Sexism in the Tech Space

I just finished reading Asher Wolf’s Dear Hacker Community – We Need To Talk. I have so many emotions bubbling up, it’s hard to know how to organize them. I envy her for being able to express them so eloquently and in detail.

First, before I cycle through some of my emotions. Please don’t leave the space Asher. Keep fighting, we need you!

Ok, now let me cycle through and process some of my own feelings on this. My first reaction is similar to when I read the comments on Audrey’s blog, when she challenges the hacker community on things--I want to feel my big black boot up against their head. I miss the days when I could deal with problems that way. I would challenge any of you piss ant commenters to come say that shit to her face.  You can't. Because your a worthless sack o shit, I wouldn't even need to kick your ass, she does just fine on her own.

Next I want to gather IP addresses, screen names, and start building a neat little black book for some hacking or ass kicking at the right moments.

After that I would love to put all you misogynistic fuckers into jail for a while, let you defend yourself. Have you been to jail? I have. I was arrested when I was 18, downtown SF.  I spent the day riding around in paddy wagon handcuffed to a guy who got arrest for jacking off downtown in park, then spend a lovely week at 850 Bryant Street.  Good times!

Then I come back to reality, where I know none these approaches will provide any positive solution for the problem. And I know a good ass kicking will do no good for the insecure boys seem to make up a large portion of the technology movement (at least vocal majority).

The only thing that will fix this, is dialogue, communication and listening.

I consider myself a very compassionate guy, very empathetic to others.  but I remember vividly a day in 2005 when I had to go heads down on a huge project and handed over communication of all my projects to my then wife and business partner. After a few days I got an email from one client, who said he needed to talk with me. I said I was busy, he needed to talk with my partner. He said, no….he wouldn't. I forget the terminology he used, but it was obviously some coded, good ol boy shit, that she was dumb and I knew my shit. I remember exactly what I said, "go fuck yourself, find a new programmer."

That moment has stuck with me. As a 6' 3" white boy, I never had seen sexism like that. It made me reassess all the conversations guys were having behind closed doors. It made me realize how many insecure, sexists pigs there were out there in the workplace and across the technology spectrum.

At first thought, it blows my mind that we have to have these conversations at the end of 2012, but regardless, we desperately need to have them, no matter how late in the game.

If you are a guy in the space and are getting your feathers ruffled at all by the conversation--then you are part of the problem. You need to shut the fuck up, go look in the mirror, do some soul searching and make sure you are the "listening" variable in these discussions that are going on.  Those emotions bubbling up, that is YOUR insecurity.  If you can't identify it, you aren't experienced enough.  Go work on it.

If you are thinking about opening up your mouth and saying any of this is hypocrisy, you are wrong. You can't balance this out without pushing things back the other direction sorry. Its just like racism. You can't erase hundreds of years of wrong doing in a couple years, and with an "I'm sorry". Your going to have to feel a little uncomfortable dude. Maybe even a lot uncomfortable.

So, let's please have lots more discussions about this, online and at events. Every event should open with a discussion about how to treat women and make things inclusive, letting us guys know where we stand--if you have a problem with it, you know where the door is. Go home and live with the fact that you are what is wrong with our world.

Don't get me wrong. I have my own mommy and ex-wife issues to contend with. I'm not perfect. But you know what? They are my problems, they aren't any of these amazing women in the tech space problems. They are mine to work through, and you should work to acknowledge yours. You have them!  If you act like there isn't any problems with sexism in the space, your in total denial.  End of story.

I hope we can spend the next decade having these conversations, repeatedly until us men have beat back our insecurities, healed whatever trauma we've experienced and realize we need women in our project groups, at our events and an EQUAL part of the tech experience that is Silicon Valley. Without it, none of this will be sustainable.