A Bit of F.U. Validation

In episode fifty-eight of the Accidental Tech Podcast, Marco, John, and Casey did some follow-up on their previous episode in which they discussed — among other topics — sexism. In response to the previous week’s show, ATP 57: Smorgasbord Of Pronunciation, I wrote the gruesomely-titled Hedge Yourself Before They Wreck Yourself — a poorly-executed play on the “check yourself before you wreck yourself” cliché — wherein I talked about my dislike of the culture surrounding social causes. Although I tried to publish that piece before the trio recorded ATP fifty-eight, I missed it by a day and posted my article late. After finally putting it out for all to see though, I went and listened to episode 58: Always on Vacation in California. To my surprise, within the first few minutes Marco validated everything I had opined against in my unfortunately-titled piece. For the unindoctrinated, here’s a transcript of the pertinent parts:

[11:09]: Marco Arment: “The feedback was overall very positive, that people were very happy that we talked about the problems of sexism in tech. ... I was very scared — as I said during the show last week — I was very scared to talk about it because it’s so hard to talk about sexism without offending somebody on the side that you’re fighting for.”

Casey Liss: “Yeah, and that’s why I pumped the brakes real hard in the beginning. And I’m really really glad and thankful that — I think it was mostly John basically that said, ”Tough noogies, we’re going to talk about.“ And I’m glad that we did, but oh man I was so scared... I was so scared in the beginning.”

John Siracusa: “I think Marco said — did you tweet that you had been afraid to touch on this topic but were pleasantly surprised that the backlash was not that bad, and that basically you had been too afraid of this topic for too long? And if you had known that it wasn’t, you know, the minefield that you thought it was going to be, you wouldn’t have been as hesitant?”

Marco: “Yeah, that’s exactly right. I try to fight for social causes that I care about, and this is one of those, but I’ve been really scared off by the public discourse around sexism because it just seems that everyone is being attacked, even people who are trying to make progress in eliminating or reducing sexism. They get attacked for something they didn’t include, or accidentally omitted, or didn’t say the right way — it’s seems like it’s so cutthroat, the discussions out there that I see so often in print and on Twitter and stuff; no one’s given any leeway, no one’s given any slack, everyone assumes the worst of everyone else in the discussion. And frankly, that’s why I try to stay out of it: I’m so afraid of something blowing up in my face when I was just trying to help, but I did it in not quite the right way, or forgot about some condition, or something that I’m not thinking about, or some side effect of a word I’m thinking about — it’s so hard to talk about it in a way that won’t get you attacked as well, from your side. It’s one thing if you say, ”Sexism is a problem“, and then you’ve got a bunch of idiot men saying, ”No, it’s not“ — that’s one thing; I don’t care about that kind of attack, obviously. But if I’m trying to argue for the progress of this issue and for less sexism, and then I get attacked by anti-sexism advocates because I didn’t do it correctly — that discourages me from participating in the discussion at all. It’s very intimidating to even enter it.”

Bingo — hit the nail on the head right there; this is exactly what I was railing against in Hedge Yourself Before They Wreck Yourself. More so than a narrow-minded worldview by which pig-headed men ignore the reality of sexism, the more likely culprit preventing widespread discussion of this sensitive subject is those who champion it. Marco fell victim to the threat of their misguided backlash, as did Casey, and I as well, and I would bet anything that we’re not alone.