Saturday, 26 April 2014

Women don't join this industry to fulfil your fantasies

It’s been another bad day week for men in the technology industry being complete and total shitheads to women.

Admit it, guys, we didn’t have very far to fall to hit that particular point. But last Friday uncovered a few particularly horrible examples of just how poorly some men can regard women, and how quickly others will come valiantly leaping to their defense.

My day opened up with being pointed to (no link, because fuck that). Describing itself as a portal to “learn coding and web development the fun way” CodeBabes pairs video tutorials with scantily-clad women, and the further you progress in a particular technology, the progressively less and less the instructors are wearing. As if software development wasn’t already enough of a boys’ club that has used busty women to get people to buy things (whether it’s the latest technology at an expo, or the latest video game), now somebody’s had the brilliant idea of having PHP and CSS taught by women in lingerie.

The project doesn’t even pretend to have any particularly noble purpose in mind. Above the fold on their site, the copy reads, “The internet: great for learning to code [and] checking out babes separately, until now.”

The mind boggles.

First of all—even if we were going to ignore everything about how socially backwards this idea is—is just isn’t an effective way to accomplish anything semi-productive. Did they not learn anything from trying to get off, playing video game strip blackjack? Or any other game where the further you progress, the more you see of a nude or semi-nude woman? Because this idea is clearly derived from those. The problem with those games is that in order to reveal the picture you want, you have to concentrate on the challenge you’re presented, but the more you concentrate on the challenge, the less aroused you are. The aims are in complete opposition to each other. If you’re trying to make learning a new technology a game, make sure that the technology is the aim, and the game is an extrinsic motivator. If you’re trying to look at naked girls… well, there are lots of opportunities to do that on the web.

But this problem is so much bigger than just being an unproductive way of trying to do two things at once.

What’s the catchphrase, again? “The internet: great for learning to code [and] checking out babes separately, until now.” These two things are implied to be mutually exclusive—that outside of the site, beautiful women and learning to write software have nothing to do with each other. That, were it not for these videos, beautiful women who look good in lingerie would have nothing to do with writing software.

So, if beautiful women who look good in lingerie would other have nothing to do with writing software, we can further assume that the creators are implying—and equally importantly, that their users will infer—that women know shit about computers (if I may coin a phrase).

Now, that being said, I’s quite sure that the women who are presenting these videos actually know what they’re talking about. There’s nothing more difficult than trying to convincingly explain something you don’t understand, unless you’re a particularly talented actor with a good script (see: every use of technobabble in the last thirty years of science fiction television). And I’m not trying to suggest that they should be accused of damaging the cause of feminism in technology. Why? Because there is nothing about this site that suggests to me that the idea was conceived of by women. The whole premise itself is simply so sophomoric that I can’t come to any conclusion other than that it was invented by men, particularly when the site’s official Twitter account follows The Playboy Blog, Playboy, three Playboy Playmates… and three men.

Software development, in most English-speaking countries, suffers from a huge gender gap, both in terms of staffing and salary. Sites like this will not do anything to close that gap, because all this says to a new generation of developers is that a woman’s role is to help a man on his way to success, and to be an object of sexual desire in the process—their “philosophy” flatly encourages viewers to masturbate to the videos.

What makes it that little bit worse (Yep, it actually does get worse) is that, on reading their “philosophy”, the creators also make it quite clear that they recognise that what they’re doing will offend people, and they don’t care. They say, “try not to take us too seriously”, and “if we’ve offended anyone, that's really not our goal, we hope there are bigger problems in the world for people to worry about.” Where have I seen these arguments before? Ahh, yes, from sexist men who are trying to shut down criticism of their sexist bullshit. The next thing I expect to see is them crying “censorship”. I’m not trying to prevent them from saying their repugnant shit. I would, however, like to try to educate them about why it’s hurtful, and why it’s something that they should know better than to think in the first place.

As for the rest of us, we need to make it clear that there’s no room for these attitudes in today’s software industry. That when somebody suggests visiting sites like this, they get called out for promoting sexist points of view. That when someone posits that a woman only got an interview, or even her job, because of her anatomy, that they get called out for thinking that she isn’t fully qualified to be there. If this industry has any hope at escaping the embarrassing reputation that it’s earned, we have to do better. We have to have to the guts to say, “that shit’s not cool,” to anyone who deserves it. Stand up for what you believe in.

No comments:

Post a Comment