Dear Dave Winer: You Can’t Silence The Truth

Yesterday, Dave Winer continued his pursuit to become the biggest dick in the sexism-in-tech debate.

Now, ordinarily I wouldn’t start an article off on such a blunt, attacking tone, but you see, Dave has taken to being disingenuous and attempting to silence those who disagree with him. By all means he has the right to delete comments on his own blog, but by the same privilege and freedom, we have the right to call him out on his behavior. And his behavior is getting increasingly poor.

I’m sure he’ll claim these were “personal attacks” and “out of line,” as justification for his deletion (update: he just called these comments “abusive”), but I’ll leave it to others to judge. My own may be a touch forceful and angry, but there is a truly fantastic comment by @zenlan he deleted as well, which is not.

First, my two comments:

Dave, saying “I do believe there is specialization in the genders” is wrong, and offensive. Biological determinism is bullshit, and you perpetuating that as a justification for what is truly a societal, structural problem we need to address, is harmful and offensive. You’re giving yourself a cop out from acknowledging the reality of the situation, because the reality is one you don’t like to acknowledge or even believe, but much like how some less-than-rational creationists believe dinosaurs and man roamed earth together 6,000 years ago, not wanting to face reality doesn’t make it any less true.

Your biological determinism is also just factually wrong based on our history, a history that you’re old enough to have been alive for.

If there was any specialization in the genders, programming would still, to this day, be utterly dominated by women, because they were the first software programmers (hell, they invented programming). As today’s programming environment is dominated by men, and this is a recent development as well as a complete turnaround from how it used to be, which is, being dominated by women, the entire foundation of your belief is a lie, and your belief rests on you deluding yourself over these facts.

The reality is: men came in and actively pushed women out of software engineering, and lo and behold, women have been feeling pushed out for decades now. It’s time to address that problem, not wax poetically like you have any idea what this is all about. You’re ignorant on this matter, and while it’s fine for you to try and become part of the conversation, you should catch up on the writings and research done first, before opening your mouth to tens of thousands of people with your incredibly poorly-founded opinion. And no, that’s not an ad hominem attack so much as an objective assessment of your ‘contributions’ to this debate so far.

“I will never apologize for asking questions or saying what I think.”

So you’re proud to be an asshole? Not apologizing when you unintentionally say something really offensive doesn’t make you a good person, it makes you an asshole. If you cannot get past your own pride as a white dude, you should probably stay out of this debate altogether.

“The term mansplaining is sexist.”

No, it is gendered, not sexist. For something to be sexist, it needs to be gendered and prejudiced, and for something to be prejudiced, it needs to not be based in reason and statistics, which, I’m sorry if this bothers your fragile ego, but mansplaining is a statistically provable phenomenon and the term is based entirely on reason. It is not sexist, only gendered.

“Fact: Women do their share of mansplaining.”

This is factually impossible. Anyone who identifies as a woman cannot really mansplain anymore, as the definition firmly hinges on the perpetrator identifying as a man.

Hiding behind “I’m an imperfect being” is meaningless when you refuse to take any advice to heart, refuse to listen to anyone who says something you don’t already agree with, and refuse to own up to your mistakes. Apologizing would be one of the first steps you need to make, for you to prove that you actually believe yourself to be an imperfect being. Because right now, your attitude is full of condescension and “better-than-all-of-you-who-disagree” unmanliness. It’s extremely disappointing and you’re setting a terrible example for aspiring programmers—of all genders—to look up to.

(second comment)

Whoops, I have some more to say:

“As I said, I don’t care about the people who think I shouldn’t write what I think or ask questions about things I wonder about or want to know.”

“But Dave,” we say, you haven’t asked any questions. You just proffer up a bunch of lies and claim them as fact. (see: your point 5). If you were actually showing yourself interested in learning anything, rather than trying to drum yourself up as the hero of a debate you’re consistently proving yourself incredibly ignorant of, we’d be more than happy to help and answer your questions in a calm and civilized manner. But you start saying offensive crap, then refuse to acknowledge your mistakes, and then start hurling insults at the people being civil to you, and it all just makes you look like a dick. A cliché.

“I’m not interested in splitting us in two groups”

So why the biological determinism, then? Why say bullshit like “I do believe there is specialization in the genders”? THAT is splitting people into two* groups, and you’re the one doing it. You’re the one trying to frame this entire incident that you created as some kind of “them-vs-me” thing, while trying to finagle all men into your camp with your language. Well I say fuck that, because you have a responsibility to the people who follow and read you, and there’s no way in hell I’m letting you lob me and other men in to this vile belief of yours that it isn’t the outright misogyny and lack of understanding, the latter of which you showcase a hell of an amount of, that’s making so many women leave this industry or not enter it altogether.

I sent you a primer to read earlier this week. Did you? It’s chock-a-block full of research, which already helps explain away a lot of your biological determinism fallacy. It feels like you haven’t, so here, again: A primer on sexism in tech

“It’s a myth that people opened doors for me when I started out.”

You’re a white man. Your privilege is not a myth, it’s a fact. You may not feel like society favored you at every turn, but you have NO IDEA what it’s like for someone who doesn’t enjoy your privileges, and it’s a real slap in the face to all of them (who comprise, you know, the majority of the population of the human race) when you try to claim you weren’t privileged.

  • Sort of. Gender is not a binary, but to Dave it probably is.

This is the comment by @zenlan, which he also deleted:

I am a 54 year old programmer who happens to be female. I remember you from a long time ago, used to read your stuff way back. For some reason I stopped reading your stuff. Am beginning to remember why.

Gender specialization my arse.

My programming education consisted of a 40 minute extra-curricular lesson in Fortran given by a female teacher who told us that one day it would be important. There was no opportunity to study engineering at university for us girls, we were given the choice of teaching or nursing. Seriously, I was actually punished when I requested a work experience job outside of those two options. When I left school and had a paycheck I bought a small console and started teaching myself to code. After a few years I got myself onto a short course and then wangled a job at a small company.

There were loads of women programming back in the 80’s and into the 90s, despite our lack of academic backgrounds. There were long hours, loads of responsibility yet the pay, bonuses and promotions were less than those of the men in the room. How many times did I get an appraisal telling me what a great job I was doing, I can go anywhere in this company how about moving to support or training? The ’soft skills’ trope that management bought into. They did that to all women, didn’t matter if you were the best coder in the room. Women didn’t get offered the team lead or architect roles. How often was my desk by the door where I could sign for parcels and take messages? How often was my phone number listed as the receptionist? How often was I addressed by my first name while male colleagues introduced with their surname and job title? Even playtime revolved around men – strip clubs, men-only gyms, football where the team ’bonded’ after work. As recently as 5 years ago I found that the male CEO had taken each of my male colleagues out for drinks, but not me who happened to be the most senior engineer in the company.

I changed job every 2–3 years, worked in everything from the smallest start ups to some of the largest corporations and spanned all sorts of different sectors in the hope of finding a place where I would fit. But the shit was always there, it just changed consistency.

All but one of the women coders I worked with gave up, even some of the men switched career. None of them left because ’programming is hard’. These toxic environments don’t only affect women.

I still code, I still love it, I have found a way to mitigate the shit that still exists. I still feel sorrow at losing the company of so many amazing women and men who I used to count as colleagues.

I am also a volunteer teacher at a local primary school at an after-school code club. No encouragement was needed to get girls into the computer lab, they flew in, 7 out of 10 are girls aged 8–10. They are so incredibly good at programming. They have amazing focus – while I am constantly closing YouTube on the boys’ machines and asking them to sit down and get on with it, the girls are quietly concentrating, figuring out the problems for themselves, helping each other out. I see behavioural differences in that room but I don’t see any specialization when it comes to comprehending or solving logic problems. Admittedly it is a very small and unbalanced sample. What size sample did you use to arrive at your conclusion Mr Winer?

I would love to think that these girls will go on to use programming in their careers but my heart sinks when I picture them being treated as I was.

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