Why the ____ community hates feminists

The panel yesterday was fun, and it got a friendly reception. There are a lot of women here, on the stage and attending in general, with the expected result that it doesn’t feel like a frat house. There is at least one “get out of my clubhouse” type here though, and I cleverly managed to sit next to him at dinner last night. That was unpleasant.

Alice Marwick in Wired says that it’s a growing thing, which is sad to hear.

Rather than attempting to discern whether Richards was in the right or the wrong, I’ve been thinking about why the issue blew up and what it reveals. Because it’s far from the first time this kind of thing has happened. The Richards incident and resulting backlash not only reveals the lack of diversity and presence of misogyny in tech culture, but the myth of meritocracy and the growing belief in “misandry” online.

Regardless of the nuances of the incident, the fact remains that Richards faced a gargantuan backlash that included death threats, rape threats, a flood of racist and sexually violent speech, a DDOS attack on her employer — and a photoshopped picture of a naked, bound, decapitated woman. The use of mob justice to punish women who advocate feminist ideals is nothing new, but why does this happen so regularly when women criticize the tech industry? Just stating that the tech industry has a sexism problem — something that’s supported by reams of scholarly evidence — riles up the trolls.

One reason for this is the growing popularity of “Men’s Rights Activism” (MRA) — groups of men who refer to feminism as “misandry” and advocate vociferously that men face more discrimination than women. Its popularity is growing and is especially active online on sites such as Hacker News and Reddit, where much of the public controversy around Donglegate has played out in the comments. Even sites like GitHub, where the PyCon conference code of conduct was posted, are not immune.

Nothing is immune. But…here we still are. And we have better allies.

Marwick argues that the myth of meritocracy is central to the problem.

Yet the myth of equality persists, since the technology industry considers itself a meritocracy where the “good” ones — for example, talented engineers and programmers — will rise to the top regardless of nationality, background, race, or gender. When considering the dismal numbers of women (as well as African-American and Latino men) in tech, the meritocratic presumption is that these minorities aren’t good at or interested in technology; otherwise, there would be more of them.

If we admit there are structural barriers to entry, and a culture that actively discourages and women and men of color from participating, then it logically follows that technology is not a meritocracy. And this threatens many dearly held beliefs of technology workers: It suggests those at the top aren’t there because they’re the best, but because of hard work and privilege. It suggests that the enormous wealth generated by tech startups and founders isn’t justified by their superior intelligence. It requires change from a culture in which male normativity is, well, the norm — to a more inclusive one where penis jokes and booth babes are no longer acceptable (and the mere suggestion to discard them isn’t met with a hailstorm of protest).

In short, it requires geeks to re-examine their own revenge fantasies of being outsiders who now rule the world and admit that they might, themselves, be actively excluding others.

Their reward for doing so? More and better allies, friends, comrades.


Quel matin

Katherine Stewart gave an amazing (and terrifying) talk this morning about the good news clubs and how they take over everything and trick small children into thinking they’re part of School.

I don’t have time to find it on this tragically slow notebook right now but I remember doing a long post on Stewart’s very long article on this subject when it came out a few years ago. If anybody would like to find it and post the link for us, that would be helpful. On the old B&W I think.

Hector Avalos did an amazing talk on religion and violence. Matt Dillahunty ditto on skepticism and atheism. Abby Hafer ditto on intelligent design and why it isn’t.


Brilliant – the #AAcon13 hashtag is being invaded by harassers. A lot. Good thinking! Way to demonstrate to a whole bunch of new people just what we’ve been talking about! Way to get a big chunk of “the broader community” to think of you and your project to demonize us as a bunch of assholes with an asshole project.



Dave is pissed. A judge ruled in the World Trade Center cross case today – Dave was brandishing the actual ruling, with a big red blob visible on it (I’m assuming a seal). The judge dismissed it – the cross is just “secular.”

That’s such a crock of shit, just as it is with the ten commandments slab here at the state house – it’s highly conspicuous, there’s nothing secular apparent, and at the top it naturally begins with god god god god god. Worship god, have no other god, blah blah blah.  Secular?

This is why we need American Atheists.

Morning session

I went to sleep very late last night and woke up very early so I was perilously close to falling asleep but then Anthony Grayling came in and sat next to me and Dave did his talk so I WOKE RIGHT UP.

It was a great talk. Dave’s a rouser, and a rouser is what we need, which is what he said. American Atheists is doing people like the Harvard Humanists a favor because now there are the bad atheists over here and the good atheists over here and what does that mean?

That there are good atheists!

You should say it in a shout, the way Dave does.

I was telling Anthony how Dave can stand up to O’Reilly, which hardly anybody is good at doing.

Near the end Dave said and also we need to work together, we need unity, so if you’re someone who is taking potshots at other atheists just because it’s fun, cut it out.


And another thing


My god the bird life here. I don’t know what the birds are – they’re not the birds you see in Seattle, so I don’t know. There’s a ubiquitous one that’s black with a long tail and a very loud voice. After I crossed the Congress Avenue bridge and Cesar Chavez Street I approached a cluster of oak trees on the corner and my god the din – it was an absolutely deafening racket of those black birds, whatever they are, shouting. You never hear bird noise like that in Seattle – let alone in downtown Seattle! It was very impressive and foreign and cool.

In the Capitol grounds there were a lot of mourning doves making that call. Also very nice.

What I saw

1. On the Capitol grounds (which are very nice, very broad and seweeping and parklike) a memorial thing to brave…Confederate soldiers. Signed by Jefferson Davis.

Oh right. This is the Confederacy.

2. Also on the Capitol grounds, on the north side, a big granite slab with…the ten commandments.

Oh Dave, I thought. Actually I said, because there was no one around; it was very early. Oh Dave; got one for ya.

3. On Congress Avenue, a statue of a ragey woman firing a cannon.

She made me giggle.