Code Anarchy

What a mess…

We have major problems. Women aren’t safe around men, in what we claim is civilized society. That’s seriously fucked up. Men aren’t really safe around other men either—we tend to kill each other for stupid reasons, at least until we grow up, if we ever do.

Yes, I know that’s an over-generalization, but those statements are far truer than they ought to be.

I’ve been a social shield for women—someone whose presence will make men behave themselves, because the woman’s own rights apparently aren’t enough of a reason. Of course I’m willing to do it, but it’s sad that I have to.

We have phrases like “legitimate rape” because people somehow don’t get that non-violent sexual assault is still one hell of a violation. The fact people see this as normal sexuality is a problem—it needs to be universally revolting.

Women aren’t exactly welcomed into the workforce either, even in 2014. This is just depressing. A lot of it isn’t even conscious, which is especially scary—turns out, given identical resumes, we’ll pick the one with the male name over the female. (Actually, the more I learn about the hiring process, the more I’m convinced that it runs on faith alone.) When they do make it through the door, they’re often dehumanized, devalued, and objectified.

The worst thing, I think, is that women’s rights is a polarizing issue. “Conversations” quickly devolve into shouting matches, and by the time I run into them often I can’t tell why people are angry. Instead, I hear faint echoes of meta-arguments about tone policing buried in a pool of bile.

It’s April 27. Between tornado warnings, I’m trying to find out what led to this comment:

“Successful white man in tech only wants to listen to women who say what he wants to hear? Weird.”

I follow the link:

“Trying to diversify my follows by following any female voices that engaged me in a civil, constructive way recently.”

That seems reasonable enough on the surface. I agree absolutely that attacking someone’s tone not only isn’t a counter argument but is sometimes an oppression tactic, but then I read some of the comments flying around and realize there’s often a lot more tone than substance. That first tweet is a perfect example: it devalues any disagreement the target has because he has automatic privilege; dramatically exaggerates what he actually said; then passive-aggressively condemns him for what the author believes he said.

All the while, I’m still not sure what people are defending the right to be uncivil about. All I really know at this point is that a famous blogger has clearly pissed some people off.

Since Twitter offered zero clues, I went to his blog, which I hadn’t read in a long time. Latest post: “What Can Men Do?” The surrounding discussion finally starts to clue me into the source of the fire. Shanley Kane wrote an earlier post with the same name, and at some point the later post was deemed to be plagiarized and the author guilty of tone policing, presumably after reacting to that first accusation…┬ábut I’m not sure.

He also brought up Aspergers, which seemed out of place. I can’t really agree or disagree with this point, because I don’t see a point to evaluate. My best guess is he thinks programmers are disproportionately aspies, and men are disproportionately aspies, thus programmers are disproportionately men. If that’s the case, I think he dramatically over-estimates the incidence of Aspergers and thus the influence it has on the gender ratio of programmers.

The heat’s taking its toll, but at least I’m starting to find some light through this wreckage.

I basically live-tweeted my reactions watching this. Through this limited medium, I tried to cover both how to react productively to people who are angry with you and how to productively express anger. Having failed at both of these things before, I’ve been forced to learn things I wanted to pass on.

This stream of thoughts went mostly ignored. One tweet got attention, and now I regret posting it in the first place. I called out a specific example of content-free anger, and that is what got retweeted. That’s what got attention.

It’s no fucking wonder people think they have to scream to get any attention. The Internet loves a good tarring and feathering, and it’s hard to be heard at all without resorting to outrage and public humiliation.

The comments I got left a lot to be desired—a few virtual high fives, and a couple people telling me I was missing important context. I tried to find this context, but I wasn’t able to, and the person who offered to help find it never came back with anything. In any case, we were now talking about this specific exchange, but the wider message I was trying to send was completely ignored.

I hope this isn’t an inevitable failure mode. We can’t ask for civil discourse, then ignore it when it happens. If hellfire is the only thing that gets attention, we can’t blame people for using it.

But it is a terrible way to converse, and it leads to things like Donglegate or the libupskirt fiasco where the whole thing’s one giant train wreck.

It’s shocking to realize that society actually promotes this.