Another week, another kerfuffle over the tech industry’s ongoing hostility towards women.
Overview: This one began when Pax Dickinson, the Chief Technical Officer for Business Insider was fired after his disgusting twitter feed, rife with classist, racist, sexist, and homophobic sentiments was re-discovered. Example:
In The Passion Of The Christ 2, Jesus gets raped by a pack of niggers. It’s his own fault for dressing like a whore though.
Other examples are not as egregious in language choice, but are equally insensitive: aw, you can’t feed your family on minimum wage? well who told you to start a fucking family when your skills are only worth minimum wage?
Or, the classic anti-feminist haterade: feminism in tech remains the champion topic for my block list. my finger is getting tired.
It would’ve been just another brogramming asshole on Twitter, worthy of an eyeroll and nothing more, except that he happened to be extremely high up in a organization that writes, on a regular basis, about the ongoing effort to support the inclusion of women in tech.
ANYWAY. He was interviewed this week in NYMag and his interview is basically a list of politcally incorrect, poorly thought-out no-nos diguised as general apathy for what other people think of him. So, let’s take this piece by piece:
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“I regret some of the tweets. Some of them — they were taken out of context.” There is no context, bro. The fact that you tweeted horrendous shit that coinincided with the release of Passion of the Christ doesn’t make it any less horrendous. More importantly, this is classic White Dude Privilege Syndrome, as articulated so well by David Roberts at Grist. One of the most subtle-but-powerful forms of privilege is the assumption that the way you intend yourself to be interpreted is the way you will be interpreted. Imagine if a black teenager was like, “Yo, I didn’t mean to look threatening to you! You took my hoodie out of context!” As Roberts put it, “We privileged dudes have trouble accepting that language is a social phenomenon, a social act.” Read closely, Pax.
“But I still — I still think it was funny, so I don’t apologize that much. It was a funny joke, sorry!” Ohhhh, as long as you think it’s funny to make rape jokes (“Who has more dedication, ambition, and drive? Kobe only raped one girl, Lebron raped an entire city. +1 for Lebron”) and belittle the struggle of LGBTQ folks to live with the openness you enjoy (“at least if we end up getting into a nuclear standoff with Russia over gay rights we’ll know this universe is just a satirical simulation”) then it’s all good. We didn’t know you were trying to be funny! If we had known that…. JK, it’s still fucking offensive. You know, “you can’t take a joke” is the oldest excuse in the book. If you can’t tell a joke without shitting on black people, women, poor people, and gays, then damn, son, you can’t tell a joke.
“I think the tech world is just kind of — it doesn’t have a woman problem. Women in tech are great. There’s just not that many of them because tech is just a kind of thing that a lot of women aren’t that interested in, I think.” Yeah…. wow. This is just about the least nuanced view of a very complicated issue that I’ve seen in a while. There are a lot of reasons that there aren’t as many women in tech as men, not the least of which is your attitude, as expressed on Twitter, would make it very unlikely that any women would want to work for you. Nobody likes to force themselves into a party to which they’re not invited, and your tweets are part of the hostility (along with Titstare, etc) that make it appear to the outside that tech has a No Girls Allowed sign. What’s more, the idea that STEM is not for women is pushed onto girls at a very young age (“Too pretty for math” t-shirts, for example). We’re not born with a distaste for computers; in China, 40% of engineers are female. This shit is culturally created, and you’re contributing.
“The freewheeling nature of it is what leads to innovation. And my fear is that if we’re all going to police what we say, maybe we lose that innovation.” You can be freewheeling without being offensive. It’s possible, I promise, it just takes a little more effort than you’re willing to put in. Take comedy, for example, only the laziest comedians think that the only way to get a laugh is with a “Let me tell you something about women… ” joke. The smart ones, the Louis CKs and the Rob Delaneys, know that you don’t have to make people with fewer opportunities than you the punchline. You’ve been living in a No Girls Allowed treehouse for the last twenty years, and we’re knocking on the door saying that bro-time is now over. Get with it. Being professional doesn’t mean boring, but it does that you must treat people with respect and promote equality in your workplace, especially when you’re the boss.
“Real misogyny is, you know, hatred of women and violence against women and all that. Those are terrible things, but let’s not devalue those things, let’s not make those things, let’s not trivialize them by using the same words for things like Titstare. I mean, Titstare is harmless. It’s crass, but it’s harmless.” It’s absolutely 100% not harmless. It is the opposite of harmless, it is full of harm. Titstare is about objectifying women, as in… viewing women as objects. Violence against women, what you call “real misogyny,” springs directly from that same belief. When you think that women exist for your pleasure, to look at or touch or fuck, then it is easy for you to treat them disposably, violently, disrespectfully. When you believe women are some sort of “other” category of sort-of humans, you are beginning to create the justification that people use all the time to prevent women from voting, driving, governing. It is from that same place of othering that domestic abuse, sexual assault, and rape come from.
“I work in New York City, you know, diversity capital of the world. I don’t have any problems with anybody. My career would never have gotten to this point — the point I was at, before — if I was that kind of person.” Could you be any more delusional? You think that sexist, racist, homophobic white guys don’t make it to the top every single day? You know who hires them, mentors them, promotes them? Other sexist, racist, homophobic white guys. Or, rather than implicating every single person that has ever hired or promoted you, let’s say that straight, rich, white dudes (the type that have probably hired you many times over) are not known for being especially perceptive towards issues of privilege and inequality.
“My wife thinks it’s bullshit! She knows me, this is ridiculous. The worst part about it is, for me, the people who love me are very upset.” We’ll address this one tomorrow. Stay tuned.
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My god… I could go on and on. His interview is basically every issue I’ve ever written about all at once, rolled up tightly in a gross little package of misguided, delusional horseshit. What did I miss?
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