Part two of this mini-series delves into the single most contentious issue afflicting our industry: Charges of exclusiveness and the inevitable fire-hydrant of vitriol that ensues when someone is accused of violating public morality.
Being “offended” is a choice
The act of “being offended” requires a conscious decision and willful participation. It is not a passive act, nor is it always correct. Nor should apoplectic “offense” always be handled with delicate sympathy; sometimes it’s simply ridiculous or downright childish.
Let’s take the most common charge of "exclusiveness" or sexism in the tech industry as an example that typifies a ludicrous double standard.
Sexism exists, and I am not downplaying the very real instances when a woman has been excluded by a male-dominated industry.
But looking for sexism under every stone for any justification to further an unprovable claim is absurd and obscene. It’s every bit as wrong as the act for which an entire industry has been taken to task for perpetuating. And every bit as wrong as the inevitable abuse that is hurled at anyone people feel is an easy target.
Harassing a woman because of her gender is sexism. Promising beer “served by women” is not harassment. Is it inappropriate? That’s another, perfectly legitimate argument.
Here’s the ad that resulted in the most recent firestorm over sexism in the tech industry.
A follow-up article to this incident that was published on a highly visible tech blog is as ignorant of its own myopic bias as it is professionally irresponsible. The author, Kathryn Hough, states, “Someone needs to tell young founders that frat house behavior is not acceptable in the business world.” Fair enough. But does Mrs. Hough actually believe that the following behavior represents how a “respectable” business professional should conduct himself?
And how about this “professional” gem [object 1-1] which was taken from the comments on the accused company's web site after they had apologized numerous times:
The abject hypocrisy of the preceding statements would be laughable if not for the fact that the reactions are so utterly contemptible. These are but two of many many dozens of similar comments made by individuals who actually believe they are bettering the larger community by personally attacking and willfully participating in the public humilation of people they've never met. And all it takes is a single person to Tweet a single word to set this runaway freight train in motion.
Let's look at a few facts:
- Fact: Women don’t enter the tech industry as frequently as men.
- Fact: Women don’t really know why more women aren’t entering the tech industry. http://www.itmanagerdaily.com/why-arent-there-more-women-in-it/
- Fact: There aren’t that many blacks in the tech industry either. Who’s to blame for this?
I have personally observed that the web industry (design and tech) is fast becoming one of the most divided, cliquish communities of professionals in any industry. And that’s a tremendous shame, because we are - on the whole - a very talented, intelligent, conscientious group of professionals.
No matter how successful the iMob is at sanitizing the entire industry so that no single person’s feelings are ever hurt, no matter how scorched the earth becomes as a result of naming and shaming people with whom you disagree, one undeniable fact remains: You will never be included in every conversation or welcomed into every group (And the shape of the appendages you are concealing under your clothing make no difference).
Even if a perfect world is achieved where no single person is left out or made to feel inferior, someone will find someone else to blame for something. And this whole cycle of nonsense will repeat itself indefinitely, unless we start behaving like the adults we claim to be in our moralizing outrage.
Making general statements about the lack of inclusivity within the web/tech industry based on a poorly considered advertisement or a single slide in an otherwise brilliant conference lecture is preposterous and grossly unfair. Especially when the exact same standard is not applied universally.