THE NEEDLE AND THE DAMAGE DONE: Woman who helped launch the current uproar over sexism in tech is sorry.
In 2013, Elissa Shevinsky wrote an article titled “That’s it, I’m finished defending sexism in tech.” The article was based on her concerns that a major tech expo would open with a presentation with an app called “Titstare,” which, as the name implied, allowed users to take photos of themselves staring at women’s breasts.
Shevinsky had been in the tech industry for a decade at that point, and said she had put up with sexism all the time. She concluded her article by writing that one of the solutions to the problem was to get more women in tech.
Her article received 40,000 views and was shared around the web, helping to spark a debate about the lack of women in the tech industry, a debate with the notable accomplishment of making a grown man — a comet scientist — cry on live TV because the shirt he was wearing offended some.
Because of the movement she helped create, Shevinsky has been described as a “social justice warrior” — a usually derogatory term applied to those who engage in hostile arguments in the name of righting a perceived social injustice.
Shevinsky is now sorry for whatever role she played in creating all of this outrage and silliness. She’s sorry, she writes in her new book, Lean Out, and she adds that her initial position was “flawed.”
“I’m glad to come out in ‘Lean Out’ and say that my original essay — the one that has been the foundation for people assuming that I am [a social justice warrior] — was deeply flawed,” Shevinsky told the Washington Examiner. “I do see sexism and gender issues, a culture war, in Silicon Valley, but the knee-jerk responses (recruit more women! attack the men!) are not the answer.”
Related: Why the Left Waged the #WaronNerds: They’re Losing the Oppression Olympics.
There is no obvious answer. Indeed, the obvious facts seem to fly in the face of explanatory power, in just the same way it does when one sees an unrepentantly patriarchal religion with more than a few troubling inclinations toward medievalism being defended by the Left. Feminists, for instance, have spearheaded much of the sneering and hysterical censoriousness where popular nerd pastimes like comic books and video games are concerned. All this despite the fact that most nerds are hardly the obvious examples of “rapey” masculinity that, say, UVA frat boys might be (though the author takes pains to note, similar accusations are slander in their case as well).
In fact, as the ever excellent liberal author Scott Alexander notes, nerds are the absolute psychological polar opposites of rapists. That a movement designed to protect women from the most ungallant members of society would start with a group about whom the stereotype is that they run around talking and acting like unshaven medieval knights is odd, to say the least. True, there is a degree to which this species of man can be found in the sphere of pickup artistry as well (yet another feminist bette noir), but there, too, it’s not immediately obvious why they’d start here. Say what you like about pickup artistry, but at least it’s about winning enthusiastic sexual consent from its targets, which presupposes the necessity of consent in the first place. Not exactly something you’d expect from unapologetic rapists.
Dig beneath the surface, however, and you find two very compelling explanations for the #WaronNerds. The short version is that it is simply a manifestation of cynical, bullying cowardice combined with emotivist, envious resentment. The long version? Well, read on for the first part.
In the visceral and terrifying musical Parade, written about the Leo Frank lynching, a yellow journalist enthusiastically describes how he will play on the fears of his audience to drum up readership by attacking Frank, or the “little Jew from Brooklyn with a college education.”
“So give him fangs, give him horns
Give him scaly, hairy paws
Have him drooling out the corner of his mouth
He’s a master of disguise
Check those bugged out creepy eyes
Hell, that fella’s here to rape the whole damn South!”
Sam Biddle, know thyself.
The comparison between today’s feminist rape lynch mobs and those of the Jim Crow era has been made before, and is apt.
Also: The Media Is Losing The War On Nerds.