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Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

scaramush Re:Ground down (1198 comments)

I never understood some of this. Last time I went to a convention (decades ago) women were well represented. A 500-to-3 ratio would have seemed bizarre.

I think it depends on what type of con you're going to, and what you do while you're there. In my experience, there seem to be more women LARP'ing and less women in miniature gaming. My experience was also 10+ years ago, so perhaps things have changed?

Women were well accepted in computing. But computing was necessarily nerdy either at the time, instead it was a professional career. It's strange, because right now at 50 years old I am in a job with the least number of women in my sphere of work than I've ever had before. When there are women they are great, but they're standouts meaning much much better than average. Seems to show that women have to work harder, or be willing to put up with more, to get and keep the technical job. My conclusion is that since things have changed for the worse over time that there is indeed something wrong with the culture and it's not just due to the lame excuse that women innately don't like computers.

An aside: I was having coffee with a co-worker/buddy yesterday, and we were chatting about this issue. My favorite (in a sad, ironic way) quote was: "Well, [Scaramush], thinking about it, I haven't really worked with many technical women. So I don't really know much about your species". My whatnow? ;)

Yeah, I don't buy that excuse either, particularly since it looks like women passed men as a % of internet users ~2000, so clearly there's an interest in using them, of not learning how they work.

BTW, in my career I've seen many woman shunted out of straight up technical positions into management or PM positions. I don't think it malicious or even conscious, but I see it at a much higher rate than men. My current working theory is that girls are praised more for soft/communication skills than boys are, so they tend to develop them more. When a women demonstrates them, they're immediately given an opportunity to do more communication/people stuff, which though opportunity costs means they're not coding/doing straight up technical work. It becomes this feedback loop that slowly pushes women into these positions through unintended consequences.

On the other hand, the amount of overt misogyny I see is most common on slashdot and rarely visible out in real life (or maybe I need to get out more).

Yeah, if it was as obvious in RL as it is online, in some ways it would be easier since you'd have fewer people telling you there's no problem :(

about 4 months ago
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Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

scaramush Re:Gender-based stereotype (1198 comments)

So... that joke wasn't funny until the end, right? Why is that?

Actually, I think it has more to do with the way our brains process language than anything about the subject (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304256404579449180386537694). It works the same way the joke in my sig does, confounding your expectation of what's coming next.

Because at some point, man-bashing became socially acceptable, kinda like lawyer jokes, etc. Personally, I do find the twist of that one amusing, but if it were the other way around...

Actually, I think it depends what you mean by "acceptable" and by who. People in the majority have been making minorities the butt of jokes for all of recorded history. It seems to me a relatively recent phenomenon people have decided it's not acceptable to make jokes about minorities at least in public (just look at Bugs Bunny cartoons from the 50s and 60s for examples of stereotypes for humor). Why do you think that changed? Do you think it's a change for the better? I think not shitting on people with less power makes all of us better people, but YMMV.

I think the point is, yes, we do realize that there are a lot of jerks out there. They are jerks for a variety of reasons. Beyond that are the true pieces of sh** like this guy [in the article] and those that kill their family. Unfortunately we - based on our gender - are somehow associated with this guy. It's not a *MAN* problem, it's a human problem.

Hm. If Rodgers shot people because he thought he heard aliens, or because God told him to do it, I might agree with you. But this crime was specifically targeted against women. I'll let Gawker make the argument for me: http://gawker.com/why-is-it-so... (wow, that's a sentence I never thought I'd write)

Mario saves the princess? Is that because men identify women are useless and weak, or because they want to be heroic.

How about "the way they get to show heroism is by rescuing weak women, and that's fucked up?"

Just because they might like to be "Thor" doesn't mean that they wouldn't appreciate Janeway, Ripley, or Sarah Conner doing the same for us dudes.

Sure, there are always exceptions. I actually have a pet theory that part of reason for Sci Fi's surge in popularity in my lifetime is because it allows for more strong women characters, which in turn draws women to Sci Fi. The fact that a strong woman character has to be as outlandish as aliens is depressing as shit, but that's a story for another day ;)

Honestly, I'm not Urkle or even a Leonard. When I was younger I admit to be a complete dork (and annoying to girls and guy both), but that was a social awkwardness I grew out of.

This being /., it'd be kind of shocking if you weren't some kind of dork ;) ;) ;) I think this is a self-selecting group of dorks (myself included).

The same a**holes that women have so hard a time get a leg up with are the ones that regular guys have issues with, and the thing is, we DO make an issue of it. Maybe not right away in the open, but a "that wasn't cool" or "that was totally unprofessional" when a moment is available to do so. I've dealt with some pretty horrible women too, both personally and professionally (though I'd admit, professionally women do come out on top overall).

I'm sorry -- I don't get where you're going with this paragraph? Is it that assholes are assholes to everyone? If so, there's a difference between someone shitting on your because of who they are, and someone shitting on you because of who you are. I've experienced both, and the latter is infinitely more painful.

Also, it's good that you call someone out on something in private, but holy shit it's hard when you feel totally unsupported in a situation like that. But I understand that can be a career limiting move. But that's what makes it hard.

So why are we associated Mario and Big Bang Theory nerds - they type that go out of their way to be helpful but don't quite get it - with some sociopathic monster who murdered a bunch of people?

I think the larger issue is the pervasive culture that marginalizes women and treats them like prizes rather than people. AFAIK, no one (sane) is saying geeks caused the rampage any more than anyone (sane) is saying that it's the girl's fault for "rejecting" him when she was 10. I think of this as an opportunity to look at our culture (and it is ours -- yours, mine, everyone one slashdot), and look at where it's fucked up. It's a target rich environment :(

Figure out how to make it better. Call people out. A lot of us are already doing that. Sometimes it even puts us in jeopardy (suddenly we're not team players for appreciating b.s. "humor"). Our response isn't that we don't realize there are jerks out there, it's DON'T ASSOCIATE US WITH THEM, because we're not.

Sure. But I gotta say, they jerk:not-jerk ratio of responses is running pretty skewed in this thread. Imagine for a minute you were me, would you want to post anything else? :(

For the record, I don't count you in the jerk category. We don't seem to agree, but that's fine -- you're not calling me names or making it personal, so hey, argue away ;)

about 4 months ago
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Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

scaramush Re:Ground down (1198 comments)

I'd argue the military is a harder job than IT, regardless of gender.

Your argument is curious to me: Because there are other places that are bad/worse, we should put up with bad treatment? It's kind of like saying "There are people dying, so don't treat that broken arm, you whiner!".

about 4 months ago
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Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

scaramush Re:Ground down (1198 comments)

Fascinating post, thanks for sharing. I'm a man, and I'm really trying to understand and help. It's extremely tiring to be told that that's impossible and that my help is unwanted. Please don't interpret my questions/statements as some sort of an attack as that's not my intention (I don't mean to assume your reaction, but it's a pretty common reaction to any follow-up questions about this kind of thing...).

No problem. Let's see how this goes :)

We live in a world where literally yesterday a woman was stoned to death by her family for failing to live her life they way they wanted. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/28/world/asia/pakistan-pregnant-woman-killed/) .

That's terrible, but bad things happen to people of all stripes all the time for terrible reasons. That sounds incredibly callous, I know, but we live in a world where only 70 years ago 11 million people were killed simply because they had the wrong religion, disability, or ethnicity. My ability to help in any of these cases is very limited, although I do what I can. But the rest of your post is about *our* (I assume you mean Western) culture, so I'm not quite sure what your point is here? There's all sorts of terrible (to us) stuff happening in other cultures, but I'm not sure how any of it is relevant to this discussion - if so, please elaborate. Frankly, stoning a woman to death is pretty tame compared to e.g. everything in North Korea.

I cited it as an example of the logical (and terrible) conclusion when women are treated as possessions/trophies, but mostly because it was fresh in my mind (it just happened). Maybe Steubenville would have been a better choice, since being not in the US makes it easier to say "that doesn't happen here"?

And yeah, absolutely: Bad shit happens to all kinds of people all the time. Does that make it any less bad, or any less worthy of being deplored? To me, there's a difference between bad shit happening to you because bad shit is happening to everyone (e.g. Earthquake! Flood!), or because of something you have (robbery, mugging) vs. bad shit happening to you because of who you are. It's infinitely more personal when someone targets you because of your gender, or race and equally bad when it happens to anyone, at any point in time. I think we all lose if we get into an "awful-olympic" -- bad things happening to one group doesn't absolve thinking, rational, caring people from responding strong to a different bad thing.

That link doesn't work for me - I'm not sure which cover you're referring to (the anchor doesn't seem to do anything). I see a whole bunch of recent ones implying that the gunman was crazy ("Childhood snub set me off", "Rage of the virgin", etc).

D'oh. Sorry. The link was supposed to be to the post cover: "Killer Crush: Childhood snub set me off". The image is of the young woman who was named by Rodger in his manifesto.

If you meant to link to the former, I'm not sure that I'd equate "a demonstrated madman blamed a woman, among other things, in his ramblings" with "our culture... blames her if she rejects them". Not even the Post (a pretty terrible trash rag) was making that claim.

True, it's a PoS. But it has the 6th highest circulation of all newspapers in the US (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_newspapers_in_the_United_States_by_circulation). So we're not talking some fringe part of the culture.

I wasn't trying to make a point about what some batshit crazy dude claimed as the source of his problem. I was trying to make a point about how we as a culture are digesting this event, as evidenced by that article. Taking aside the fact that it's abhorrent to me that they'd even try to put the spin on this that she was somehow even aware, let alone culpable for his actions (the label "Killer Crush" next to your picture is pretty pejorative in my book) -- They published her name, her face and where she worked! And then as icing on the cake, they used a picture of her in a bikini to illustrate the article. How is that remotely okay? What does it say about our culture that a paper that reaches 500k people a day thought it was an okay thing to do?

Madman killers claim all kinds of things - the guy who killed John Lennon said he was following Catcher in the Rye.

Yeah, I agree. Batshit people latch on to all kinds of weird things -- while kind of curious, it's not the important part to me. It's the response of the rest of us (again, by the 6th largest paper in the US) that depresses the shit out of me.

And I know some people are going to say, "But I didn't think that/react that way! And the post is a rag!". Sure. I'm not trying to attack anyone -- what I'm trying to say through all the noise is "Hey, there's something gross and toxic and pervasive going on. I don't think it's specifically your fault, but I need your help to fix it. If you think the problem doesn't exist, I'll try to help you understand what I'm seeing by the experiences I've had, and why I think there's a problem. Will you listen without shouting me down?". It's a remarkably difficult message to get heard.

And men are also judged (less harshly, it's true) for being "man whores", at least in adult circles. IME the balance is shifting towards normalization, actually - female promiscuity is becoming relatively less stigmatized, and male promiscuity is becoming relatively more.

Mmmm...What do you think the responses would be if you walked up to random man and called him a slut? Mostly confusion, and probably a little bemusement. Now imagine calling a random woman a slut? Same response? I think it's the difference between racial slurs against minorities and racial slurs against whites. They simply don't carry the same amount of weight.

But I do hope you're right. :)

Excellent. I'd love to make things better. But I didn't see any of this stuff in university or at my employer. And I really, really was looking for it - I'd been hearing all through high school about how terrible it was for women, so I knew what to look for. But... all I ever saw was women in the same classes as I was getting the same treatment, with normal variance due to ability (less variance than the men, though there were more men). In fact, as a TA, I noticed that women generally did better, since they tended to come by office hours earlier and more frequently, which kept them off the wrong paths. There were a few women-only engineering organizations (SWE, WICS, etc) at school, and there weren't really any issues that I knew about (I tried to stay fairly plugged-in - like I said, this is something I care about).

At my tech job now, which is admittedly notably progressive about this issue compared to the rest of the industry, I haven't seen anything either - the most I saw was someone at a company meeting who said in passing "thanks to all the guys who worked on XYZ" instead of "all the folks" or "all the people", and was ripped to shreds over it.

I have seen women getting ignored or talked over in a meeting, and I do what I do when anybody else gets ignored or talked over (easy to happen when people are passionate about their idea) - I bring it up again in a "John/Jane was saying something about the Foobar module?" way (if I'm not getting talked over or ignored myself!). Nobody ignores anybody on purpose. Nobody spews any sexist bullshit, either. The women we have are respected (at least) as well as all the men - we just don't have many women because there are few women CS grads!

tl;dr For 6-7 years, I've been in an environment where I can't find anything to help with, and constantly being told that I'm (as a male in tech) part of the problem.

I can only speak for myself, but: In general little things like "guys who worked on this" vs. "folks" doesn't bother me (although after a while it does feel like death by a thousand tiny cuts).

It's tough, since so much shit happens either behind closed doors or in a non-obvious way, but here's one thought: Why don't you ask the women you work with (if you have any) if they've experienced sexism in the workplace? Maybe they'll have nothing, but their stories might surprise you. A couple of caveats: You should already have a good working relationship with her before you bring it up (if you've never spoken to her before, it could be an off putting icebreaker). And I'd do it in a place where you're not putting her on the spot (IE in a meeting with 15 co-workers) -- a small lunch might be ideal. You can even reference this post if you want to start the conversation.

(This might sound ironic, but I don't actually think online is a great place to have these conversations. Too many trolls, too much shouting. Face to face is infinitely preferable).

And any time I try to ask for suggestions, I get shouted down as being blind to all the obvious issues that must be around me, or unable to empathize with fellow humans ("you just don't get it") or something equally offensive.

I'd start by asking questions about women's thoughts/experiences on sexism in CS and listening to the answers. Going straight for "what do you think I should do about this?" could come across as "well, this is your problem...." (*Not* that I'm saying you intend it this way). I know it can be hard -- but think about it from her point of view -- if you'd been shouted down and belittled for trying to share your experiences for long enough, it can make you hypersensitive to tone and criticism. As a white person, I have a similarly hard time talking about race, because I know my experiences have caused me to have massive blind spots. So when having a conversation about race, I try to approach it with a sense of humility -- I honestly don't know what it's like to be a black man or woman (for example) in America, so I try to listen more than I talk.

And I wonder how many men are in my situation. I know it's not your job to help me with this, but I'm really stuck here! Your post made a lot more sense to me than a lot of the stuff I read, so I'm hoping you have some insight I've been missing. What can I help with?

At the basic level, I think you help one conversation at a time. Just getting heard is a huge step forward.

about 4 months ago
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Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

scaramush Ground down (1198 comments)

I haven't posted on Slashdot in years, but the response to this story made me want to come out of the woodwork.

So far In the comments I've seen:
--He isn't really a nerd! NOFP!
--Nerds don't hit on girls, so NOFP!
--He's using a stereotype! I'm not that guy, so NMFP!

I'm a woman working in a technical field and I've been at this game since 1996. In my current company, the men here outnumber me 9-1. When you add in a love of geeky pursuits (at one convention, I remember counting 3 women in a group of 500 men), I've spent a lot of time being one of the guys.

In the beginning, it was exciting -- thrilling!-- to be the only woman in a meeting. I was the exception! I was going to make it! I was better than those girly-girls with their silly pursuits. But, not only do I realize that was a stupid-ass position that reinforced the perceptions of women's interests being lesser than men, I'm just tired of it. Tired of little backhanded bullshit comments. Tired of having to laugh at stupid sexist shit to be one of the boys. And especially tired of being told there's no problem. And this is not just me. Again, it's necessarily a small data pool (see % above), but I've never met a woman who didn't have at least 3 stories about bullshit at work. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04...

Again, it's not that I can't hack it. I can. This isn't a poor me, come and save me post. At this point, my hide is tempered steel -- fucking bring it, world. It's that I shouldn't have to, and as I said above, it's fucking exhausting.

And it's more than just eating shit at work: We live in a world where literally yesterday a woman was stoned to death by her family for failing to live her life they way they wanted. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/28/world/asia/pakistan-pregnant-woman-killed/) . Our culture shames a woman for accepting sexual advances and blames her if she rejects them (http://nypost.com/cover/#covers-1401159702). There is literally no way to win as a woman.

Look, guys. Even if you've done a ton of soul searching, and you genuinely believe you're not part of the problem, go to the next step. The women around you are hurting. They're exhausted. They're being gaslighted (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting) left, right and center. So if you genuinely think you're not making things works, figure out how to make it better. Find a woman to mentor. If you're in a meeting, and a woman's voice isn't getting heard, help her (although, please avoid mansplaining (i.e. "What Jane really means to say is...."). If someone say some bullshit about women in your workplace, call them out on it.

Sorry for this long cri de coeur, but you guys are my peeps and the responses broke my heart. You're my guys, my people, my tribe. Can't you back us up?

about 4 months ago

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Rant, Rant, Rant.

scaramush scaramush writes  |  more than 11 years ago Here's a rant I sent out recently about using powerpoint to archive business process information. In case you can't tell, I hate it. I hate it so much, It wasn't enough that I ranted at my co-workers, I felt the urge, nay the NEED to rant to /. about it. I know the icon is for "censorship", but it was as close as I could find to "STFU-about-something-already!".

Ugly templates aside, I don't actually have a problem with people using PowerPoint to make presentations. It's not necessarily to the benefit of the audience, but it makes things much, much easier for the presenter -- I do it all the time myself. The problem I have with PowerPoint (PP) is when people use it to archive information, because not only is that not PP's strong suit, it is, in fact, antithetical to PP's goal as a tool (which is to help real-time human communication).

As you rightly pointed out, the purpose of writing is communication. However, the real innovation of writing over other forms of non-tool augmented communication (speech, song, dance, etc) is that you can archive it over time. If I hunt you down and ask you how something works in the hall, you can take all the time in the world to explain it to me. You can gesture wildly, draw on the back of an envelope, and answer ad hoc questions. But:

  1. You might forget something important if I ask you to explain it again
  2. If I have to explain it to someone else, I might forget an important point.
  3. If a third person wants to find out about it, they have to know that we know it, and be able to find us, which leads us to
  4. We can't be everywhere at once
  5. I can't search your presentation and just pick out the parts that I need.

Of course, there are several tools (ancient and modern) that I can use to capture the way you described something to me. I could draw a picture. I could record your voice. I could take a series of photographs. I could video tape you. I could write down a summary, notes or a full transcript. Depending on the type of information being captured, all of these could have merit. For example, when I worked at the Hospital, we were trying to explain to incoming cardiology residents which types of heartbeats are indicators of problems. We found words were fairly useful ("BAd-Ump! Ba-da-umP! Ba-daaaaargh! Call 911!"), but once we were able to make a series of audio recordings, things cleared up immensely for the students.

And that's the reason people still use drawings -- for certain types of information (visual, non-movement based), a drawing is still the best way to capture it. I am certainly a firm believe in transforming information into a variety of different forms (flowchart, description, diagram), because it helps people both absorb information and retain it (different parts of the brain being used and all that). As you point out, the tools in PP for creating images are primitive as hell, but they do the trick. Even I can make a flow chart in PP, which means drunk chimps can do it. ;) As the theory goes, you use the least complicated tool that can do the job sufficiently, and the tool you have is always better than the tool you don't.

Which leads us to how to capture information for SQA. The problem is that the majority of information we want to capture for SQA isn't visual or aural, it's procedural and/or abstract, which lends itself best to words. Yes, the occasional picture is extremely useful, and I have no problem using PP to create those picture, but PP is not a useful tool for archiving the written information that goes between the pictures.

PP is unsuitable for archiving abstract non-visual information because it ungracefully straddles live presentation and text capture -- It is designed to be augmented by a real live human being talking. Because of that, the layout is such that only a few words can be displayed at a time (certainly far less than on screen displaying HTML or a word doc), making it hard to write down complex ideas. Additionally, the speaker is supposed to provide context and meta-content, so there's no (easy) facility to add that information in after the fact. This means it's very hard to "skim" or search a presentation for information -- You pretty much have to go through all the slides and read each one until you find what you want. Finally, you can't escape its proprietary format. Not everyone can read PP files, and short of a screen scrape, It's hard to get the text out to use again in another format (I haven't looked into all the "export as..." options, so perhaps you can save them as CSV? I don't know).

So to sum up why PP is a bad way to archive information:

  • Most PP slides are missing information that the speaker is expected to fill in while talking
  • The layout does not lend itself to complicated explanations
  • (Generally) There's no meta information (chapter/index)
  • (Generally) There's no way to make a change log
  • There are only primitive ways to search
  • It's a proprietary format that's hard to massage from one format to another
  • From a business perspective our documents, should conform to the lowest common denominator. We should be able to access them from a million different tools because who knows what we'll looking at them with in 2 4 10 years from now

So what should we be using other than PP? The way I've chosen to [archive my part of the thing we were talking about] is XML for data storage with XSLT->HTML for presentation, but I recognize that's a unreasonable amount of overhead for most people. Slightly less optimal (but still better than PP), I'd like to see HTML meta information pages, with links to word documents or PDFs. Then I'd like to see the drunken chimps, and finally PP presentations.

...And that's about all I have to say about that. Aren't you glad you didn't ask? For those of you keeping score, I lost. Some people are still using PP to archive materials :(

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