June 5, 2012 · 0 Comments
By Xeni Jardin:
What a steaming turd of an opening line in David Streitfeld’s otherwise serviceable New York Times piece about the Ellen Pao/Kleiner Perkins sexual harassment lawsuit, and gender discrimination in Silicon Valley.
Here’s the opening graf (bold-ing, mine):
MEN invented the Internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolized Mr. Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died. Nerds. Geeks. Give them their due. Without men, we would never know what our friends were doing five minutes ago.
You guys, ladies suck at technology and the New York Times is ON IT.
Radia “Mother of the Internet” Perlman and the ghosts of RADM Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace and every woman who worked in technology for the past 150 years frown upon you, sir. Women may have been invisible, but the work we did laid the groundwork for more visible advancements now credited to more famous men.
“Men are credited with inventing the internet.” There. Fixed it for you.
I ragequit this article like, 10 times, and couldn’t get past that awful opening line. But eventually, I managed to put down my frying pan and unbunch my apron, and I sat down on my princess tuffet and asked a man to help me read the whole thing.
I appreciate that in this article, Mr. Streitfeld is advancing a public conversation about gender inequality in the tech industry. Reporting about a phenomenon many would prefer to deny, and including women’s voices in that conversation (though many of them sound too afraid of retaliation by potential male funders to be candid)—that’s a good thing. Pointing out how rare it is that this sort of sex discrimination lawsuit makes it to trial is also a good thing.
I know that headlines aren’t always written by the reporter, so I can’t fault Streitfeld for the abominable one used for this article in the Times print edition: “A Lawsuit Shakes Foundation of a Man’s World of Tech.” Go ahead, throw up in your mouth a little. I did.
I know that photo captions aren’t always written by the reporter either, so I can’t fault him for the lack of logic behind this one:
Ellen Pao, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has filed a lawsuit contending sexual harassment. The suit has surprised some people in Silicon Valley because Kleiner Perkins is among relatively few such firms there to routinely hire and promote women.
Well, duh. If a VC firm does not hire any women VCs, then there are no women VCs at the firm to sexually harass.
There’s a lot of other interesting but to my mind, tangential stuff in the body of the piece about the sexuality of Ms. Pao’s husband, and accusations of litigiousness and sexual harassment on his part. And, a sweet but even more tangential quote from his ex-boyfriend, who sounds like a real mensch with a kind heart. I’m not sure why an accounting of the behavior of a woman’s husband is so often needed to tell the woman’s story. The reverse is not common.
But the unchallenged dismissiveness of this quote is, for me, the kicker:
You don’t really hear about randiness and mistreatment of women. That doesn’t prove it’s not there, but that’s not the lore.”
The LORE? Are you fucking kidding me?
I worked in Silicon Valley, and in technology startups in other regions, and have experienced sexual harassment and gender bias. It’s as normal and constant a part of the landscape as the fabled foosball tables.
Where to begin with this quote, really? First, “randiness” isn’t what causes sexual harassment. Men don’t pressure junior female co-workers into unwanted sex because they’re “randy.” And the fact that it’s not in the fucking “lore” doesn’t mean it’s not real.
I have no special knowledge about the truth, or lack thereof, in the Pao lawsuit. I know only what you and I and everyone else can read in the court documents, in the context of what I’ve experienced as a woman who has worked in the technology industry for about 20 years. I can’t speak to the merit of this case. But, Earth to dudes: yes, this stuff is real and normal, and so are we.
Lucky for Streitfeld, and the rest of the world, that the Women in Technology conference happens to be under way today in Santa Clara. Stop by and get a clue.
Oh, and? I, too, cried when Steve Jobs died. And I still idolize Mr. Spock.