I disagree with someone's opinions or behaviors, that doesn't mean they should go to jail (actually, that shouldn't even be a debate!). As long as he has not physically harmed anybody, he should be a free man.

If we start jailing people for the psychological harm they cause, we would jail a lot of people (including most of the politicians). It's better if we (as the society) learn how to ignore the trolls, and give less fuck about what other people think/say/do.

Thankfully, that's mostly the problem in USA, not in Europe so much. We don't freak out every time someone curses on TV or shows her boobs. (On the other hand, we have other issues, e.g. xenophobia, gag orders, lack of free speech, ...)

> As long as he has not physically harmed anybody, he should be a free man.

This is an interesting theory of law, but I could go quite a way naming crimes that don't result in physical harm. Fraud, theft, harassment, threatening physical harm, rape, slander, kidnapping, slavery, forgery, theft of military plans, obstruction of justice, treason, drugging someone, criminal negligence, impersonating a surgeon, arson, blackmail, trafficking in stolen property, child abduction, and basically attempted anything, including attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, incitement to murder, and solicitation of murder.

Setting aside your novel legal theories, you apparently don't believe harassment, stalking, rape threats, and death threats cause real harm. But neither victims nor perpetrators agree with you: often the explicitly stated purpose is to cause harm.

The "just ignore the trolls" position is fine advice for a very specific sort of troll, the ones that are motivated by attention. But for the ones who are motivated by harm, it doesn't work. Indeed, it helps them operate by giving them cover.

Ignoring things rarely makes them go away and usually ends up causing cognitive dissonance. The primary issue with remote-based crimes is that they may cause the victim to become emotionally unstable because of the dualistic state forced upon them. Someone saying you are a bad person, and enough of their cronies saying it as well, can leave a lasting impression on the most resilient of us, even if we believe we're awesome inside.

I had a troll attack me on Twitter last week. No clue what his motive was, but the topic in question was Bitcoin related. He attempted to escalate the conversation by asking if I liked Obama. Instead of replying to this leading question, I took about 5 minutes to do a whois on his domain, find his name, find a few posts about him attacking others on a Bitcoin forum, and publicly DM'd him the links making the observation that he didn't appear to be a trustworthy source for levying blame. Never heard back from him.

We all have a choice on how we handle blamers. Becoming a blamer ourselves when dealing with them will only serve to increase the suffering related to the relationship. I encourage others to learn more about non-violet communications and learn to wield the power of the pen when it comes down to confronting and combatting these poor types of behaviors.

A portion of those do cause physical harm, or are virtually guaranteed to result in physical harm, if not inherently implying it. I think you meant to say that they might not leave any physical marks. That's quite different, though.

I understand that we are all programmers, and so we love to nitpick things. But the point of that list is not to say that none of them ever cause physical harm, but that in the cases where those things don't cause measurable physical harm, they are still often crimes that would merit punishment.

It's not about being "programmers" but rational human beings. You knew beforehand that you were making a generalization and were subsequently called out on it, so to speak. Your clarification here should have been in the parent comment to begin with.

> It's not about being "programmers" but rational human beings.

I mention programmers because of the forum. And no, programmers tend to nitpick more. We are trained to nitpick more, because that's part of how you get bulletproof code. And that's great when dealing with code. But it can be problematic in discussions because it easily leads to derailing off into little niggling points. Like this one.

> Your clarification here should have been in the parent comment to begin with.

No. No, no, no. One does not have to put every possible caveat into one's initial statement, especially when the context is established. That just makes for very long, boring things that nobody reads. I trust that most readers will approach things with smarts and goodwill. When there are multiple ways to read something, I trust that they will find the most useful one. If all that fails, I hope they will say, "Hey, did you really mean X?" Which in this case happened.

> I mention programmers because of the forum. And no, programmers tend to nitpick more.

There are users here besides programmers. Just because it's called "Hacker News" and run on YCombinator's site doesn't immediately mean it's exclusive.

Programmers may be trained to nit pick, but you could argue that about any technical profession. Engineers? Better make sure we accounted for every possible detail. Doctors? If we don't check each scenario the patient may worsen. Research scientists? Better be sure the study is conducted appropriately to the scientific method and that our data is statistically significant.

> One does not have to put every possible caveat into one's initial statement

Of course not, that would be absurd. However, you contradict yourself from the parent:

"This is an interesting theory of law, but I could go quite a way naming crimes that don't result in physical harm"

To the following child comment of:

"But the point of that list is not to say that none of them ever cause physical harm, but that in the cases where those things don't cause measurable physical harm"

I have no issue with the point you are making, but I do have issue that you say one thing but defend yourself with a position claiming it was the one you originally made. Which evidently was not the case due to the way you worded it. You may argue that you just thought someone would be smart enough to read it the way you liked, but that shouldn't be the case with arguments. To illustrate this, I have quoted another section of your comment below.

> I trust that they will find the most useful one. If all that fails, I hope they will say, "Hey, did you really mean X?" Which in this case happened.

Assumptions are bad! In any case a reader could just have easily not done so.


Rightio, avoiding addressing my actual points of discussion, seems you have nothing further to add except needless quarreling :)

If you would like to email me to discuss something in particular, feel free. But I will not participate in derailing this discussion with some side point that I consider irrelevant.

He got jailed for something in a way that trampled on his rights, he shouldn't have been jailed in that way, a judge agreed and set him free.

But the real damage he caused (rather than alerting AT&T in a dumb way that their security sucks) is that he tried very hard to ruin some people's lives, and that he succeeded to some extent in doing this. That he rejoiced in their pain and then tried very hard to pretend it wasn't him is despicable (and makes him a cowards besides being an asshole) and I wouldn't mind if someone directly harmed by him sued him for that and if he went to jail for that.

Does that clear it up for you?

Ignoring the trolls gets a little harder when they start inciting people to rape you, kill you or violate your personal integrity in other ways, see linked article for your perusal.

> If we start jailing people for the psychological harm they cause, we would jail a lot of people (including most of the politicians).

Perhaps we should, then.

Indeed, I really don't see how you can defend not being punished for seriously harming others be it physically or physiologically. Especially in this day and age, where mental problems are beginning to get the attention they deserve and it's not longer taboo to talk about them.

Edit: Stream of thought below; sorry if it's awkwardly worded/structured.

This is beginning to happen - harassment laws are a thing, and so are anti-bullying laws (the line between the two is different depending on jurisdiction I believe).

The question I have is around how far we can go with these laws before we start to impinge on valid civil rights concerns. As your sibling comment explains, it's pretty difficult to establish where the line is - too far and you start to impinge on legitimate comment.

Personally, I tend towards the free-speech angle, but it depends on context. For example, I feel that there's a difference between bullying IRL and on the internet, and between Twitter and Email.

Perhaps the difference is in the directness of the conversation and the avoidability. For example, workplace bullying laws (and policies) are necessary because the conversation is quite personal and there's great difficulty to avoiding it. Twitter is not necessarily personal, and avoiding those you don't like is pretty simple.

But what if your work is on Twitter? What if most of your personal life is there? It's obviously not reasonable to ask someone to abandon either of those things. Do you prosecute the ringleader? What if the first result for your name is a derogatory page on Encyclopaedia Dramatica?

It occurs to me that the answer might be found by a creative interpretation of defamation/libel laws.

Have you ever had a violent man -just released from prison after servig time for a violent offence- say

"I'd do a lot worse than rape you. I've just got out of prison and would happily do more time to see you berried [sic]. #10feetunder."

Caroline Criado Perez was not complaining about one or two people sending a few dozens of messages that were a bit mean. She was inundated with thousands of messages, from many people, threatening sexual violence and death. One man was sending 50 messages per hour, over about 12 hours. Another woman sent hundreds of messages. Perez's "crime"? She campaigned to have a woman on British banknotes after the Bank of England phased out Elizabeth Fry on the £5 - leaving no women on the banknotes.

> Twitter is not necessarily personal, and avoiding those you don't like is pretty simple.

No it isn't! That shows complete ignorance forthe scale of the problem. Women are not complainign about one or teo trolls sending one or two unpleasant messages. They are complaining about floods of credible death threats - the threat-maker knows where you live and work and what car you drive.

Edit: this turned into a really long comment, only the first part is an answer to the parent post. The second part is more of a personal philosophy of how minds work.

I'm far from an expert in law and/or it's interpretation. But I think that it's not too hard to see where the line is.

A single comment, or even a string of comments on a specific page does not constitute a "criminal" case of online harassment. Nor does a heated discussion in private over email or IM. However a continuous assault on your presence online, emails or comments on things you say or ED pages about you, do. That's just my opinion on these matters so if anyone disagrees maybe there is a case to be made for vague lines. However I think that in essence this is where everyone would draw the line.

More about human behavior in general, not specifically coupled to this thread/article. It's more like my personal philosophy of what human behavior should be like, as opposed to how it is:

It seems to me that it's in no way acceptable to voice your opinion in such a way that it is harmful to others, as there is simply no _real_ reason for it. I wonder sometimes why there's so much strife in all the circles of human society. If you really think about it, isn't it strange that we're only able to extend _real_ love to a very small circle of people around us (think family and friends)?.

I find it very difficult to articulate exactly how I think about human interactions with each other. In a very high-vantage overview I could try to summarize it like this, slowly building towards my idea beginning with how my brain seems to work:

The first idea is made up of two other ideas that I have: The 'human mind model' and 'compartmentalization'

First the mind model:

I've said this before on HM: The way my brain seems to work (and by extrapolation, maybe yours too) is that you have internal representations of the external world inside your head. When you see a plant, you don't see the _plant_, you could even say that you're not even _seeing_ anything. The photons that hit the receptors in your eyes somehow invoke the image of a plant inside your 'mind'. The things around you, the world that seems so coherent, is really only coherent inside your head. What you see, know, feel about a 'thing' is not what that thing really _is_. It's just the details and patterns your brain can parse and understand. I think there's information and knowledge about things that can't be expressed inside our brains. There's probably more information inside a spec of dust than can be encoded inside the brains of all the people on this earth.

Then compartmentalization:

To me it seems that the human mind deals with this problem by compartmentalizing everything you think about. If you're a mechanic you don't understand how an engine works. You have a very vague idea about the physics of combustion, and from there the idea of the combustion chamber in the cylinder 'emerges'. From your vague understanding of the interaction between a cylinder and an axle 'emerges' the idea of the engine. But this is not _the_ _engine_, just your idea of what an engine is. When you think of an engine you're not simultaneously thinking about combustion. Combustion is encapsulated in the idea of the cylinder. Just like the vague ideas and knowledge about 'interaction' are encapsulated in the total idea of an something that is solid and the principle of locality, which in turn are 'understood' by understanding space and time.

My takeaway from these two ideas is that there seems to be no end in what we could theoretically know and investigate. There's always something more and something deeper just like Douglas Hofstadter shows in the chapter of "Two-part Invention" in his book GEB.

My idea about human interaction follows from these two ideas. Like everything else, you don't interact with another human being. Instead you interact with the (flawed) _representation_ of that person in your head. And during the course of your life you build a 'generic template' of what a 'human' is. This is the representation you first begin interacting with when you meet a new person.

Unsurprisingly some people have a very bad 'default human' representation inside their mind-world, but really the fact alone that we need approach people through these mash-up jobs of a template seems bad enough. We all know how bad it is to be interacted with based on something that might not be true (super generic statement, meant to capture things like: judged because race, gender, etc, discrimination). But I can't seem to lose the idea that this is basically how we work, and that unless you put some real effort into it, you're predetermined to treat the most people you meet with a very unfitting generic template of 'humanness'. Because really getting to know a person the way our minds work takes time, and we simply don't seem to have that time to get to know everyone we meet.

I wonder if perhaps in the future we can change our brains to be more pleasant to each other by default, or more understanding.

Unfortunately I don't have time to respond to all of this, but you make some really good/interesting points.

On the original point, I kind of agree with you, but there are two edge cases that immediately come to mind. The first is where we see an individual (heated) comment thread where someone takes deep offense and/or fears for their life. There's probably a point in that situation that should constitute actual illegal harassment. The second is kind of the reverse, where we see someone 'follow' someone else around, but not deliberately. They may have continued arguments/disagreements over the same topic across the internet by virtue of the fact that they are both heavily invested in that topic. So yeah, vague lines somewhat moderated by intent and how vitriolic the discussions are.

Second, your "human mind model"/"internal representations" idea is well studied. I don't know how much you know about this, but generally this is grouped under the idea of "Mental Models", and the idea has been around for decades. I've studied them in the context of how students learn to code. They're crucial in programming because we have to form a whole lot of correct mental representations of an inherently abstract concept (in which, yes, we compartmentalise). It's an incredibly interesting area of work.

In terms of how they form the basis of human interaction, that's a little more complex (and well outside my 'expertise', if you can call it that), but intuitively I doubt you're far off.

I didn't think I would need to explain this...

The problem with that is that it's a very slippery slope. Everything you do, someone will complain, and be hurt. You're pro choice? You hurt Christians. You're pro life? You hurt women. You're pro immigration? You hurt domestic workers. You're against immigration? You're hurting foreigners living in oppressive countries. Most any binary choice will have some people pro and others against, and unfortunately everybody can pretend they're emotionally hurt, which effectively means you'll be jailing people whose opponents are the loudest.

It is not particularly slippery.

In theory, I could also have you arrested because your sleeve accidentally brushed mine in a crowded elevator. "Assault!", I cry, while I flop to the ground like a soccer player. But that's not a big problem because it turns out that legislators and prosecutors and judges and juries are not total idiots. The flopping thing has been attempted, seen as a problem, and generally dealt with.

It's also not even a slope. Blasphemy has been a crime in plenty of places, but we're moving away from that. Ditto crimes like insulting the king or harming the state. We move away from it because we get better at discerning actual harm from societally valuable dissenting speech.

I'd like to point out that you're trying to execute a rhetorical slight of hand that diverts attention away from the issue.

Harassment is real. This isn't about hurt feelings. This is about concerted attempts to ruin ppl's lives. Kathy Sierra's case for example included lies being spread about how she was an actual prostitute (not as an insult).

Should trolls be allowed to spread lies about other people?

Sure, Sierra legally probably was entitled to sue these trolls, but now it's on Kathy to expend her time, effort & resources trying to identify the trolls to sue them. Even if it's legal, harassment can also be used as a DoS against the victim, which is frankly, still bullshit.

Who's expense should it be then, in your opinion, to pursue (civil or criminal) legal action against the "troll"? AFAIK, if she wins, she can also demand payment of legal fees, so it's really just her time that's at stake.

1) you haven't answered the question. Is it okay for people to go around spreading lies about you?

2) As Cory Doctorow put it "Never underestimate the determination of a kid who is time rich and cash poor." demanding payment of legal fees from someone who has no money doesn't get you very far.

3) The question is whether there is a societal problem here that we should care about at the level of governance. I'd argue yes, but what the remedy should be is way more complicated a topic, and something that i think is probably only worth discussing in good faith. So if you don't think this is a problem, that should be addressed first.

I'd be interested to know how you would cope with the persistant vicious attacks from people like Weev, lasting many years.

And what you'd actually do in that situation, now what you'd think you'd do.

"Pretend to be emotionally hurt"

If we were just talking about mere offense and hurt feelings (which are still serious), I wouldn't be talking about jail time.

Weev's own words are probably the best way to expose him:


The fact that he goes to such lengths to sound reasonable and yet fails adds a very dark cast to the whole affair and appropriating the "politically correct" language of what he considers the enemy is a big part of Gamergate too.

He struggles to keep it up for long periods of time though, e.g. his reponse to a comment question, "do you support gamergate?":

"As much I can support a bunch of beta faggots crying about vidya.

I agree that feminist nutjobs are ruining the tech industry, of which I suppose the video game development industry is a subset. I'll agree that #GamerGate probably has moral superiority to a bunch of useless whores whining about shit that they profess to dislike yet still want to dominate and destroy anyways.

However, probably all of the /v/ and /gg/ faggots need to be more admirable and brutal in their tactics. This reasoned and polite dialogue that they are attempting with these degenerates and their histrionic shills is obviously not going to work. They need to start putting jackboots on the ground."

Reminds me of what Grigori Perelman (who quit math professionally) said about mathematicians: "Of course, there are many mathematicians who are more or less honest. But almost all of them are conformists. They are more or less honest, but they tolerate those who are not honest."

Sometimes you see programmers mulling over why someone would leave math over this. Unfortunately, it doesn't strike them to use their own profession's lack of ethics as an analogy: racism and sexism. Many more leave programming over this. (Or at least stop helping their fellow programmer, because they don't like them overall.)

I wonder though, has he actually turned a statistically significant number of people off?

Suppose field X had a crazy person so dedicated that he shot a US president in order to send a message to a woman working there (far more than Weev has done). Suppose that pervert letters to women in field X were completely expected and commonplace, and had been for many years. Would women flee from X?

Surprisingly, acting has no shortage of women. Pervs sending creepy letters is a topic of humor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmeh7EHpIE0

Journalism has similar issues. Still plenty of women. Seems like there must be something else at play.

[edit: replaced the word "anyone" with "a statistically significant number". This better expresses what I meant to say.]

That's survivor bias [0]. The point isn't whether there's still at least one woman in the field, or whether there's "plenty of women" (what does that even mean, anyway?). The point is whether anyone was stopped from entering the field at all.

The ones who are still in the field are the ones most resilient to the abuse. But you miss out on the contributions of all the people who left and did something else. How much farther along might we be in software engineering, or sculpture, or architecture, or <insert your favorite field here> -- had the toxic environment not been present in the first place?

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias

"plenty of women" (what does that even mean, anyway?).

Not really sure - I don't personally view a lack of $GROUP as a problem. If you feel similarly then disregard my entire post - it's premised on the idea that the reader does view a lack of women as a problem.

There are two claims here. One is that bad behavior exists. The other is that this bad behavior plays a significant causal role in keeping women out of tech.

The latter is what I'm questioning. Since large number of women seem to want to enter acting in spite of it having a far worse reputation (never heard of a "casting couch" in tech), it seems that bad behavior alone is a poor explanation for the lack of women.

Basically, you want a formal proof that "bad behavior plays a significant causal role in keeping women out of tech" is a valid hypothesis?

While scientifically interesting, I don't see the utillity for that, honestly. Do we really not agree that this has to stop? Does it really matter how many people harassment would keep out of the business? While skepticism has its place, harassment is not a technical, but a social problem, and I, for one, can bring up enough empathy to not need the scientific method to want to stop harassment.

As to the casting couch, I don't know how it's where you live, but here in Europe, while everyone in the acting and music community is familiar with the term, the "casting couch" exists merely as a myth, not an actual thing preventing women to begin working in acting. Besides, the acting/music community is far beyond the 1/10 (or whatever) gender split in the tech community, so even if someone would try to establish the casting couch as a de-facto gate-keeping procedure, female members of the in-group would call it out, ending this phenomenon much sooner than would be possible if the gender gap in those communities were to be as it is now in tech.

Even then, you wouldn't bring up statiscics how many women were entering the acting field by "passing" the "casting couch". So I'm confused and would like to know what your point really is.

No, I'd like to see evidence of some sort that the effect is significant before concluding it plays a significant role in keeping women out of tech.

If you want to tackle the problem of crazy people trolling public figures, be my guest. I don't see any reasonable steps that we could take that wouldn't be oppressive, but maybe you have more imagination than me. Just don't be surprised if you solve this problem but tech remains 25% women.

We're not discussing "crazy people trolling public figures" here. No one wants to do anything about your favourite sunday newspaper cartoonist and his daily Obama caricatures. We're not talking about your neighbour kid playing phone pranks on you.

What we're talking about here are death threats, sexual harassment, and calling your boss to get you fired. Deliberate, organized hate. Effective and planned activities to harm an individual who doesn't represent the in-group you're happening to be in.

I couldn't care less how the gender distribution remains after we've solved THAT issue. This is a showstopper bug that has to be solved BEFORE we even begin to debug the gender gap.

Anything else would be ridiculous: "Yeah, we're trying to find ways to get more women in tech, but since we don't have any scientific evidence to back up that the harassment, hate and verbal abuse against women in tech is a root cause of too few women in tech, we're still investigating and solving other possible causes"

If you were a woman (I suppose you aren't), would you want to work in an environment that is obviously this toxic?

If you were a woman (I suppose you aren't), would you want to work in an environment that is obviously this toxic?

I don't think tech is "toxic".

I've put as much of my money where my mouth is as my plumbing allows. I recently (read: past few months) did everything I could to help a girl I care about get into tech. I think she'll be happier in the field than in her various alternatives.

Well, that's because I assume you're a decent human being, and that's great - and I try to do the same (while not having experiences specifically with girls, I try to support women in tech where I can)

We both are fortunate to not see a problem in our specific peer groups, but strangely seem to disagree that the problem still exists for some other peer groups, and that we should do anything possible to stop that toxicity.

I'll add another reply to this, because this deserves its own discussion:

> I don't personally view a lack of $GROUP as a problem

Do you really not see how a group's problem-solving could be much richer if more $GROUPs are added to the mix? I find this astounding. A lack of $GROUP in a design team designing products for $GROUP leads to obvious overhead where the members have to account for every $GROUP's needs, while not having a representant of this very group, leading to blindness and bias - one popular example being crash test dummies which no one even thought to test for female body types, leading to greater injuries in car accidents for women (it's not difficult to find scientific articles on this, if that's new to you)

Another obvious problem is that by having $GROUP out of the mix, a member of $GROUP trying to enter the field faces doubt and skepticism ("scene whore"), just because of the fact that $GROUP is under-represented, perpetuating the situation.

Let's play devil's advocate here and say that a lack of $GROUP isn't a problem in itself - how would you solve the two aforementioned problems without increasing $GROUP's representation in a field?

In at least two jobs, not to mention my current consulting project, I've been the only member of my racial group. I can't think of a time my group membership ever helped or affected the work at all.

At most it was a source of fun within the office - e.g. convincing an officemate that I had two illegitimate children might have been more difficult if I were a member of the majority group.

I agree that diversity among crash test dummies, nurses and security theatre pat down people is important since specific job functions depend on it.

Another obvious problem is that by having $GROUP out of the mix, a member of $GROUP trying to enter the field faces doubt and scepticism ("scene whore"), just because of the fact that $GROUP is under-represented, perpetuating the situation.

Your entire process is broken if irrational concerns like this are playing a significant role. This is a bigger problem, and merely throwing in some more bias to compensate is papering over the problem. The solution is to vigorously make your process systematic and objective, removing human judgement as much as possible.

> In at least two jobs...

While anecdotal trivia of your work history didn't make you feel a lack in your work environment, you're actively downplaying and trying to make a non-issue of the lack that is viewed by your peers in the group. Why? What would you lose if more $GROUPs happened to work in your field?

> make your process systematic and objective

You mean the crash test dummy example? You can't automate the design of a new process, because the design of the automation in itself is the designing of a process which underlies human bias and blindness.

How exactly are you going to make the process of a female being called a "scene whore" on IRC as soon as the mob find out she's female make more "systematic and objective"? I think you mixed up the different examples here.

What would you lose if more $GROUPs happened to work in your field?

Nothing. I don't care about the background of the people I work with. And if other people do, I'd suggest they should focus on work instead of tribalism.

By "make your process systematic and objective", I'm referring to entry processes into tech (or whatever). E.g., judge a job candidate by their github + systematic tech interview instead of a resume + culture fit. Or hear out what a person on IRC has to say rather than spewing ad hominems.

> Or hear out what a person on IRC has to say rather than spewing ad hominems

Let me quote from the original article.

"When I was 14, I found IRC, and with it, a whole subculture of people that loved the same things that I loved. [...] But the negative attention that came from being a female on IRC far outweighed anything I got from the positive. This was really my only substantial interaction with humans though, so I didn’t know it was weird. I thought that this is just how it was. I didn’t know it was wrong to treat people that way. I saw it happening to other women on IRC, too. Even though I never consciously acknowledged it, women felt like second class citizens to me. Even though my only goal was to learn, it was always a battle being taken seriously. I was constantly being called things like “scene whore” and “clueless” [...]"

By the way, please read the article, and the second part.

You're missing the point. We're not so much worried about "the industry losing brain power" but that collectively, as a society, we treat other human beings that way.

No one should have to go through any of the things the OP writes about, and if it's happening in our community we have an obligation to find a way to stop it!

I'm a guy and I'll admit, before I read that post, I thought that this whole gamergate thing was two sides over reacting and generally just being stupid. I'll also say that I'm not in the whole subculture, I have RL friends and spend most of my social life there, I occasionally drop into hackernews to catch cool articles... I'm often baffled by this whole subculture people talk about.

This is what I'm responding to:

...it's amazing how many women they've tried to turn off tech...

This post is dedicated to all of the people that think...the gender disparity in tech is due simply to biology.

I can disagree with this factual claim without taking a position on online mobbing.

Since you seem to want me to take a position on mobbing: I don't like it much but I'm not sure how to prevent it without allowing the powerful to suppress speech they dislike.

In acting and journalism, the pervy letters come from people outside the community which, ironically, can strengthen the sense of community becase women have a common external threat which unites them. In tech, the letters come from within, often from "well-respected" members of the tech world. It's no wonder this has the opposite effect.

True - within the acting community there is primarily virtuous behavior. There is certainly no reputation for male gatekeepers within acting or music to perv on women trying to break into the field.


You specifically referred to "letters", which is what I was responding to. Obviously the "casting couch" phenomenon is not a good thing, but it's an entirely different phenomenon from one's own community doxxing them and continually sending them abusive hate mail and death threats until they don't feel safe in that community anymore.

Your sarcasm and tone are really unwarranted, and I'm surprised to see it from someone whose comments are usually informative, interesting and respectful.

You are right - my comment was a bit unkind. My general thesis is that bad behavior (of this sort) will not turn women away from a high status field and good behavior will not push women towards a low status field (e.g., mathematics, physics, computing to a lesser extent).

If you want to construct a theory making fine distinctions between different types of bad behavior, I'd love to hear that theory carefully laid out.

Well to be fair, there the harassment comes from industry outsiders. Here a lot of people in the mob and part of the abuse are people who could be considered in 'tech'. That hurts a lot more than if it's just weird schizophrenics sending letters to the people they see on the telly.

Further, we're not even really talking about pervy letters so much as dedicated campaigns to get people fired, etc.

It turns out he has actually turned someone off. Kathy Sierra is a fine example of that.

Also, you are smart enough to know that "acting has no shortage of women" is a dumb argument. The question of whether the distribution of women in field X is affected by historical events cannot be determined only by looking at the current distribution of women in field X.

Ok, so the real argument is that a few weevs + mysterious unspecified historical circumstances is necessary to cause a shortage of women?

Hmm, pretty hard to refute. There is a phrase to describe ideas like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong

You are correct that he's turned one person off. Next question: has he turned off a significant number?

The whole argument doesn't really make a lot of sense because weev isn't even in the tech industry. As far as I know he's never even had a real job/startup, let alone one in tech.

Actually that's a fair point. Similarly, the teenage gamers sending penis pics to Sarkeesian are also not in the gaming industry - that's probably most closely analogous to a crazed fanboy threatening Roger Ebert for saying he doesn't like Vin Diesel.

So the comparison to acting was more apt than I thought.

Idle speculation: tech attracts more than its fair share of introverts relative to those career choices, and for someone who needs just a little positive social interaction from time to time, the risk of extremely negative social interaction being the norm is too great.

This is definitely an issue. One of the people I mentor is a shy young woman. She will make an awesome developer.

A few weeks back I had to sit her down and have The Talk explaining that if she rose to prominence, she could well be the target of hideous attacks where guys would have no problem at all. Her eventual conclusion was to stay in the field, but it was definitely something she had to weigh.

I've talked with a number of women with established tech careers who have been questioning whether their work to get women into the field is even a good idea. Women drop out of the field at twice the rate men do.

This could be a third-rail question, but I wonder how that "dropout" rate compares to any arbitrary field when measured by the same yardsticks. Women are still the primary caregivers for 95% of infants born, and hence will always show up as more frequent "dropouts," so that statistic really needs to control for this factor somehow to be compelling.

Without that control, the anecdotes are more convincing than the statistic, so why bother with the statistic?


I don't see the advantage of trying to make a point with faulty or irrelevant evidence.

But I did "research it all by my big-boy self" and discovered that medicine, investment banking, architecture, the Marine Corps, law, executive-level management, and higher education faculty of all stripes have similar imbalance of attrition. Allied healthcare professions, however, have an imbalance the other way -- male nurses leave the profession at a much higher rate. Maybe they're being hounded out? /s

So thanks for taking the time to educate me; the imbalance is more likely one of "gendered work" and the issues with it, rather than trolls and misogyny specific to technology. I think the actual instances of abuse (of which there are many) are more compelling and require more attention and action than fluff statistics which, while concerning to feminism as a whole, likely have little to do with anything specific to technology.

I apologize for the tone. I had dealt with too many idiots making spurious, derailing objections to nitpicky points, and should have just shut my mouth for a while rather than assuming you were also derailing and taking irritation with them out on you. I'm sorry.

The point of using that statistic for me is that I don't want women dropping out at a higher rate then men. (That investment bankers have an equal level of sexist shitheel behavior is not comforting to me. I have worked in finance, and I don't think that's an acceptable model for tech.) Your offered explanation, that women are the primary caregiver of infants, is still part of structural sexism. Past a period that civilized countries cover with parental leave, both parents are equally capable of caring for children. (My brother was primary caregiver for my nephew, so I've seen it up close.)

I think your follow-up conclusion, that there's a single issue (gendered work vs misogyny), is a false framing. First, I don't think those are necessarily distinct. I see misogyny and abuse as part of the system of control that maintains gendered work. (As is male willingness to tolerate it. Note the all the male pearl-clutching that has taken place around codes of conduct.) It's similar to the way that police (and much of society) are more accepting of the rape of women who "dressed wrong" or were otherwise not following a very gendered code of sexuality.

Second, even if they were entirely distinct, there's no reason to think there's just one explanation here. We're talking about the entire professional lives of millions of people with cultural factors going back thousands of years: it's inevitably complicated. There are likely many causes, many of the overlapping and reinforcing. The male-female ratio is very different in tech, and historically has gotten worse compared to other white-collar professions. The explanation can be gendered work and trolls and misogyny and a bunch of other things.

Third, whatever the causes, the responses may be distinct. Having the rib platter every night for dinner may eventually cause a heart attack, but paramedics don't treat heart attacks with food. That actual mentors of women are seeing the instances of abuse and saying, "Whoa, maybe I shouldn't be encouraging women to get into the field," tells you that there's a relationship.

> I think the actual instances of abuse (of which there are many) are more compelling

If you think something is more compelling, that's great. You should run with it. As I said, other people right here in this thread find anecdotes worthless and demand stats. Not every sentence in every post has to be for you and you alone.

> while concerning to feminism as a whole

So this concerns me; it sounds like you're treating feminism as an other. Feminism is the movement that, for the last 150 years or so, has been trying to change the world from one where women are property to one where men and women are equal. Do you really not think people should be treated as equals based on things like gender, race, and sexual orientation? Because if you don't, a) well duh you don't like statistics demonstrating that women are not being treated equally, and b) I'm not sure why I should worry about your take on a particular statistic, because then we're back in the land of anonymous HN commenters nitpicking things that they were never going to accept anyhow as a means to derailing the discussion.

> I see misogyny and abuse as part of the system of control that maintains gendered work. (As is male willingness to tolerate it. Note the all the male pearl-clutching that has taken place around codes of conduct.) It's similar to the way that police (and much of society) are more accepting of the rape of women who "dressed wrong" or were otherwise not following a very gendered code of sexuality.

This is absolutely true, but it also indicates that tech merits no special treatment or concern in this regard. The attrition problem is actually systemic. (The harassment problem probably is tech-specific, at least the online-troll harassment rather than the paternalism and more "artful" in-person unwelcome advances more common in medicine or law.)

> So this concerns me; it sounds like you're treating feminism as an other.

That says much more about you than it says about me.

No, that there is a broad systemic problem doesn't mean that tech doesn't also have specific problems. And even if the problems were only endemic, it doesn't mean that we can't make a difference in tech by acting in tech.

See, for example, this HBR report:


Chapter 8, "Unnecessary Losses", in particular documents that there is a specific problem in high tech.

> That says much more about you than it says about me.

Sure, it says I've been participating in Hacker News discussions on sexism for the last few years, where there has been an overabundance of anonymous dudes who just happen to be vehemently opposed to anything that might reduce the advantages they have now.

Thanks for the link. There was one sidebar about "tech in finance" that was especially illuminating to me -- half my career was at a large financial institution, and it did reflect the more positive attributes with respect to women technologists and managers described in the paper.

Another factor that may warp my perception (or alternatively, maybe yours is warped if you're in Seattle or the Bay Area) is that my career has been entirely in the Midwest. There's not very much skew at all among tech workers from the culture at large, with respect to gender equality. If anything, a male tech worker's efforts and opinions skew toward equality, relative to the average worker's efforts and opinions.

So I just see sexism problems as society problems; maybe tech companies in some tech hubs are way behind the curve of the regions where they are located? Or perhaps we shipped the most toxic programmers among us to the coasts? :)

Interesting. I've worked in both the Midwest and in the Bay Area, but I've been too long in SF to compare fairly.

The stats are definitely worse than the general population here. Look at Google's diversity stats in their tech positions:


Although now that I look, that's no worse than the CS graduate numbers, which have been sliding for 30 years:


So maybe it's more a function of Google hiring young than being male-biased.

As to the culture, I think there is definitely a lot more humility in the midwest, which could help. I notice that people who think their evaluations are objective are more likely to display gender bias:


And yes, I think there's definitely some shipping of toxic people going on. I was here for Bubble 1.0; a lot of opportunistic people turned up during the boom and then left when the bust came. I would not mind another bubble popping to cool things off and send the greedy back to Wall Street.

I will say this, from the perspective of someone who has been around online communities for approaching 20 years and moderating in various online mediums for 10+ years - women get harassed online far too much in most communities. The extent some of the harassment goes is mind boggling.

One of my good friends had a beastiality erotica written about her as part of a campaign to defame her, where the people involved went as far as taking the ip addresses of the moderators and redirecting them to a harmless image whenever they attempted to load the actual image. The primary reason is because a group of people didn't like how she acted, including dating the founder for a short while of the site the community was based on.

Another member of the community was naively coaxed into sending someone else some pictures of her naked, which was then gathered up and used to slut shame her - she was not even 18, which made it distribution of child pornography.

I have had to ban countless harassers who would go on a public TF2 server I run and immediately try to harass the women who had the gall to use a microphone - I take a zero tolerance attitude towards this behavior, harassment of any kind is unacceptable. Whatever positive contributions some of these people might have, it certainly isn't worth accepting that sort of behavior as the norm, driving away good people who did nothing wrong.

Your individual actions are laudable. Is responsible moderation the only way to create welcoming communities, or are there ways to scale that?

I'm of the opinion that it always starts at the top - even silence can be the wrong action, especially with behavior that normally gets decried as unacceptable at large.

Moderators have such large power to influence the directions communities go - in a way, moderators are like unofficial judges. Bad decision making ruins everyone's quality of life who participates. This is in large part what makes places like 4chan and Reddit not great in my eyes. Some of the moderation policies here on HN are also highly suspect as well, and it is reflected in some of the comments you see here and in some other posts.

Communities have often proven bad stalwarts of proper decorum and respectfulness - you can see it quite often in forums or boards of various types and various subjects. 4chan, Reddit, HN, sports forums, video game forums, etc. More community run forums tend to devolve into chaos, where many otherwise good people who would normally stand up to abusive behavior end up leaving since they get drowned in a sea of mob rule. The only way I have been able to see this situation get stopped is by strong moderation, since they have special authority to make or break situations. However, moderation also has to be mindful of the community as well - some actions, even if right, can drive away people. Communities can mold around how a moderator behaves, so one has to be careful not to be too strong armed.

It's a delicate tightrope one has to walk as a moderator, and one managing moderators.

I'm tired of the fact that this debate has deteriorated into sides lead by extremists.

On the one side there is the gamergate crowd, who despite their constant denial are fundamentally sexist and misogynistic in pretty much every second sentence they utter. And the existence of these pricks serves as a cover for the ubiquitous but much more subtle sexism in the tech industry. Which in turn is being denied by the people smack dead in the middle of it (this thread to will see a lot that kind of denial).

On the other side however are the consummate activist, the ones the bigots refer to as "Social Justice Warriors" who see sexism in everything, stifle any debate with finger pointing, bullying and witch hunts (as recently demonstrated with "shirtgate"). These people are no better than the pricks they claim to be fighting. They don't just fight sexism and inequality, they want to bury anything they are uncomfortable with, including basic human desires and freedom of any kind of non-politically correct form of expression.

And from the tactics used and the collateral damage caused, I find it increasingly difficult to tell the two sides apart except for the the symbolism and rhetoric.

This is a false dilemma. Do you know people in real life who are "social justice warriors"? I know one, and only one. But I know many feminists. They tend to be very reasonable.

The "shirtgate" story got spread precisely because it created outrage. Outrage goes viral. But most feminists are not bullies.

Whereas the problem described above appears to be pervasive in tech. I've seen enough stories here on Hacker News that fit into the same trend. I have no reason to doubt these women.

You're contrasting a broad system of oppression against a (vocal) minority within the community that criticizes this system. It's not apples to apples.

Also, out of all the "leaders" on the anti-GG side, I can't think of a single one that could be described as a "social justice warrior". Neither Wu, Sarkeesian, nor anyone else has ever said that all men are bad, called people "shitlords", advocated censorship, or done anything else attributed to "SJWs". From my perspective, they have tried very hard to maintain civil and reasonable discourse, even in the face of this GG onslaught.

They only said all male gamers are bad, right? I guess that's OK then, at least they didn't say all men are bad. Who likes gamers anyway.

As a man, I have never felt threatened by anything these women have said. On the contrary, I enjoy watching Sarkeesian's videos, since they made me realize just how toxic and passé these tropes were, and how much more interesting our games could be if they went without them. Most recently, I played Valdis Story as Reina, and man, I felt like a badass. I wish more games let me play characters like that.

Perhaps you should examine your insecurities?

Agreed – my main reaction to Sarkeesian's videos was “Imagine all of the better plots we'd have if the writers weren't phoning it in with lazy tropes?”. It's really hard to see a downside here…

90% of everything is crap (except crap). Making a video about bad games does nothing to solve that. Maybe people are simply failing in making good games? That's life, not sexism.

Besides, there are already more good games available than any normal human being could play in a lifetime. That's why the "gamers are misogynist assholes" theory is insulting and just wrong. You could make the same kind of video about movies, or books, and claim moviegoers are misogynist and readers are misogynist. The only reason this game hater campaign sticks is because people were always suspicious of gamers to begin with. Hating on a large, inhomogeneous group can never be correct, it's the same mistake that makes racism and sexism work.

What would help in making more good games: creating good games. Criticizing the efforts of makers is just lame, especially if you are not interested in their products to begin with.

I'm not a fan of many of the "tropes" in video games myself. I feel insulted if a game tries to win me over with naked girls and violence. However, if some other people enjoy it, why should it bother me? Those games are not produced with tax payer money, they are produced with private investments. Why not let the free market sort it out?

I don't understand how people like you fail to see the inconsistency of your own argumentation: you are gamers yourself, yet you accept the accusation of gamers being misogynist. I assume you don't think of yourself as misogynist. So it should be obvious to you that the Sarkeezian-accusations are bullshit.

> who see sexism in everything

So recently I've been listening to Derek Jacobi read a newer translation of The Iliad, set 3000 years ago. (My secret motivation: to get ready to hear Ian McKellan's reading of The Odessy. Gandalf reading The Odessy!) The basic story is that in among a who-stole-my-woman war, one dude (Agamemnon) steals another dude's war-prize slave woman. A foundational story of western civilization, and it all turns on women being property.

That was basically the story up into modern times. In the US, women gradually became able to own property in the 19th century; previously, upon marriage it all became the husband's property. In the 20th century, women finally got the vote [1] and started being allowed into traditionally male professions. It wasn't until 1993 that all 50 US states passed laws against men raping their wives. [2] Within living memory, it was considered reasonable to discuss when it was ok to beat women to control them. [3]

From the history, I think we can agree that sexism was in everything, and so endemic that everybody at the time would deny that it was even a problem. We have slowly been trying to fix that over the last 150 years or so. And we still have the problem that since I started programming, women have been both discouraged from entering tech and driven out of it. [4] There is still substantial gender bias hiring all over the place, even in the sciences. [5]

So the only question for a given thing today is whether we have finally managed to 100% rid it of sexism. I think it is always a legitimate question. Even if the answer turns out to be "Yay, X is entirely free of sexism," I think it is entirely reasonable for people traumatized by sexism to be initially suspicious that particular rare islands of non-sexism really are perfect.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_women%27s_suffrage

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marital_rape

[3] http://www.blameitonthevoices.com/2012/07/from-archives-shou...

[3] http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/10/21/357629765/when-wom...

[4] http://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474.full

If by "sexism" you mean women and men being treated differently, of course it exists - because women and men are different. Women have intrinsic value, so wars are being fought over them (not only in the Iliad, but also in "primitive societies").

Talking about the past is also not so straightforward. The world was very different, for example I wouldn't be surprised if many jobs simply didn't make sense for women. Like if they required a lot of physical labor (which presumably was most jobs). So women being excluded from such jobs might not have been active discrimination but simply common sense (as in "not worth considering"). For the other subjects there also were or might have been reasons that simply don't exist anymore today. For example it seems likely that marriage and women taking care of the household was about the only way to survive. Today our survival is much easier than it used to be, because there are many more amenities and things provided for.

> Women have intrinsic value

That, in a word, is bullshit. I will accept "all humans have intrinsic value" as one way of stating a basic human-rights assumption. But otherwise, value is always rooted in whom the object is valuable to. This is just a fancy way of saying "men value women as property". Even you could tell that sounds wrong, so you erase the maleness of the view and pretend it's some sort of objective thing.

> So women being excluded from such jobs might not have been active discrimination

This is so distinct from recorded historical reality that you are just embarrassing yourself. Please go take a women's studies class. MIT has a bunch: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/womens-and-gender-studies/

Half-assed speculation is occasionally useful in the absence of fact (although only occasionally). But you just making shit up as reasons why we can ignore the long history of the systemic oppression of women? That says very little about the reality, and a lot about what you'd like to be true.

"That, in a word, is bullshit. I will accept "all humans have intrinsic value" as one way of stating a basic human-rights assumption. But otherwise, value is always rooted in whom the object is valuable to."

No - take a class in evolution theory, MIT has a bunch.

About the second part: of course it is a gross oversimplification, but I still think you can not simply judge the past by today's standards.

How many of those classes have you taken yourself? Any precise data points to state, or just a vague feeling of injustice?

I am actually interested in learning more about the reasons. I tried to find information on why women were not allowed to study at universities, but couldn't find any. But what if there are some? For example maybe risk of death was too high for women (childbirth and all), so it was too expensive to let them study? Reasons like that wouldn't apply in today's society - healthcare and survival during pregnancy is way better, and there is much more surplus money. But you can not transfer our situation to the past. I think I read about some parts of Africa recently that girls can't study there because it is too expensive.

Of course, assuming the risk was a reason (I am just guessing), it was not fair. But I wouldn't call it evil discrimination, either.

>No - take a class in evolution theory, MIT has a bunch.

Ah, the fallacious appeal to nature, a classic logical error. What is natural tells us nothing about what is right. Violence, for example, is quite natural, but it is wrong. Sickness and death are natural, but a large part of human effort is spent fighting that.

> I still think you can not simply judge the past by today's standards.

I'm not. I'm pointing out that the problems of today are rooted in a three fucking thousand year history. That people who supposedly "see sexism in everything" today have reasonable grounds to suspect that that systemic gender discrimination didn't just disappear yesterday afternoon. And by implication, that people who continually demand proof of sexism over and over are ignorant, often willfully, of the historical context.

> Any precise data points to state, or just a vague feeling of injustice?

It is not my job to spoon-feed you. It is not my job to cure your ignorance. It's your job. All I'm saying is that your ignorance is so obvious, so immense, that it means your half-assed speculation (in which you persist) is not worth discussing. It is, in Pauli's memorable phrase, not even wrong.

"What is natural tells us nothing about what is right."

I wasn't talking about what was right, just about what is driving human behavior. You are free to believe women are not more valuable than men. But if you don't pursue wombs enough, your genes and your attitude will not make it into the next generation. That is not a tragedy, but it results in men valuing wombs being the majority.

Do you like sex? Would you rather have sex with a human or with a goat? Would you say that is merely a cultural issue, and people could be retrained to prefer sex with goats? Would you say those preferences are merely a cultural issue?

"All I'm saying is that your ignorance is so obvious"

Well you haven't convinced me of your authority. You didn't even provide a single example. Don't forget that men's lives were different in the past, too. Sure you can point out hardship for women, but without comparing to the hardships of men it is meaningless.

For one thing, it seems to me a lot of effort was spent in the past to protect women (shield them from war and hard labor). Sure there were downsides, too, but it doesn't seem obvious that society just despised women.

> You are free to believe women are not more valuable than men. But if you don't pursue wombs enough, your genes and your attitude will not make it into the next generation. That is not a tragedy, but it results in men valuing wombs being the majority.

Again, this is more naturalistic fallacy nonsense. The objective facts about our evolutionary history do not in any way justify behaviors for conscious individuals. Evolutionarily, I am driven to feed myself when hungry, but if I steal somebody's food, that's still a crime. Evolutionarily I have a predisposition to violence, but if I hurt or kill somebody, that's still wrong. The evolutionary history provides historical reasons for the systemic oppression of women, but it does not justify it. It is still wrong, and it should still be fought in the same way that theft, assault, and murder are wrong.

> Well you haven't convinced me of your authority.

So? That's entitled bullshit. I don't have to explain things to you until you're convinced. If you want to be taken seriously enough to get an explanation, you have to convince others that you're worth their time.

"The evolutionary history provides historical reasons for the systemic oppression of women, but it does not justify it."

You didn't even read what I wrote. I never justified the systemic oppression of women, nor argued that it happens because of evolution. What I said is that biologically women are more valuable than men. Most of the differences between the sexes follow from that.

"you have to convince others that you're worth their time"

Well maybe you are not worth my time. Good bye - remain happy in your ignorance (which you probably will, it's the great upside of ignorance).

You are using "biologically more valuable" to justify societal differences. That is an example of the naturalistic fallacy.

I don't justify anything. But biology is driving our behavior, so it is important to understand it. And it changes incentives. Therefore if you assume men and women should be the same, you will arrive at the wrong conclusions.

By the way differences don't imply injustice. One simple example why equality is not the correct goal: I don't think fathers and mothers should have the same right to their children. I say that as a father - of course I wish it were different and I never ever want to give up my children. But seeing what women go through to bear children, it seems ridiculous to demand that men should have the same right to them. At least in the first years, maybe over time the claims can change. But suppose a couple splits up 6 months after the birth of their child. I don't think they should have equal rights to the child.

However, another consequence is that mothers should have more rights to stay at home and spend time with their children than fathers. And from that suddenly you see "inequality" appear which you will interpret as injustice if you forget about biology.

Once again, you are using biology to morally justify societal differences. It is always a fallacy. (In particular, it's known as a fallacious appeal to nature or sometimes as the naturalistic fallacy. There's a large literature on the topic if you'd like to look.) I agree that it is important to understand the biological realities. But they tell us nothing about what is right, or what rights people should have.

I get why the fallacy looks appealing to you from this particular angle, but it just isn't tenable as an approach to ethics. For example, it was used extensively to justify slavery: black people were seen as naturally inferior, so slavery was not just ok but morally necessary. (See, for example, the Cornerstone Speech [1].)

Part of the way using it consistently goes wrong is that people confuse what is normal with what is natural. You're not used to seeing men behave the same way around small children as women, so you wave alternatives away as "ridiculous" and treat your particular socially constructed experience as natural. This is exactly the same way slavery was justified. Having only seen one thing work, it was self-evidently ridiculous to southern slaveholders that anything else could possibly work. Normal was taken as natural. The differences between black and white people therefore couldn't possibly be unjust. And anybody opposed to them was opposed to nature, God, and all else right and true.

If you really want to make an argument for women spending more time with young babies, then you'll have to do it on the grounds of practicality, not rights. Fathers and mothers have equal rights to their children, but courts, who act in the interests of children as well, look at the whole picture. As a practical matter, breast-feeding infants generally need to spend a lot of time around their moms, so even given equal rights, courts can reasonably favor keeping moms and infants together.

But in arguing from practicalities, you have to recognize how contingent that is on society and technology. For example, the notion of wet nurses has fallen by the wayside. But if that were still popular, judges might more easily let a father have custody of an infant if he could hire a wet nurse to take care of the practical issues. If tomorrow some technical genius makes a machine that produces synthetic breast milk that's just as good, then again the practicalities might shift. And even with the existing practicalities, they get weighed as part of an overall picture. Courts today weigh biological issues like nursing against other practical factors, so women don't always get custody, even of infants.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornerstone_Speech

The nature of the internet leads to this kind of shitfight. You get the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory [1], mixed with the potential for false flags, and no real way to verify that anyone is who they say they are (in the vast majority of cases/without a lot of work), or believe what they say they believe.

Actually, if you combine it with [1], Gabriel Morton's "Man Covered in Shit" [2] theory covers it pretty well.

[1] http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19 [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O57lehnWUFI

Here's a hint. One side is threatening "the greatest school shooting in American history"

I'll try again: apparently there were millions of tweets with the hashtag #gamergate and also millions with #notyourshield (according to this anylsis which came up via Google - https://medium.com/@cainejw/an-actual-statistical-analysis-o... )

So I think we can safely assume that there are thousands of people actively identifying with the #gamergate side.

Do you seriously believe that thousands of people endorse the notion of school shootings?

Sorry, that is just ridiculous and you should get your head checked.

By one side you mean one person who affiliates with that chosen side, trying to say that all the SJW's or GamerGate people support murdering children is ridiculous.

It was actually woman and feminists specifically they were vowing to kill, not schoolchildren. It's "School" as in "college".

Yeah, too bad we don't know which one.


Care to back that statement up? Any proof, any proof at all?

Randi's post does not have any proof linking #GamerGate, an amorphous hashtag to threats, or even casually proving that "GamerGate supporters" are the ones carrying out the threats. It's just an opinion.

It'd be pretty easy going back in one's twitter timeline to make that determination, would it not?

It's not a proof, it's an article written on the subject which makes the same assumptions as you do.

Ah, the New York Times. That rag which just makes things up and can never be trusted for anything. Suuuuuure. If you're not willing to accept that as evidence, then I doubt you'll accept anything.

i don't think you know what evidence is.

no matter how deeply you or I may respect the author, he doesn't seem to have any evidence for your claim, either.

Uh people threatening Sarkeezian are not #GamerGate. That's what #GamerGate is all about - it's silly to generalize from some anonymous psychopaths to millions of gamers.

??? Certainly not

I stopped hanging around on IRC because of people always being weird to women, it's just depressing to watch. Maybe I should have stayed and made a stand...

I was aware of sexism in tech but it had never caused me problems. And then one day I enter some Hackintosh IRC channel and I get mad at them calling me 'he', and then they figure out I'm trans... And I eventually leave, because now they're being really sexual and creepy.

It's really horrible. You start to rationalise it or try to ignore it. You become insensitive to it. You don't want to leave because they're helpful and talk about interesting stuff and all, but they're also nasty to you.

This is more or less a practical thing. I think you would agree that there are more males in IRC than females. Which personal pronoun would you choose by default to address someone without explicitly knowing their gender? Would you always ask them beforehand? That might get weird. Would you use some weird Internet pronoun like "xe"?

Statistically speaking, going "he" is not a bad first guess. I'm not saying it's helping, though.

The 'he' seems not to be the most important part here. (Though, as the GP points out in another comment, the singular 'they' is useful.) The particularly nasty part is this:

> And I eventually leave, because now they're being really sexual and creepy.

Mistaking someone's gender is a relatively small lapse (though I understand it gets painfully annoying when it happens all the time) but the subsequent creepiness is just actively toxic.

The pronoun I use to address people is "you", which is conveniently ungendered. If I need to refer to somebody whose gender I don't know, I'll generally just say their name. If I really need to use a pronoun for a person of undetermined gender, I say "they". Shakespeare used singular they, so I think it should be good enough for me.

This is just as practical as saying "he". We say "he" for reasons entirely different than practicality. We do it because dominant groups tend to treat dominant characteristics as "normal", as the default.

Indeed, it's practicality that drives me to use the singular they, especially when I'm talking about tech. Right now there's an enormous deficit of people with technical knowledge and experience. To fix that, I want to get everybody possible involved. If I were to help drive half of humanity away over such a small thing as me wanting to be disrespectfully lazy about pronouns, I'd feel I was being very unpractical.

Um, I'd just use singular they (which has been in use in English for literally centuries), or rework the sentence to avoid the pronoun.

I think it's fine to mention as "he" by mistake, but if she says "Don't mention me as 'he', I'm a 'she'.", people should say "oh sorry" and not "Are you a fucking trans?".

I rarely see people being weird to women on IRC, but I guess it's as IRL: there are good places and bad places.

Just go on there with a female name. It's horrible. A significant minority are manchildren, they turn into apes at the slightest hint of femaleness.

It may depend a lot on the IRC network and channel. IRC these days seems to be confined to open-source software discussion, so the communities are more helpful.

This was on freenode, on the channel for a development tool. I'm not going to name names because the people involved weren't actually members of the project IIRC, just regulars on the channel.

It wasn't nasty or anything, just... weird. It gave me an overpowering urge to uninstall irssi and go outside.

This is a good post, I want to make that clear because that's about all I'll say about the rest of it beyond the second part being marred by a flaw that deeply bugged me:

Idle speculation about 4chan causing the Pilchuck shooting was uncalled for, and as somebody who lives fairly close to the events very insensitive. It's one thing to talk about Elliot Rogers where it was made very clear that his motivations were pertinent, but turning whatever shooting tragedy into a political billiard ball is one of those things that we should stop doing because it's not improving discourse.

> When a woman publicly tells her story and a man tells her that her experiences are invalid

That's what happened with Zoe Quinn, except gender reversed. Her ex told the story of how she abused him, and it got censored and slammed everywhere.

Edit: I'm a bit freaked out by the downvotes. What's wrong with my comment?

I have not downvoted you, but the zoe post wasn't slammed because its author's experiences were considered invalid but because it is a textbook example of slut-shaming. And now you are saying that the target of this was an abuser.

And it's a stretch to say thezoepost was censored. It's still available at its original location.

> a textbook example of slut-shaming

Accusing someone of cheating on you is slut-shaming?

Accusing someone of cheating on you by posting their personal information and sordid details of the affair on the internet and trying to get as many people to read it as possible? Yep, I'd call that slut-shaming.

That's a very generous description of the zoe post.

If Eron wanted to only accuse Zoe of cheating on him, he could have done that and left it there.

He accused her of being a shitty human being - lying, cheating, denying the above, deceiving the author to have unprotected sex with him (should she be locked up in an embassy?), having double standards/no principles... Still, I can see no slut shaming in the text.

Yes, it can be.

She didn't abuse him, unless you think every man who's cheated on a woman is also abusive.

That's not all she did, IMO thezoepost is an account of textbook emotional abuse.

To the extent it documents any abuse, it does so in a totally inappropriate and unfair way (obviously to the non-Zoe actors, but also to Zoe). What Zoe has received in return since that post was written is essentially internet mob "justice", on a level that would have sent weaker people past the edge of the abyss. Whatever point Gjoni might have had (and I don't particularly subscribe to the "it's emotional abuse" point of view, as you might guess), it has now been totally lost amongst the volume of obvious abuse of pretty much every type directed at Zoe.

While Zoe is getting death threats, Eron is being smeared by every big site covering the scandal and getting death threats, also the pro-Zoe folks doxxed his parents.

I haven't heard of this side of the story, mind sharing some references to it? That would be really awful

It's all over the internet at this point, any references would be biased one way or another. You can look at http://thezoepost.wordpress.com/ for the original account that started that whole mess, but for the rest you're pretty much on your own. For example here's a Reddit thread where an admin gives a non-apology for censorship and says it was by mistake: http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/2e7y4h/this_is_a_thi...

I'm not entyrelly sure but I believe that the event mentioned was the genesis for the GamerGate thing.

Just search gamergate to get an idea of the mess.

It goes against the preferred political outlook of downmodders. It could have been something as boring as a government statistic and it would have been downvoted just the same.


People published her info online, she received phone calls to her house, they called her employer and got her fired, her emails were hacked and posted online.

Just recently she tweeted that she was called into a meeting at her current job because trolls upset with the ggautoblocker list had been calling her current employer to try and get her fired.

But it's all just words on the internet, right?

She got harassed IRL, that exceeds 'not liking the text on webpages' by a considerable margin.

Domestic abuse can be emotional abuse, which certainly carries over to text communications. Especially if they include death threats.

Not all abuse is physical. Verbal abuse is just as serious, if not moreso. The famous phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is really backwards. In truth, words can hurt far more than sticks and stones ever can.

I disagree. 1. It's her experience, and she can equate those two experiences if she feels they should be. 2. Her experience with 'reading words on the internet' is indicative of a much wider culture of harassment against women. This cultural issue, because it contributes to the dearth of women in tech, is a societal issue in the same way that domestic abuse is.

It's a metaphor.

As an outsider reading this, I feel like there is a missing side of the story. Did those people really do all those things for no reason? What prompted them to harass her? Edit: I'm not saying there are ever circumstances where what they did is warranted. The story just seems to be so one dimensionally against her, couldn't help but feel something was missing.

It would be better to ask if there are any circumstances under which those things were reasonable.

How does that actually help? Who would even think that those things are reasonable? It makes much more sense to try to understand why it happened and how it can be prevented.

Well, what's missing is that if you're a dude, it might be hard to believe that men can behave this way towards women in everyday life, even in the 21st century. Problem is, this stuff is mostly hidden from us. Remember that 10-minute street harassment video from a few weeks ago? Turns out, it's fairly representative.

Do some reading in this thread and see if it puts things into perspective: http://www.metafilter.com/85667/Hi-Whatcha-reading#2777344

After realizing that, yes, this stuff happens to women all the time, it's not hard to extrapolate this behavior to the internet, where people are bigger targets and harassers are even more anonymous.

> What prompted them to harass her?

She was a woman on the internet. That's all the reason they need.

I guess I'll have to take your word for it. Still seems odd that they doxx you and try to get you fired if you're a woman. Maybe you're right and people are that crazy on the Internet.

Seek out the stories of prominent women on the Internet. This stuff happens over and over and over. The first time it seems odd. But the 20th? Nope.

Another way for it not to seem odd: Go read the book "Why Does He Do That?" by Lundy Bancroft. [1] (If anybody would like a copy, just contact me via email and I will send you your choice of paper or Kindle versions. I've given 12 away so far.) It's a book by a fellow who spent 15 years as a counselor in a program for abusive men. If you read that, then it's pretty clear that there are a lot of men out there who want to abuse women.

My take on a lot of this behavior is that the Internet, in connecting everybody to everybody, has connected a lot of would-be abusers to lots of women. Previously, they would have been sad and alone in their basements; they wouldn't have anybody to harass. But now they can mob up and attack women jointly.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Why-Does-He-That-Controlling/dp/042519...

Careful, that question is forbidden. You will probably be accused of "victim shaming" in a minute.

Sadly most people seem not interested in the psychological or sociological motivation of those abusers. There is always something that triggers abuse (no, I am not saying that it must be something the victim did). I wish we would investigate into that and help people stay clear of the psychopaths that way.

Kathy Sierra suggests that the fact that she was listened to by many people was what triggered the hatred for her:


"I now believe the most dangerous time for a woman with online visibility is the point at which others are seen to be listening, “following”, “liking”, “favoriting”, retweeting. In other words, the point at which her readers have (in the troll’s mind) “drunk the Koolaid”. Apparently, that just can’t be allowed."

Read the whole thing, it's heartbreaking and eyeopening. It also involves some of the same people that attacked the author of the current post.

So whatever these two woman did to "incite" this harassment was shared by at least two kinda-succesful woman in tech.

Bill Burr made a sketch about this kind of reasoning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlvvCYUDHrQ

It's very hard not to sympathize with this as most of our generation who went to tech are "misfits". As a minoroty that's even harder.

I don't understand why randy would focus on making tools for blocking people on Twitter though - writing about it is more effective and less 'ragey'.

It would also be nice if she adds how to help.

>I don't understand why randy would focus on making tools for blocking people on Twitter though...

Usenet had killfiles, email has spam filters, Facebook has unfollow...no reason not to focus on something similar for Twitter.

>It would also be nice if she adds how to help

There is a second part to the post: Still Here, Part 2: Call to Arms[1]

[1] http://randi.io/wp/archives/91

I told myself that I wouldn't comment on any of this, but goddamnit. MY NAME IS RANDI. IT IS LITERALLY PART OF THE URL.

Sorry :) An honest DYAC mistake.

> I don't understand why randy would focus on making tools for blocking people on Twitter though

She received over 20k mentions in one month, mostly insults and attacks. Trying to actually talk to people while having to filter through all that noise is impossible.

There's lots of lit on how to help: http://juliepagano.com/blog/2014/05/10/so-you-want-to-be-an-...

Also just look up Model View Culture's writers: https://modelviewculture.com/ (Also, they recently published a handy guide on startups: https://model-view-culture.myshopify.com/products/your-start...)

Outrage is a perfectly appropriate response to an outrageous situation. I find her rage to be remarkably measured, considering all the bullshit she has been put through.

To maybe save some from reading through this rambling who like to stay away from the topic: It does not seem to be about women in tech generally but seems to boil down to the work of a few socio-/psychopaths caught in a feedback loop.

You sound like you're probably part of the problem.

Please don't do that; a hit and run labeling does nothing to improve the situation.

If you think the grandparent poster is part of the problem, at least explain your reasoning. Without that, there's no chance of them correcting their behavior or, at the very least, seeing things from a new perspective.

Not saying I do or do not agree with your assessment; just hoping for more constructive discourse and positive criticism on HN going forward.

The world does not owe misogynists infinite amounts of patient one-on-one education. Expensive labor. The linked article is more than sufficient. Public, contemptuous dismissal is the correct response.

(Or how much money are you willing to pay to fund this education you expect others to provide?)

Are you calling me a misogynist? How on earth did you get to that incredible insult from my initial post?

This kind of abrasive behaviour is exactly why discussing these issues seems impossible. This is why people like me get sick and tired of it. Please educate! Please give me objective education, I crave it!

Your post seeks to minimise the issue (it's not about tech in general/just a few bad apples) something which is directly addressed in Part II of the original post: http://randi.io/wp/archives/91

I think the reasoning basically goes that trying to minimise the problem of misogyny is a symptom of misogyny.

I am sorry but I do not see that directly addressed at all. I have now read it 3 times. There are selected examples, personal experiences, the Gamergate shitstorm which is beyond the point of sanity by a long shot and a lot of rambling. And that lead to my conclusion of being not something one has to read if one is interested in making the situation for women in tech better.

This is the part I meant:

> What’s even more troubling than the abuse, however, is that so many people are oblivious to these issues. Even after Kathy was brave enough to post her personal story, people think she’s a statistical abnormality. Since I’ve started talking more openly about my experiences, a staggering number of men that I know and respect have spoken to me privately, apologizing because they didn’t know this was happening. I’ve related those conversations to other women, and they were shocked. They didn’t understand how men could not see these problems, but it’s because so many of us are being so goddamn quiet.

But on re-read, I accept that it was too strong of me to say 'directly'.

Anyway, the "it's only a few bad apples" response is common enough to have been addressed many times by essays on sexism in tech. It's akin to the "not all men" narrative.

Thanks! Still reads as mostly anecdotes to me. I know enough women who are not subject to such abuse to know that it is a tiny minority that is. Or maybe they are not parts of communities where this is more normal? (Obligatory disclaimer: Not victim blaming for being in certain communities.)

I wish oblivious (apparently) responses like mine would actually get valid feedback/criticism instead of being swept under the rug on an instant. I have learned nothing today except to never ever participate in a discussion of these issues. Instead I felt a lot of anger and hatred against the

I really wish people would concentrate on finding out what motivates people to harass and abuse instead of directing their anger at those who question their methodics and tactics.

>I know enough women who are not subject to such abuse to know that it is a tiny minority that is.

Are these women really not subject to abuse? Is it possible that they just haven't felt like they could talk about it? Could it be that they don't realize that some of the things they've experienced constitute as abnormal behavior? It took me a long time to figure that one out. It wouldn't be unreasonable to think that others would have the same problem.

It could very well be but I am very close to some of them and am confident that they are neither oblivious nor feeling like they have to hide anything. They are well respected in their respective communities.

Your anecdotes do not support your stated conclusion that "it is a tiny minority"; at best, even if your data is actually accurate, you've gathered evidence to support the conclusion that there exist people who have not been harassed or abused. Likewise, there is more than enough evidence to support the conclusion that there exist people who have been, and more than enough evidence to infer that those aren't just "isolated incidents" (http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Isolated_incident).

> Still reads as mostly anecdotes to me. I know enough women who are not subject to such abuse to know that it is a tiny minority that is.

That mindset, right there, is part of the problem, and is a large part of why you're getting downvoted.

> I wish oblivious (apparently) responses like mine would actually get valid feedback/criticism

Here you go:

1) You do not know anywhere close to a statistical sample.

2) You are unlikely to directly observe most abuse.

3) If and when you observe such abuse, you are unlikely to recognize all of it as such. (The most blatant of it, sure, that's obvious. The worst of it, though, is often more subtle and pervasive.)

4) People you know are not necessarily inclined to share their experiences with you. That holds doubly true if you are (or are perceived as being) in a position of authority.

See http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/I_asked_a_woman_and_she_s... for a variation on the theme; also see http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Lived_experience . If you're interested in more such issues, I'd recommend reading around on that wiki, particularly about silencing/derailing/etc tactics.

> I really wish people would concentrate on finding out what motivates people to harass and abuse

I understand this mindset; it'd be nice to root-cause and fix problems rater than having to work around them. However, sadly, often the motivation is "she's successful" or "people are listening to her". (And if you're looking for the underlying motivation below that, that makes people so broken that they'd harass others: who knows, but that seems unlikely to lead anywhere near a solution. There's no excuse for such harassment.)

> I have learned nothing today except to never ever participate in a discussion of these issues.

That was my initial reaction when I first started hearing about these issues. In any area where you don't have experience, it helps to listen first, and learn more, before jumping in. I spent a long time lurking on LKML before I started hacking on Linux. I spent a long time reading about FOSS licenses before I started dealing with licensing issues.

The reaction you're getting is a lot like the reaction you'd get if, in response to an intricate kernel patch, you asked questions (and made some incorrect assumptions) about basic C programming concepts. In general, the comments or discussion surrounding someone's experiences with harassment are not a good place to ask intro-level questions. There are a few places for such questions, as well as many resources where you can read about these issues. The Geek Feminism wiki is a great place to start.

My mindset is that of a scientist I guess. I don't trust people's own accounts, especially in such a heated debate. I want numbers, research and objectivity.

> However, sadly, often the motivation is "she's successful" or "people are listening to her".

Sources please!

The wikis you linked seems highly loaded and written with agenda. The writing is purely self-serving(?), without criticism of itself. I am sure whoever wrote that feels it is the right way, but I don't see much value in that myself.

The FLOSSPOLS survey linked seems very interesting and objective though, thank you!

> I want numbers, research and objectivity.

And I want a pony. So what?

You have taken a discussion about her experience and made it about what you want. Why do you think what you want should be so important? (My guess: because as a dude you're used to people acting as if your opinions are important. Privilege stunts growth.)

And you have done it in a way that discourages exactly the sort of detail that you claim to want. Go read some stories from women reporting rape. A lot of them get treated with the same "skepticism". A skepticism that is never applied to, say, theft reports. [1] And you know what they learn? To never, ever, ever report a rape. Because they correctly read the tactical, situation skepticism for what it is. Go spend a few hours reading the #beenrapedneverreported stories if you want to get that.

> My mindset is that of a scientist I guess.

This kills me. An actual social scientist would know something about gathering data safely and effectively. An actual scientist would shut their yawp hole and spend 5-10 years getting a PhD before considering themselves eminently qualified to comment. You are as much a scientist as somebody who stomps through a delicate ecosystem, stepping on plover eggs while shouting SHOW ME THE ECOLOGICAL PROBLEM! I DON'T SEE ONE!

[1] http://dealwithet.tumblr.com/post/45830969585/man-hello-id-l...

[2] E.g.: http://elitedaily.com/women/raped-but-never-reported-stories...

> My mindset is that of a scientist I guess. I don't trust people's own accounts, especially in such a heated debate. I want numbers, research and objectivity.

See http://www.derailingfordummies.com/ , and in particular http://www.derailingfordummies.com/derail-using-education/ and http://www.derailingfordummies.com/derail-using-intellectual... . (Note that that site is education combined with intentional tongue-in-cheek parody.)

Your anecdotes do not trump others anecdotes. And when you see enough of them, you start to draw conclusions about a pattern; the plural of "anecdote" sometimes is "evidence".

When you say you don't trust people's own accounts about their own experiences, you are in effect calling them a liar. Think carefully before doing so.

>> However, sadly, often the motivation is "she's successful" or "people are listening to her".

> Sources please!

For the original source, read "Trouble at the Kool-Aid Point".

I'd also suggest reading and considering the other specific points I reiterated in my response to you, rather than ignoring them.

> The wikis you linked seems highly loaded and written with agenda. The writing is purely self-serving(?), without criticism of itself. I am sure whoever wrote that feels it is the right way, but I don't see much value in that myself.

It is entirely unsurprising that the set of people who have done the most research and put the most effort into understanding these issues are those who are affected by them. If you dismiss any such sources, you will find yourself quite lacking in material to read, other than material that confirms your own pre-existing conclusions. All sources are biased; read them all and think for yourself rather than exclusively seeking those that claim lack of bias.

If you're looking exclusively for peer-reviewed scientific papers, there are no shortage of those as well. (You might also consider whether you're applying the same standards to evidence that supports your existing opinions as to evidence that contradicts your existing opinions.) Most of them are far less approachable and newcomer-friendly; you'd be hard-pressed to find a better introduction to this entire family of interrelated issues than geekfeminism.wikia.com . If you need to first confirm for yourself that such incidents exist, go read http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Timeline_of_incidents .

While these are selected examples and personal experiences, they are indicative of a greater cultural norm that normalizes the harassment of women. By seeing what one woman has gone through, we can be more cognizant of what other women are going through, which is important for making the situation for women in tech better.

The author's determination to speak out has led to thousands of people harassing her -- it follows that many women will not speak out about the abuse they receive online. We need to be aware that this abuse can and does happen in order to improve the situation for women in tech.

The world doesn't owe anybody anything, but to write people off as hopeless is incompatible with at least my personal philosophy, which holds that no one is irredeemable. I prefer to live in a world where people, including myself, can learn from (and be forgiven for) their mistakes.

Uh... Please elaborate?

> It does not seem to be about women in tech generally but seems to boil down to the work of a few socio-/psychopaths caught in a feedback loop.

I think it's more than just a few and I think she's trying to broaden the scope by showing (fairly clearly) that outside of the BSD community these issues are pervasive.

Hard for me to judge if that's true or not but I'll take her word for it.

It is my honest belief that a few dedicated abusers can easily attract and steer an army of trolls. They feed on the affirmation of comments, upvote points, whatever. The worst ones enjoy hearing about the misery of their victims. Just look at how easily online groups can turn pro/contra certain issues.

A good friend of mine is biologically male, identifies as female though. He was public about that online and also due to other circumstances attracted a dedicated abuser. That abuser is so perfidious and persistent, that he (we assume) still manages to rally communities against my friend several years after it started.

A bit reluctant to bring this up since strictly speaking it's not quite on-topic, but you don't have an email address or other method of contact listed, and it's something I don't really want to ignore.

I don't want to presume too much here, but my question is, if your friend identifies as female, and you're aware that she does, why do you refer to her as "he"? From a lot of your comments I get the impression that you're not very aware of feminist issues in general, but even without that knowledge, doesn't it seem disrespectful towards your friend to call her that? If she identifies as a woman, why call her something she's not? If who we are is in our minds, why should the body take precedence?

I could say a lot worse, certainly, since I'm a trans woman myself. I know firsthand what it feels like to have people deny your identity day after day (really shitty, to clarify). Even so, I'm trying to at least be understanding here, rather than give a knee-jerk reaction.

You had been target of completely sexist discrimination and many of the perpetrators should be on Jail, but Annita Sarkeesian and a few like her are a completely different subject: http://youtu.be/WuRSaLZidWI

We always look for people with the same motivations and the same struggle than us so I blame no one who relates to her.

Anita Sarkeesian isn't a completely different. She is a woman in tech (more specifically, video games) who is harassed for speaking out about sexism in video games. Perhaps some of her essays have inaccuracies, but none of this justifies the horrible abuse she gets on a constant basis.

Also, Thunderf00t's videos on her seem to focus on single details as if her entire argument would fall down, when it wouldn't, and by repeating something enough times until it seems to be true. I'm hardly the best person to talk about these, though.

Totally agree. Personally I think Anita provides quite a fresh look at the portrayal of women in video games and other pop culture, and it's interesting to hear her perspective even if one disagrees with it.

It just seems thoroughly unhinged to mount a campaign of sexual harassment and death threats in response, rather than countering with a reasoned line of argument, or simply just shrugging it off.

I haven't found Anita's videos particularly compelling as unique analysis, but that's become an utterly tertiary issue to the completely insane crap which has happened to her, and started happening, at the mere idea that she would make them.

No, you don't understand, the crap that has "happened to her" is how she is making a living out of it, unlike the poster of this article and anyone actually suffering from it.

No, this is not about some inaccuracies, she many times has declared to have some very extreme perceptions:

"Not a coincidence it’s always men and boys committing mass shootings. The pattern is connected to ideas of toxic masculinity in our culture."

Source: http://wehuntedthemammoth.com/2014/10/26/on-friday-anita-sar...

Is that really an extreme statement?

Yes it is. Psychotic and mental illness are very serious issues, and trivializing them as caused by "masculinity" is as sick as it gets.

Is your claim that there is zero correlation between violence and culturally constructed notions of masculinity? Or that there is no relationship between guns and cultural notions of masculinity?

Because both of those things seem obviously wrong to me. For example, I love "guy movies" with guns and explosions and macho nonsense. But it is enormously gendered. Take the movie Salt, where Angelina Jolie played the sort of role typically reserved for guys. There was enormous discussion about having a woman in a role like that. The script was substantially reworked because a woman took the title role. Neither would have happened if this stuff weren't heavily gendered.

Also, psychosis is very serious, but are you really asserting that all mass shooters were experiencing psychotic breaks at the time of their actions? I've only seen a couple of psychotic breaks up close, but those poor people hardly seemed capable of planning the purchase of a happy meal, let alone making and and carrying out a carefully crafted, months-long plan to murder a bunch of people.

>Is your claim that there is zero correlation between violence and culturally constructed notions of masculinity?

No, my claim is that is phisically impossible to distinguish between society pressure and testosterone combined with a chemical imbalance.

When I was a teenager I have had desire to end it all in the same way that many shooters did, you know why? Is not about "masculinity", is about hatred for everything that breaths, for not fitting into society and the complete lack of social skills that I supposed I was too stupid to learn or that society didn't teach me. There is a lot going on in our body when you are going through puberty, testosterone, loneliness, discomfort, confusion, extreme self-consciousness, a lot of stuff besides "masculinity". So yeah, Annita and people should STFU about things they don't start to understand.

As a person who was also once a teenager with testosterone, puberty, loneliness, etc, I disagree on a few points.

First, I disagree that the loneliness, etc, doesn't have a lot to do with our culture's construction of masculinity. There's a lot of stuff that boys are "supposed" to be that plays into that. We're supposed to be tough, macho, and unfeeling, so we don't get much support for expressing or managing those emotions. We're supposed to "win", to be dominant, to be high status, with no help if we don't. We're not supposed to talk about the details of social interaction the way that girls do, so it's always more mysterious. We are discouraged from building social and emotional support networks. And there's a whole host more. It has taken me literally decades to start seeing how poisonous so much of that early gender programming was for me.

Second, I disagree that having been through it once makes you such an authority that you get to tell everybody else to shut up. Fishes undeniably understand water. But so do chemistry professors and hydrodynamicists. There are different ways to understand something.

Third, I disagree Anita and David Futurelle and I "don't start to understand". I think I understand my past as well as you understand yours. I'm sure David feels the same way about his past. Both Futurelle and I have also spent years examining the mechanisms of gender culture. And for us, Anita's point is accurate. Which is unsurprising to me, because she literally has a degree in this stuff. Her Master's thesis was on gender representations in SF&F TV.

Now that doesn't mean she (or anybody) is automatically right. But she does have standing to talk.

Why do you claim that this is trivialising mental illness? The potential influence of culture on mental health is surely a topic of some pertinence and interest.

As a general rule, men are much more reluctant to get help with mental illnesses, largely as a direct result of toxic masculinity.

How do you conclude is thanks to "toxic masculinity"? And not something else? BTW the slipery slope in such term is revolting, otherwise can you give me an example of common toxic femininity?

Toxic femininity isn't really a thing, but the other side of the same coin would be societal pressures on women's appearances, and pressures to not be a slut/prude/bitch.

Also, I think you need to explain what slippery slope you mean.

The idea of toxic masculinity is that it's a set of negative behaviors among men that are reinforced by other men. "Toxic Femininity", if it existed, would have to be a set of behaviors reinforced by other women, so the "disposable male" idea wouldn't really qualify as part of it.

Also, the idea of the disposable male is a bit misleading, because it really only applies to less privileged men, barring exceptions like "women and children first" on a sinking ship, which really is another example of toxic masculinity anyway.

Yeah, everything is just the fault of males, they are the only ones reinforcing gender stereotypes. Yes, of course, you are so right.

This is a discussion about toxic masculinity, which is a set of social constructs enforced by men upon men. Of course women are part of reinforcing gender stereotypes, it's just a separate issue.

The idea is that if there weren't social pressures enforcing gender roles, then lots of negative social aspects of masculinity could go away, and men wouldn't be shunned as elementary school teachers, or discouraged from seeking help for emotional issues. I don't understand why anyone would be against that, and I also don't understand why you're resorting to such argumentative replies.

Gamers for a long time wanted people to treat games as art, as high class, as legitimate forms of media and entertainment, like how they treat books, tv shows and films. But people deconstruct and criticise films and books, and when people started doing that with games, the gamers got aggressive and violent.

"The gamers" got aggressive and violent? You're tarring a large and varied group of people based on the actions of a vocal few.

Could you elaborate on what you mean by a completely different subject?

One possible reading of what you are saying is that the harassment of Anita and others with feminist perspectives is justified, but perhaps that is not quite what you intended.

Unlike the article writer who is suffering by this harassment, Anita actually feeds herself from it. Such notoriety helped her get some of his goals, including being invited to the Colbert report and other high-profile shows.

This is not a FreeBSD contributor we are talking about here, this is someone who actually makes a living out of being a professional victim, this is the only thing she does for a living.

The way I see it, this appalling deluge of harassment she receives will stop only if she becomes completely silent and stops expressing her opinions and perspectives to the world. As she actually makes her living out of speaking engagements and video production (as evidenced, for example, by her lucrative Kickstarter campaign), this is clearly an undesirable 'solution' to such harassment, meaning that such abuse will remain a pernicious side effect of her feminist critiques.

As this harassment seems to be a permanent fixture, she really has only two choices. She can either completely ignore it and not acknowledge it in any way whatsoever. Or she can incorporate it into her commentary and reflect on it in the context of her wider work. Given that she evaluates from a feminist perspective, the sexually demeaning and misogynist elements of her harassment are certainly relevant and on topic.

So I quite disagree with your characterisation of her as a "professional victim". It seems more that she is simply making the best of a bad situation, extracting some advantage from prejudice.

So, let's set aside from the people vehemently disagreeing with what is basically someone reading TvTropes and applying feminist theory to it without conceptualizing the terms she uses, like patriarchy.

For example, is this harassment? https://medium.com/@cainejw/dishonesty-feminist-frequency-pa...

What exactly is the harassment, and is it widespread? A school shooting threat that is being handled by the FBI? That the FBI advises not to publicize, yet Sarkeesian did so against the recommendation of the FBI? Inviting copycat harassment to materialize. As a result, she's doing the rounds on cable TV channels.

I believe the fundamental point some are making here is disingenuous, that critique and disagreement is enabling harassment to flourish. That critique and disagreement is "protecting", serves to cover, the harassers.

> For example, is this harassment? https://medium.com/@cainejw/dishonesty-feminist-frequency-pa...

Of course not. Are you being serious? It's clearly an intellectual piece addressing her work. As the author states right at the beginning: "This is not meant to attack McIntosh or Sarkeesian as people. It is meant to criticize them as researchers and academics."

> What exactly is the harassment?

Violent, sexual threats against her and her family (e.g. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BwEefh5IcAAG_ob.jpg:large), widespread dissemination of drawings depicting her being raped, DDOSing of her website - in general, socially maladjusted behaviour intended to threaten, alarm and distress. Indeed, the very same types of conduct that the author of the linked article (Randi) is describing against herself; hence the comparison.

"It's clearly an intellectual piece addressing her work."

I'm going to guess you've not read it. It's a (long, rambling) diatribe from someone who claims an ever growing list of academic credentials when challenged on basic stats errors (e.g. misunderstanding how averages work).

Oh and it's only part ! of a series. It is, in its very existance a bit frightening to me personally and it's not whipping up a hate mob with tales of my devious deceptions.

You're right, I just skimmed it to get an overall impression of the tone, didn't spend any time appraising its worth as a critique.

So what, if anything, is proposed that we do about anonymous trolls? Just malign all discussion and criticism of a subject or person? How will that enable us to eliminate the harassers out of a community?

I was asking what exactly the harassment was because Randi provided no in-depth explanation of what exactly the harassment the people she named received, and then just blamed it on GamerGate. I'm familiar with some of the harassment of Anita, but not all. Didn't mean to belittle the claims of harassment. Blanket generalizations without proof, however, I'm fine with pointing out as dishonest. None of that harassment directed towards Anita is GamerGate.

From the article:

>I’m in the gaming industry now, so this was doubly relevant to my interests. I was naive enough to think that if I provided enough context about my background to counter the main tactics that the GamerGate supporters were using against Anita, Zoe, and Brianna, that they might listen.

> So what, if anything, is proposed that we do about anonymous trolls? Just malign all discussion and criticism of a subject or person? How will that enable us to eliminate the harassers out of a community?

It's like you're still reciting your lines verbatim even though we skipped a page. Did you see that the post you're responding to explicitly acknowledged that criticism isn't harassment? Harassment is harassment, and that's what we're talking about, and your concern trolling isn't toxic so much as incoherent.

Sorry but I'm not really clear on what you are saying here.

I mean, it seems quite straightforward and obvious to me how to identify abusive, vitriolic harassment, and how to recognise legitimate criticism of someone's viewpoints. Perhaps I am misreading your point, but you seem to be arbitrarily conflating the two?

The 'harassment' of Anita is the result of a few trolls. Gamergate even identified one troll, a Brazilian videogame 'journalist.' Death threats were sent to Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn by the GNAA.




The problem lies in equating a twitter hashtag with several trolls. GNAA gets off on infuriating all parties.

Where is the proof that these trolls are GamerGate supporters? Randi links to none.

I am really so very tired of seeing people say this.

I'm going to explain this once, and I'm only doing this here because despite my reservations over the community, I know that HN is generally a place where people are intelligent enough to realize that words mean things, and those meanings don't usually change because we have feelings.

Harassment does not just mean threats. Harassment is not limited to words that contain threats of rape, death, violence, or some other kind of ruin. Harassment means "aggressive pressure or intimidation." Look it up. It's in the dictionary.

I have a directory that contains over 70k json files. Each file contains a tweet that mentions my name. These files were generated over the past 6 weeks. Not every mention is negative, nor is every mention about GamerGate. However, a significant number are people from GamerGate that are tweeting negative things at me.

Every morning, I would wake up, make coffee, and plop down in front of my computer to see what I had missed. This has been my routine for as long as I can remember. Despite the long-term harassment I've faced, it was not until GamerGate that I would wake up to a seemingly unending stream of hate in my twitter mentions. It's not one person. It's never one person when GamerGate is involved. It's the whole goddamn mob. This is why I wrote ggautoblocker - because there is no block button for a mob.

What precisely would you call it when hundreds or even thousands of people direct so much of their time and energy to repeatedly contacting a single person who has never talked to them before with messages of hate, insults, attacks on credibility, and threats of getting that person fired? I would call that harassment. I might even argue that that mob harassment is worse than more serious threats coming from a single person.

I don't need to prove anything to you. I don't need to tie anything to GamerGate. That's your hang up, not mine. If I thought you weren't so biased that you would warp data to meet your own ends, I might give you the full list of tweet IDs (distributing the json itself would be against ToS) in the name science. You care far more about your cause than you do harassment in tech, and that's telling. You came here to argue a hashtag that only matters to the people that use it. This is bigger than you.

>you nutjob

Great start.

>However, a significant number are people from GamerGate that are tweeting negative things at me.

Name and shame the harassers. Disagreement, however, is not harassment. If I enter into a very, very large public conversation on a forum, is it harassment if people reply to me specifically because they take issue with my characterizations?

>It's never one person when GamerGate is involved.

That's because it's an amorphous hashtag that anyone can take up.

>I don't need to tie anything to GamerGate.

You did. In your blog post. You blamed the harassment of Anita, Zoe and Quinn on GamerGate. It's not mincing words. You said that GamerGate supporters were the ones harassing Anita, Wu, and Zoe. Fact of matter.

It's not my cause. I'm just tired of dishonesty.

Stopped playing videogames when I was 18, thanks, and don't particularly give a fuck about consumer recommendation media being fundamentally underhanded. I'll stop short of appealing to relative privation: rest assured that this isn't "my cause."

Harassment in tech is an important issue. How do we deal with anonymous trolls without burning down the forest?

I'll take it on good faith that this is not "your cause", and just point out that this comment and others you've made amounts to a far-reaching denial of 'freebsdgirl's lived experience, to say nothing of other women you aren't directly replying to. Your message is clear and unnuanced: "I don't believe you."

So, two questions: First, just, why? Do you have any concrete reason to try to second-guess these specific women's first-hand experiences?

Second, do you really think that's a good default response to someone who comes to us from a place of vunerability? (Is this the "forest" you're so keen to protect?)

You are completely missing the entire point to nitpick over a hashtag. Just mentally replace "GamerGate supporters" with "#GamerGate supporters" or even "#GamerGate hashtag users" if you feel that the former is an unfair miscategorisation. The issue here is a disgraceful onslaught of harassment by an abusive mob, not their nuanced opinions on ethical breaches in games journalism.

>Great start.

Yeah, I edited. I'm exhausted and probably shouldn't be overly insulting when I don't even know you. You're kind of just another person piling onto a tired point, though.

>Disagreement, however, is not harassment.

I would never claim that disagreement is harassment. Until recently, I had never even used the word harassment to describe what has happened to me, and believe me, I've been in plenty of disagreements.

>>I don't need to tie anything to GamerGate.

>You did. In your blog post.

Yes, I did. But I don't need to keep proving it.

Do you understand what happens when a woman claims to be harassed by GamerGate? She's asked for proof by a minimum of 30 people, none of which know how to look at replies to a tweet to see that they are just piling on. None of them look for context to see if proof was already linked. Dead serious. This is what happens.

In the event that proof is supplied, there's only a few results I've ever witnessed.

- Gaters claim that the screenshot was faked. They grab mspaint and draw red lines that somehow supposedly disprove things through timestamps and broken logic that I can't even begin to follow.

- Gaters claim the troll is not associated with GamerGate and has never been a part of GamerGate, so it's not their problem. I am not sure who the gatekeeper of GamerGate is, but as far as I know, it's a hashtag, a hate group, and possibly a cult. The organization behind GamerGate is a poor approximation of the late stages of Occupy Wall Street, where every mentally unstable person with a cause was showing up and shoving pamphlets in tourists' faces. There is no barrier to entry. If someone claims to be a supporter of GamerGate, and they use the hashtag, I'm going to believe them.

- Gaters say "OK, reporting him!" and that's the end of the story for them. That's the most they want to do. Never mind that reporting someone for harassment has to be done by the person being harassed. The form for reporting harassment won't even let you fill it out if you state that the harassment was directed at someone else, last I checked.

- Gaters link a 90 minute YouTube video of some dude on his couch explaining why Anita Sarkeesian is the devil. Or a YouTube video of thunderf00t.

I started out by supplying proof early on, until I saw this pattern emerging. Now, I've taken a stand. I refuse to provide any more proof, because my story is otherwise verifiable, and I don't have a reputation for crying "harassment!" when that's not the case. Quite the opposite. It took me this long to go public with what happened.

GamerGate is small beans, and I would have nothing to gain by lying about being harassed by them. For one, they are anonymous. I have actual names of people that have harassed me over the years. Why wouldn't I go after them instead? Could it be because GamerGate isn't the issue, but the culture is? Maybe GamerGate is just a symptom of a larger problem. Maybe that's the point I was getting at all along. Subtext.

>Yes, I did. But I don't need to keep proving it.

It's a bit different when we're talking about a blog post versus twitter conversations, no? You made the assertion that GamerGate supporters were responsible for all of that harassment.

>Gaters say "OK, reporting him!" and that's the end of the story for them. That's the most they want to do. Never mind that reporting someone for harassment has to be done by the person being harassed.

ToS violations should cover that, right? Maybe that's what they're talking about.

I'm sorry that you got harassed by ED, weev, and a bunch of other no-lifes. I'm not sure how it's supposed to be fundamentally dealt with, however. Therein lies the problem.

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