Joho the Bloggender Archives - Joho the Blog

May 17, 2016

When the transgender bathroom debate will end

It’ll end when the Republicans have this conversation with their daughters:

“You see, precious, that’s really a woman who’s just pretending to be a man because, well, she’s what we call a ‘pervert.’ No, dear, she can’t use the men’s room because we passed a law to make sure that lady perverts have to use the lady’s room. Yes, dear, we also made a law that the male perverts have to use the men’s room dressed as ladies. Yes, dear, the lady perverts who look like men actually are lady homosexuals — why aren’t you precocious! — who lust after little girls, just like we’ve told you, but, well, …you won’t understand it when you grow up either.”

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February 19, 2013

What’s not ok even with the door closed

Sarah Parmenter has posted about just how ugly it gets for women in tech. She recounts a horrifying story about how as a speaker at a tech conference she was methodically assaulted online. I want to believe that this was a rare and random act, but apparently it happens more than we know because it’s not something generally the victims want to get yet more publicity about.

Thanks to the rise of feminism, the change in behavioral norms over the past 50 years has eliminated many of the superficial, public expressions of misogyny. Not all, of course, but in the circles that I’ve moved in, the change has been noticeable. There are many fewer casual male expressions of discomfort around women, many fewer belittling or sexually objectifying comments. That’s good, but it doesn’t tell us if private expressions have changed, and, more important, how thoroughly the disempowering assumptions and structures are being undone. (And, yes, I know that I must certainly be blind to my own pernicious assumptions.)

For example, I remember in the late 1990s going on a media call to the Boston Globe with a group of male developers with whom I worked. The reporter had some cutting questions about the utility of the software and about competitive threats. The five of us walked quietly back to our car, but as soon as the door was closed, the guys had a good time dismissing the editor’s comments because “she must be on the rag.” Also, she was attractive and several of the lads expressed a desire to relieve her of the stress that brought her to under-appreciate our offering. Needless to say, not only were the editor’s comments perceptive and accurate, had they come from a man we would have taken them as a conversational challenge to which we would have risen, rather than as dismissing them as carping by a bitchy, hormonally-prejudiced girl.

These were young techie men who I’m sure sincerely supported gender equality policies. The degree of their discomfort and, yes, loathing of women had never manifested itself before. This was not acceptable banter, any more than, say, racist comments would have been. Yet when the door was closed and it was just us guys, it might as well have been 1950. I was shocked.

I have to say that I haven’t seen that sort of behavior among men with the doors closed since then. I don’t know if that incident was anomalous, or if I happen to travel in circles that don’t tolerate that type of sexism, or at least don’t tolerate the overt display of it. Or maybe as I’ve become old, my presence drives all the boyish “fun” out of the room — you can’t really talk about girls when Dad is in the room. I’d like to think we’ve changed. But it’s so hard to know what goes on behind closed doors.

Until someone opens them, even at personal cost. So, thank you, Sarah.

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October 29, 2009

Taking sides with Droid: Hippies vs. Geeks

I’m finding the cultural politics of Droid‘s marketing to be fascinating.

Droid is Motorola’s competitor to the iPhone, based on Google’s open source Android operating system. Of course it’s marketing itself head-to-head against the iPhone. Verizon’s “iDon’t” ad was totally in iPhone’s face: iPhone doesn’t do x, y, and z, but Droid does.

But Droid isn’t just going against iPhone’s features. It’s drawing a cultural line. Apple is for hippies, it’s saying. Droid is for power geeks.

For example, at Verizon’s “Droid Does” page, if you click on “Open Development,” the message is:

Droid doesn’t judge app makers. We don’t care about their politics, their lifestyles or their attitude. If they make a great app, we will share it. That’s how we have over 10,000 apps in Android Marketâ„¢. Simple, isn’t it?

This is cross-over geek and business trash talk.

At “Hardcore,” the text is:

This is no granola crunching, flower child phone. It’s more powerful than you need and faster than you can handle. Basically, it’s everything you’ve ever wanted. And it’s ready to do your bidding. What shall you have it do first.

Weird anti-hippie, geek power lord, high-performance sports car, S&M vibe.

“Power” continues the sports car trope:

Look under the hood of this machine if you dare. There’s a fast CortextA8 processor, 16gb of memory expandable to 32gb and a WVGA 854×480 screen. Now step back. It’s revving up.

Out of my way, hippie!

And perhaps: Out of my way, girls! The Droid marketing is hitting a lot of (traditionally) male notes.

The cultural alignment will be fascinating to watch.

7 Comments »

January 27, 2009

A joke I don’t get

I overslept and thus came in at the end of the panel at DLD on women in the industry. The room was packed. A man in the audience (was it Ben Hammersley??) followed up on a panelist’s claim that an EU requirement that 30%of some government body (sorry to be vague; I couldn’t hear so well) made a real difference. The man asked for some examples of the difference this had made in policies.

In the course of her answer, the woman in her perfect English said that she didn’t think women were more peaceful than men. Germany has female fighter pilots, she said, and “Condoleeza Rice was a woman.” Even before she realized her mistake and corrected herself, the audience tittered.

Not a big deal. But I’m curious about why the crowd found this funny, or why it made the crowd anxious. Had the panelist made some other small mistake in English — “Rice are a woman,” “Rice a woman is” — no one would have laughed. It would have been rude to. It was the content of her mistake that caused the laugh, as if the very possibility of changing gender makes us nervous. Or possibly it was because we think power could turn a woman into a man. I don’t know.

Or maybe I’m just a little cranky from a late night, a fantastic dinner, and just a little more wine than I should have had.

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January 13, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day is on!

From the Pledgebank:

The pledge, created by Suw Charman-Anderson, reads: ‘I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.’ The 1000th person has signed the pledge, just moments ago!

And since signing the pledge doesn’t forbid you from blogging about a woman in tech whom you admire before then, let me express my admiration for Suw, a force for openness and equality in tech, a blogger, a founder of the UK’s Open Rights Group, an advocate for unleashing the power of socially connective software inside of businesses, a Welsh language enthusiast, a great person to have an open-ended conversation with, and someone who entirely escapes every attempt to sum her up. Thanks, Suw!

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