It seems like every few months, there is a new article which is widely circulated, about one of two things:
how “nerds” (what a lot of us have inexplicably taken on as a positive term for our demographic) are awful to each other, and need to lighten up and return to the old days of mutual good-feelings and social hacking. We apparently need to be more “excellent to each other”.
how women are constantly and consistently disrespected in our community. They don’t get invited to conferences, or some brave guy tried to hit on them at a party, or they are assumed to not be software developers, or some other grievance.
Be Excellent To Each Other
I’ve encountered my fair share of impatient disrespect on the internet. It tends to come from two sorts of people:
- idiot teenagers who think they know something, and refuse to stop arguing obscure topics with experts
- cranky old veterans who disagree with unorthodox ideas
The first category is unforgivable, but I have a lot of respect for the veterans. Whether I’m right or not (I usually am under the impression that I am), discussions I’ve had with cranky veterans have always been extremely valuable to me. These are folks who have been doing this stuff for so long that they are bound to at least have really good reasons for their strongly-held opinions. I like to figure things out the hard way, so I often ignore their advice; but frequently (though not always), I’ll come back several months later and decide that the cranky veteran was right. I’m actually glad these folks are so hard on me, since it impresses the importance of their opinion upon me all the more.
I don’t take rude comments from my betters personally, and neither should you. You should listen very carefully to what they say, and you might learn something.
I believe that arguments are more effective the more civilly they are conducted; there comes a point, however, when someone must be given license to throw away the rules of politeness in order to inflict intellectual justice on a small soul like me.
My experience is that if you interpret things correctly, most of our community really are excellent to each other. And yet it remains so fashionable go complain and moralize about the state of our interpersonal skills.
The other irritating meme that keeps coming up is that our community is horrible to women. Apparently, we are supposed to:
- invite conference speakers based on their gender, as opposed to their fame and talent
- assume that all women we meet at or near technical conferences are software developers
- not acknowledge a woman’s gender in a friendly way
- ignore our sexual imperative and never introduce ourselves to women at technical conferences with the purpose of establishing a more-than-friendly relationship with them
- never try to explain our work in layman’s terms to women who have introduced themselves to us as nontechnical beauty-models
Many of the examples brought up by ever-active sexism-crusaders either involve false pretenses and entrapment (in the case of our supermodels-pretending-to-be-Luddites), or idiot douche-bag teenagers trying to be macho. I’ve never met a real male software craftsman who is not thrilled at the idea of more women entering the workforce, or who would behave inappropriately to a female colleague, or who would purposely exclude women from panels or conferences. Sexism in our industry is tragic when it happens, but there seems to be a lot more complaining about sexism than there is actual sexism going on.
“You don’t know what it’s like being a woman. Grow a vagina and then come back and argue with me about sexism.”
Ugh. I’ve heard this desperate argument more times than I’d like to admit. The idea that men have no say in discussions of sexism (discussions, mind you, which are designed to generalize and condemn members of my sex as bigots) is laughable. If I need a vulva in order to discuss gender-politics with you, I think I may be in need of a better conversational partner.
Let’s make nice stuff, and stop politicizing every little thing. In essence, I’m asking the brigade of angry sexism-crusaders to stop assuming that the average male software developer is a pig: I suppose I could say that I’m asking them to be “excellent” to us.