Explaining (Away) Women Geeks

Liz Henry's delightful, insightful skewering of the sexism deployed in an article about Google VP Marissa Mayer provides a very recent example of a pattern noted by Ruth Oldenziel in Making Technology Masculine: Women who love technology require an explanation; men who love technology are just being masculine. Oldenziel notes:

Whenever women enter computer rooms and construction sites as designers, hackers, and engineers...they need to be accounted for and explained. For decades scores of newspapers have reported, commented, and elaborated on the many "first" women who trespassed the male technical threshold as engineers, presenting them often as news.

Oldenziel describes how prominent women were singled out as "firsts" and presented as one of very few, while scores of "lesser known" women and their technological labor went unacknowledged.

From New York to California engineering journals, corporate newsletters, and local newspapers singled out women who trespassed on the male domain of engineering, often adding local touches and highlighting them with phototgraphs to suit the particular occasion. The publicity on women engineers - one might even call it overexposure - shows how we continue to view their entry into the technical domain as an exotic but more likely exceptional, strange, and alien event. It also illustrates how we forget, erase, and (re)invent the history of women. More importantly, these reports show how we consider technology men's natural domain - a penchant that does need explanation, however.

The article on Mayer follows this pattern, simultaneously overexposing her - a female Google VP must take some explaining! - and erasing her, attributing her success to powerful male associates and focusing on her looks and "womanly" hobbies. Thus, she can be celebrated even as she is diminished. In the end, we need not be threatened by her; she is an aberration, she's still a real woman despite that odd love of technology, she didn't really do that geeky stuff all herself anyway. Technology remains firmly enshrined as a masculine domain, and Real Women don't do technology.

The links between technological change and gender relations developed neither in isolation nor independently. Instead, they shaped each other. In the cultural grammar of the twentieth century, the simultaneous erasure and overexposure of flesh-and-blood women engineers like [Isabel] Ebel, [Audrey] Muller, and [Leonore] Traver evolved together with the shaping of a new technical world inscribed as male.

It's depressing that this early-twentieth century narrative is still in use today. We need articles that present female role models for others to see. We don't, however, need them to create the appearance of oddity, freakishness, exoticism. In Liz Henry's words,

Journalists should not "disappear" women in tech by canonizing one saint who they love and hate, praise, objectify, and revile. There are a lot of us here!

Maybe women scientists and engineers ought to have a handy checklist to give reporters who are planning an article on The One Woman Scientist/Engineer On Earth. After all, geek women are busy, and we can't sit around all day while reporters sketch our caricature. How about something like this to help things along?

  • Are you planning on describing me as
    (A) not what you'd expect,
    (B) surprisingly pretty,
    (C) a rarity, or
    (D) all of the above?
  • Will you be emphasizing my Womanly Attributes?
    (A) Yes,
    (B) Yes, in detail, or
    (C) Yes, in detail, with references to giggles and cupcakes.
  • Will you also explain how technology has unsexed me?
    (A) Yes,
    (B) Yes, while simultaneously infantilizing you, you "geeky super-normal enthusiastic girl"!
  • Are you planning to include intimations that I slept my way to the top?
    (A) Yes,
    (B) No, just an attribution of your success to Powerful Male Associates. Who you probably slept with.
  • Will you end by asking when I'm going to give up all these crazy ideas and go back to full-time Womanhood?
    (A) Yes,
    (B) Yes, because you scare the boys.

Well, there's a start. It may not cover everything, but it should help streamline your interview time and let you get back to your geeky supernormal enthusiastic girlish science.

More like this

Love that checklist. I think we need to have that featured on some posts about science writing elsewhere, because that totally nails down the problem.

Meantime, despite it being another 'first', I'm still going to get excited about the first Korean (and Korean female!) astronaut:
AND the article does a suprisingly good job of not committing the above mistakes with regard to Dr. Yi So-yeon.

There are a lot of us here!

Recent statistics indicate otherwise -- that the number of women going into computer science and engineering is going down every year. And that's considering all the outreach programs and affirmative action that's already in place. Women are practically being served these degrees on a silver platter, with hardly any real merit or work expected of them, and they're still not interested. The conclusion is pretty obvious.

Julius- you are right, the conclusion is incredibly obvious... why would anyone want to go into a field where people assume that they are without merit and cannot possibly work hard?

Oh wait, because the only people assuming that are IDIOTS like you, and geekery is FUN.

There are no unsubstantiated assumptions involved here. Thanks to reverse discrimination, men have to work side by side with women who got into the program by having shown lesser merit, and who receive equivalent grades (and graduate) by doing less work. And despite the easy ride being given to them, women don't want it. Women don't want to go into computer science and engineering. That's why their numbers are going down every year.

It is furthermore enlightening to see that your only recourse to these irrefutable facts is ad hominem. So typical of a woman.

Julius' backstory is that the women in his department are not only smarter than him, but won't date him either. Oh, and some jocks shoved him off his bike near the cafeteria yesterday. LOL

It is furthermore enlightening to see that your only recourse to these irrefutable facts is ad hominem. So typical of a woman.

So Julius resorts to an ad hominem attack on 50% of the world's population. Charming.

Zuska, I'm really glad I don't get these sort of commenters routinely at my place. I feel for you.

Hmmm, Julius, that's funny, because I seem to spend a lot of my time (that could be better spent baking cupcakes or giggling) explaining to my (male) colleagues that our FEMALE students who are doing BETTER than our male students are, you know, as competent and/or more competent than the male students. Gee, those women must be putting on a good show for me, or having the men do their work for them behind my back! Yeah, that must be it. On second thought, thanks for enlightening me---now I can go back to baking cupcakes! Yippie!

(Sorry, Zuska, I know we shouldn't feed the trolls, but I couldn't resist.)

If women are more competent, then why has affirmative action not been abolished yet? In fact, why do feminists ask more and more of it every passing year? Women cannot be expected to be taken seriously if they simultaneously demand affirmative action and claim higher merit.

pulez: Let's assume for the sake of argument that I was the victim of a violent crime. Why would you laugh at that? Is violence funny to you? Or is it only not funny to you when the victim is a woman? If that is the case, isn't that sexist? Aren't you sexist? Food for thought.

Violent crime? He didn't say somebody shot you or stabbed you. He said somebody pushed you off your bike as a joke. Not an offense that would send someone to jail, nor one that would hurt you all that badly.

Being realistic, if there were affirmative action that one could really say were "reverse discrimination", I would expect that would mean that there would be many more women in these fields than statistically expected -- meaning much greater than 50%. But it seems the opposite is true. And having the stigma of an "easy job" doesn't make up the difference by a long shot -- if it's easy to get into, usually lots of people jump on it.

Graduating a few years ago, I am surprised just how often I had to prove to my male professors that I deserved to be there. And yes, I also graduated in the top 10% of my class. I find it unacceptable when my female peers were pushed out of the program by the attitudes they encountered and not by the grades they had in the program. And at commencement, my degree was handed to me in the same fashion of everyone else. My observational skills must have missed the silver platter.

And with the percentages of women in science programs decreasing again, I do not see how one can reasonably claim "reverse discrimination."

Like any computer science student, I have some classes that are a breeze (well, when you're a Linux user, a Linux-based system administration class becomes pretty easy) and some that are a real pain in the butt. I'm pretty sure no one's going easy on me. There are 2 girls and about 20 guys in CS in my year at school. Maybe 4 of those guys are ones that I would trust to answer a question if I didn't understand something. They're the ones that I know have a passion for it and know beyond what we are taught because they have a thirst for knowledge in the area of CS. One of those 4, when I said I used to be afraid to talk to him for fear of being seen as a noob, said I make him feel like a noob all the time.

My soon-to-be roommate is the other girl. She is crazily good at physics and computers. Neither of us are in CS because of any affirmative action stuff. We both do it because we love it. I wasn't going to do CS because I was afraid before that a CS career would burn me out and make me hate CS, and that would be horrible. Now, I can't imagine being happy in a career that wasn't based entirely in computers. As we look for an ISP for our apartment, one of the main things we're looking for in the contract is "can we run our own web & mail server from our living room?"

We both deal with this subject differently. She dresses fashionably, has a pink bag and a pink Asus EeePC, and carries her wireless mouse disguised in a makeup bag. I wear black t-shirts from ThinkGeek, a binary watch, and a belt with Debian commands all over it. She tries to hide her geekiness from her girl friends. I try to hide my girliness from the boys in the engineering school. We can either be respected by our peers in the engineering school by saying "screw fashion, give me code" or accepted by the other girls our age by pretending that fashion's all we care about. We can't really have it both ways.

GAC: Even touching someone without their consent is legally considered assault. Pushing someone off a bike is definitely assault with intent to cause bodily harm. This is certainly no joking matter. Your trivialization of violence is insensitive beyond words, and I can only surmise that it is a manifestation of your sexism. If the same were done to a woman, I am sure you would be up in arms. This is sad to see -- that you are a feminist, but not a humanist, and in fact something of a bigot.

As for your expectation that affirmative action would cause higher participation of women in technology, that is a reasonable expectation under the assumption that women are just as interested in technology as men are. This particular assumption does not seem to be evidenced by the facts. No one can reasonably claim that women are not the beneficiaries of a whole gamut of reverse discriminatory practices -- and they're still not satisfied! -- but all of this is for naught if it is not in them to become technologists. You can lead a horse to water, etc.

Academic: The reverse discrimination is still in effect in full force. This is easily proven by reviewing the admission criteria of any respectable university. The feminist lobby has done a great job of castrating the academic machine in this regard, so that political correctness eclipses merit. You're conveniently missing the tiny detail that women aren't going into technical and scientific academic programs even when they're promised not to be challenged too much. They just don't want it. That's why their numbers are decreasing.

Don't feed the uncreative trolls. Let's train them to do unique tricks before we give them treats.

Mackenzie, kudos to you and your roommate for following your passion. Keep building your strong support system as you move to the next stage of your career in computer science.

If you enjoy reading about the sociology of women in computing fields, the book "Unlocking the Clubhouse" is great. It describes 4 years of collaborative research by a computer scientist and a sociologist who studied computer science students at Carnegie Mellon. There's no single silver bullet to explain why women leave the computer science field but I think they capture many of the contributing dynamics - and they explain why addressing the exclusionary elements will lead not only to a more diverse computer science field, but also to more productivity in academia and industry.

Kerry - thanks for the recommendation! And Mackenzie, all the best in your career. Also, your story sounds like it could be the basis for some kind of dreadful romantic comedy film.

I am unfortunately uncreative (if that is a failing) because I speak from facts and evidence. I do not manufacture delusions to suit my worldview, which is a favorite feminist tactic -- delusions such as women having higher merit, which, if it were true, would invalidate the need for affirmative action in the first place. So which is it, ladies? Do women have higher merit, or do women deserve affirmative action? You can't have both.

Sadly it is a bit noteworthy when anyone of a group not traditionally associated with an occupation joins that occupation. The reason for this is (metaphorically speaking) McDonald's happy-meal toys and their extremely clear gender assignments. Girls who grow up to enter a technical field like IT or the sciences are pushing against all expectations of our culture from childhood toys to magazine covers to ancient-minded professors. Takes a lot of drive to do that. Men, on the other hand, are expected to go into a technical field, so mediocrity is less of an obstacle. At the risk of feeding a troll, this is news to anyone?

(goes back to lurking...)

I can't say I'm on either side of this issue as it isn't one I've given a great deal of consideration - I care much more about the science than the scientist, so I don't read the fluff articles regardless of the gender of the scientist.

I do find it a little funny that Zuska criticizes the article for "focusing on [Marissa's] looks and "womanly" hobbies" about 2 inches below a picture of herself sporting a caption that reads, in part, "Suzanne can often be found gardening, reading, or having one of her thrice-weekly migraines." A little too hypocritical for my taste.

Julius, since you're appparently dense too, let me spell it out. I was using hyperbole and pop culture stereotype to point out that you are most likely a bitter, humorless nerd who has a chip on his shoulder about women. Which you are. And if I touched a nerve there for whatever reason about physical violence, then maybe if you know what that feels like you should ask yourself what kind of environment you are creating for women. Sounds like you 'kick the dog', as in, people beat on you and so you pass it down the line and try to vent on women. Sorry dude, if you want to be Taken Seriously then don't act like a troll with conspiracy theories about how TEH WOMEN are taking what's rightfully yours. If you want to get rid of the women that suck, then get rid of the guys that suck too. Like you.

Women in computer engineering are definitely rare - but the few I have worked with have been top notch. A couple of them have even been pretty! The distinctions automatically applied to women are as old as the human race, I suspect. After all, do you ever hear of a male computer engineer being described as "quality programmer - and good looking to boot!"? No - me neither (though that could be because we're all ugly fat guys). I suspect the reason there are these positive outreach programmes is that the image or computer science presented generally is a very male one - hence women are naturally discouraged. The motivation to give a positive outreach programme is that big business knows that women make excellent engineers. Quite simple, really - industry is not going to waste money on a window dressing resource when no-one ever actually looks through those particular windows.

By Paul Nelson (not verified) on 09 Apr 2008 #permalink

pulez, since you're appparently completely insensitive, too, let me spell it out for you. That violence is inexcusable and unacceptable under any circumstances, especially when used in order to silence undesired viewpoints, is one of the main talking points of feminism. But now, thanks to you, we see that you don't really subscribe to that view at all. You don't care about freedom of expression, and you're not opposed to violence. You're happy to laugh at it, as long as it doesn't happen to you, or presumably to anyone in any subculture you identify with. You complain about creating hostile environments while having no compunctions about creating one yourself You have exposed yourself as a sham, and a hypocrite. It is you who sucks.

As for the relentless stream of ad hominem attacks and baseless insults coming from you, may I remind you that they are just as legally actionable (in the form of libel) as the threats of violence you have voiced. My statements, however, constitute none of the above. It is a matter of public record that women's attendance in technology and engineering programs have been going down. It is also a matter of public record that women are accepted to academic programs under criteria of lesser merit -- feminists make sure that this form of reverse discrimination against men of merit is still maintained. So, really, what is it that I am saying that can be objected to, and on what basis?

Paul: It would stand to reason that large companies might want to have some window dressing to trot out for the occasional interview in some industry journal, to make the company look progressive, inclusive, and so on. A few annual salaries wasted on employees of lesser merit is a cost of doing business, an investment in good press and public relations. You never see smaller companies doing this, because they have to concentrate on developing their products or services, as opposed to marketing thereof. When was the last time you saw a woman as part of a tech startup development team? My point exactly.

OMG - someone is SUPER small minded and not very familiar with women in industry in general. I actually do know a women who was one of the first in a start-up company and she's a young engineer. Thanks for reducing her to a PR project. Where are you getting your ideas from Julius - references please.... Show me where it is a "matter of public record that women are accepted to academic programs under criteria of lesser merit." I'd like to see that!

You're going to have to look up what affirmative action means. I think perhaps you're not entirely informed.

I know what it means, thanks. Maybe you need to look closer into it and give references from an acutal school's admissions records that say X number of female applicants to comuter science (or engineering, etc) were accepted at Y% lower credentials than their male counterparts. That would be an appropriate reference. Merely a definition is not.

Aww... the troll is pulling out legal threats. It's so cute! Can we play with him again on the next post?

Affirmative action according to Julius: when some woman (who clearly sucks at technology because SHE'S A GIRL) gets hired/accepted instead of me (but I'm a genius!). Perhaps he could try buffing up on his computing skills so he can compete with us stupid women.

L: The definition does not suffice? Do you realize what you are saying? If affirmative action does not result in the admittance of women of lesser merit, then what use is it to women? What does it do for women? What is the point of its existence? How else does affirmative action manifest itself? If women of lesser merit are not being admitted, how can one even speak of the existence of affirmative action? You are very amusing.

So basically Julius, you're saying that women accepted into technical science academic programs are automatically of lesser merit than male applicants because affirmative action exists? Sorry, I still find that logic flawed and think a mighty male such as yourself could do better.

"As for the relentless stream of ad hominem attacks and baseless insults coming from you, may I remind you that they are just as legally actionable (in the form of libel) as the threats of violence you have voiced." Nice try Julius, but I didn't threaten you or anyone else with violence, nor do I condone it in real life, and it's pretty hard to 'libel' someone anonymous. Obviously I hit a little nerve with my caricature of you, didn't I? Maybe a little too close to home, eh? The same freedom of expression that lets you slag off on 50% of humanity is the same freedom that lets me state my opinion that you are humorless and bitter. Nobody's silencing you here so trying to legally supress people you don't agree with is uncalled for. Also I love the little essay on what I supposedly think and feel. Who even said I was a feminist per se, or even a woman? LOL. That chip on your shoulder must be really, really heavy, carrying that around all day. I'll let you have the last word now since I know how bad you'll need it. Reams and reams of pompous indignation about me, TEH WOMEN, the world, the internet, etc. You'll probably need a nap after.

Equal Employment Opportunity gives jobs to less qualified women? What about the statistic that says more women than men are applying to 4 year colleges and universities?

L: I'd like to see you give a workable definition of affirmative action that does not effectively result in the admission of women of lesser merit. When backed into a corner, women will often argue semantics to the point of absurdity, but you've really taken that behavior to its limit. Let's see you get yourself out of the corner you've painted yourself into.

pulez: This is not about hitting nerves. This is about exposing your hypocrisy. You have no compunctions about using argumentum ad hominem, argumentum ad baculum, or any other aggressive, violating tactic you can think of to try and silence your opposition, as long as it serves your needs, but cry foul when such tactics are used in the opposite direction. You represent the very worst of hypocrisy. You have no credibility left whatsoever in this exchange.

You have also not explained how I "slag off" on women. I have not insulted anyone. The truth is the best defense against such accusations, and the truth stands for itself. Feel free to argue points of fact, but I am done engaging your rhetoric.

You argue for the feminist position, so for the scope of this discussion, I am compelled to consider you a proponent of such views. If you wish to be considered otherwise, then argue otherwise. Pretty simple, yes?

As for the silencing, there have been attempts to silence me through technological measures on this very forum. They have been pathetic at best. However, they have shown me what feminists really think about freedom of expression. Namely, they don't.

Academic: The overall numbers indicate a small uptick, yes. However, the scope of this discussion concerns computer and engineering departments, where women are already underrepresented, and where a downward trend is present. Women may be going to school in increasing numbers to be kindergarten teachers, nurses, beauticians, or what have you, but they're not going to school to become programmers and engineers.

Julius said:
The feminist lobby has done a great job of castrating the academic machine in this regard...

It is so cute to see a frightened male explicitly name his fear of castration by strong women; usually such men aren't so self-aware.

Just in case anyone (besides Julius, who is immune to reality) is wondering, affirmative action is not about hiring or admitting particular individuals; it is about removing bias from the recruiting and screening processes. There is no guarantee of a job or spot in a college classroom. Only a guarantee of a equal and unbiased evaluation.

What Julius might be trying to talk about is preferential treatment - such as that shown by many colleges to (mostly male) athletes who don't meet their academic standards but are nevertheless admitted because they can dribble a basketball or throw a football. Or, the treatment given to men these days at some elite colleges - where they are admitted with lower academic credentials than women in order to keep an even gender balance, because far more highly qualified women are applying than men. This phenomenon has been reported upon in the Chronicle of Higher Education among other places.

Julius is not going to cite any sources for you to prove his wild misogynist fantasies are true because he doesn't have any. The available data well-document that women in science and engineering programs have equal qualifications to men, and that even women who drop out are just as well-qualified as men who stay in the program. Makes you wonder who is getting the preferential treatment there.

Zuska: You just redefined affirmative action to mean equal opportunity. The two concepts are worlds apart. You have no intellectual integrity, do you?

Zuska: Also, I note that you gleefully gush about fearful men being castrated by strong women. Is that what you get off on, sexual violence against men? You really are a model feminist, aren't you?

You argue for the feminist position, so for the scope of this discussion, I am compelled to consider you a proponent of such views. If you wish to be considered otherwise, then argue otherwise. Pretty simple, yes?

Hey, fuckwit! You are mistaken in your understanding of the scope of discussion here on this blog. No one is here to "argue for the feminist position". You wanna play Feminism 101, go somewhere else. There are plenty of places on the Internet for ignorant obsessive misogynist douchmonkeys like yourself to argue about the validity of "the feminist position" to your heart's content.

This blog exists so that knowledgeable and intelligent people can discuss advanced topics related to gender equity in science and engineering. Adults are trying to have an adult conversation, and you just keep barging into the room and farting and giggling at yourself.

Just like third-graders do not belong in college classrooms, you do not belong here. Google up Feminism 101 and go forth and argue, but stop making a fucking fool of yourself and wasting other people's time here. Capisce?

PhysioProf: Wherefrom do you get the authority to speak for each and every one of the participants of this discussion? How do you know who is here for what reason? In particular, how dare you speak to my purpose for being here, and for justification thereof? How dare you create a hostile environment for anyone? You are such a hypocrite that words do not suffice to express the extent of it.

Your presumptious attitude is further marred by your baseless insults. If you cannot argue on points of fact, save your breath. Thanks.

Resource: A report of information that has been verified as correct by peers within the same field. Must come from a journal, newspaper, etc. known and accepted as highly ethical and objective.

Julius, by the above standards, you have provided nothing to suggest that your viewpoint is justifiably correct. Since you have not backed up your information, it will be considered reasonable to state that your argument is fallacious and baseless. Please provide resources which meet the requirements above so that we may be able to proceed in this argument in a more reasonable manner.

As for Affirmitive Action, it is the allowance of minorities to attend a school at a slightly lower rate of achievement that what may be expected of in caucasion students. The assumption is that due to the students' habitat, they may not have had all the training nor the resources to recieve the kind of caliber of performance that is expected of Caucasion students. Men and Women within the culture of focus generally have the same level of achievement, in a number of cultures women are observed to achieve a higher status of achievement than men. Co-ed schools are pressured to have equal numbers of men and women because that is what is considered "fair". I believe that with the exception of minorities, people should be chosen based upon their performance skills. The Mental abilities between boys and girls in the instance of their learning capabilities does not justify a gap in their level of education.

Kakalina: Thank you for providing the first reasonable and sound definition of affirmative action in this thread. I imagine that this definition is familiar to pretty much everyone here. Even so, some of the other participants were attempting to sneak through fallacious definitions of affirmative action in the hope of salvaging their losing position. Typical feminist tactics.

However, you state that only minorities are the beneficiaries of affirmative action, which is false. Women are beneficiaries as well. The question remains: If women need affirmative action, how can it be claimed that they show equal or higher merit to men? And if they do in fact show equal or higher merit to men, then how can affirmative action be justified?

Julius says: And if they do in fact show equal or higher merit to men, then how can affirmative action be justified?

Removing bias from admissions and hiring practices so that the most qualified people are chosen, regardless of gender... that seems to justify itself, no? Unless you think that it's a good idea to pick less qualified applicants because they (presumably) have penises.

"If women need affirmative action, how can it be claimed that they show equal or higher merit to men?"

The answer to that question is simple. Because the Juliuses of the world exist.

How dare you create a hostile environment for anyone? You are such a hypocrite that words do not suffice to express the extent of it.

Your presumptious attitude is further marred by your baseless insults. If you cannot argue on points of fact, save your breath. Thanks.

First, I don't know that he was being any more hostile than you. Second, his insults didn't seem baseless to me. You had it coming by spewing all this affirmative action/reverse discrimination crud. Third, you're being awfully hypocritical yourself by thanking someone when it's obvious you're not sincere and by arguing without points of fact yourself. You're just declaring your hatred for women.

Hey, dumbfuck! Which part of "stop making a fucking fool of yourself and wasting other people's time here" did you fail to understand?

The lameass "argument" that you keep trying to suck people in to has been done to death, over and over and over and over. It is not interesting, and it is not anything that we haven't seen a bajillion times before.

You are not proving you are smart, and you are not "scoring points". All you are doing is childishly interfering with adults having an adult conversation about things you fail to understand.

Now fuck off, little boy.

Removing bias from admissions and hiring practices so that the most qualified people are chosen, regardless of gender

M.Z., again, that's not affirmative action, that's equal opportunity. Affirmative action introduces a positive bias for the selection of women and minorities.

PhysioProf: Your behavior has gone beyond creating a hostile environment and entered the legally defined scope of hate speech and hate crime. Your complete hypocrisy aside, fair warning that this will not end well for you.

Your behavior has gone beyond creating a hostile environment and entered the legally defined scope of hate speech and hate crime. Your complete hypocrisy aside, fair warning that this will not end well for you.

Whoah! Hate crime!? That sounds serious. Have your lawyer call my lawyer.

Hate crime is not a civil matter, it's a criminal matter. So I'd be filing a criminal complaint with the police in your jurisdiction -- and you'd be looking at jailtime, not financial damages. Feel free to look up precedent on online harrassment to see that your kind of behavior has consequences.

So I'd be filing a criminal complaint with the police in your jurisdiction -- and you'd be looking at jailtime, not financial damages.

Whoah! Jail sounds really serious. I'm sure the police will be very interested that someone on the Internet called you a fuckwit and told you to fuck off.

The police will definitely be interested in a persistent pattern of harrassment, designated upon discrimination, and using language of a violating sexual nature. Feel free to continue as you see fit, but I will not be responding to you on this forum anymore. My response will be through other, more appropriate channels.

The police will definitely be interested in a persistent pattern of harrassment, designated upon discrimination.

Oh this is just TOO rich!!! Awesome irony my man. Good one. I needed a little chuckle!

By SockMonkey (not verified) on 10 Apr 2008 #permalink

Julius, you are truly a fucking wacko. If you feel threatened (although I'm not sure how insecure someone has to be to feel threatened ON A BLOG), then why don't you walk away from YOUR FUCKING KEYBOARD, YOU FRIGGIN' IDIOT!

Oh, btw, did I mention that you are an idiot?

Lucky for Julius, Zuska has an affirmative action for idiots policy in her comments.

then why don't you walk away

I will not be bullied and I will not be silenced.

> I will not be bullied and I will not be silenced.

How very "noble". You sir, are an idiot. Pure and simple.

By John Lynch (not verified) on 10 Apr 2008 #permalink

I'm waiting to hear an answer to the merit / affirmative action contradiction. Is there somebody here capable of anything other than argumentum ad hominem? I'd love to hear some substance for a change.


You are an ignorant sexist jackass who has no idea of what the hell you're talking about.

What affirmative action does is not accept less qualified people. The point of it is that you have a group of people who are persistently granted benefits above and beyond what they've earned, who then expect everyone else to be treated as if they had those same benefits.

I'm a white guy. I've never had teachers try to dissuade me from taking math classes, because girls don't like math. I was never pushed away from learning to program, because it's a masculine thing to do. I wasn't discouraged from building model airplanes, because "girls don't do that". I never had a math teacher call me stupid, and then offer to stop yelling at me if I gave him "a pretty smile".

All of those things - and much, much more - are things that I have witnessed occuring to real women who became professional engineers and scientists. There is a persistent bias discouraging women from technical fields.

The point of affirmative action is that these things have an impact. We - as white guys - have had every advantage. We've been favored, coddled, encouraged. We've been given benefits that we haven't earned. And then people like you want to claim that other folks are less qualified because they haven't had the advantages that *we* had growing up.

The story I constantly repeat about this comes from an experience at a former job, where when I was in charge of summer intern hiring, we did a small affirmative action program. What we did was allow anyone to hire a summer intern - anyone they wanted. Once the budget was used up, we had extra money that could be used for hiring women or minorities. I had multiple people rant and rave at me about how we were discriminating against the most qualified applicants - basically the same line of shit that you're peddling.

But they really wanted to hire summer students. So they went back to the applicant pool. Two of them showed up in my office with new candidates saying, basically, "Wow, I found someone *even better* than the guy I originally wanted to hire!".

So why didn't they find them at first? Because they automatically discarded the resume when they saw a womans name. The didn't even *look* at the resumes for people who they believed were women. It didn't matter how good, how qualified, how experienced, how skilled the women were. Their resumes were automatically discarded without a second glance. Only the men - or the women whose names weren't obviously female - got a careful look.

And *that* is the point of affirmative action. If you're a woman, there's still a lot of persistent bias, just because you're a woman. And as a woman, your qualifications don't matter - because idiots like you will discount them or ignore them, because so many people (like you) *know* that women simply aren't as good as men, no matter what. Affirmative action is about addressing that - about trying to find the people who *are* equally qualified, regardless of whether they're part of the advantaged majority, or the disadvantaged minority.

Hey, J.,

If I walk into an Evangelical church and shout "Jesus was a fraud, and you're all suckers", and then I'm surprised when some of them get mad (or worse, get all compassionate), I really have no right to complain.

Can't stand the heat and all...

Man, what would happen if you had an argument with someone in RL?

You are an ignorant sexist jackass who has no idea of what the hell you're talking about.

Watch it dude, or you're gonna get the police coming down on your ass.

MarkCC: That is something that I can sometimes never push through peoples' heads. I have had conversations with people that have gone, roughly (but fairly accurately) paraphrased:

You don't like affirmative action because it gives some people who don't deserve it jobs over people who do deserve it.
But you accept that minorities are at a disadvantage.
And it's a disadvantage that they do not deserve.
More or less.
And that when you rephrase what you just agreed to, that means that people who are not part of those minorities are at an advantage over minorities, and they are likely advantages that they do not deserve, since the minorities didn't somehow earn their disadvantages.

It is really, really tough to get people to wrap their heads around the concept that people benefit from a twisted system.

Also, for bonus points, people can throw in, 'So when will affirmative action stop? Huh? Huh? I bet you just want it to go on forever, you racist.'


PalMD, did you just argue that feminism is a dogmatic religion taken on faith with no basis on reality? Sure sounds like you did. And from the level of discourse taking place on this board, I find it hard to disagree with you on that one!

Mecha: There's a nuance there. I'm not necessarily arguing that affirmative action is unjust or unnecessary. I'm arguing that it's contradictory to claim that women are just as capable as men in technology and engineering, as well as simultaneously demanding affirmative action for women. It's either one or the other. You can't have both.

Julius, the "capability" both Mecha and Mark are pointing to as crucial here is not a matter of women's skills in engineering but rather of being taken seriously by people who control the jobs, projects, funds, etc. In other words, it is not a matter of women being deficient in the necessary skills, but of the system being deficient in recognizing them in women as it does in men.

What exactly are you not understanding here?

Mark, that is an outstanding real-life example - thanks for putting the time into that comment. It appears that you have silenced Julius, and not a moment too soon.

Dear PhysioProf (real name redacted),

We are currently investigating a ridiculous serious complaint submitted by one(real name redacted). We would ask that you submit to your nearest disintegration chamber for immediate processing.

Thank you.


Dr. Free Ride: Again, that's equal opportunity, not affirmative action. Affirmative action is positive bias i.e. reverse discrimination. What exactly are you not understanding here?

It is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of his/her sex in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment. Title VII also prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals on the basis of sex. Title VII prohibits both intentional discrimination and neutral job policies that disproportionately exclude individuals on the basis of sex and that are not job related.

As Mark aptly pointed out, affirmative action is about seeing PAST the stereotypes. When we live in a world of stereotypes, it is difficult to see the qualifications of the individual.

Hey guys, I think this toy's lost it's appeal, like a pull-string doll that's started to repeat itself. Julius has simply defined "affirmative action" as discrimination. No matter what we say, he'll respond "that's just equal opportunity" because affirmative action means "giving those stupid women and minorities the jobs that they're not qualified for (INSTEAD OF ME! THE MAN! I HAVE A PENIS!)" by definition.

Julius, maybe you should petition to have "affirmative action" programs renamed. Then I suggest a visit to a proctologist; whatever's up your ass must be a scientific marvel to which a pinecone would pale in comparison.

Academic: You're referring to employment in the private sector. Things are a bit more sensible in that area, at least in theory. But in academics, it's completely out of control.

But in academics, it's completely out of control.

Hmm, let me guess. Julius, you are a failed academic who tried to obtain a tenure-track or tenured academic position but simply couldn't succeed. And you saw around you successful women who achieved those things you so dearly wanted but didn't have what it takes to obtain.

And your ego is so truly, truly, truly weak, that it won't allow you to honestly confront the fact that--while you may have succeeded in an environment that excluded non-white, non-male academics--now that you are competing on a playing field that is at least moving in the direction of becoming more level, you can't get what you want.

Am I getting warm?

"But in academics, it's completely out of control"

Bravo Julius, something you are completely right about. For example:

"A study [Nature 387:341-343] of the peer-review scores awarded on applications for postdoctoral fellowships in Sweden, the country named by the United Nations as the world leader in gender equality, revealed that men received systematically higher competence ratings than equally productive women. A woman, in fact, had to be more than twice as productive as a man to be judged equally competent." (Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11741.html)

I suggest you read this book, which is full of equally valuable examples as to how out of control it is in academia, and which was published by the US National Academies, to further inform your opinion before you embarrass yourself further with demonstrations of ignorance.

By Science Skeptic (not verified) on 11 Apr 2008 #permalink

I once worked through a temp agency (in IT) and ended up working with the even more rare and exotic Black Woman in IT species. Let's be honest, minorities are underrepresented in IT as well and to be a minority woman, well, a rare breed indeed.

She was actually transported in a litter by 4 white male IT nerds and fed grapes and fanned by a bronzed hard body. She would show up whenever she wanted and commanded everyone around. You knew someone was lucky when her litter would head to someone's cube for they were being blessed with her presence.

Alright fine, the sarcasm might not come through for those of the troll persuasion. She worked her ass off and was incredibly intelligent. I still see her at "networking" events and she still has a passion for IT, she's now in management and I'm sure her sleeping with someone (or at all) had anything to do with it.

Science Skeptic: I'd have to know more details about that study to meaningfully comment on it, but at first blush, it seems designed specifically to cater to the feminist agenda. How do they measure productivity vs. competence?

fed grapes and fanned by a bronzed hard body

Clearly, feminists have no problems sexually objectifying men. It's only a crime when men do it to them. That's not hypocritical at all.

J, why do you assume the "bronzed hard body" is male?

Productivity is generally measured in quantifiable capacities (how many papers published, how many talks given, how many students graduated, how many grants won, how much money associated with those grants, etc). In other words, it is "by the numbers" so it is very transparent. On the other hand, competence is determined largely on subjective scales that can vary from department to department with different many different players. Information to glean competence comes from subjective evaluations, be they the letters from outside referees or teaching evaluations from students.

Julius, you have yet to offer any evidence to support your initial claim or any of your subsequent claims.

Claire: The majority of bronzed hard bodies in existence belong to men, so statistically speaking the assumption is justified, but it doesn't really matter. It is just as hypocritical for a feminist to sexually objectify a woman.

Academic: Clearly, the competence metric exists for a reason. Someone who publishes a lot of inconsequential papers cannot be said to excel in any meaningful way. Winning grants, however, carries more weight, as the evaluation process usually considers the prospect of practical applications more prominently. It is difficult to judge the merit of the study mentioned without knowing in detail how they calculate the productivity coefficient.

Someone who publishes a lot of inconsequential papers cannot be said to excel in any meaningful way. Winning grants, however, carries more weight, as the evaluation process usually considers the prospect of practical applications more prominently.

Ummm...where to start with this one? I'm not sure that owls can roll their eyes, but I'll give it a try.

Oh, yeah. You know, J, it's difficult, if not impossible, to "win" (your choice of words, not mine) grants without a solid and consistent track record of publications in peer-reviewed journals.

And what do you know about the evaluation process?

J: The majority of bronzed hard bodies in existence belong to men
Men have all the brains, all the angst, all the anguish of discrimination, all the bitterness of unfair treatment, all the legal means needed to protect themselves from mistreatment on blogs and ALL THE BHBIE!

By phio gistic (not verified) on 12 Apr 2008 #permalink

J: Clearly, the competence metric exists for a reason.

Wow. Coming from a person who refuses to support their various claims, I find this comment to be seeped in irony.

"J: The majority of bronzed hard bodies in existence belong to men"

ROFL. On what planet? In who's "existence"?

Oh wow, this guy is the best bunch of laughs I've seen in a while, and I've been watching britcoms all week.

Zuska, love the list. It's kind of a Bechtel test for articles on women in STEM fields.

Academic: Which claim of mine do you claim to be unjustified?

Julius, you have refused to provide any sources regarding your initial claim that women have STEM degrees handed to them.

We've had our fun with "Julius"/"J", but perhaps it is time to start ignoring him and let him move on to greener pastures, so that the discussion can return to issues of gender equity in science and engineering, and not his wackaloonery.

Affirmative action means positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded. When those steps involve preferential selectionselection on the basis of race, gender, or ethnicityaffirmative action generates intense controversy.


So according to Stanford, affirmative action is not, by definition, equal to preferential selection. However, preferential selection can be considered a form of affirmative action. One other motive for affirmative action is to counter the bias/prejudice against minorities.

I am pretty sure most people understand that cases of minorities being "historically excluded" were not always or even mostly based on incompetence but simply bigoted discrimination. Unless you think African Americans, women and others chose to be in a submissive role voluntarily. Well, "slave" and "subject to discrimination" is not on top of my career list, anyway! And as much as we would like to believe that there is no such thing as racism, discrimination or even prejudice (all of which can go both ways, of course) anymore and everything is based on competency, we know that is not the reality.

On a different note, so this "J" person considers (All? Most? Many?) women "stealing" jobs from (All? Most? Many?) men whle being "inferior" an "irrefutable fact" because he found the term "affirmative action" in a dictionary. Which also refers to women, so it must be true. All I can say is: give that man a PhD! I am awed by his research to create this sound scientific argument! But wait, my dictionary has the word "sexism" in it. By his logic, it exists, so it is true, so clearly j's statements are no longer valid and I have proven to be irrefutably right. Someone give me a PhD!

Affirmative action itself is sexist, but reversely sexist against men, so congratulations, Wobbler, for disproving your own argument.

'Affirmative action itself is sexist, but reversely sexist against men'

Affirmative action is sexist, but reversed against men? If that were true it means that we are both, by your logic, working with irrefutable facts! That means we are both right about both being wrong, apparently! How can two irrefutable facts be contracting? Oh my goodness, does this mean the dictionary has failed as a reflection of reality!?

J, what part of "the existence of a word in a dictionary does not automatically make it an irrefutable fact that can be used to stereotype concepts in reality" do you not understand?

Neither of us have proven anything, other than the fact that we can find words in a dictionary (and one which you seemingly do not understand completely, obviously), which is your "factual" basis to stereotype in real life. Which is asinine, to say the least.

Lastly, I like how you skipped Academic's request to provide sources. (PS. a dictionary will not suffice, friendly tip from me for free)

Zuska, I would like to thank you and all the other women in science and engineering who have gone before me. Thanks to your hard and tireless work I have (thankfully) only had one sexist professor. And I can choose to wear a skirt to the lab and not be mistaken for a secretary. For my part I make sure that my undergraduate lab workers understand that brains and hard work are what gets you ahead in the lab. Thanks to all of you this whole comment thread has been a glimpse into what I thought was an extinct worldview.

(As a side note: the observation of another's fear does not implicate the observer in enjoying said fear or wishing to cause the observed person to be subject to that fear.)

By JustaTech (not verified) on 14 Apr 2008 #permalink

the observation of another's fear does not implicate the observer in enjoying said fear or wishing to cause the observed person to be subject to that fear

According to this logic, you are in full support of rape porn and snuff. Do you enjoy it too?

I can't speak to any national statistics. The university I received my Masters in CS from had no such affirmative action program. It's true there were few women in the program, but in my experience, those had top notch performance. On a personal note, my experience was quite the opposite of that noted by Julius. As an aside, my wife earned a double major in Math and CS from that university and had a better GPA than I did. If you suggested to our professors they weren't grading objectively, *they* might do violence to you. Also, my sister is a software project manager and an excellent one. Any blanket statement about technical ability for any ethnic or gender group is nothing but bigotry, in my view.

By Jim Newsom (not verified) on 15 Apr 2008 #permalink

No answer is really needed. JustaTech either advocates the oppression of women and enjoying their fear (in which case his or her position as a feminist is hypocritical) or he or she only advocates the oppression of men and enjoying their fear (in which case he or she is a sexist terrorist) and in either case he or she is morally bankrupt and has no credibility left.

It is amazing to see what barbarians you people really are behind your facade of progressiveness and egalitarianism.

If you suggested to our professors they weren't grading objectively, *they* might do violence to you.

So threatening violence absolves one of accusations of wrongdoing?

I just want to echo Physioprof's very sensible plea for all of us to refrain from responding to Julius/J. He's certainly amusing to watch in action but there's nothing to be gained by actually trying to converse with him.

but there's nothing to be gained by actually trying to converse with him

Having your hypocrisy exposed does not count as a gain, does it, Zuska, you sexist terrorist?

OK, now I KNOW he's a parodist.

PalMD: Ridiculing what you cannot argumentatively counter is a tool of oppression. How can one reasonably claim that JustaTech and Zuska are not advocating sexist terrorism?

I was kinda waiting for the inevitable "blog comments = Holocaust" but I think I actually like the "sexist terrorist" thing better. Do sexist terrorists have hard bronzed bodies, maybe?

PhysioProf: Can I have your bebbies? 'Cause you win at everything. Zuska too. I can share. :p