There will be no citations here. No leaning on experts to prove my worthiness as a woman to enter into a STEM field. Make no mistake, that is the discussion we are having. This isn’t about freedom of ideas, this is an attack on my freedom of choice. And I am pissed off as old hell that it is happening, yet again, and I have to fight it. You want to know what it’s like to fight for your own inherent biological ability? Read on.
As you may have heard, former (heh) Google employee James Damore was fired for circulating a ridiculously sexist memo at his place of work the other week. And if we lived in a fair world, that’s where the conversation should have ended. But we don’t live in a fair world. We live in a world full of misogyny, stereotypes, and oppression of women. That is our reality. So the memo went viral, I got to read it, the Internet got to read it, and everybody went nuts.
My first reaction was amusement. You can’t throw a rock in a Google search without hitting some paper or another explaining how stereotypes and prejudice work, accompanied with data, theories, explanations, etc. How did he miss out on something so obvious? Of course he was going to be fired! There is no other answer to that kind of obstinate ignorance, especially when said ignorance is a direct assault on the value of your co-workers. But then I got to Twittering. And guess what- that ‘idea’ he shared around his office, so obviously the recycled dogma of old white male scientists affirming their prejudices with pseudo-science? Not everyone knows how stupid it is. In fact, there are people who are so oblivious to how stupid it is that they are STILL on some sort of Twitter crusade to defend their right to ignorance, distortion and bigotry.
And so I got to Tweeting myself. One of my favorite twitter buddies (influential white male) was having some genuine problems understanding why this guy should be fired. And I like this guy, I respect his views on a lot of things, so despite the massive pain in the ass it is to educate yet another person who hasn’t been immersed in gender politics for years (because he doesn’t have to be), I took the time to thoughtfully explain women’s reality to him. He even listened. It was glorious. I considered it a job well done, patted myself on the back for citing all the same literature and research that has been around for DECADES and winning one over for the team.
And then. I read an article in MY national newspaper- a paper I used to take clippings out of in high school for various projects, some ‘scientist’ say that James Damore was right. What? How? I looked at said scientist’s career (not an expert in anything related to gender) I looked at her studies (tiny sample sizes with terrible metrics) and I conversed. And fought with other Tweeters. And I walked away the same way everyone does when they get into an online debate with people who have an ideological flag to wave- dissatisfied and a couple of hours older with nothing to show for it.
But of course, just because you’re done with an argument doesn’t mean it is done with you. People would catch the thread of my discussion and argue with me the day after, and the day after that. All the old insults came out- I was hysterical, I was irrational, and, repeatedly, I was crazy. This isn’t my first rodeo- I’ve been on team feminism on many an internet argument. And yet again, my perfectly normal and human reaction to a threat against my identity was met with gaslighting tactics and insults.
I was thrown articles ‘proving’ my sex’s inherent inability to science. I threw back articles proving we can science as well as the bros can, all with data and stats and all the nice things that constitute proof. And back it went. And forth it went. On and on and as more people wrote about James Damore the more articles got shared and Tweeted and the more firmly entrenched people became in their beliefs. It was the most useless exercise I participated in since Home Economics in junior high. I gave up.
I tried to pretend James Damore didn’t exist. I retweeted the occasional article proving (yet again) he is a thoughtless dweeb but I kept my comments to myself. I was still angry, but I shoved that anger aside and kept on keeping on because what was the point? No minds were being changed and being angry on the internet wins you no friends.
But. Again. On Linkedin this time. A professional in the field I aspire to wrote his own article defending Damore and repudiating Google for firing him. This wasn’t some Twitter troll, this was a guy in charge of hiring and firing people based on his best judgement. And the dude is not just sexist, but he defends sexist beliefs. So I rolled up my sleeves, got to Googling all the old citations, and went to work composing a reply.
And stopped. Why bother replying. Why defend my gender to people who can’t even comprehend they are attacking it. Why lend my education and experience, both incredibly costly enterprises, to people who not only don’t value them but don’t value me? If they want to be steadfast in their ignorance there is not a damned thing I can do to stop them. And if they want to use their privilege and influence to demean my sex and gender (I am fully aware I am conflating the two, but this discussion definitely assumed a gender binary) I have very limited resources to fight them. Speaking from a position of relative powerlessness, my comment would be like a leaf in the wind. I would have to choose my words carefully so as not to be dismissed as hysterical. I would have to educate people in a field I paid to study without any form of remuneration. And my only potential reward would be they might consider I wasn’t quite so worthless after all. For a girl.
Do you understand now? Do you get why I am angry? Do you get that politely worded attacks on a sex based on shitty science is not just an idea, but a weapon? Do you get why applauding, condoning, or even remaining silent about this guy gives credence to a claim as old as science- that women are too weak for men’s work and here’s some data that fails to prove that? Because I am damned tired of explaining myself to people who haven’t had to think about it and so choose not to. Your Google works just fine even if your ability to reason doesn’t- go look it up.
This is not an argument. This isn’t meant to prove anything. This isn’t meant to persuade you, anger you, or elicit any particular response. This was my experience with James Damore’s memo. Today, creators are working to make the world of the future. And instead of joining them, I am relaying to you what my life has been since that repugnant tool Damore decided he had the right to imply my sex, my gender, was unsuited for a career in STEM. And if you think I walk around all day fully confident in my ability to code, well then, you haven’t been listening. I get to do the same work as any man in a culture saturated with misogyny and primed to inculcate self-doubt. And I don’t get paid extra for it.
So a sincere neener to James Damore, neener to dude-bros working hard and fast to prove I am not biologically fit for my job, and neener neener to those in positions of power who applaud the guy. You hurt me. It is personal. And until you apologise, well, we won’t be friends. And a free HTC Vive wouldn’t go amiss either.
P.S.- Yes, I read the memo.