11 August 2017

James Damore's Memo and How to Deal With Sexist Discourse

You might have heard that a software engineer at Google by the name of James Damore was fired after producing a 10-page memo that explained why women make lousy coders and why they are not motivated to climb up the corporate ladder.

Basically, he argues that there are fewer women in STEM (Science Technology, Engineering Mathematics) jobs because men and women are different and women's biologically determined traits make them less suitable for these jobs.

I actually read the whole thing. It is churlish text based on Rushton-style dubious science. You know, men are more interested in things and women are more interested in people type of rubbish.

He is probably a well meaning geek who read some sexist conservative text he found persuasive. And he was trying to convince others using the same points.

Once he was fired, he became the newest martyr of the American conservative movement, another victim of rampant political correctness.

Oh dear!

National Review came to his rescue, Julian Assange offered him a job at Wikileaks and he was interviewed by alt-Right's Youtube personality Stefan Molyneux.

Now, my intention is not to prosecute his thesis, as it is an exercise in futility.

I simply want to point out that sexism and discrimination against women is widely tolerated. If someone makes a blatantly sexist argument, people do not react to it the way they would react to blatant racism or anti-Semitism.

And if you object to it, more often than not, the person who made the sexist remark will go into a whiny tirade about rampant political correctness.

So I stopped objecting instead I give them a litmus test to show why their point is sexist.

I substitute the word women with the dominant identity of my interlocutor and construct a similar argument.

For instance, I mentioned this debate (dubbed culture wars in Silicon Valley) to a friend of mine who happens to be Jewish. He said that he disagreed with Google's decision to fire Damore as he was entitled to his opinion.

Besides, he said, the guy made some valid points.

I asked him if I were to substitute the word women with Jews and suggest that Jews were more suited for finance jobs, because "they are good with money" what would he say?

That's anti-Semitism, pure and simple, he cried.


But the contention that women are not being suitable for STEM jobs might contain some valid points, right?

On various occasions, I tried the same technique with other people.

Two examples: with Muslims, I repeat the all too common discourse "they are too different to be able to live in Western societies", with Asians "they are good with math so they get all the tech jobs but they are not suited for much else."

Any sexist discourse about women became a horrible slur when it was about their ethnicity, culture or religion.

It works with any group, even LGBT folks.

The only group that is immune is white men. That is because they cannot see themselves as a minority. In their minds, they are the universal human identity and the rest is a bunch of minorities.

And because this also the hegemonic view in our societies, the worst put down is that they can't jump. Unsurprisingly, it was not a good movie.

My point is that women are the last group in the world about whom discriminatory practices and sexist speech are widely tolerated.

In almost every country in the world, women are second class citizens with less access to opportunities and resources than any other group.

In most of the developing world, they have very few rights, they are pushed around, discriminated against, subjected to horrific violence and suffer all kinds of daily indignities.

And that does not move anybody.

No one would lift a finger about women in Saudi Arabia where they have even fewer rights than black South Africans during Apartheid. If you remember, people in the West rallied against that regime.

But women in Saudi Arabia? Who cares.

Instead, we still debate whether women are suitable for senior management roles or tech jobs or or how pregnancy could affect their political careers.

And if anyone objects to that discourse, like former Australian PM Julia Gillard did, she becomes a humorless harpy, a nutjob and, of course, a feminazi.

Even this term tells you how much hate speech is tolerated when it comes to women.

CNN just fired a conservative commentator for tweeting "Sieg Heil" but no one was ever sacked for calling feminists feminazi.

Need I say more?

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