An article was posted and passed around recently criticizing modern-day feminism and engaging with the tangled topic of privilege and gender inequality today. Many praised it for its frankness and thorough dissection of the 21st-century social justice scene, as well as its voice (in some respects) for men’s rights and female privilege. My thoughts on it are below.
it’s part of my current worldview that there’s endemic sexism and homophobia in STEM that propagates in large part because of the male majority in tech who perceive themselves as intelligent, rational, liberal underdogs who made it with their brains, and therefore have a tendency to fail to recognize that they too propagate sexist and homophobic behavior (see video below). After reading the article, I still think this is true.
video: @equalsnrt and I made a video about instances of sexism and exclusion in MIT course 6 classes. we think it does a decent treatment of institutional sexism propagated by nerdy men. https://www.dropbox.com/s/g3e3nsxs2wpe5w2/microaggressions_2.mp4?dl=0
i commend the author for an intelligent and mostly levelheaded treatment of a complex and difficult subject. what i got from the article was, broadly speaking:
1. feminism isn’t perfect, and engages in shaming tactics and othering/stereotyping as overcompensation for structural sexism. this is bad but is treated as okay. this should not be okay.
2. the “shy male nerd” gets scapegoated as a result of (1), and this too is bad.
3. real-life shy male nerds aren’t the ones propagating the sexism, in general.
I would agree with (1) and (2) but not as much with (3). I agree that the “feminism” camp does bad things to the “male nerd” camp. I disagree with the attempt to somewhat absolve blame from male nerds. And the male majority in tech still needs to be recognized. See video.
His discussion of areas where women appear to objectively “have it better” than men reads as distractionary, taken out of context, and somewhat contradictory (women are the majority in medical school, but is the assertion that a male doctor still near-raped a female student supposed to support his case that there are fields where women have it awesome?). And his assertion that there is a possibility of a biologically gendered predisposition for or against engineering (it’s in VIII, from “It seems really obvious to me…”) is in my opinion incredibly dangerous.
I think that in the same way that extremist feminists get a lot of voice for being inflammatory assholes, silencing the moderate feminists who tend to treat people like decent people, there do exist male nerds who are creepy assholes, and silence the male nerds who tend to treat people like decent people. This is classic westboro-baptist-church or tea-party radicalism ruining it for all Christians or Republicans.It’s my hope and belief that the moderates are the majority. I think this article speaks intelligently from the “moderate male nerds” camp and addresses the “extreme feminist” camp, which tends to inflame backlash from the “moderate feminist” camp due to its fairly inflammatory rhetoric and its representation of the worst parts of feminism (“not all feminists?”)
The broader issue at hand is the question of how to foster a more utopic culture of intelligent, self-critical, and respectful rhetoric. Do we, as a species, need anger and controversy to power social change? Hopefully more discussion will lead to more education, which will lead to better discussion (positive snowballing!). But it is also possible that lots of bad discussion will lead to ingrouping/outgrouping and radicalism (negative snowballing 😦 ), and that this is what has already happened. Food for thought.
TLDR: generalities and stereotypes bad. open, critical discussion and mutual respect for humans good. everyone in every group can commit bad. this is bad, and we shouldn’t call it good. if we talk more maybe we will be more informed and better at talking about things.
Somewhat ironically written by the same author, http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/17/the-toxoplasma-of-rage/ and http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/12/23/we-are-all-msscribe/
Other related topics: the complex relationship that “meritocracy” and “culture fit” has with diversity and affirmative action (in both silicon valley, the tech world, and college). Notions of “nerd masculinity” and “brogrammers”. Also the larger discussion of the role of social media, participatory media, internet echo chambers/filter bubbles, ingrouping/outgrouping, and partisan politics (can a social media platform be designed that’s optimally anticontroversy and promotes rational, intelligent conversation?). Also intersectionalism (asian-american nerd masculinity, anyone?)