I just read Okay, Feminism, It’s Time We Had a Talk About Empathy. and When Nerds Collide.
I’m caught between admiration for Meredith Patterson’s writing ability and what she’s trying to do, and a feeling that the attempt is fundamentally doomed.
She who travels as maradydd speaks for hackers very well. I’m happy to see someone else doing it; the ability is rare and the only other people besides me I see playing at a similar level are Paul Graham and (more obliquely) Randall Munroe.
The problem is, maradydd’s attempt requires the feminists and social-justice warriors she is addressing to fundamentally be about justice and inclusion, enough so that it is possible to change their behavior by appealing to those values. But that’s not what I see what I look at those people. What I see is thin rationalizations over bullying, dominance games, and an endless scream of monkey rage.
Shanley Kane, who maradydd says she’s puzzled by, is a case in point. We’ve learned recently of evidence that she has a recent past as a virulent racist. The informant, Auernheimer, is himself a repellent character and the reporter was wise enough to suspect he might be trolling, but apparently there’s documentary evidence of the relationship and his claims.
But even before this Shanley Kane didn’t puzzle me at all. Whenever I see screaming, hate-filled behavior like hers the important part never turns out to be whatever principles the screamer claims to be advocating. Those are just window-dressing for the bullying, the dominance games, and the rage.
You cannot ameliorate the behavior of people like that by accepting their premises and arguing within them; they’ll just pocket your concessions and attack again, seeking increasingly abject submission. In one-on-one relationships this is called “emotional abuse”, and like abusers they are all about control of you while claiming to be about anything but.
Third-wave feminism, “social justice” and “anti-racism” are rotten with this. Some of the principles, considered in isolation, would be noble; but they don’t stay noble in the minds of a rage mob.
The good news is that, like emotional abusers, they only have the power over you that you allow them. Liberation begins with recognizing the abuse for what it is. It continues by entirely rejecting their attempts at manipulation. This means rejecting their terminology, their core concepts, their framing, and their attempts to jam you into a “victim” or “oppressor” identity that denies your lived experience.
The identity-jamming part maradydd clearly gets; the most eloquent sections of her writing are those in which she (rightly) rejects feminist attempts to jam her into a victim identity. But I don’t think she quite gets how thoroughly you have to reject the rest of the SJW pitch in order not to enable their abuse.
This is why, for example, I basically disengage from anyone who uses the phrase “white privilege” or the term “patriarchy”. There is a possible world in which these might be useful terms of discussion, but if that were ever our universe it has long since ceased to be. Now what they mean is “I am about to attempt to bully you into submission using kafkatraps and your own sense of decency as a club”.
I think it is pretty clear what this implies for the defense of hacker culture and what maradydd calls “weird nerds”. I haven’t been paying much attention myself, but I don’t doubt maradydd when she asserts that the SJWs would like to colonize us and make us over into another hell-pit of identity politics and competitive grievance-mongering.
Where I differ with maradydd is that I think it is doomed to try fending the SJWs off using their own jargon. We have a better place to stand. Here it is: Shut up and show us the code.
You want to make a point about women or minorities in hacker culture? OK, where is your commit history? What open source have you hacked on? Where are your Arduino and Thingiverse designs? Are you running any development projects yourself? What do you bring us that isn’t monkey screaming? Why should we care what you think?
And if the answer is “Justice!”, then our reply has to be this: The code is its own justice. No compiler or network stack or 3-D printer gives a crap about the shape of your genitals or the color of your skin, and hackers as a culture don’t either.
If you want to make the hacker culture and the civilization it serves a better place, welcome. There’s plenty of work to go around. But leave your jargon and your guilt-tripping and your bullying and your special pleading and your monkey rage at the door, because about those we determinedly refuse to give a shit.
UPDATE: maradydd informs me by email that since writing those articles she has arrived at a “Shut up and show them the code” position essentially identical to mine.