Meetup Group Drama

I am a member of the SF Ruby Meet Up group. Today I checked my email and saw a message thread from the group that made me feel sick to my stomach. A woman had sent a message to the group saying that she was looking for women developers for an internship and those interested should email her. The first couple replies were very reasonable ones from men giving her a heads up that it is illegal to discriminate based on gender, and that they would recommend not listing genders in job postings. These replies weren’t attacking her, they were factual, and she immediately sent a reply apologizing for the mistake and welcomed those of all genders to apply. Everything’s cool then, right?

It’s all the messages after that one that sickened me. A ton of replies from men attacking her for discriminating against men, saying that she was going to just discriminate in secret now, and that she’d choose a female over “the more qualified candidate.” They even pointed out that most of the group is men. She tried yet another apology but they just rolled on over her. Some of them tried to act like they were just being funny but none of it felt funny.

No women had replied to this thread and I very much wanted to. I agree that there shouldn’t be discrimination against men OR women in tech, and I was going to state that, but I was also going to point out that it would be nice if the men could start being that outraged about the heavy discrimination against women in tech every single day. That what WE deal with is so often “secret discrimination” done behind the scenes, and maybe it would help offer a little perspective. I starting typing out a response a few different times, but that little voice in the back of my head said, “Do you really want to do this?”

I realized that it doesn’t matter how logical or reasonable what I say is, I’m going to be attacked for it, so what would be the point? So I didn’t say anything and I’m very tempted to leave the group because those aren’t the kind of people I want to interact with. Then I thought about it more and realized that this is a major part of the problem—that women feel like they can’t speak up because no one will listen and they’ll just be attacked. THAT is discrimination rearing its ugly head. I felt unable to speak up, and I felt like I should leave the group, because that solves the problem right? I’ll just let myself be chased away.

It would just be nice if people could be reasonable when speaking with each other. If your coworker makes a mistake, do you attack them for it? Or are you constructive and help them learn? I realize this is the Internet, and it’s a breeding ground for the type of people who like to hurl insults from the comfort of their own home, because there’s no repercussions; that’s not going away any time soon.

I’m just saying that it doesn’t really help your argument if you act like a douchebag. I’m certainly less inclined to want to work with the type of men that were posting on this thread.

Update: A woman with more guts than me posted at the end of the thread a very positive reply congratulating the poster for promoting more women in tech and pointing out that this is something to be celebrated. This only provoked even more ignorant comments from the men about how women in tech aren’t oppressed and that way more men want to be programmers than women, and someone went as far as saying that men are better programmers. DONE. Can’t deal with those uneducated assholes.

Update 2: In reflection I probably shouldn’t call those guys assholes when I’m complaining about people hurling insults at each other. They’re being unreasonable, and their attacks aren’t nice, and they have displayed a large level of ignorance about the discrimination of women, but maybe they’re not assholes all the time. Maybe deep down they’re nice people who just need to gain more perspective.

Update 3: It ended up racking a large amount of replies, and towards the end there were a few men being wonderful advocates trying to educate the ignorant on the very real issue of women being oppressed in tech, and posting links to statistics, etc. It gave me hope that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.