I Don't Like Articles about Women in Technology
Subject:   Perspective?
Date:   2007-09-13 22:27:16
From:   shelleyp
Response to: Perspective?

I've been accused of speaking negatively to Amy in these comments, so I hesitate to say anything more. It is a pity that one can't really be critical, or even disagree strongly without being adversely labeled.

I don't see anything wrong by Amy being a success in our field; more power to her. I am not responding to the course she has taken, but to the essay she contributed to this series.

In this essay, Amy used an number of derogatory terms in her writing that degenerate the rest of us who have chosen to take a different course from her. Words such as 'whining' and 'victim', which can only be viewed as an attempt to demean the rest of us.

If Amy wants to demonstrate being a successful woman in tech by being a successful woman in tech, great. What happened in this writing, though, is that she basically threw the rest of us under the bus.

"Here I am," she seems to say. "I don't complain because I believe that only I'm responsible for what happens to me." Anything that follows, then, has been relegated to 'complaint', if not out and out 'whine'.

How very comfortable for those who prefer the status quo. How much more difficult for those who fight real discrimination, bias, and sexism in this industry. And make no mistake: all three are very real.

Whining and victims. To think I would hear our effort reduced in such a way. People wanting to generate lasting change, who point out obvious bias and discrimination, who actively push awareness of the issues facing women in technology are not victims, and neither is what we're saying 'whining'--far from it.

What's sad is that Amy probably has benefited from the work, past and present, of the very women she seems to hold in such little regard. I don't consider that acting very responsibly. However, that's my opinion, Amy has hers, you have yours. I guess we'll have to just accept the fact that we disagree.

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Showing messages 1 through 10 of 10.

  • Perspective?
    2007-09-14 18:21:01  kollivier [View]

    What's sad is that Amy probably has benefited from the work, past and present, of the very women she seems to hold in such little regard. I don't consider that acting very responsibly. However, that's my opinion, Amy has hers, you have yours. I guess we'll have to just accept the fact that we disagree.

    I think you are mis-interpreting some of what Amy is saying. I think you may have focused so much on her critical tone that you've kinda misunderstood who she's leveling her criticism at. Certainly not all the women who have fought for equality.

    For example, take the 'whining' comment. I highly doubt that Amy is seeking to deride the entire women's rights movement by making this comment. I think she is far more specifically addressing people who focus on problems, rather than solutions, and are comfortable attributing failures in their own life to discrimination when they really could have overcome those obstacles had they tried.

    Sad to say, this rings very true to me because I know people who do this, and they give up with amazing ease. And yes, they call themselves victims and say 'what can I do'? And when they're given suggestions about how to address the issue (e.g. switch employers, bring the issue to management/court, be a bit more aggressive in asking for what you deserve, etc.), they say "it won't work, because of all those who discriminate against me". Without trying. At all. They complain about being discriminated against, but their actions actually show they're just looking for a way out of having to do anything, without it being their fault. In a sense, though they don't mean to, they're actually enabling and encouraging the very discrimination they claim causes them so much trouble. Perhaps you don't know anyone like this, in which case, I'd consider you lucky.

    That brings us to Amy's comments about personal responsibility. Personal responsibility is about asking yourself "am I doing everything I possibly can to succeed?" If not, you can't really (objectively) isolate whether the major cause of failure is you, or any obstacles in your way.

    Actually, this also rings very true with me, because I myself got a lecture on this some time ago by someone who made me a very strong believer in this philosophy - my wife. :-) And it was because she got fed up with me saying I was a victim of circumstance. She didn't say "hey, you think you have it bad, well, I'm a woman and an ethnic woman at that. Can you imagine all the discrimination I've been through?" Instead, what she said to me is - "if you did not do absolutely everything in your power to succeed, then you can't point the finger at anyone but yourself. So, did you?" I got quiet, because I knew the answer.

    That point, no joke, changed my life forever. As soon as I stopped focusing on all the people who were supposedly holding me back, and instead focused on how I could achieve more, I started achieving all sorts of things I complained I was being held back from doing. And that, I think, is Amy's main point. Is there discrimination? Sure, some form of discrimination happens every day to all groups of people. But I think the worst possible thing you could do to discriminators is to counter their stereotypes and arguments by achieving more and further improving the state of women in IT (or anywhere).
    • Perspective?
      2007-09-15 07:21:44  Shelley Powers | O'Reilly Author [View]

      I may be misinterpreting what Amy has had to say. All I can do is respond to the words I see.

      Have you had many people 'play' the so-called discrimination card? I've been in the industry almost 23 years (yeah, almost as long as Amy has been alive) and I've not once seen anyone play any kind of discrimination card. But I have seen discrimination.

      I have also seen women burn out on the field. I don't know whether Amy would consider that they've 'giving' up in some cowardly fashion, but the women I've seen who have burned out have done so because they got tired after fighting such battles for decades.

      Should we, as women, accept that it is our lot in life to have to fight twice as hard to be heard? That rather than point out such inequity, we should just put in that extra effort? As I said earlier, how every comfortable for those who support the status quo.

      I don't consider such 'not rocking the boat' working towards success. I call it the ultimate cop out. By giving in to the inequality, we're feeding the machine; we're keeping it going at the expense of other women, whether they are our peers or the young women entering the field, like Amy.

      • Perspective?
        2007-09-15 14:37:59  kollivier [View]

        I may be misinterpreting what Amy has had to say. All I can do is respond to the words I see.

        Have you considered asking her about her intent, rather than just assuming she is trying to insult the entire women's rights movement? Have you asked her whether her intent is to encourage the status quo? Do you consider it even possible that she, actually, realizes something that you don't? I think you can do a lot more than simply respond to what you thought she said. You can question your interpretation, and give her the benefit of the doubt.

        I actually read her words much differently than you did, which means that at least one of us must have misunderstood the point she was trying to make. From a lot of your statements, I really think you're taking her words out of context and ascribing new meanings to them. For example, you pull out the word 'whining' then you change the context its used in - e.g. "to describe the entire women's rights movement as 'whining'" That would be something that Amy did not do. You merely said she did, which is different from her actually saying it herself.

        Anyway, regarding the rest of your post, you ask whether or not women should accept the status quo, as if anyone ever suggested that they should. You also discuss things like how difficult fighting discrimination is, as if someone suggested it wasn't or worked to trivialize that. None of these things were ever actually said. You just assumed that we could only say what we did if we felt that way. Which, honestly, is a wrong assumption. So I'm not sure where the discussion can go from here so long as you continue to hold those assumptions.
        • Perspective?
          2007-09-15 15:54:03  Shelley Powers | O'Reilly Author [View]

          Have you considered asking her about her intent, rather than just assuming she is trying to insult the entire women's rights movement?

          That's the whole point of comments, isn't it? And since the discussion seems to have boiled down to a disagreement on what Amy meant, and Amy is not participating in the comments, time to move on.

          • Perspective?
            2007-09-16 09:19:34  kollivier [View]

            That's the whole point of comments, isn't it?

            I agree they should be, but often they're used for other things - to express anger and frustration, criticize, argue, etc. I was asking which was the focus of your posts.

            In my experience, a lot of arguments start out as misunderstandings, and then everyone gets so worked up that any chance of the misunderstanding getting resolved goes out the window. Once you realize that's the situation, there's really only two options left - you can either back out, or keep duking it out until you're completely exhausted, with nothing to show for it.

            Anyway, as you say, moving on.
    • Thanks.
      2007-09-24 11:17:28  AmyHoy [View]

      You've understood what I written and the spirit in which I wrote it, kollivier. Thank you for chiming in and explaining things so eloquently. :)

      (For what it's worth, I was away on a trip to Europe. Berlin has crap for wifi access!)
  • No need to be delicate...
    2007-09-24 11:27:47  AmyHoy [View]

    Shelley, you can claim that the "accusation" of negativity comes as a surprise to you, that you have carefully weighed and considered my words before asking reasonable questions, but let's be honest here. Your tone is far too obvious to misinterpret. People in this industry know who you are and anticipate your response to things they do and say. I expected this as well.

    You have silenced or intimidated others in the past. But you do not intimidate me.
    • No need to be delicate...
      2007-09-30 08:33:06  Shelley Powers | O'Reilly Author [View]

      I didn't claim it surprised me. It disappointed me.

      Amy, you said at your site in regards to this article that you expected to be slammed for this work. That it would be refreshing.

      In other words, you knew this writing was going to be perceived as controversial, and was supposedly expecting strong responses back.

      Your comments here bely such bravado. Instead of responding to what I asked, and what I wrote, you have attacked me, my personality, and implied that other "People in the industry" know all about me and my wicked, evil ways.

      I have to ask: now who is it who has introduced a negative tone into this discussion? Who has resorted to personal attacks?

      As for 'silenced or intimidated others', what an absurd thing to say.

      • No need to be delicate...
        2007-09-30 13:42:53  Shelley Powers | O'Reilly Author [View]

        Sorry, spelling error:

        'Your comments here bely' should be 'Your comments here belie'

      • No need to be delicate...
        2007-10-21 20:49:28  AmyHoy [View]

        I said I expected to be dressed down. I admitted that I was cheerfully putting my head in the lion's mouth. C'est la vie. Nobody likes being told the hard truth, until they see the beauty of it. I didn't like the idea at first, either, but it sure has done me a great service.

        I haven't attacked you or your personality, I said people know who you are. As in, they are aware of your name, your presence, and your stance and approach to things on this topic. This is a brand you worked hard to build, I'm sure. You can imagine extra insults if you like but they're just not there.

        As for people who have been intimidated into silence... I wouldn't have known that was the case either if they hadn't contacted me privately.