Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why I am always surprised by gender inequities in the tech and gaming worlds

Recently there have been some noticeable happenings related to gender in the tech, game and genera worlds. Some significant one being, in no particular order: To anyone who has been online over the last 30 years, this really isn't something new. Gender discrimination and, in many cases, open attacks and hostility, have been around since the beginning. It takes about ten seconds to find a message board or thread where women are threatened with rape and death (no, I am not exaggerating at all) just for speaking their mind. And God forbid that a woman should disagree with anything a guy says.

What prompted me to write this was an exchange I happened across on Twitter the other day. In it, Snipe and K2 were talking about different ways to get men in the industry to stop saying and doing things that are varying degrees of insulting to outright harassment of women. K2, with the help of fellow Meteor employee Sam Kirk, made a poster best titled as “Brosie the Riveter”. A similar theme can be seen in this post on the Repair Her Armor Tumblr blog.

Let's start with some background.

I was born in 1962. This means I spent my teens in the 70's and my twenties in the 80's. Therefor, my formative years had some specific socio-cultural norms that were completely different from today's world. Also, I spend most of these years growing up as a US citizen living in Germany and Italy (Europe during the Cold War was interesting, in the Chinese Curse sort of way, but that's for another time) with the cultural differences that entails, as well. Additionally, I have been in the tech industry, in one form or other, since 1982. I done did seen allot of computer stuff. Lastly, though I didn't find out until my mid-40's, I also have Asperger's Syndrome. I relate this information because it has a strong bearing on how I see the world and can, I hope, help make this piece more coherent.

Why am I writing this post? The reason is that, and I swear to whomever you prefer, every time I run into this attack on women I am completely taken aback. Over the years I have worked with many different men and women and, just like every other human being on the planet, some were better at some things than others. I've known men who were supposed to be computer professionals who couldn't find the power switch without a map. And I've known women who were unquestioned experts in their field. The best computer programmer I've ever had any kind of dealings with was a young lady named Stephanie. She was better at this than anyone I've known in over 20 years with the Linux and Open Source world. From web app devs to kernel hackers, no one was better. When I think of her, the first thing that comes to mind is her code and the skill she had at crafting it. The fact that she was a tall (6'2” I believe), attractive African American woman is secondary to my memories of working with her.

This isn't to say I am a paragon of perfectly balanced racial/gender bias. Like everyone else on this planet, when I picture the average person said person looks allot like me. But that doesn't mean I must accept that image as the only viable one. It is nearly impossible to keep from having a mental image of someone before you've met them that is based on their name and other information you might have about them. But I know that this image is just a figment and has no basis in reality, so I consciously dismiss it. When I meet a person I have the same 15 second reaction that all humans have, but that is only a grain of sand on the beach when it comes to seeing them as a person.

We, as human beings, spend so much time and energy on negative things, such as gender, politics, race, etc., that there's little energy left to be productive. To do something positive that builds rather than tears down. Life is not a Zero Sum game. When someone else shines it does not dim your brilliance. If everyone would celebrate accomplishments and concentrate on bettering themselves you would be astounded how much can be accomplished.

So let us all applaud others success, help them to achieve same, and spend our energy bettering ourselves. That's how you win life!


  1. Thank you. I hope you aren't the only one who saw this post, though. This is the first entry I really wish people would read.