Faruk At.eş

Translation of General Misogyny to Uncomfortable Truth

Note: don’t miss out on the extensive follow-up to this post.

Last night a big debate took place on Twitter between Mike Monteiro (note: NSFW background) and a slew of privileged white males who disagree with him. It led to several blog posts, which I’ve taken to translate into the uncomfortable truth below (kindly borrowing this concept from Mark Pilgrim).

For those unfamiliar with “Translation” posts: each of the indented sections is a direct citation of the two gentlemen whose posts I’m quoting (so in the first one, “I” is John O’Nolan referring to himself), with my translation of that bit underneath.

First up, John O’Nolan’s Discrimination:

Back story: Mike_FTW [Monteiro] just went on a rant telling everyone how conferences MUST have female and black speakers and that a full roster of “white dudes” is unacceptable.

I said:

“Are you retarded? How many black swimmers do you know? How many white 100m sprint runners? How many female fighter pilots?”

The extreme sexism in the Air Force is entirely acceptable and does not in any way reduce the strength of my poorly-based argument.

A lot of people misinterpreted these tweets and have been calling me all sorts of names, so I wanted to clarify what I’m talking about:

It is your fault to have interpreted my subtly misogynistic views as such.

Hypothetical scenario: I’m putting on a conference. I’m trying to fill my keynote slot and I have to choose between two people. One is a white, middle aged man, who is a fantastic speaker and a highly talented individual. He’s spoken at conferences all over the world and has a great track record. The other, is a black, lesbian female who’s just come out of college and is doing an internship for an advertising agency.

I will create an unrealistic and extreme hypothetical scenario in order to try and get you on my side.

Mike is suggesting that if the rest of my speakers are “white dudes” then I should choose the second person, out of those two options - purely for the sake of having someone from a minority as a speaker.

I will now unfairly represent what Mike has said and is suggesting, to further try and convince you to agree with my views.

That. Dear friends. Is racism.

I have no fucking clue what racism means.

Equal rights means just that - EQUAL. Not “favourable” or “better”, but equal.

I support equal rights until the point it requires me to change my views.

I used the example of black swimmers / white runners / female fighter pilots purely as an example of how different people are naturally good at different things and that it’s not EXPECTED to be equal.

I am so glad that my industry is still dominated by white men.

Sometimes as a result of genetic makeup (as in all of the former examples) and sometimes as a result of education, experience and skill (for something like, say, design). Different people will always be good at different things, and everyone is NOT naturally equal.

Women are worse at things because they have vaginas. Privilege and preferential treatment are things that do not exist in our society, according to my world view.

When it comes to conferences I would much rather see a lineup of ANY people who are good speakers and good at their jobs. Not 1 white guy, 1 black guy, 1 asian guy, 1 gay guy, 1 girl and 1 [insert other minority] just for the sake of pleasing everyone - regardless of whether or not they’re even qualified.

I support all people of all genders, races and sexualities, as long as they work twice as hard to prove themselves as their white male peers.

I have seen awful female conference speakers who were only put on the roster for the sake of having a woman on stage.

It is inconceivable for any white man to be a terrible conference speaker. Not that I would know, since there are so many to choose from that we’ll never see one.

I am not saying that women aren’t good at speaking, I’m saying that [if] someone is good at speaking then it doesn’t matter what gender they are.

I do not understand that there might be reasons beyond the obvious that may affect any lineup of speakers. It’s just a coincidence that we historically have always had white males dominating our industry every corner of western civilization since the age of record.

Putting someone in a favourable position based on their gender or ethnicity is just as bad as putting someone in an unfavourable position based on their gender or ethnicity.

I have never read this critical post on diversity in conferences, nor do I understand that society’s norms may affect other people differently than they affect me.

Focusing on, and making decisions based on gender and ethnicity instead of talent and aptitude for the job at hand makes you racist. Not me.

I still have no fucking clue what racism means, but I will label you as such because it makes me look extremely defensive unfairly treated.

Next, Matt Donnelly’s On Positive Discrimination:

The debate was started by a few tweets posted by Mike Monteiro (@Mike_FTW) which said, in essence, that if you are organizing a conference and all of the speakers are men, it is the conference organizer’s moral obligation to get rid of some men and replace them with women JUST because women are a minority.

I can’t believe that minority groups and genders other than my own deserve fair and equal representation in the world.

This then caused another twitter user, John O’Nolan (@JohnONolan), to get involved. John sent Mike this message which caused quite a bit of controversy:

Are you retarded? How many black swimmers do you know? How many white 100m sprint runners? How many female fighter pilots?

It is baffling that expressions of narrow-minded sexism and racism got people riled up.

Many people misunderstood what John was saying here and naturally took it to mean “All black people are shit swimmers, all white people are shit 100m sprint runners and all women are shit fighter pilots”. This is not what John meant at all, what he means is that different people are good at different things (as he clarified later).

I can’t see the forest for the trees of bigotry. Hence, all of you misunderstood these words.

Not all black people are bad swimmers, but it just so happens that white people are better at [it], however at the same time, black people are better 100m sprint runners. So should there be a law that in every olympic 100m sprint race there must be at least 1 white runner? Of course not, this would mean that more often than not, 1 black runner who had put in just as much work as the white runner, would not be allowed race despite having a better chance at winning.

Design conferences are like a competition, and only the best of the best are allowed the privilege of sharing their wealth of knowledge and experience to teach us. Any other perspective is illogical. I will also ignore the fact that slaves were originally prohibited from competing in the Olympics.

This being a tech related conference one can assume that there’s a lot more men applying than women, but apparently that’s sexist so lets pretend the number of men and women applying is the same. The reason all men were picked was not because the conference organizer’s decided that they didn’t wanted any women speaking at the conference, the reason was because the men were better.

Obviously the men were better because, uh, they’re men. Who are white. Why can you not see this obvious truth?

This is not say that there is no such thing as good female speaker you can sure [see? ed.] a lot of them out there, but you can be pretty sure that not one of them would be happy to speak just because they are a woman because this is positive discrimination and is every bit as bad as negative discrimination.

The only way for negative discrimination to be eradicated from civilization is to ignore that it exists and do nothing. Fighting for equal treatment never made the status quo-lovers uncomfortable.

The thing that shocks me most about positive discrimination is that people don’t have a problem with it!

I am high as a kite.

A conference of all women speakers is something that Mike praised as ‘equal’ but this not equality and is the exact same as having a conference of all male speakers! It amazes me that when people think of equality they think of conferences of all black lesbians speakers or even with exactly the same amount of men as women because forced equality is not equality.

Our industry needs more white, male role models for people to look up to, be inspired by and learn from. For diversity’s sake.

If you’re thinking that there are too many men speaking at a conference and that you should replace them with women, you’re being sexist and I think John phrased this perfectly: “Equal rights means just that - EQUAL. Not “favourable” or “better”, but equal”. An ‘equal’ conference is not one that has just as many black people, women, lesbians, gays or any other minority as men speaking at it, it’s one that picks speakers regardless of skin color, sexuality or gender.

The status quo is perfectly fine, nobody is feeling underrepresented or unfairly treated anywhere.

Anyway the argument against me that I was referring to earlier was from Jeremy Sear (@jeremysear) who argued that positive discrimination was something that would work in the long run and mean that in the future women would be treated equal. I strongly disagree with this.

I like being on the wrong side of civilization and progress. I like it here in my cosy dome with my all-white, all-male friends.

Apart from the fact that there is no evidence to suggest that this would work even in the long run…

Apart from all the lessons we learned in the 20th century from the struggles of gender, sexual and racial equality activism, there is no evidence to suggest that this would work even in the long run.

in my opinion it’s just as likely that if we continue to give women and other minorities preference over white men, who seem to be the big bad wolf of world, …

I refuse to acknowledge or understand that I am privileged just from being a white male in this society.

we’ll end up in a situation where men are discriminated.

The idea of being discriminated against scares the hell out of me, so if you threaten the status quo I will continue to discriminate against others.

Later, Matt wrote another piece:

I’ve spent the past hour defending myself from people who you would swear I had insulted.

I don’t understand why other white men are upset that I want to keep suppressing women and minorities.

While I was perfectly happy to have a civilized argument over the whole discrimination thing, nearly every person opposing me has chosen to resort to bitter name-calling, snide remarks and the Gruber Retweet move I mentioned in the previous post.

It’s totally unfair that people repost the stupid shit I say in public to their much larger audiences.

However, among the few people I have had proper discussions with, this circular argument has come up time and time again. I thought I had addressed this in my previous post but either I wasn’t clear enough or they didn’t bother reading it.

My world view does not permit the possibility that I am ever wrong on this subject.

Of course they can choose anyone in the world, man or woman! But in this instance they have chosen male speakers only, more specifically white male speakers which people have an even bigger problem with. And what people have chosen to interpret this as is that they have chosen men because they are not women, which is false. The men have been chosen because they were the best speakers they found first, not because the conference organizers are involved in some sexist/racist government conspiracy or because they have political agenda.

Socio-cultural responsibilities lie only with people who are doing things I personally disagree with.

The response I get to this every time is “they’re just being lazy”. No they’re not! If they need to find 10 speakers and they immediately see 10 great white male speakers standing right outside, the conference organizers are going to choose them if they are in any way rational!

It doesn’t make sense for conference organizers to care about what kind of message they may be sending out to the world, or to care about gender equality, diversity, fair representation, or the betterment of mankind.

They are not trying to find the very best speakers in the entire world (which would imply that they think men are better than women), they are trying to find some excellent speakers as quickly as possible, which a woman has just as big a chance of being part of.

I will ignore the fact that women don’t get on conference rosters as a speaker because they haven’t had the chance and opportunity to prove themselves as speakers on conference rosters. This is not cyclical at all.

At this stage I’ve explain this so many times that I feel like a broken record and if you still want to argue: I’m not interested, the only response you’ll get from me is that we have different opinions so I don’t want to discuss it further.

I am too lazy to expand my world view to include the possibility that I may have unconsciously treated women and minorities unfairly my entire life, and it wears me out that you’re trying to get me to understand this.

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About me

Faruk Ateş

Faruk Ateş is a designer, developer, and entreprenerd. He is the creator of Modernizr, and co-founder of Presentate. He lives in Vancouver, B.C. and writes and speaks about technology, social justice, design and business.

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