And this is why it’s distressing to see the same things people have always said about Jews get applied to nerds. They’re this weird separate group with their own culture who don’t join in the reindeer games of normal society. They dress weird and talk weird. They’re conventionally unattractive and have too much facial hair. But worst of all, they have the chutzpah to do all that and also be successful. Having been excluded from all of the popular jobs, they end up in the unpopular but lucrative jobs, for which they get called greedy parasites in the Jews’ case, and “the most useless and deficient individuals in society” in the case of the feminist article on nerds I referenced earlier.
. . .
I am saying that whatever structural oppression means, it should be about structure. And the structure society uses to marginalize and belittle nerds is very similar to a multi-purpose structure society has used to belittle weird groups in the past with catastrophic results.Of course it's also true that, for instance, a group of guys with some terrible habits about treating women as sex dolls might simultaneously be the target of crippling society hatred and the beneficiaries of lavish societal rewards of a different sort. It's even true that their distressing sex-doll mentality might be rooted in an oppressive social gender structure, even though they continue to suffer from some gender-based social structures and to benefit from others. It's not always about who's getting the short end of the stick in every possible walk of life. Sometimes it's just about treating people as individual human beings rather than as either objects or rigid categories. I'd really just as soon never read another article explaining that the "real" oppression is the plight of guys who would like to have sex with someone who doesn't happen to agree with the program, and therefore it follows as the night the day that all talk of oppression in the form of treating women as something less than human is illegitimate. I'm also all done listening to how a particular behavior couldn't possible be unjust or reprehensible, because the perpetrator also feels genuine pain about his life. That's just suffering one-up-man-ship, and it's not shedding light on how we can treat each other decently.
Alexander continues explaining how little help oppression-talk can be:
If we’ve learned anything from the Star Wars prequels, it’s that Anakin Skywalker is unbearably annoying. But if we’ve learned two things from the Star Wars prequels, it’s that the easiest way to marginalize the legitimate concerns of anyone who stands in your way is to declare them oppressors loud enough to scare everyone who listens.
And if the people in the Star Wars universe had seen the Star Wars movies, I have no doubt whatsoever that Chancellor Palpatine would have discredited his opponents by saying they were the Empire.
(seriously, you wanted to throw the gauntlet down to lonely male nerds, and the turf you chose was Star Wars metaphors? HOW COULD THAT POSSIBLY SEEM LIKE A GOOD IDEA?)He really dismantles theories of how Silicon Valley cleverly excludes women from lucrative STEM jobs while allowing women so to swamp the medical field these days that people are starting to worry who'll see all the patients when they start taking pregnancy leave.
Then there's this spot-on summary of the social atmosphere in a STEM-dominated office:
Any space with a four-to-one male:female ratio is going to end up with some pretty desperate people and a whole lot of unwanted attention. Add into this mix the fact that nerds usually have poor social skills (explaining exactly why would take a literature review to put that last one to shame, but hopefully everyone can agree this is true), and you get people who are pretty sure they are supposed to do something but have no idea what. Err to one side and you get the overly-chivalrous people saying m’lady because it pattern matches to the most courtly and least sexual way of presenting themselves they can think of. Err to the other, and you get people hollowly imitating the behavior they see in famous seducers and playboys, which when done without the very finely-tuned social graces and body-language-reading-ability of famous seducers and playboys is pretty much just “being extremely creepy”.The second article grabs me just as hard with a nerd woman's paean to perseveration:
What I’ve got, and what I wish the rest of the “women in tech” community who rage against the misogyny they see everywhere they look could also have, is a blazingly single-minded focus on whatever topic I happen to be perseverating on at the moment. It has kept me awake for days puzzling out novel algorithms and it has thwarted a wannabe PUA at a conference completely by accident. It is also apparently the most crashingly successful defense against attempts to make me feel inferior that has ever been devised. When I’m someplace that says on the label that it’s all about the tech, so am I. I may have come by it naturally, but it is a teachable skill. Not only that, it’s a skill that transforms the places where it’s exercised.
The fact that Shanley Kane dismisses experiences like mine as “denial,” and regards them as “colluding in my own oppression,” both saddens and baffles me.The author is perfectly describing the dreadful "Uncle Tom" or "Oreo Cookie" criticism. She's found a home in the STEM world, she knows why it works for her, and she's not interested in apologizing because it doesn't work for people not like her, whether anyone thinks the necessary qualities sort themselves out along gender lines or not.
The more I read about this, the more it seems like a war between people on opposite ends of the autism spectrum.